UFC on Fox 9: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
Demetrious Johnson was back to silencing critics in a UFC on Fox 9 rematch with Joseph Benavidez on Saturday.
Heading into his previous title defense against John Moraga, Johnson had seen seven straight fights go to the scorecards. That led many to question the flyweight champion's finishing ability, but he responded with a submission win over Moraga at UFC on Fox 8.
Still, Johnson's knockout power was being questioned prior to his appearance at UFC on Fox 9. "Mighty Mouse" answered those questions with a devastating knockout of Benavidez in the first round.
Johnson's next fight is unknown right now, but it's safe to say he's going to be looking to keep proving people wrong as he builds his legacy as 125-pound champion. Here are the fights that could be next for Johnson, Benavidez and the rest of the UFC on Fox 9 competitors.
Darren Uyenoyama vs. Louis Gaudinot
At UFC on Fox 9, Darren Uyenoyama couldn't gain control on the ground, and it ended up resulting in his second straight loss.
The 34-year-old veteran scored two takedowns in the opening round. However, he was shut out on eight attempts over the next two frames and could not find consistent success with his striking against opponent Alptekin Ozkilic.
Having lost back-to-back fights, Uyenoyama may be fighting for his UFC job next time around. A bout with Louis Gaudinot, who also went without a win in 2013, would give the Californian a good chance to rebound.
Alptekin Ozkilic vs. Ali Bagautinov
Alptekin Ozkilic made his UFC debut on Saturday, but he looked the part of the veteran, pacing himself well en route to a decision victory.
While Ozkilic started somewhat slow, he finished very strong, scoring two takedowns in the final round of his bout with Darren Uyenoyama. One judge saw Uyenoyama as the winner, but the remaining two judges and an overwhelming majority of the MMA media saw the fight in Ozkilic's favor.
Having only lost to UFC bantamweight Chico Camus over 10 career outings, Ozkilic is a solid addition to the flyweight division. As the UFC looks to expand its footprint in Europe, a bout between the 27-year-old Turk and Russian Ali Bagautinov could be interesting.
Cody McKenzie vs. Colton Smith
Cody McKenzie was looking to win back-to-back fights for the first time in his UFC career on Saturday, but he fell short once forced into a kickboxing match.
Very much dependent on his grappling, McKenzie did score an early takedown on Sam Stout at UFC on Fox 9, but he was unable to make his opponent pay with a submission. The Alaskan-born lightweight had his remaining 12 takedowns denied and was beaten soundly by Stout when standing.
Whenever McKenzie loses, it seems he's labeled as a fighter who doesn't belong on the UFC level. However, he's picked up three wins inside the Octagon and isn't coming off consecutive losses.
Should he get another UFC appearance, McKenzie might be fun to watch against a wrestler like Colton Smith. Not only would that matchup give McKenzie a better chance to threaten with his guillotines, but it would give a TUF winner a chance to rebound from back-to-back losses.
Sam Stout vs. Abel Trujillo
Sam Stout and Abel Trujillo both scored bounce-back wins in the lightweight division at UFC on Fox 9.
Facing a submission specialist in Cody McKenzie, Stout needed to remain standing on Saturday. Aside from an early slip up, Stout was able to stand and pick McKenzie apart with his kickboxing en route to a lopsided decision win.
Also featured on the Fox Sports 1 prelims, Trujillo came out swinging against Roger Bowling. In a rematch of an August meeting that ended in a no-contest due to an illegal knee, Trujillo stopped Bowling with a barrage of strikes in the second round. Having lost his past three official fights, Bowling will now likely be released from the UFC roster.
Trujillo has proven to be highly entertaining against fellow strikers. A competitor who prefers to stand and has never been stopped with strikes, Stout would be a solid test for the up-and-coming Trujillo.
Scott Jorgensen vs. Phil Harris
Scott Jorgensen's flyweight debut did not go as planned.
The former bantamweight title challenger welcomed Zach Makovsky to the Octagon and suffered a decision loss in the process. Over the final two rounds, Jorgensen was taken down five times, which cemented Makovsky's first UFC win.
Following this loss, Jorgensen might rethink his decision to compete at 125 pounds. If he does remain in the flyweight class, a bout with Phil Harris would make sense for Jorgensen.
Zach Makovsky vs. John Dodson
One win into his UFC career, Zach Makovsky is already within striking distance of a shot at the flyweight championship.
The former Bellator MMA champion made a big splash in his UFC debut by beating a solid veteran in Scott Jorgensen. Makovsky looked a step ahead of his opponent in all areas, landing more strikes and scoring more takedowns en route to a decision victory.
