UFC 174: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
At UFC 174, Demetrious Johnson retained his championship with a clear decision win over Ali Bagautinov.
With four consecutive UFC title defenses, Mighty Mouse has matched Chuck Liddell, Pat Miletich and Frank Shamrock. Another win would tie him with Matt Hughes and Tito Ortiz.
Although his popularity has been slow to grow, Johnson is on his way toward becoming an MMA legend. Considering he's already beaten the five most highly ranked contenders in the 125-pound division, Mighty Mouse could hang onto his belt for a long time.
Here are the fights that should be next for Johnson and the rest of the UFC 174 competitors.
Matchup: Tiequan Zhang
Facing fellow UFC newcomer Jason Saggo, Josh Shockley disappointed in his first trip to the Octagon.
Saggo scored two takedowns in the first round, forcing Shockley to fight off his back in the matchup. At 24 years old, Shockley maybe showed some inexperience, as he was finished via strikes with seconds remaining in the opening round.
Since he's beatable on the ground, having also suffered two submission losses, Shockley could be matched up with Tiequan Zhang. While he's not the most skilled fighter, having lost three in a row, Zhang is playing a big role in the UFC push into China. So, the world's biggest MMA promotion has been looking to find the grappler a winnable bout.
Matchup: Colton Smith vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira Winner
On Saturday, Saggo joined the long list of lightweight prospects to watch.
The Canadian's ground-and-pound win marked only his second knockout victory, but Saggo has a solid track record on the canvas. With a 10-1 record featuring eight submission wins, Saggo could turn into one of the better grapplers in the lightweight division.
In order to test that possibility, UFC matchmakers should pair Saggo with the winner of a June 28 bout between Colton Smith and Carlos Diego Ferreira, who have also done their best work on the ground.
Matchup: Yaotzin Meza
On the heels of a loss to Alex Caceres, Roland Delorme looked to turn things around against UFC newcomer Michinori Tanaka. Instead, he dropped a second fight in a row.
Michinori Tanaka out to "Timber" by Pitbull and Ke$ha. Roland Delorme out to "Hollow Points" by Jedi Mind Tricks. Delorme wins huge #UFC174— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) June 14, 2014
Roland Delorme annihilated Michinori Tanaka in the battle of entrance music, but that's the only thing he beat him in tonight.— Robert Sargent (@MMARising) June 14, 2014
Spending over 10 minutes in the bottom position, Delorme was not able to do much offensively. Aside from scoring a takedown of his own in the first round, the Canadian was pretty much shut out by his adversary.
Delorme's UFC career could be on the line in his next outing, which may come against Yaotzin Meza, who has also lost two in a row.
Matchup: Johnny Bedford vs. Cody Gibson Winner
At 23 years old, Tanaka is looking to usher in a new era for Japanese MMA, which hasn't been what it once was over recent years.
On Saturday, Tanaka cruised to a decision win over Roland Delorme, who was a good test for the Japanese bantamweight's first trip to the Octagon. Already finding success at the highest level, Tanaka has some serious potential and could become a contender at some point.
It's one step at a time, though. Next should be a bout with the winner of a June 28 matchup between Johnny Bedford and Cody Gibson. The former appeared on The Ultimate Fighter 14 with Delorme and made it farther along in the competition, so Bedford would be a logical step forward for Tanaka.
Matchup: Dashon Johnson vs. Jake Matthews Loser
Because he failed to reach the finals on TUF: Nations, Kajan Johnson needed a strong showing in his UFC debut to keep his UFC career going.
The Canadian was knocked out by Tae Hyun Bang over the weekend. However, a back-and-forth contest was enough to earn Johnson and Bang Fight of the Night honors. That distinction should be enough to save Johnson from the chopping block.
Just like that boom! Tae Hyun Bang just laid out Kajan Johnson with a nasty knockout. Silenced the Vancouver crowd in a hurry #UFC174— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) June 15, 2014
If so, Johnson's likely final chance to pick up a UFC win could come against the winner of a June 28 bout between UFC newcomers Dashon Johnson and Jake Matthews.
Tae Hyun Bang
Matchup: Jesse Ronson vs. Kevin Lee Winner
Following a loss to Mairbek Taisumov in his UFC debut, Bang needed a win over Johnson on Saturday.
Although he didn't have a dominant performance, Bang finished with a bang. Walking through a head kick, Bang blasted Johnson with a right-hand counter, which led to a knockout win.
VIDEO: Tae Hyun Bang thought he could win fight after getting early knockdown http://t.co/jv03iFkqZt— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) June 15, 2014
Having avoided being cut from the UFC roster, Bang can now look to climb the ladder in the lightweight division. A bout with the winner of a July 6 matchup between Jesse Ronson and Kevin Lee would be a step in the right direction.
