The Next Step: My thoughts on future opponents for the UFC 82 combatants

After watching a big card like UFC 82, I always find it entertaining to play matchmaker and think of what the next step for each fighter on the card is.

Twenty fighters gave it their all on Saturday and now I get to squeeze myself into the 4 foot 2 frame of UFC matchmaker, Joe Silva and state my beliefs on who they should be stepping in front of next.

Should prove to be some fun.

John Halverson (lost to Jorge Gurgel via unanimous decision) – This was his second UFC appearance and even though it was a much better showing than the stupidity that was the Roger Huerta clash, he showed that he was not up to snuff talent-wise. I have doubts the UFC have an interest in keeping him around and I believe the next time he fights will be under a smaller shows banner.

Jorge Gurgel (beat John Halverson via unanimous decision) – Gurgel will probably always be around. He’s good for the Ohio based shows as he usually helps get the fans interested early as he is almost their adopted son if you will. Gurgel is basically the ultimate gatekeeper. He is very hard to finish which means he is a big test skill and endurance wise for UFC newcomers and promising prospects. Someone like a Matt Wiman seems a reasonable choice for a future opponent.

Luke Cummo (lost to Luigi Fioravanti via unanimous decision) – Cummo showed terrible wrestling against Luigi which is made worse by the fact that his jiu jitsu isn’t quite up to the level it needs to be to counter act that disadvantage. It was a disappointing result for Cummo as he looked to just be finding his feet and about to go on a little run in 170 lbs. division. Regardless, his place in the organisation is still safe due to ties to TUF and the face his weirdness has drawn him a pretty solid fan base. If I were Joe Silva I’d have Cummo once again relegated to the undercard of UFN against another TUF alumni. A match between he and Tommy Speerwould be a good fight even if Speer doesn’t get past Anthony Johnson at UFN 13.

Luigi Fioravanti (beat Luke Cummo via unanimous decision) – Luigi’s performance reminded me a lot of Assuerio Silva’sperformance against Cheick Kongo. He isn’t known for his takedowns but he just didn’t want anything to do with his opponent’s stand up. You have to give him credit for completely neutralising Cummo’s game but I wouldn’t expect him to win any new fans if he keeps performing like that. I get the impression that Luigi will forever be a middle-tier welterweight in the UFC and a benchmark for TUF graduates to adhere to. Thus my next opponent for Luigi would be TUF 6′s Jared Rollins.

David Bielkheden (lost to Diego Sanchez via first round submission) – He was completely over-matched and overwhelmed by Sanchez and at no opportunity was he able to get his game going. He’ll stay around in the UFC if only to fill out European undercards. I expect to see Bielkheden on the London card in June facing off against either Paul Taylor or Paul Kelly.

Diego Sanchez (beat David Bielkheden via first round submission) – After falling from grace with two consecutive losses, Diego was given a victory on a platter so that he could start building himself back up. I expect to see him slightly more tested in his next fight against someone with a little more name recognition. A fight against Akihiro Gono will help sort out where both fighters lie in the stacked 170 lbs. division.

Dustin Hazelett (lost to Josh Koscheck via 2nd round TKO) – Hazelett looked good standing up in the first round against Koscheck and when the fight hit the ground he showed how dangerous he was there too as he immediately looked to lock up a triangle. However it wasn’t enough to overcome a possessed Josh Koscheck. I would like to see Hazelett up against Chris Wilson next as I think it would be a true test of each other’s skills.

Josh Koscheck (beat Dustin Hazelett via 2nd round TKO) – Koscheck’s stand up looked the best it ever has against Hazelett. I was never truly sold on his striking until that fight. I always thought he was too eager to throw huge haymakers that left him open for counter punching, but he showed good all around striking against Hazelett. I wouldn’t be disappointed in a fight between Koscheck and Gono or against either Karo Parisyan or Thiago Alves. However if Parisyan beats Alves (which I think he will) I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Karo sit out until he finally gets that title shot.

