Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley successfully went underneath the knife, getting his nagging shoulder fixed. Typically the recovery time for shoulder surgery is 4-6 month’s, meaning the earliest to expect Woodley back would probably be international fight week in July. With the Champion shelved and worthy contenders like Rafael Dos Anjos and Colby Covington awaiting a title shot, the Welterweight division could start to get backed up at the top. That is, unless top contenders start fighting each other instead of waiting around.
Anyways, let’s first see what upcoming fights in the Welterweight division are already booked, along with their significance.
Donald Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros
This fight all but guarantees to be fireworks, as you have two pure strikers who bite down on their mouthpiece and brawl. Cerrone, comes into this bout on a three fight losing streak. Prior to this losing streak, Cerrone had never lost back-to-back fights in his 43 professional fights. At 34 years of age, Cerrone’s window to become a world champion is slowly closing, but he will always have a place in the UFC due to his anytime, anywhere, anyone moniker. As for Medeiros, a steady rise of winning mixed with exciting fights, has vaulted him into this big fight. With three consecutive wins, two of which resulted in bonuses, the young Hawaiian is on his best run since debuting in the UFC in 2013.
The implications for this fight are simple. For Cerrone, it’s time to draw a line in the sand and determine if you can still compete and win at a high level. For Medeiros, it took four years to crack the top fifteen. With this fight, the opportunity to vault himself into the top ten is for the taking.
Leon Edwards vs. Peter Sobotta
This fight is going under the radar, as you have a rising talent in Leon Edwards facing off against a veteran who’s enjoying a late resurgence in Peter Sobotta. Edwards, strolls into this bout on a four-fight win streak. In that streak, he’s defeated some notables such as Vicente Luque, Albert Tumenov and Bryan Barberena. A victory over Sobotta would be five consecutive wins, all but guaranteeing Edwards a fight against a top fifteen foe. As for Sobotta, this second stint in the UFC has far exceeded expectations. The German is 4-1 since re-joining the UFC in 2014. In Sobotta’s most recent bout, he impressively TKO’d a very solid Ben Saunders. If Sobotta can get by Edwards, it’s time for the veteran to get something meaningful.
Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown
Not sure what to think about this fight after Condit’s lackluster return against Neil Magny. If the old Condit returns, then this easily has “Fight of the Night” written all over it. As for Brown, retirement lasted only what, a few months?
Potential Additions to the Welterweight Division
Right now, the Welterweight division is perhaps the deepest it’s ever been in the UFC. The amount of contenders and rising stars run deeper than just the top fifteen. I really have no complaints about adding more talent, but of course there are a few names I’d like to see get a shot. For one, obviously Ben Askren. His style of fighting might not be appeasing, nor his back-and-forth comments with Dana White, but he’s truly too talented to be fighting outside of either the UFC or Bellator. The hardcore fans would love a fight pitting George St. Pierre vs. Ben Askren.
Another name who might be available soon is Paul Daley. He’s been asking for his release from Bellator and if he’s granted such, the UFC should bring him back. It’s been over seven years since he was kicked out for his infamous punch after the bell against Josh Koscheck. He’s due a shot at redemption and his style of fighting creates for plenty of exciting fights in the UFC. Could you imagine Daley in a rematch against Nick Diaz or possibly even Nate Diaz? How about against the likes of Donald Cerrone, Mike Perry, Robbie Lawler, Yancy Medieros, Matt Brown, etc… And it’s not like he’s washed up. Since his UFC release in 2010, he’s compiled a 17-6 record with notable wins over the likes of Jorge Masvidal and Lorenz Larkin. Hopefully seven years is enough for Dana White to forgive and forget.
I’d love to see Jon Fitch back, but that’s never going to happen. His age and lawsuit against the UFC kind of derail any hope of that. Realistically, with the UFC headed to Russia in September, there is definite talent to add. Guys like Mukhamed Berkhamov, Alexey Kunchenko and Khabib’s brother Abubakar Nurmagomedov would be great local additions.
Anyways, there’s fights to make in the UFC Welterweight division. So let’s get to it!
Tyron Woodley vs. Nate Diaz
In the WME era, rankings have taken a back seat to super fights. Anything that makes money is priority number one. So when I heard Dana White squash the potential booking of this fight, I was a surprised to say the least. I mean, this fight is a money fight for both men and the UFC. It’s also meaningful in other ways that would inevitably build up a fight on the horizon. What I mean is, could you imagine if Nate Diaz defeated Tyron Woodley. The inevitable trilogy fight against Conor McGregor would have added an extra element that would raise PPV’s ten fold. The Welterweight title on the line. Could you imagine the build up to the trilogy fight? Or the fact that Conor McGregor could become the first fighter to win UFC titles in three different weight classes.
Even McGregor against Woodley would have legs if Woodley were to defend his title. Defeating Diaz combined with the interaction at the early weigh-ins at UFC 205 certainly makes it an enticing fight. C’Mon UFC! Smarten Up!
