UFC 171: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
At UFC 171, Johny Hendricks claimed the title that many thought should have been his months ago.
In November, "Bigg Rigg" fought to a close decision with Georges St-Pierre, who had reigned over the 170-pound division for years. After GSP walked away with the controversial victory, he decided to vacate his belt for personal reasons.
That left Hendricks to fight Robbie Lawler to determine the new welterweight champion. Despite having a significant wrestling advantage over Lawler, Hendricks chose to stand and trade with one of the more dangerous strikers in his weight class.
Hendricks' game plan ultimately paid dividends, as he claimed the 170-pound belt in another close decision.
Now, he will wait to find out who will be first to challenge him for his strap. Here are the matchups that should be next for the new welterweight champion and the rest of the UFC 171 competitors.
Matchup: Sean Soriano
After winning his first two UFC bouts, Daniel Pineda has been slumping badly.
Following a decision loss to Rob Whiteford on Saturday, Pineda has only one victory in his past five appearances. While the UFC might release him, he hasn't lost three in a row and entertained with multiple submission attempts against Whiteford, so he could get one more shot inside the Octagon.
Coming off a loss to Tatsuya Kawajiri in his first UFC outing, Sean Soriano is also in danger of losing his spot on the roster. So, a loser-leaves-town matchup between Pineda and Soriano is a possibility.
Matchup: Tom Niinimaki
At UFC 171, Robert Whiteford avoided falling to 0-2 inside the Octagon. In doing so, he ensured himself at least a few more fights with the world's top MMA promotion.
Scoring six takedowns over three rounds, he used his wrestling as a difference-maker against Daniel Pineda. However, the Scottish-born fighter also caused some damage with his striking, opening up a cut that hindered Pineda's vision.
Whiteford will now look to climb the featherweight ladder with a win over another non-ranked adversary. A bout with Finnish fighter Tom Niinimaki, who also recently picked up his first UFC win, would fit in nicely on a European fight card.
Matchup: Tor Troeng
After beating Gilbert Smith in his official UFC debut, Bubba McDaniel has lost two in a row.
Facing UFC newcomer Sean Strickland, McDaniel gave up his back in the final minute of the first round. Caught in a rear-naked choke, he was unable to reach the end of the stanza.
With his only UFC win coming against a fellow The Ultimate Fighter 17 competitor, he might have to find a new home. If he does get one more chance inside the Octagon, look for a matchup against Tor Troeng, who was originally scheduled to fight McDaniel at UFC 171.
Matchup: Antonio Braga Neto
At 23 years old, Sean Strickland is a bright prospect in the middleweight division.
The UFC newcomer made a big splash in his first debut, submitting Bubba McDaniel in the first round. While a win over McDaniel doesn't mean a ton right now, Strickland took care of business and showed he'll be tough for future opponents on the ground.
Having also picked up an opening-round submission win in his UFC debut, Antonio Braga Neto would be a good next challenge for Strickland.
Matchup: Darren Uyenoyama
Will Campuzano is now winless in four trips to the Octagon.
On Saturday, Justin Scoggins took him down seven times over three rounds. Spending nearly 10 minutes underneath his opponent, Campuzano stood no chance when the fight went to the scorecards.
While he's experienced pretty much no success in the UFC, he has only had one fight at 125 pounds, where he's been at his best throughout his career. That should allow him one more chance to prove his worth to the UFC brass. He could do so against Darren Uyenoyama, who has also lost two in a row.
Matchup: Scott Jorgensen vs. Jussier Formiga Winner
Based on his first two UFC appearances, Justin Scoggins is looking like a future title contender.
At 21 years old, he already has the tools needed to make a run in the flyweight division. On Saturday, he dominated Will Campuzano on the feet and the ground.
In the shallow 125-pound class, bringing fighters along slowly isn't an option. Scoggins is ready to fight a bigger name, so he could meet the winner of a UFC Fight Night 38 bout between former bantamweight title challenger Scott Jorgensen and Jussier Formiga.
Matchup: None (Release)
When a fighter is struggling to pick up wins, missing weight is the last thing he needs.
However, heading into UFC 171 with a 1-2 record inside the Octagon, Renee Forte missed the 156-pound limit for his bout with Francisco Trevino. The Brazilian then proceeded to suffer a second straight loss, landing 30 less significant strikes than Trevino en route to a decision.
Had he come in on weight for this matchup, he'd probably be looking at one more shot to remain on the roster. Missing weight and seeing his UFC record drop to 1-3 could leave Forte looking for a new MMA promotion, though.
Matchup: Rashid Magomedov
At 32 years old, Francisco Trevino is getting a late start to his UFC career, but he hit the ground running in his debut on Saturday.
While he started slow against Renee Forte, giving up two takedowns in the first round, Trevino rallied in the second and third frames. The Mexican's strong finish helped him take a decision win on all three scorecards.
Rashid Magomedov is also coming off a win in his first UFC appearance, so he'd be a good opponent for Trevino as he looks to move upward in the lightweight division.
