Playing fantasy matchmaker is one of the most enjoyable things to do for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, and with UFC on FX 7: "Belfort vs. Bisping" behind us, we put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play matchmaker for both event's main card winners.
UFC on FX 7: "Belfort vs. Bisping" is in the books and in the organization's first event of 2013, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a respectable night of mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
Vitor Belfort, C.B. Dollaway, Gabriel Gonzaga and Khabib Nurmagomedov were the big winners Saturday night (Jan. 19, 2013) at the Ibirapuera Arena in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as each picked up a victory over their respective opponents on the main card, which aired on FX.
After every fight card, fans wonder who the winners will be matched up with next. With another night of heart-racing fights in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look forward and put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play UFC matchmaker.
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Who He Should Fight Next: Myles Jury
Why They Should Fight: After his utter destruction of Thiago Tavares at UFC on FX 7, it's likely that there aren't many fighters in the UFC lightweight division chomping at the bit to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov.
"The Eagle" called out former 155-pound No. 1 contender Nate Diaz in an interview on the UFC on FX 7 post-fight show on FUEL TV, but that match up seems a bit unrealistic at this point, especially since Nurmagomedov is undefeated in the UFC and Diaz is coming off a loss.
With that said, a much more likely match up for Nurmagomedov would be to take on Myles Jury, another undefeated lightweight who recently picked up a win over Michael Johnson at UFC on FOX 5 last December
With a combined record of 30-0 including 24 finishes, Nurmagomedov vs. Jury has fireworks written all over it. Both fighters are young, talented and supremely confident in their abilities, a point proven by their polished records.
Nurmagomedov's win over Tavares was the most notable win of his career thus far, and the same can be said for Jury's win over Johnson. The two lightweights are on a high, so what better time than to match them up for a fight.
As the old saying goes, "Someone's 0 has got to go."
Winner: Gabriel Gonzaga
Who He Should Fight Next: Cheick Kongo
Why They Should Fight: Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo are two of the longest tenured fighters currently on the UFC roster, dating all the way back to 2005 and 2006, respectably. Having been with the company for so long, the fact Gonzaga and Kongo have yet to cross paths inside the Octagon is somewhat shocking.
The two heavyweights are near the top of the list for most heavyweight fights in the history of the UFC, Gonzaga with 13 Octagon appearances and Kongo with 17.
Kongo has not competed since UFC 149 last July where he defeated Shawn Jordan by unanimous decision. While Kongo's effort in the fight was lackluster, he stated afterwards that he entered the bout with pre-existing shoulder injuries, which he now appears about set to come back from.
That works out well in terms of a match up with Gonzaga, who submitted Ben Rothwell in the second round at UFC on FX 7 and appeared to come out of the fight unscathed. "Napao" has not fought more than once in a calendar year since 2010, but hopefully the quality win over Rothwell encourages the former heavyweight title challenger to stay active.
After Kongo's last fight against Jordan, he needs to face an opponent that will push the pace and try to inflict damage, whether it is on the ground or standing. Gonzaga fits the description. The Brazilian is a dangerous on the ground and feet and has shared the cage with the best of them.
Both men are on the tail end of their careers and this match up would gauge exactly where they stand in the division.
Winner: C.B. Dollaway
Who He Should Fight Next: Derek Brunson
Why They Should Fight: C.B. Dollaway earned a second consecutive win for the first time in nearly three years with a narrow split decision win over highly-touted Brazilian prospect Daniel Sarafian. Dollaway said after his victory his goal by the end of 2013 is to be face off against top-10 competition.
A win over Sarafian won't get him there, but it's certainly a start, especially after being awarded "Fight of the Night" honors. Before Dollaway can start fighting the cream of the crop, he needs to prove capable of consistently defeating mid-level competition, something "The Doberman" has struggled with over the course of his 11-fight UFC career.
A fighter roughly on Dollaway's level right now in the middleweight division is Derek Brunson, who defeated Chris Leben in his UFC debut last month.
Dollaway and Brunson are both grapple-first, strike-later types of fighters, which would make it interesting to see who could best impose their game.
This match up isn't going to have fans racing to the box office to buy tickets for whatever fight card it would hypothetically be booked for, but it is certainly a respectable pairing of two 185-pounders looking to climb the ladder in a weight class loaded with talent.
Winner: Vitor Belfort
Who He Should Fight Next: Chris Weidman or Luke Rockhold
Why They Should Fight: Vitor Belfort played spoiler in the main event of UFC on FX 7 when he knocked out Michael Bisping and in the process shattered any potential title plans the UFC had for "The Count".
Belfort called out UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in his post-fight interview with Jon Anik, and has proceeded to ruffle some feathers with Chael Sonnen by calling him a "clown" and insisting the UFC take Sonnen out of his scheduled UFC 159 title fight against Jones.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, Jones and Sonnen remained booked to fight each other, and more importantly, Belfort is a middleweight. So calling out 205-pounders makes essentially no sense.
The 35-year-old is not going to get a rematch with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva after being knocked out by "The Spider" less than two years ago, so he will likely square off against another top middleweight contender.
The most prominent of those contenders are Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold, both of which would make for logical opponents to Belfort.
For a length explanation on why "The Phenom" should fight Weidman or Rockhold next, read "Who Is Next For Vitor Belfort?"
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.