Sunday, September 1, 2013

Bouts to Book: UFC 164 Edition

Anthony Pettis, it seems, has Benson Henderson's number. The Roufusport representative defended early takedowns from Henderson in their UFC 164 rematch, who came in doing his best to close the distance and not let Pettis operate in space like he did in their classic first encounter. But in space, Pettis changed the complexion of the fight, landing four hard body kicks, which he capped with a cartwheel kick attempt. While the kick failed and he ended up on his back - an area most observers thought to be a place to shine for Henderson - Pettis still was aggressive in hunting for the finish, ultimately locking up an armbar on the near-unsubmittable Henderson. The submission victory, which came at 4:31 of the first round, was his first such win since a triangle choke victory over Shane Roller at WEC 50 in 2010.
As it stands, there seem to be two logical opponents for Pettis: featherweight kingpin Jose Aldo and the man he replaced at UFC 164, Canadian contender TJ Grant. There are pros and cons to either match up, but I tend to favor the match up with Aldo. While each division has a high number of contenders (namely Ricardo Lamas at 145 and Grant at 155) Aldo versus Pettis - preferably at lightweight - would be a huge fight for the UFC. The style of the fight would sell itself, as the flashy style, but fundamentally sound style of Pettis would good test for Aldo's powerful, crisp kickboxing. Sell it as champion versus champion - plus throw in some of the barbs from Aldo's camp about Pettis faking the injury that caused him to pull out of UFC 163 in the promos - and you have the biggest fight possible at the lighter weight classes.

But without further adieu, let's take a look at other matches to make for the winners and losers from UFC 164.

Benson Henderson versus Gray Maynard - During his 7-0 start to his UFC career that saw him win the lightweight crown, MMA Lab's Henderson beat some of the top fighters at 155, including Frankie Edgar (twice), Nate Diaz and Gilbert Melendez. One name that he hasn't faced is Maynard, long a contender in one of the MMA's deepest division. With both men coming off of definitive first round losses, it's a good as time as ever to match the two up. If either man wants to make the long climb to the top of the division once again, a victory over the other man would be a good place to start.

Josh Barnett versus Travis Browne - Regardless of what you think of Barnett's stoppage over Frank Mir, Barnett looked outstanding in his return to octagon, muscling Mir in clinch and ending the fight with a huge knee that dropped the former two-time heavyweight champ. With his penchant  for pro-wrestling style promos, the ability to sell a fight and his obvious skills, expect Barnett to be fast-tracked to a shot at the heavyweight belt if he keeps winning. With Travis Browne coming off a huge win over Alistair Overeem (and Fabricio Werdum appearing to be waiting for the winner of Junior dos Santos - Cain Velasquez), a bout between 'Hapa' and 'The Warmaster' seems to be a logical top contender bout in the heavyweight division.

Chad Mendes versus Dustin Poirer - Both Mendes and Poirer looked outstanding on UFC 164's main card, settling themselves both up for a consequential match in their next bout. With the aforementioned Lamas having earned his shot (if Aldo isn't matched with Pettis) a bout between Poirer and Mendes makes sense. Mendes has been reborn since linking up with Duane Ludwig, reeling off four straight knockouts since losing to Aldo at UFC 142. With Poirer showing improved striking and solid jiu-jitsu (plus an inclination to be in for exciting fights) the winner of this potential bout could be a win - maybe two - away from a title shot.

Tim Elliot versus Ian McCall - Elliot looked outstanding in dismantling Louis Gaudinot for three rounds, landing 270 strikes to Gaudinot's 41. Considering how devoid the flyweight division is of logical top contenders, Elliot isn't far from the top after beating his first Top-10 opponent. The resurgent McCall, coming off his first UFC victory, is still a top level opponent even after failing to pull out a victory in his first three UFC contests. The winner of this bout may not be in line for title shot, but they won't be too far away.

Frank Mir versus Brandon Vera - Both men were stopped on Saturday night. Both men are on losing streaks (Mir at three in a row, Vera at two in a row). Neither man is even close to title picture at this point and aren't in a place to fight in consequential fights any time in the near future. If Mir continues fighting - and Vera isn't released - then maybe a rematch is warranted. Back at UFC 65, both men were in much different places; Mir was on the rebound from his motorcycle accident, while Vera was a young star on the rise with dreams of holding belts in two divisions. If a rematch is ever going to happen, the time is now.

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