Jake O’Brien (lost to Andrei Arlovski via 2nd round TKO) – Just like my fellow writer, Adam Morgan I really don’t care to see O’Brien fight ever again. He has a very limited skill set which he uses to full effect. He has shown no desire to test himself standing or to advance position on the ground. When Arlovski landed in mount, O’Brien just flailed helplessly. However, he still has a place in the organization whether I like it or not and I would like to see him matched up against some form of jiu-jitsu specialist just so that O’Brien can be at least tested when he’s laying on top of them. Gabriel Gonzaga anyone?

Andrei Arlovski (beat Jake O’Brien via 2nd round TKO) – My next opponent for Arlovski is very simple, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He is currently the only UFC heavyweight on a 3 fight win streak besides the current interim champion. He is the logical choice for the next challenger, he just has to sign a contract extension with the UFC. Entertaining fights wait outside the UFC however, if the two parties cannot come to a successful resolution.

Chris Wilson (lost to Jon Fitch via unanimous decision) – Wilson looked good in the first round against Fitch. He cracked him a number of times and showed decent takedown defense. As I mentioned above, I think Dustin Hazelett is the best next opponent for Chris Wilson.

Jon Fitch (beat Chris Wilson via unanimous decision) – This one is also a no brainer. Jon Fitch should get the winner of Georges St. Pierre and Matt Serra. He has gone 8-0 in the UFC against basically the entire middle to upper tier of the division and has earned his shot at the title. Karo would probably disagree though.

Evan Tanner (lost to Yushin Okami via 2nd round KO) – Tanner’s fight dampened my enjoyment of UFC 82 a little as I was really hoping he could pull out a victory. He looked good with his hands to begin the first round but looked a little tentative in the good exchanges with Okami. I hope to see Tanner still ready to fight and prove himself and I would match him up against the winner of Jason MacDonald and Joe Doerksen.

Yushin Okami (beat Evan Tanner via 2nd round KO) – He looked like he was trying to be more aggressive against Tanner but he still wasn’t setting the world on fire with his pacing. Regardless of style however, he has earned the right to face off against Anderson Silva in the champ’s next title defense.

Alessio Sakara (lost to Chris Leben via 1st round TKO) – I find myself feeling sorry for Sakara every time he loses. He has very fast and accurate hands but his chin just keeps letting him down. He took a few good shots from Leben but I was always sensing that it was a matter of time before he would be put on Queer Street. I’m not sure if we will see Sakara in another UFC event. If we do it will only be on the undercard of a European show. I think it will be best for Sakara to either be transferred over to the WEC or just retreat to an small promotion to hone his skills further.

Chris Leben (beat Alessio Sakara via 1st round TKO) – Love him or hate him, Chris Leben puts on exciting fights. I thought after watching the Terry Martin fight that Leben had adopted a new strategy. He appeared to be less inclined to lead with his chin and windmilling his arms. But against Sakara we saw the old Leben, who has complete disregard for his opponents punching power. He seems to have gotten his confidence back after suffering 3 losses in 4 fights and I think a rematch with the reinvigorated Patrick Cote would help show where they both stand in the division.

Cheick Kongo (lost to Heath Herring via split decision) – I still have no idea why Kongo decided to work his ground game against Herring. If this fight stayed standing I expected Kongo to pick apart Herring’s wild striking but for some reason he just didn’t want to utilize his best asset. In regards to a next opponent for the Frenchman, it’s hard to look past Tim Sylvia who has been very vocal about his desire to fight him. They are both coming off of disappointing losses and I think it would be an interesting fight.

Heath Herring (beat Cheick Kongo via split decision) – I gained a new found respect for Heath Herring after listening to him in both the pre-fight and post-fight press conferences. He seems very upbeat and excited about fighting which is very hard not to like. This victory doesn’t put him in line for a title shot by any stretch, (I think Herring said it best in the post fight press conference when he said, “I don’t know if the world is ready for Herring Nogueira 4″) but with maybe one or two more victories I could see the UFC getting behind Herring and somehow finding a way to market a title fight featuring the “Texan Crazy Horse”. In regards to his next opponent I think the UFC may match him up against Eddie Sanchez which would most certainly quench Herring’s thirst for a stand up fight.

