Mixed martial arts fans (MMA) were treated to a long day of action presented by Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), as the organization held yet another international "Fight Night" doubleheader in a span of 16 hours on Saturday (Oct. 4, 2014) in Stockholm and Halifax, respectively.
In the Fight Pass main event from Stockholm, Sweden, Rick Story shut down previously unbeaten SBG Ireland product Gunnar Nelson en route to a split-decision victory. To be excruciatingly clear, Story absolutely deserved a unanimous decision, as Nelson barely won even one round during their 25 minute affair.
In the main event from Halifax later on in the evening on FOX Sports 1, top-ranked welterweights Rory MacDonald and Tarec Saffiedine threw down in order to stake their claim as the No.1 contender. In the end, "Ares" earned his first UFC title shot by dispatching the former Strikeforce champion via technical knockout in the third round.
Check out the video highlights right here.
Even after a full slate of UFC action yesterday, fans are always clamoring for more, wanting to know what's next for the weekend's big winners. Without further ado, it is now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make."
Winner: Rick Story
Who Should He Fight Next: Ryan LaFlare or Jordan Mein
Rick Story deserves the opportunity to shed the "gatekeeper" label for at least one fight after his sensational upset victory over Gunnar Nelson on Saturday.
In his last 10 bouts, Story is 5-5, defeating several unranked fighters while losing to the likes of Martin Kampmann, Demian Maia, and Kelvin Gastelum.
By defeating the highly-touted Nelson, Story should get another crack at a top 15 opponent, and considering he has already fought a large percentage of the ranked welterweights, a bout with Jordan Mein or Ryan LaFlare seems like the perfect fit.
Winner: Max Holloway
Who Should He Fight Next: Chan Sung Jung
Max Holloway and Chan Sung Jung were seemingly made to put on a show inside the Octagon against one another. With four straight victories -- all by finish -- in 2014 alone, Holloway has more than earned a crack at a top 10 opponent.
While UFC could opt to take it slow with the 22-year old by giving him fights with Dennis Siver or the winner of the Jeremy Stephens vs. Charles Oliveira, I think it is time for "Blessed" to get another crack at a featherweight contender.
Holloway has already fought for UFC 10 times, losing to only top-flight competition in Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, and Dennis Bermudez. If a four-fight winning streak doesn't validate another shot at the division's elite, what does?
If Jung is ready to return in December or January, he deserves a match up with an exciting prospect, and Holloway will more than happily oblige him. Jung and Holloway could easily main event a Fight Night card later this year or early on in 2015 in a bout that is almost guaranteed to be in the running for "Fight of the Year."
Winner: Rory MacDonald
Who Should He Fight Next: Winner of Hendricks vs. Lawler 2
You don't need my insight here to know that Rory MacDonald deserves the next crack at the UFC welterweight title.
After years of fielding questions regarding whether or not he would fight teammate -- and longtime champion -- Georges St-Pierre, MacDonald finally will get a chance to fight for UFC gold without having to worry about GSP.
In 11 UFC bouts, MacDonald is 9-2, losing to only Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler in exciting affairs. By starching Tarec Saffiedine at UFC Fight Night 54 last night (recap), MacDonald finally booked his ticket to a UFC title shot.
Expect him to sit cageside at UFC 181, as Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler go at it again for the UFC belt. Will MacDonald get a rematch with Lawler, or will he face off against "Bigg Rigg" in 2015? We will find out in December.
Winner: Raphael Assuncao
Who Should He Fight Next: Either wait for title shot after Cruz vs. Dillashaw or rematch Urijah Faber.
Raphael Assuncao has simply found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here is a quick timeline of all that has transpired during his incredible seven fight winning streak:
- TJ Dillashaw, who Assuncao defeated during said win streak, got a shot at bantamweight champion Renan Barao at UFC 173 when the Brazilian opted to sit out due to a rib injury.
- Dillashaw defeated Barao, and the UFC decided to give the former champion an immediate rematch at UFC 177 as Assuncao is forced to wait even longer.
- Barao is unable to make weight safely at UFC 177, and without Assuncao on the card, the UFC gave debutant Joe Soto a crack at TJ Dillashaw for the title.
- A week before Assuncao is set to face Bryan Caraway, former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz returned from a three-year long injury layoff and utterly destroyed Takeya Mizugaki in just one minute via TKO. UFC President Dana White announced afterward that Cruz will get the next shot at the champion TJ Dillashaw.
Even with his seventh straight victory last Saturday, Assuncao will once again be forced to wait for a UFC title shot, or risk his spot in line to take on a rising contender in a No. 1 contender bout.
At this point, every situation is lose-lose for Assuncao. The best scenario for him would to be the co-main event of the Dillashaw vs. Cruz bout, just in case something happens to either competitor prior to the title fight so Assuncao can step in as a replacement. Who should he fight in the co-main event? A rematch against Urijah Faber seems like a dandy idea.
That's a wrap.