Not the average UFC newcomer, Makovsky doesn't need to be brought along slowly. A proven veteran who now owns a win over a former title challenger, Makovsky is ready for a fight with a highly ranked flyweight contender like John Dodson, who was originally scheduled to meet Jorgensen on Saturday.
Bobby Green vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Bobby Green has graduated from his prospect tag and can now be looked at as a legitimate contender in the lightweight division.
A veteran grinder, Pat Healy is not an easy opponent for even the best in the 155-pound division. However, Green expertly denied seven of Healy's nine takedown attempts and stood quickly when he was dragged to the canvas. When standing, Green's quickness was too much for Healy, leading to a decision win for the former.
This win may or may not put Green into the Top 10, but he is on the verge of becoming an elite lightweight regardless of what the UFC rankings panel decides. Like No. 7 contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, he's on a lengthy winning streak and coming off a win over Healy. A bout between Green and the Russian could set the winner up with a fight against a Top Five 155-pounder.
Danny Castillo vs. Pat Healy
Danny Castillo and Pat Healy looked good in spots at UFC on Fox 9, but both lightweights came up empty in decisions on Saturday.
Kicking things off for Team Alpha Male at UFC on Fox 9, Castillo nearly put Edson Barboza away in the first round with a standing flurry and ground-and-pound. However, the Brazilian survived and began breaking Castillo down with leg kicks in the second round on his way to a come-from-behind decision win.
Since having a UFC win over Jim Miller taken away due to a failed drug test, Pat Healy has quickly been heading in the wrong direction. Healy suffered his second consecutive loss at UFC on Fox 9. Unable to deal with the speed and elusive footwork of Bobby Green early on, Healy's rally in the third round wasn't enough to put him on top in a close decision.
Both having competed in grueling bouts on Saturday, Castillo and Healy are going to need some time to recover. However, their recovery times should be comparable, and a contest between the two could generate an intriguing grappling match.
Edson Barboza vs. Donald Cerrone-Adriano Martins Winner
Edson Barboza had to overcome adversity, but he took another step toward the top of the lightweight division at UFC on Fox 9.
In the opening round of his bout with Danny Castillo, Barboza was rocked badly and barely survived a one-sided beating. However, the Brazilian recovered well between rounds and came out with thudding leg kicks in the second stanza. Those slowed down Castillo and helped Barboza secure a third straight win on the scorecards.
Stuffing nine of Castillo's 10 takedown attempts, Barboza passed the wrestling test he was presented with. Now, he can be matched up with a fellow striker again. Should Donald Cerrone beat Adriano Martins at UFC on Fox 10, a bout between "Cowboy" and Barboza could produce striking fireworks.
Court McGee vs. Chris Clements
Court McGee was not able to improve to 3-0 in the UFC welterweight division on Saturday.
Facing another promising 170-pounder in Ryan LaFlare, McGee was on the receiving end of 123 significant strikes. While the former TUF winner finished strong, scoring two takedowns in the final round, his conditioning wasn't enough to close the gap LaFlare created early on.
It does seem McGee has benefited from his move to the 170-pound class, so he shouldn't retreat to the middleweight division. Instead, a step down in competition, perhaps against Chris Clements, could give McGee a chance to make improvements before making another run up the ladder.
Ryan LaFlare vs. Rick Story
Ryan LaFlare has quickly emerged as one of the top prospects in the welterweight division.
At UFC on Fox 9, LaFlare picked up a hard-earned win over a gritty Court McGee on the scorecards. LaFlare faded a bit against a pressuring opponent in the third round, but he did enough through the first two frames to secure victory in the minds of the judges.
While he's only three fights into his UFC career, LaFlare has already proven he's ready for big bouts. At 30 years old, he doesn't have too much time to be brought along slowly. A bout with Rick Story will determine just how quickly LaFlare can be pushed to the top.
Joe Lauzon vs. Nate Diaz
Joe Lauzon failed to win a performance bonus at UFC on Fox 9, marking the first time in his UFC career he has failed to do so in back-to-back fights, but the entertaining lightweight did get back into the win column.
Spending nearly seven minutes in top control, Lauzon opened up Mac Danzig with ground-and-pound while threatening with submissions on multiple occasions. In shutting out the struggling Danzig on the scorecards, Lauzon likely bounced the former TUF winner from the world's top MMA organization. A loss to Lauzon is tough to go out on, but Danzig has lost three in a row and eight of his past 11.