Dan Henderson (lost to Anderson Silva via 2nd round submission) – There is no shame in losing to two of the best fighters in the world in your past two fights. In the first round of his clash with Silva he looked to be fulfilling the predictions of many people but in the second round he felt the power and precision of the most dangerous middleweight in the world. Having listened to a lot of Dan Henderson’s interviews he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would want to take an “easy” fight to recharge his batteries. You couldn’t blame him if he did though considering the last 3 fights he has been in have all been title fights. If the decision was up to me to decide his next opponent, I would matchup ‘Hendo’ with Nate Marquardt. The winner of that fight earns a rematch with “the Spider”.

Anderson Silva (beat Dan Henderson via 2nd round submission) – He has basically cleaned out the entire middleweight division and I think the only fight that he really “needs” at 185 lbs. is a rematch with Yushin Okami. I am under no illusion that Okami will pose any sort of threat to Silva but Okami has paid his dues and Silva still has the DQ loss on his record.

Well there we have it. My thoughts on the next opponents or moves for all 20 participants of UFC 82. Feel free to discuss your thoughts in the comments section below.

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29 COMMENTS
  • Jackyl says:

    Some very nice suggestions. I totally agree with Kongo vs Sylvia. That’s an interesting fight. I think if Kongo shows just a little more initiative, he could be a great contender in the division. The win against Cro Cop should have given him a lot more confidence than he showed. He just went in with the wrong game plan. Henderson vs Marquardt, absoloutely. Okami does deserve the title shot, but everyone wants to see the the big one. We want ANDERSON SILVA VS GEORGE ST PIERRE!!!!!!!

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  • Evan says:

    The UFC has to be careful promising AA Nog because there is a chance RWhat do you think happens to AA if Randy accepts the fight offer for Nog? Promise him the winner?

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  • Evan says:

    Sometimes my browser will rest on this site right in the middle of a post..worry.

    The UFC has to be careful promising AA Nog because there is a chance Randy may accept it. I would imagine there is a nice bump in pay in that offer. So I assume they will at the least guanretee him the winner if he accepts it.

    As for Dan…I could have sworn he had one fight left on his contract before his fight with Silva. Does anyone know if he re-signed?

    Leben has grown on me. Win or lose he brings it to every fight.

    Okami…I am a huge fan of this guy but he isn’t ready but who else can you match Silva with?

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  • woooburn says:

    good points.

    i made a similar comment post yesterday, but i think it got lost in the “how dare you rank gsp over silva” debate.

    just curious, but who do you see fighting minotauro next? to be more specific… who do you think he will fight if arlovski and “handy” are taken out of the picture? didn’t mir say he wasn’t sure if he was ready just yet? doubt it will be sylvia. my hunch is that mir and herring will fight to see who’s next. i’d love for it to be arlovski, but i dont see it happening.

    hell…. coleman should’ve asked to fight for the title. he has about as much chance in that fight as he does with the younger lesnar (not a whole hell of alot).

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  • Sam Cupitt says:

    Kind of forgot about Mir. Herring vs. Mir would be good. I like that fight better than Herring vs. Sanchez. Me no likey Sanchez.

    And Evan I think Henderson re-signed after the Rampage fight. 3 more fights i think it was but i could be speaking out my arse.

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  • ufcfan says:

    i’d have to say spot on….good job

    okami deserves a shot, going 6-1 is an achievement that must be recognized. if the fight happens they just need to add some more star power to the card so the PPV buy’s won’t suffer too much.

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  • woooburn says:

    i’m sure it’s a logistical nightmare, but i would love to see nog and silva defend their titles on their home turf, in brazil. if the match-ups they end up in aren’t enough to draw huge ppv numbers, they’d at least have ridiculous ticket sales.

    makes more sense to me than a ufc in germany.

