Playing fantasy matchmaker is one of the most enjoyable things to do for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, and with UFC on FOX 6: 'Sotiropoulos vs. Pearson' and The Ultimate Fighter 16 (TUF) Finale behind us, we put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play matchmaker for both event's main card winners.
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) put on two shows in two nights on two continents over the weekend, giving mixed martial arts (MMA) fans everything they could handle and more.
Friday's UFC on FX 6 event in Australia saw Hector Lombard win big over Rousimar Palhares, Robert Whittaker and Norman Parke earned The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Smashes" titles and Ross Pearson crushed his rival George Sotiropoulos in the main event.
Less than 24 hours later in at The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada, Dustin Poirier, Pat Barry, Colton Smith and Roy Nelson each earned decisive victories over their respective opponents on the main card.
After every fight card, fans wonder who the winners will be matched up with next. With another weekend of heart-racing UFC action in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look forward and put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play UFC matchmaker.
UFC on FX 6: Sotiropoulos vs. Pearson
Winner: Hector Lombard
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Alan Belcher vs. Yushin Okami at UFC 155
Why They Should Fight: Lombard scored his first UFC victory in emphatic fashion with a knockout of Palhares in Australia, pushing his record in the continent to 21-0-1 with one "No Contest."
With some worries that Lombard's UFC run could be a flop after his underwhelming debut against Tim Boetsch last July, the Cuban sent a message to all his doubters, letting them know he isn't going anywhere.
There are several intriguing out there for Lombard's next fight, especially against Michael Bisping and Mark Munoz, two men "Lightning" called out after his win over Palhares. Despite Lombard's requests, the best-suited match up for him is to take on next is the winner of Alan Belcher and Yushin Okami, who meet at UFC 155 later this month.
For a lengthy explanation on why Lombard vs. Belcher/Okami makes sense, read "Who Is Next For Hector Lombard?"
Winner: Norman Parke
Who He Should Fight Next: UFC Newcomer
Why They Should Fight: Parke looked masterful with his unanimous decision win over Colin Fletcher to become the lightweight winner of TUF: "Smashes."
Typically, TUF winners receive a fairly winnable fight coming off the Finale, and there's no reason that would change now, especially with the UFC looking to continue expansion in the United Kingdom, Parke's home territory.
With that said, the UFC should sign a fresh face to take on Parke for his first post-TUF bout. By no means should his next fight be squash match, but considering the UFC just invested 12-weeks of television into Parke, it would only seem logical that the organization throws him some favorable match ups and let him develop for at least a couple of fights.
Should the free agent market be barren of lightweights for Parke to face, there are a few men at the bottom of the division who could make for a good fight.
Winner: Robert Whittaker
Who He Should Fight Next: UFC Newcomer
Why They Should Fight: Essentially the same situation as Parke. Bring in a newcomer with respectable skills whom Whittaker can showcase his talents against.
Why They Should Fight: It's really hard to say what Pearson should do next after his victory over George Sotiropoulos in the main event of UFC on FX 6.
Pearson picked up an impressive victory in his first lightweight bout since Aug. 2011, but it's difficult to gauge where he sits in the division considering the win came over an opponent who entered the fight on a two-bout skid and has not competed in an MMA contest since July 2011.
Does the win give Pearson newfound credibility in the lightweight division after not competing at 155-pounds for 16-months? Certainly. Does it give him enough credibility for a fight with a top-10 opponent? Absolutely not.
A good next step for Pearson would be to meet the winner of Michael McDonald vs. Myles Jury, who square off at UFC 155 in Las Vegas later this month.
All three men are veterans of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show, although they achieved varying degrees of success during their separate stints.
Should Johnson get by Jury, a fight with Pearson would be fireworks. Both men are explosive strikers with good, but not phenomenal ground games. Even though Johnson would be on a four-fight win-streak if he beats Jury and Pearson is 2-2 in his last four lightweight contests, they do sit in roughly the same tier in the 155-pound rankings.
Johnson took out TUF 13 winner Anthony Ferguson earlier this year, and it would be interesting to see if he could notch a victory over TUF 9 winner Pearson as well.
On the flip side of the equation, Pearson vs. Jury would be a very fun fight, but it's a match up that benefits Jury more than anything because he is relatively unknown, while Pearson has an established name in the UFC with nine appearances in the promotion under his belt.
With that said, name recognition is not always what's most important and if Jury can pull off the upset get by a very tough opponent in Johnson, he is more than deserving of a fight against someone of Pearson's caliber.
Pearson vs. Johnson/Jury could easily serve as the top bout on the "Prelims" portion of a UFC pay-per-view or FOX card.