Being one fight removed from a loss to Michael Johnson, Lauzon probably doesn't deserve a Top 10 lightweight from a rankings perspective—nor does Nate Diaz deserve an unranked lightweight following a knockout win over Gray Maynard.
However, Diaz needs to pick up some memorable wins in order to earn rematches with the former opponents ranked above him. Lauzon, meanwhile, should get back to competing against adversaries who are as entertaining as he is. A bout between Diaz and Lauzon would really get grappling geeks excited.
Nik Lentz vs. Clay Guida
Nik Lentz has looked like a new fighter in the featherweight division, but he simply wasn't ready for top contender Chad Mendes at UFC on Fox 9.
After being rocked in the first round, Lentz was able to survive and go the distance against Mendes. However, "The Carny" was constantly being forced into a defensive shell by the relentless takedowns of Mendes, who was dominant in a decision win despite feeling ill on Saturday.
Despite the loss, Lentz is still one of the better fighters in the featherweight class. A bout with fellow former lightweight Clay Guida, who is also coming off a loss to Mendes, would give Lentz a chance to prove as much.
Chad Mendes vs. Jose Aldo-Ricardo Lamas Winner
If it wasn't clear already, Chad Mendes further cemented himself as the No. 1 contender in the featherweight division at UFC on Fox 9.
He clearly wasn't in peak condition, but Mendes still dominated Nik Lentz over three rounds. The Team Alpha Male fighter nearly finished the fight in the first round before going into cruise control and scoring takedowns at will to secure a win on the scorecards.
At this point, only Cub Swanson would argue against Mendes being the most deserving 145-pounder of a shot at the winner of a February title fight between Jose Aldo and Ricardo Lamas. Having lost to Aldo, Lamas and Mendes, Swanson's shot at the belt is likely going to be put on hold now.
Michael McDonald vs. Iuri Alcantara
Michael McDonald had a chance to show that he was the best non-champion in the bantamweight champion on Saturday. Instead, he ran into an opponent who may be the best fighter without a belt in any MMA division.
Urijah Faber took McDonald down and overwhelmed the 22-year-old with improved boxing before proving he was the better fighter in all areas with a guillotine choke in the second round. It was a significant setback for McDonald, who has now lost two of his past three fights.
There's no question McDonald needs to regroup after this loss. A step outside the Top 10 may be the best thing for him right now. McDonald should be matched up with Iuri Alcantara, who is also coming off a loss to Faber.
Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz-Renan Barao Winner
Urijah Faber is not going to go away easily until he captures UFC gold.
On Saturday, Faber rolled over the bantamweight division's brightest young contender. Under the instruction of Duane Ludwig, Faber displayed improved boxing, hurting Michael McDonald before earning a fourth straight win with a submission.
Although Faber has lost to 135-pound champions Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao, he's the strongest candidate to meet the winner of the February bout between the titleholders. At 34 years old, Faber still can't be counted out as a threat to capture a UFC championship.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Chris Cariaso-Kyoji Horiguchi Winner
Joseph Benavidez isn't likely to be seeing any title shots for quite awhile following UFC on Fox 9.
After a narrow loss to flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson at UFC 152, Benavidez was only a slight underdog heading into his rematch with "Mighty Mouse" on Saturday. However, in the opening round, Benavidez had his lights turned out by a right hook from the champion.
Now, Benavidez has suffered multiple losses against the 125-pound titleholder and 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz. Unless Benavidez returns to the bantamweight division and hopes Renan Barao claims the undisputed championship or somebody upsets Johnson, Team Alpha Male's primary flyweight representative is going to be on the outside of title shot conversations for the foreseeable future.
Since he's so far away from another title fight now, Benavidez might as well work his way back up from near the bottom. If he remains at 125 pounds, a bout between Benavidez and the winner of a UFC 169 matchup between Chris Cariaso and Kyoji Horiguchi would at least provide an opportunity for a new 135-pound contender to emerge through a massive upset.
Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall-Brad Pickett Winner
Demetrious Johnson is quickly turning into one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA.
Formerly a smallish bantamweight hindered by competing against larger opponents, Johnson has been given a chance to shine in the flyweight division. At UFC on Fox 9, Johnson defended his belt for a third straight time by knocking out Joseph Benavidez in a rematch.
John Lineker would have been a solid challenger now, but he missed weight prior to his latest win over Phil Harris, so the UFC brass will be hesitant to give him an opportunity to ruin a championship bout by failing to hit 125 pounds again. Instead, Brad Pickett, who holds a win over Johnson at 135 pounds, might be put on the fast track to UFC gold should he find a way to beat Ian McCall in his March flyweight debut.