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  • Evan says:

    “And Evan I think Henderson re-signed after the Rampage fight. 3 more fights i think it was but i could be speaking out my arse.”

    I am sure you’re right because there is no way he would have gotten a title fight without an extension.

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  • Mark K says:

    I really was not that impressed by Heath Herring but he does deserve someone like Sanchez. For all Heath says about loving a standup fight he often seems to go on the defensive after getting cracked one or two good times (see Nog/Heath 1). Sanchez always starts a bit nervous but settles down as the fight goes on. It would be a good springboard for either fighter.

    I like the idea of Tanner and MacDonald…similar in size and style.

    OBrien and Lesnar would have been a good matchup but Coleman is the wrestler that gets that chance.

    Kongo/Sylvia I do not want to see no matter what Sylvia says…though it has the potential to be a slugfest I see a point style match where neither man really goes for the kill.

    I especially like Cote/Leben 2 as I think the first match was much closer than some made it to be. Cote has visibly improved quite a bit so let’s see what would happen. Another possibility would be Marcus Davis for Leben…though I think Davis may have a more complete game than Leben as well as a real maturity level Leben is just now beginning to understand is necessary to be a succesful (i.e. employed) professional fighter.

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  • Jeremy says:

    Can’t really disagree with any of your suggestions Sam. I would love to see the Nog-Arlovski fight and Kongo-Sylvia. OKami-Silva is the most logical next move for the UFC as well.

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  • ctownhood says:

    #7,
    The main drawback to a card in Brazil is money. Even if they stacked the card with Brazilian fighters, and packed out an arena, the UFC can’t charge even $50 USD for a ticket, as that is a month’s salary for most people in Brazil. They would solely be dependent on PPV sales.

    As for future matchups, I think Okami is the only real fight for Silva now. Too bad for Okami ;)

    After watching UFC: Countdown to UFC 82, I begin to like Herring a lil more. I always thought he was a good fighter…..but dude looked so ridiculous with those terrible hairdos! But, he was pretty normal looking on the show, o I was feeling pretty good about his chances. Then…….he took the hat off when he entered the Octagon. DAMN YOU HERRING! I am convinced he would have scored a KO or at the least a unanimous decision with a normal haircut.

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  • Zack says:

    Good analysis. I think in retrospect the theme of the night was “transformation” or “evolution” as we saw several fighters appear to take the next step toward greatness, especially Kos, Okami, and even Kongo in defeat.

    I’d like to quibble with a few opinions that I keep seeing pop up on this site and elsewhere.

    Tanner vs Okami. I know Evan has the potential to be a great comeback story, but most of the writeups I’ve seen have been too kind. He showed to be nowhere near Okami’s level, and pretty much looked like an old fighter who needs to find a modern camp to bring his fighting style up to the level of the current UFC.

    Fitch vs. Wilson. This fight was really, really close. That doesn’t mean Fitch doesn’t deserve the title shot, but I do think it means that he may not be as much of a challenge for GSP as he thinks.

    Kongo vs Herring. Yes, Kongo ended up taking it to the ground too much, and when he got there he showed he doesn’t have the skills to capitalize on his superior position, but his takedowns looked pretty fierce and his strength was overpowering. I thought this fight was much closer than its being made out. Until the 3rd round pretty much all the damage in the fight was done by Kongo. Herring looked much improved, but a 4th shot at Big Nog is unwarranted and bores the hell out of me. Dear god please re-sign Andrei so Nog has a legit opponent. Agree that we need Sylvia vs “Cheech” immediately.