Matchup: None (Release)
Despite losing three in a row, Mike Easton entered UFC 174 ranked No. 8 in the UFC bantamweight class.
Landing fewer significant strikes than Yves Jabouin and surrendering five takedowns, Easton extended his skid to four fights on Saturday. The Hulk looked to be on his way to a title shot at one point, but he may now be on his way back to smaller promotions.
Quick chat with @mikeeastonmma leaving Vancouver: flyweight a possibility for "The Hulk" next time out. Is like to see it.— E. Spencer Kyte (@spencerkyte) June 15, 2014
While a move to 125 pounds could be a smart move for Easton, it's a decision he should have made prior to this outing. Let him test the flyweight division outside the Octagon and earn his way back to the big show.
Matchup: Michael McDonald
With a loss to Eddie Wineland in his previous showing, Jabouin responded well this weekend.
VIDEO: Yves Jabouin thinks he surprised Mike Easton at UFC 174 http://t.co/CQSYOPPK9D— MMAFighting.com (@MMAFighting) June 15, 2014
The Tristar Gym member bested Easton in all areas en route to a decision victory. Having alternated wins and losses over his past five fights, Jabouin has had trouble gaining momentum, but a win over a top-10 bantamweight like Easton should earn him another big opportunity.
A bout with Michael McDonald would be a good step up for Jabouin, and Mayday could use a step down in competition, having lost two of his past three fights.
Matchup: Sarah Moras vs. Alexis Dufresne Loser
Entering her UFC debut with only five fights, Elizabeth Phillips is about as ripe as prospects come in the world's biggest MMA promotion.
Still, Phillips looked like she belongs on Saturday. While she came out on the losing end in a split decision, Phillips more than held her own against Valerie Letourneau, who didn't escape the contest without absorbing some noticeable damage.
As Phillips looks to earn her first win inside the Octagon, she could meet the loser of a July 6 bout between fellow UFC newcomers Sarah Moras and Alexis Dufresne.
Matchup: Jessica Andrade
Letourneau stepped into the Octagon for the first time this weekend, but the Canadian brought some legitimate experience with her. Prior to joining the UFC roster, Letourneau had already faced Sarah Kaufman, Alexis Davis and others.
That experience paid off for Letourneau against Phillips. In a 15-minute brawl, Letourneau landed over 100 strikes, which helped her gain an edge on the scorecards.
At 31 years old, Letourneau won't want to take the long path to the top. Instead, she might face Jessica Andrade, who already has multiple UFC wins on her record.
Matchup: TJ Waldburger
Daniel Sarafian looked to be a very promising middleweight on TUF: Brazil, but he hasn't panned out inside the Octagon.
With an opening-round submission loss to Kiichi Kunimoto on Saturday, Sarafian now owns a 1-3 UFC record. Having lost two in a row, Sarafian's UFC roster spot will soon be in jeopardy.
A bout with TJ Waldburger, who has also fallen in back-to-back fights, would test the Brazilian's submission defense to determine whether he improves enough to deserve a place in the UFC welterweight division.
Matchup: Kenny Robertson vs. Ildemar Alcantara Winner
A winner due to illegal strikes in his first UFC outing, Kunimoto had his sights set on picking up a more impressive victory against Sarafian.
The Japanese welterweight did so by taking Sarafian down early and locking in a rear-naked choke during the first round. With six straight wins, Kunimoto should be able to make some more noise in the 170-pound class.
Look for Kunimoto to meet the winner of a July 5 matchup between Kenny Robertson and Ildemar Alcantara, who would both give him a tougher time on the canvas.
Matchup: Fabio Maldonado
Fighting in front of his home crowd at UFC 174, Canadian Ryan Jimmo disappointed.
In each of the first two rounds, Jimmo was taken down by Ovince St. Preux. While on bottom during the second stanza, Jimmo had his arm chicken-winged, which resulted in a broken arm and submission loss.
Broken arm..........before and after pic.twitter.com/qiqisrtkTM— Ryan Jimmo (@RyanJimmo) June 16, 2014
While it will depend on their recovery timetables following their recent defeats, Jimmo and Fabio Maldonado would be good dance partners.
Ovince St. Preux
Matchup: Ryan Bader
St. Preux has been a nice surprise that resulted from the UFC's Strikeforce acquisition.
Since joining the UFC roster, St. Preux has gone 4-0 inside the Octagon. With his win over Jimmo on Saturday, St. Preux should have a firm hold on his top-15 position in the light heavyweight rankings.