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Colby Covington
If Tyron Woodley were to defend his title against Nate Diaz, then Rafael dos Anjos against Colby Covington in a number one contender’s fight would be pretty obvious. Stylistically too, it’s a fun fight. Covington is a superior wrestler, who’s been steadily developing his striking each fight. Meanwhile, dos Anjos is as well rounded as it gets. He is perhaps most noted for his ability to strike in volume and keep a heavy pace. Despite both men gunning for a title shot, this would be an excellent headliner on a Fight Night card.
Stephen Thompson vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
As long as Tyron Woodley is champion, Thompson is on the outside looking in. He had two cracks at Woodley, one resulting in a draw and the other a narrow defeat via decision. Make no mistake about it though, Thompson is championship material and is capable of clearing out the division. Thompson most recently defeated Jorge Masvidal, technically outpointing him on the feet. What should be next on the docket is Santiago Ponzinibbio. The Argentinian striker has won six consecutive fights, finishing three of them by knockout. Most recently, Ponzinibbio faced the dangerous power puncher Mike Perry. In a fun fight, it was Ponzinibbio who eluded Perry’s power and out struck him to take home a decision victory.
Stylistically this would be an appeasing fight, as it’s all but certain to be a striking contest. Thompson’s karate based style against Ponzinibbio’s athletic in-and-out style. Just thinking about this potential barnburner is exciting! Anyways, Ponzinibbio deserves something more meaningful after six straight wins. And Thompson needs to keep building his case for another title shot by clearing out potential contenders.
Darren Till vs. Mike Perry
If Mike Perry gets by Max Griffin at UFC on Fox 28, it’s time for this rivalry to be more than just words. It’s also time for Till to build off the momentum of his dominant knockout victory over Donald Cerrone back in October of 2017. We’re already three plus months removed from that fight and Till hasn’t been booked yet. So with Perry fighting later this month, it only makes sense now to pair them up. I mean, the fight itself all but guarantees to be fireworks.
Demian Maia vs. Dong Hyun Kim II
On a two fight losing streak and at 40 years of age, Demian Maia’s illustrious career is seemingly reaching it’s end. However, he’s indicated he stills wishes to fight. So with that, I believe a rematch against Dong Hyun Kim should be in order. If you recall in their first encounter, Maia defeated Kim in 47 seconds due to a muscle spasm. It was a freak injury that occurred when Maia took Kim down in an awkward position. Given that both men are coming off losses and there odd first encounter took place over five years ago, I think it’s time to run this one back.
Kamaru Usman vs. Cerrone vs. Medeiros winner
Ever since Kamaru Usman graced the octagon, I saw a special talent that had a strong wrestling base. And after the beat down of Warley Alves, it was clear to me that Usman would be a Champion one day. However, despite seven consecutive wins, Usman has yet to fight anyone notable to give him that push. A perfect solution to solve that would be against the winner of Donald Cerrone and Yancy Medeiros. And while Medeiros isn’t the name Cerrone is, you can bet your ass that a win over Cerrone would catapult the Hawaiian into stardom. Either way, the winner gets a top ten opponent in Usman and the “Nigerian Nightmare” gets his named opponent.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Neil Magny
After three consecutive victories and on the brink of a title shot, Jorge Masvidal hit a skid of two straight defeats. The worst part is that a victory in any of those defeats would of gotten Masvidal a title shot. However, it wasn’t meant to be. A perfect opponent to try and bounce back against would be fellow top ten Welterweight Neil Magny. The former Ultimate Fighter Live contestant has an underrated career thus far in the UFC. After starting out 1-2 in the UFC, Magny turned the corner with a 12-3 record since. Victories over Tim Means, Kelvin Gastelum, Hector Lombard, Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit stand out. As for this fight, it’s pretty logical. Magny is sitting at #8 in the UFC Ranking’s, meanwhile Masvidal is #6. Magny is coming off a victory over Carlos Condit and should be looking to climb the ranking, while Masvidal is on a two fight skid and has to protect his spot in the rankings from the hungry welterweights below.
Nick Diaz vs. Condit vs. Brown winner
Nick Diaz hasn’t fought since 2015 and I have no inkling if he will ever fight again. However if he does, a rematch against the winner of Carlos Condit and Matt Brown would be enticing and exciting. A fight against Condit would be a rematch, one in which Condit defeated Diaz for the Interim Welterweight title at UFC 143. I’m sure Diaz would like to get that on back. Or if it’s Brown, you can bet your ass it’s not going to the distance. Brown is a kill or be killed fighter, which would all but assure fireworks in this dream matchup.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Alex Oliveira
It’s been seven month’s since Nelson last stepped in the octagon. It was a forgettable night too, as Nelson was eye poked into oblivion and eventually knocked out for the first time in his career. Nelson has been angling for a fight against Till, but I think it’s in the UFC’s best interest to build Till up carefully and avoid grapplers like Nelson. So instead, a fight that would make sense for Nelson would be against Alex Oliveira. The Brazilian Cowboy most recently fought in the “Fight of the Year” against Yancy Medeiros. Unfortunately for Oliveira, Medeiros would be the last man standing in the absolute slugfest of a fight. Before that defeat, Oliveira had gone 7-1 with one no contest in his last nine fights. He was also ranked in the UFC ranking’s. Logically this fight makes sense and stylistically both men are talented grapplers and excellent on the feet.