Should the UFC decide to go a different route with Pearson's next opponent, then there are guys like Jacob Volkmann, Abel Trujillo, Daron Cruickshank, Ramsey Nijem and John Makdessi who have recently picked up wins under the UFC banner at 155-pounds.
The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale
Winner: Dustin Poirier
Who He Should Fight Next: Chad Mendes
Why They Should Fight: Poirier and Mendes both picked up first-round finishes over the weekend, Poirier over Jonathan Brookins and Mendes over Yaotzin Meza, and appeared to come out of their respective bouts unscathed. That means they are on roughly the same schedule to return to the Octagon and considering both men are in the top-10 at 145-pounds, why not have them fight?
Mendes defeated an overmatched Meza in decisive fashion at UFC on FX 6, marking the first time he's earned back-to-back finishes under the ZUFFA banner. Unfortunately for "Money," both those victories came over unranked opponents; so the wins didn't him move any closer to a title shot.
After a tough defeat to Chan Sung Jung earlier this year, Poirier proved he is still worthy of top-flight opposition with his submission of Brookins at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale. Mendes fits the bill when you talk about top ranked featherweights - the Team Alpha Male product has held down the No. 2 spot at the weight class for the past few years.
Poirier is a well-rounded competitor, but his biggest strength is on the ground. It would be interesting to see how the slick submission game of "The Diamond" would hold up against a world-class ground fighter in Mendes.
Mendes is one of the best wrestlers out there with the improved stand-up he's shown in his past two bouts, would present a lot of problems to Poirier.
The winner of this potential fight would be, at the very most, two or three fights away from a shot at the UFC featherweight championship currently held by Jose Aldo.
Winner: Pat Barry
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Todd Duffee vs. Phil De Fries at UFC 155
Why They Should Fight: Barry and the winner of Todd Duffee vs. Phil De Fries, who face off at UFC 155 on Dec. 29, 2012, sit in the lower-echelon of the UFC heavyweight division. All three men have won some and lost some inside the Octagon and having competed within 14-days of each other, the timing would line up for this fight.
Barry showed in his grappling game is beginning to come into its own his victory against Shane Del Rosario at The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale, but if he were to fight De Fries --a submission specialist who eight submission wins in nine career victories-- his ground game would truly be put to the test.
In Duffee, Barry would face another fighter whose primarily strength lays in the striking department. Duffee is making his return to the organization at UFC 155 and has the chance to revive his career. Getting a fight with someone with Barry's fan support would be a big opportunity to quickly put his name back on the radar.
On paper, Barry vs. Duffee sounds like a much more appealing fight.
Should De Fries win, matching Barry against another striker would be a completely understandable decision; however, if "HD" wants to climb the heavyweight rankings he needs to prove he is evolving as a mixed martial artist, and that makes takes on tough stylistic match ups.
Prior to Saturday's fight, there was talk of Barry making the drop to light heavyweight, but he indicated nothing of the sort in any of his post-fight interview. With that said, if Barry can stay at heavyweight and continue to turn in "Knockout of the Night" winning performances like he did against Del Rosario, why put his body through the turmoil of a weight cut?
Winner: Colton Smith
Who He Should Fight Next: Stephen Thompson
Why They Should Fight: If Thompson can get healthy and make it through a training camp free of injury, "Wonderboy" would be a good match up for Smith's first post-TUF fight.
Some recent winners of the reality show have not lived up to expectations coming off their finale wins, and the blame for that can partially be placed on matchmaking.
Smith only has five professional fights under his belt and while he dominated a game opponent in Mike Ricci to win The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 16 welterweight tournament crown, the 25-year-old is still very green and needs to be brought along with care.
A fight between Smith and Thompson would be a classic striker vs. grappler fight and is a winnable contest for both men. Smith has shown holes in his stand up while the same can be said for Thompson's ground game.
Each fighter is strongest where the other is weakest, making for a challenging fight.
This 170-pound affair could end in a highlight reel knockout or a drawn-out three-round decision, but either way, both men will be forced to shore up on their weaknesses.
Winner: Roy Nelson
Who He Should Fight Next: Josh Barnett or Cheick Kongo
Why They Should Fight: Nelson handed Matt Mitrione his first stoppage defeat in TUF 16 Finale main event, which he set up with a blistering uppercut. Throwing Nelson in the cage with essentially any heavyweight on the UFC roster will likely produce a fan-pleasing outcome, but a welcome-back fight to the UFC for Strikeforce's Barnett or a match up with Kongo make the most sense for "Big Country" at this point in his career.
Read "Who is next for Roy Nelson?" for a lengthy description on why fights with Barnett and Kongo are logical for Nelson.
That ends this edition of Joe Silva's shoes. What do you think of these potential match ups? Do you agree? Disagree?
Let us know in the comments section below what fights you would make if you were in Joe Silva's shoes and played the role of UFC matchmaker.