Matchup: Viscardi Andrade
After winning consecutive fights, Sean Spencer ran into a more talented up-and-comer on Saturday.
Surrendering eight takedowns to Alex Garcia, Spencer spent too much time on the bottom in a matchup that was decided on the scorecards. Although one judge scored the fight for Spencer, Garcia was unanimously considered the winner by MMA media as gathered by MMADecisions.com.
Coming off his first UFC loss, Viscardi Andrade could be next for Spencer.
Matchup: Nico Musoke
Undefeated in his first two UFC bouts, Alex Garcia is starting to meet the expectations that come along with being a talented 26-year-old product of Tristar Gym.
At UFC 171, he scored eight takedowns on 11 attempts. That success in the wrestling department played a large role in Garcia gaining an edge over Sean Spencer on the scorecards.
Nico Musoke is also unbeaten in two UFC outings. That makes the Swedish fighter a logical opponent for Garcia now, as the matchup could earn the winner a big step up in competition.
Matchup: Hacran Dias
Jimy Hettes is one of the more talented grapplers in the featherweight division, but Dennis Bermudez exposed his striking shortcomings on Saturday. Unable to take his opponent down, Hettes suffered three knockdowns before the referee had seen enough in the third and final round.
While he's now lost two out of his past three fights, he is still a fighter to keep an eye on. At 26 years old, the Pennsylvanian has time to fill the gaps in his striking.
A bout with Hacran Dias would give him more opportunities to put his grappling on display.
Matchup: Jeremy Stephens
A runner-up on The Ultimate Fighter 14, Dennis Bermudez has developed more quickly than season winner Diego Brandao.
On Saturday, he shut down Jimy Hettes' takedowns and scored a knockout in the third round. With the victory, he has now won six fights in a row.
The winning streak has Bermudez closing in on a Top 10 position in the featherweight division. Jeremy Stephens sits in the No. 10 spot and has won three in a row. A bout between him and Bermudez could earn the winner a shot at a Top Five 145-pounder.
Matchup: Alexandra Albu
At 25 years old, Raquel Pennington could have a bright UFC future ahead of her, but she didn't look quite ready to compete against the top female bantamweights on Saturday.
She gave up three takedowns in the first two rounds. While she finished with a strong third round, it wasn't enough for her to surpass Jessica Andrade on the scorecards.
The semifinalist on The Ultimate Fighter 18 will now have to take a step back and fight an opponent who isn't coming off a UFC win. Still waiting to make her UFC debut, Alexandra Albu would be an intriguing opponent for Pennington, as a matchup between the two could produce some entertaining striking.
Matchup: Amanda Nunes
After being thrown to former title challenger Liz Carmouche in her UFC debut, Jessica Andrade has turned things around with back-to-back wins.
The Brazilian scored three important takedowns against Raquel Pennington at UFC 171. When the fight came down to a close decision, those takedowns made the difference in an Andrade win.
Now that she has established she belongs on the UFC roster, she can look to make a run at the women's bantamweight championship. A win over fellow Brazilian Amanda Nunes would be a big step forward.
Matchup: Hyun Gyu Lim
Rick Story's UFC career has been marked by inconsistency. Although he owns a win over now-champion Johny Hendricks, Story hasn't picked up consecutive victories since May 2011.
On Saturday, that trend continued. While he did score a knockdown against Kelvin Gastelum, he absorbed more strikes than he landed and gave up a key takedown in the final round of a bout he lost via split decision.
According to MMADecisions.com, many in the MMA media saw Story as the winner, so don't expect the 29-year-old to see a huge bump down in competition. A fight with Hyun Gyu Lim, who is coming off a loss to Tarec Saffiedine, would give Story a chance to bounce back in a big way.
Matchup: John Howard vs. Ryan LaFlare Winner
Kelvin Gastelum is reaching his potential, but his performance at UFC 171 showed he might have some work to do before he can be considered a legitimate contender in the welterweight division.
While he remained undefeated on Saturday, he needed some help from the judges to get his hand raised. Rick Story rocked Gastelum, who was saved by the horn before battling back in the third round to squeak by on the scorecards.
Before he gets thrown to the wolves that occupy the Top 10 welterweight rankings, Gastelum could use one more win. A bout with the winner of a UFC Fight Night 39 matchup between John Howard and Ryan LaFlare would give him a chance to tune up before testing himself against an elite 170-pounder.
Matchup: Fabio Maldonado vs. Gian Villante Loser
Despite stopping Walt Harris in his prior outing as a heavyweight, Nikita Krylov opted to make a move to the light heavyweight division. The decision did not pay off right away, though.
He was only landed one strike before being taken down and submitted by Ovince St. Preux in the first round on Saturday. Now 1-2 inside the Octagon, Krylov will need to turn things around quickly to keep his UFC career going.
The Ukraine native will have to work his way up from the bottom of the light heavyweight division now. A bout with the loser of a UFC Fight Night 38 matchup between Fabio Maldonado and Gian Villante is a possibility.