Edwards vs. Sobbota winner vs. Thiago Alves
Like I mentioned earlier, the winner of Leon Edwards against Peter Sobbota deserves something meaningful. So pending Thiago Alves can get by late replacement Curtis Millender at UFC Fight Night 126, then I believe that would suffice as something meaningful.
Sean Strickland vs. Zak Cummings
Both men have won four of their last five fights and stylistically would make for an entertaining fight. The winner of this fight would certainly be due a potential top fifteen foe.
Jake Matthews vs. Sergio Moraes
I’ll tell you what, Jake Matthews looked incredible against Li Jingliang. The potential Matthews has is glaring and I’m happy to see he finally turned the corner. A next step in his rise should be against a dangerous Sergio Moraes. Thus far, Moraes UFC tenure has been widely successful with a 7-2 record with one no contest. Victories over Neil Magny and Tim Means stand out.
Michel Prazeres vs. Ryan Laflare
It’s time for Michel Prazeres to move up in weight. To miss weight in three of his last four fights is unacceptable and unfair. However, given he’s won six fights in a row, a high caliber opponent such as Ryan Laflare would be a perfect welcome at Welterweight.
Belal Muhammad vs. Emil Meek
Belal Muhammad has won three straight fights and is line for something more meaningful. A perfect opponent would be Emil Meek, who was on the cusp of cracking the top fifteen until Kamaru Usman halted that. Both men are scrappers too, so I could very well envision this to be a “Fight of the Night” candidate on any card.
Nordine Taleb vs. Vicente Luque
Vicente Luque is a bonafide finisher and is coming into his own of late. Taleb has seemingly found that he has power in his hands, knocking out two opponents in his last three victories. This would be a toss up fight and the winner would be in the conversation of fighting a ranked opponent.
Warlley Alves vs. Jouban vs. Saunders winner
After winning four straight fights in the UFC, Alves looked like a potential contender at Welterweight. However, cardio issues plagued the Brazilian, as Bryan Barberena and Kamara Usman outlasted and defeated him. Now back in the win column, it’s time to test Alves once again. The winner of Alan Jouban and Ben Saunders would definitely be a perfect test. Also, I’m sure Alan Jouban would love this rematch. If you recall, Alves was awarded a decision in which over 90% of the media saw Jouban as the victor.
Chad Laprise vs. Alex Garcia
A potentially fun fight between two strikers who are finally building momentum for themselves.
Niko Price vs. Elizeu Zaleski
If Elizeu Zaleski can defeat Jack Marshmann at UFC Fight Night 127, that would mark five consecutive victories. A fight against a fellow striker in Niko Price definitely has fireworks written all over it.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Erick Silva
Pink Slip fight. Winner stays in the UFC, the loser gets cut…
Tim Means vs. Jordan Mein
The battle of the standing elbow strikers would be a hell of fight!
Claudio Silva vs. Siyar Bahaduraza
Claudio Silva hasn’t fought since 2014, but was scheduled to fight Siyar Bahaduraza in 2016 at UFC 201. Unfortunately injuries have plagued much of his career and forced him out of the fight. Pending he’s healthy and Bahaduraza defeats Luan Chagas at UFC Fight Night 128, then I’d say a re-booking of this fight is in order.
Tarec Saffiedine vs. Diego Sanchez
Both guys have been abysmal of late and given that Saffiedine hasn’t finished an opponent since 2010, that’s perfect for Sanchez who has been finished in his last three defeats. He’s a warrior with nothing to prove, but wants to continue fighting. The least the UFC can do is give him a non-finisher.
Bryan Barberena vs. Court McGee
Both men are very similar, in which they take a lot of punishment early and storm back in the later rounds due to their cardio and will to win. The fight itself would be entertaining for all three rounds, as I don’t see either breaking.
Li Jingliang vs. Lyman Good
Before losing to Jake Matthews, Li Jingliang had an impressive four fight win streak. The defeat cost him an opportunity at higher caliber fight and I believe a perfect bounce back fight would be against a very game Lyman Good.
Luke Jumeau vs. Danny Roberts
Pending Danny Roberts can win his upcoming fight, an interesting matchup against Luke Jumeau would suffice .
Abu Azaitar vs. Kenan Song
Abu Azaitar has yet to make his UFC debut, but when he does, it should be against a fellow finisher like Kenan Song. The Chinese mixed martial artist had perhaps the greatest UFC debut ever, knocking out Bobby Nash in 15 seconds. This would be a fun fight between a couple knockout artist.
Randy Brown vs. Shinso Anzai
Randy Brown has potential, but the UFC needs to continue building him up. A fight against Shinso Anzai, who has won two straight fights in the UFC would be a competitive yet not overwhelming fight for Brown.