UFC on FUEL TV 7: "Barao vs. McDonald" is in the books and in the organization's first overseas event of 2013, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a scintillating night of mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
Renan Barao, Cub Swanson, Jimi Manuwa, James Te Huna, Gunnar Nelson and Matt Riddle were the big winners Saturday (Feb. 16, 2013) at Wembley Arena in London, England, as each picked up a victory over their respective opponents on the main card, which aired on FUEL TV.
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: Matt Riddle
Who He Should Fight Next: Gunnar Nelson
Why They Should Fight: Matt Riddle and Gunnar Nelson picked up decisive wins at UFC on FUEL TV 7 as Riddle grinded out Che Mills for a decision win while Nelson outpointed Jorge Santiago over three rounds.
In a way, both men need to fight each other next in order to prove a point. Riddle hasn't faced a high-level submission artist in his 12-fight career, while on the flip side; Nelson has yet to be matched up against a smothering American wrestler.
With both men on impressive win-streaks, now is the time to put together a match up that will take the winner to the next level. If Riddle can get by the highly-touted Nelson, it would show he is capable of beating more than just bottom-level welterweights, while a victory for "Gunni" proves he can get by a fighter with a wrestling base, because there's certainly no shortage of those types of fighters at 170-pounds.
Winner: James Te Huna
Who He Should Fight Next: Jimi Manuwa
Why They Should Fight: James Te Huna and Jimi Manuwa are both on nice winning streaks at 205-pounds, and considering each man's place in the light heavyweight rankings and the fact they both earned victories at UFC on FUEL TV 7, they seem to be on a collision course with one another.
Both men prefer to keep fights standing and slug it out until their opponent either hits the ground unconscious or the final bell rings. This would be a great fight for all fans of the sport and there's no way it would be a letdown.
The only roadblock to this match up would be if one of the two fighters are injured and cannot compete again for a while. If you had to take a guess, that would likely be Te Huna who got pretty banged up in his fight with Ryan Jimmo while Manuwa came out of his win over Cyrille Diabate essentially unscathed.
If both are healthy, this is a fight that has all the makings of a highlight reel finish.
Winner: Gunnar Nelson
Who He Should Fight Next: Matt Riddle
Why They Should Fight: See above.
Winner: Jimi Manuwa
Who He Should Fight Next: James Te Huna
Why They Should Fight: As stated above, this fight makes all the sense in the world with both men coming off impressive victories at UFC on FUEL TV 7. Moreover, UFC President Dana White expressed interested in having Manuwa and Te Huna coach the second season of The Ultimate Fighter: Australia vs. UK, a roll that would fit both fighters perfectly.
Winner: Cub Swanson
Who He Should Fight Next: Chan Sung Jung
Why They Should Fight: With Jose Aldo set to defend the featherweight title against Anthony Pettis in August and Ricardo Lamas already set up with a fight in May, there aren't many logical options for Cub Swanson to take on next after his unanimous decision victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC on FUEL TV 7.
Swanson has earned four consecutive victories at 145-pounds, which would typically be enough to warrant a title shot or at the very least a No. 1 contenders fight. With a title fight out of the question at this point, it only makes sense to put Swanson in a fight that would move him towards the belt. The only candidate who fits the bill at this point in time is Chan Sung Jung.
"The Korean Zombie" is expected to return from injury this summer after sitting out since May 2012. Jung's last fight was a submission of Poirier, who Swanson also just happened to defeat.
Swanson and Jung are both well rounded, exciting fighters with the ability to end a fight anytime, anywhere. Throw that combination into the cage with high stakes such a No.1 contendership on the line and you have what will very likely be a memorable fight on your hands.
Winner: Renan Barao
Who He Should Fight Next: Dominick Cruz or Eddie Wineland
Why They Should Fight: It seems as though Renan Barao is going to wait for Dominick Cruz to return from injury to unify the UFC bantamweight championship after defending the interim title against Michael McDonald in the UFC on FUEL TV 7 headliner.
If a fight with Cruz isn't in the cards and Barao is forced to compete again, the best candidate to challenge him for the interim belt would be Eddie Wineland. If you go by the official UFC rankings, Barao has already defeated four of the top five ranked fighters in the bantamweight division, with the exception of Wineland.
For a lengthy explanation on the entire situation and what Barao should do next, read,"Who Is Next For Renan Barao?"
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.