    Anderson vs Dan. I still see a lot of people afraid to get on Silva’s nuts – it’s ok, gently ease yourself on there – there’s plenty of room. He’s the best fighter in the world right now when looked at in totality. His mental game is light years beyond GSP’s and has none of Georges partying tendencies etc. He’s never had problems getting motivated or left the game (Penn). He hasn’t padded his myth fighting cans and isn’t motivated by money (Fedor). The dude is a fucking stud and a gentleman. Yeah, he got beat in Pride…years ago. How relevant is that today?

    Anderson did two things I didn’t think possible to my second favorite fighter in the world – he nearly knocked his ass out and then choked him. It’s a testament to Dan that he wasn’t TKO’d in the second – I bet any other fighter would have been lights out. I think the only reason Anderson got the choke was because Dan was so rocked he didn’t know where he was once he got put in the body triangle.

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  • Rich says:

    hey Cupitt,

    “Antonio Silva’s performance against Cheick Kongo”

    you mean ASSUERIO SILVA?

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  • GSP owns his cleaned out thew welterweight division and he’d also own silva,and OKAmi is gonna own silva his improved since losing to franklin,also leben sucks wang!

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  • zack u suck the wang too,gsp over silva mentally anyday,if silva is so mentally prepared he should learn to talk english like gsp has done

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  • keenan says:

    anderson silva vs st. pierre although interesting how bout a move up instead? with such a stacked division at 205 there are many opponents for him and maybe even a bout with rampage… silva vs rampage now thats a fight i wanna see

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  • ZAck sucks the manpole!

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  • Sam Cupitt says:

    My bad Rich, i knew that didnt look right when i typed it.

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  • garth says:

    i think GSP would beat crocop, fedor, and jesus in a tag team match.

    jee zuss…nuthugging makes you forget to use a space bar.

    I don’t know if I could stand watching Sylvia-Kongo. What if Kongo decides he needs to take it to the ground? What if Sylvia wins a three-round snoozefest like a standup Carmelo Marreiro? The UFC’s HWs are in bad shape. They’re losing Andrei and the #1 contender is…. Heath Herring? Sigh.

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  • Zack says:

    ULTIMATE FIGHTER -

    Here’s a link you might like: http://www.sherdog.net/forums/

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  • Al says:

    Zack, about Fitch – I’ve seen mentioned, here I think, (and I’m inclined to agree), that perhaps knowing he is a win away from a title shot affected his game somewhat. No disrespect to Wilson mind, he gave a very good account of himself. Doesn’t matter mind, I still can’t see a way in which Fitch beats GSP, unless he swings and prays.

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  • Nick says:

    Dear Sam’s Arse,
    You are correct, Dan Henderson signed a new 4 fight contract extension with the UFC that he catagorized as “very nice to me”.

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  • Evan says:

    hah…thanks to both Sam and Nick!!

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  • Andy says:

    Andre Arlovski was my 1st ufc superstar, but I would love to see him fight Fedor!
    They are both from the former Soviet Union, and it would excite the eastern fans.
    Imagine Andre’s price tag if he actually beat Fedor.

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  • j. says:

    ultimate fighter- how old are you, 12 or something, do your parents know you’re on their computer? ctownhood, yer right about brazil being extermely poor, but there is also an incredibly rich and corrupt upper class, after all it is the 11th largest economy in the world. i’m not sure if this fact is true today but as of 2006 sao paulo had the most private helicopters of any city in the world. The ufc can charge whatever they want for ticket prices and they’ll sellout.

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  • j. says:

    also ultimate fighter- gsp is french canadian and if you knew anything about canada you’d know it’s officialy bilingual. all children are required to study their second national language up to grade 10, thus the majority of french canadians speak both.

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  • Jye says:

    Great matchmaking, I couldn’t disagree with one of them

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  • Rich says:

    hey j.,
    i’m taking economics right now.. and i could swear that Brazil’s economy is the 101st largest..

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  • dropitlikeitshot says:

    how many people think Anderson may move up to 205?

    there’s a funny article about anderson’s next opponents at the manupwear.com blog.

    after seeing Fitch saturday, i think GSP will do just fine against him, he’s still a great fighter just not GSP great.

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