OSP has certainly earned another step up in competition. Since they both escaped UFC 174 without taking much damage, St. Preux and Ryan Bader could make a quick turnaround against one another.
Matchup: Soa Palelei vs. Jared Rosholt Loser
Brendan Schaub entered UFC 174 with two straight wins and had an opportunity to pick up a notable win over a former UFC champion, Andrei Arlovski.
Instead, Schaub lost in a controversial decision. While most in the MMA media scored the bout in Schaub's favor, according to MMADecisions.com, he left the door open for a questionable call by landing only 30 significant strikes over three rounds.
Schaub may look to rebound against the loser of a June 28 bout between Soa Palelei and Jared Rosholt.
Matchup: Stefan Struve vs. Matt Mitrione Winner
Arlovski is back!
Well, technically. In reality, the former UFC heavyweight champion looked like a fighter on the verge of retirement this weekend.
He somehow found a way to edge Schaub on the scorecards, but Arlovski landed only 12 significant strikes over 15 minutes.
Should Stefan Struve beat Matt Mitrione on July 5, UFC matchmakers would be smart to use Arlovski as a stepping stone to build The Skyscraper back up.
Matchup: Mauricio Rua
Rafael Cavalcante can't get over the hump since losing his Strikeforce title to Dan Henderson.
Opposite Bader, Feijao could have taken a big step forward in the light heavyweight division. Instead, he allowed seven takedowns and spent over eight minutes on his back this Saturday.
That was the first time in Rafael Cavalcante's 8-year, 18-fight MMA career that he went the distance. #UFC174— Mike Johnston (@MikeyJ_MMA) June 15, 2014
In its shallow 205-pound class, the UFC can't afford to have big names slipping away. Cavalcante should be matched up with Mauricio Rua to ensure one of the notable Brazilians return to the win column.
Matchup: Ovince St. Preux
Bader is still in search of his first UFC title shot, and he's back on track now.
In beating Cavalcante on Saturday, Bader earned a second consecutive win. He's had his setbacks, but Bader's mix of wrestling and knockout power make him a tough matchup for a lot of 205-pounders.
Following UFC 174, Bader agreed that a matchup with St. Preux would make sense. Both are trending upward and could earn a fight with a top-five light heavyweight by beating the other.
Matchup: Hector Lombard vs. Dong Hyun Kim Loser
With wins over former title challengers Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit, Tyron Woodley was so close to earning a title shot of his own.
However, Woodley fell flat against Rory MacDonald. The Canadian soaked up the home cooking at UFC 174 and earned a workmanlike win over Woodley.
It's back to the drawing board for the Strikeforce veteran. Expect Woodley to meet the loser of an August 23 matchup between fellow contenders Hector Lombard and Dong Hyun Kim. That could require a Kim loss, though, as Woodley and Lombard both train under American Top Team.
Matchup: Hector Lombard vs. Dong Hyun Kim Winner
With seven wins in his past eight appearances, having only lost via split decision against Robbie Lawler during that span, MacDonald might be one win away from a shot at UFC gold.
MacDonald cruised to a decision win over Woodley on Saturday, which moved the Canadian one step closer to capturing the welterweight championship. It's a title that was recently held by MacDonald's Tristar Gym teammate, Georges St-Pierre, so Ares would undoubtedly like to take the belt back for Canada.
Since Lawler and Matt Brown are expected to battle for the next shot at champion Johny Hendricks, MacDonald might be in the finals of a mini-playoff for the following title shot. In the other theoretical semifinal would be Hector Lombard and Dong Hyun Kim.
Matchup: Joseph Benavidez
Bagautinov displayed toughness at UFC 174, but it'll take a lot more than that to dethrone Johnson.
Absorbing 133 significant strikes, Bagautinov was swept on the scorecards. Stuffed on 10 of 12 takedown attempts, Bagautinov had the strongest part of his game eliminated by Mighty Mouse, which resulted in a long evening for the Russian.
Despite the loss, Bagautinov is still among the best in the flyweight division. So is Joseph Benavidez, but neither man is likely to get another shot at Johnson soon. A bout between the two would be the best way for one of the recent title challengers to get back into the mix.
Matchup: John Dodson
Mighty Mouse keeps taking out every contender thrown at him.
At this point, there isn't a top-five UFC flyweight who hasn't lost to Johnson. The champion is running short on challenges, so he'll likely have another rematch coming his way.
With two straight knockout wins since a competitive bout with Johnson at UFC on Fox 6, John Dodson may have done enough for a second crack at the 125-pound king. It's the most intriguing flyweight matchup out there, so there's a good chance it's what's next for Johnson.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.