Ovince St. Preux
Matchup: Ilir Latifi
Ovince St. Preux is starting to build some momentum, but he'll need a few more wins before he's ready for the 205-pound contenders.
At UFC 171, he quickly disposed of Nikita Krylov. After taking the Ukrainian to the ground, St. Preux choked him out in less than four minutes to earn his third straight UFC win.
While Ilir Latifi only has one UFC victory, he recently scored an impressive submission in the first round against veteran Cyrille Diabate. A bout between St. Preux and Latifi could produce some competitive grappling and would likely earn the winner a step up in competition.
Matchup: Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva Loser
Jake Shields was closing in on a title shot heading into UFC 171, but he ran into an opponent who was capable of shutting down his wrestling and top control.
Unable to take Hector Lombard down, Shields was battered by the former Bellator MMA champion. The Cuban also scored more takedowns than any of Shields' past UFC or Strikeforce opponents.
At 35 years old, he is running out of time to capture a UFC championship. However, he'll have to go back to the drawing board again. The former Strikeforce titleholder's next run at UFC gold could begin against the loser of a UFC Fight Night 40 matchup between Matt Brown and Erick Silva.
Matchup: Johny Hendricks
Hector Lombard only dropped down to 170 pounds two fights ago, but he has already emerged as one of the top contenders in the welterweight division.
Heading into UFC 171, Jake Shields was one of the leaders in the race for a shot at the 170-pound championship. Lombard dashed Shields' hopes of getting that shot anytime soon by completely shutting down his opponent's takedowns.
Since Carlos Condit also lost on Saturday, and with Tyron Woodley recently having lost against Shields, everything seems to have fallen into place for Lombard to get the first crack at new champion Johny Hendricks.
Matchup: Gleison Tibau
Diego Sanchez has been holding onto a spot in the lightweight Top 15, but he can say goodbye to title contention following a decisive loss over the weekend.
The scrappy Sanchez pushed the pace as usual, but he could not get much going offensively against Myles Jury. Landing 21 fewer strikes than his opponent and allowing three takedowns, Sanchez ended up on the losing end on all three scorecards.
While he is looking at a step down in competition, he isn't going to face unknowns at this point in his career. A bout with fellow veteran Gleison Tibau is intriguing enough.
Matchup: Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza Winner
Myles Jury has arrived as a title contender in the lightweight division.
Already holding a win over the surging Michael Johnson, he picked up another notable win over former title challenger Diego Sanchez on Saturday. At 25 years old, he has the potential to make a serious run at the lightweight championship, which isn't seen often from a fighter who didn't even reach the quarterfinals on The Ultimate Fighter.
Jury should expect another fight with a ranked lightweight now. A bout against the winner of a UFC on Fox 11 matchup between Donald Cerrone and Edson Barboza would result in an excellent striking match.
Matchup: Jake Ellenberger vs. Tarec Saffiedine Loser
Leading into UFC 171, Carlos Condit was the leading candidate to get a shot at the winner of Saturday's main event between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
That possibility slipped away with a loss to Tyron Woodley. Unfortunately, Condit appeared to suffer a significant knee injury in that matchup, which could keep him out of action for a long time.
If he's out for several months, his next opponent will be difficult to predict until his return approaches. Should he escape a long rehab, he could meet the loser of a UFC 172 matchup between Jake Ellenberger and Tarec Saffiedine, which might mean a rematch of a September 2009 fight with Ellenberger that ended in a split decision.
Matchup: Rory MacDonald
Tyron Woodley can make an argument that he should be first to challenge Johny Hendricks.
Beating Carlos Condit on Saturday, Woodley is coming off as big a win as any fighter in the welterweight division. That said, the victory came via injury, and he is also only two fights removed from a loss to Jake Shields, whom Hector Lombard defeated over the weekend.
In order to get a shot at the title, he'll probably need one more win. That win could come against Rory MacDonald, who hasn't won multiple fights in a row and is only one fight removed from a split-decision loss to UFC 171 title challenger Robbie Lawler.
Matchup: Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva Winner
Robbie Lawler's outstanding career comeback finally hit a speed bump on Saturday.
Through four rounds, he was in position to beat Johny Hendricks. However, in the fifth round, the now-champion hurt him and completed an important takedown before Lawler recovered.
After giving Hendricks such a competitive bout, Lawler might be one impressive win away from another shot at UFC gold. If Matt Brown beats Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night 40, he should meet Lawler in a potential title shot eliminator, should the winner of a possible bout between Tyron Woodley and Rory MacDonald not impress.
Matchup: Hector Lombard
It took a few extra months, but Johny Hendricks now owns the welterweight title that many believed he should have claimed from Georges St-Pierre.
Hendricks took a risky path to the championship by standing with dangerous striker Robbie Lawler, but he scored a big takedown when it mattered to seal the victory.
The ultra-competitive welterweight division doesn't have a clear challenger. There are many options, though, and Hector Lombard is as good as any.