With a great night of action from UFC Fight Night 45 in the books, it’s time to step into the shoes of UFC Matchmaking Extraordinaires, Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, and see what’s next for the main card winners of last night’s second – and possibly final – UFC show at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City. There are some interesting bouts to be made.
Donald Cerrone vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
There’s no other fight that can be made.
After earning a Performance of the Night Bonus for his second-round headkick knockout over #7 UFC Lightweight, Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone (24-6, 1 NC) – who should now be a Top 5 UFC Lightweight – should take on the #4 UFC Lightweight, Khabib Nurmagomedov (22-0).
Cerrone is currently on a 4-fight winning streak, his last three wins being in 2014. “Cowboy” has earned a bonus in each of those wins but most importantly, climbed up the UFC Lightweight Rankings.
As for Nurmagomedov, he has yet to suffer a loss in his 22-fight professional MMA career. He’s 6-0 in the UFC. “The Eagle” is coming off his third straight Unanimous Decision win over fellow Top 5 Lightweight, Rafael dos Anjos.
The undefeated Russian prospect called out “Cowboy” a day after on Twitter, asking for a five-round fight, wanting to test himself. At the UFC Fight Night 45 Post-Fight Press Conference, Cerrone said he “will literally fight anybody”.
With the two willing to fight each other, the bout is bound to happen next for the top lightweights. A win for either Cerrone or Nurmagomedov would lead them to the next title shot against UFC Lightweight Champion, Anthony Pettis, or #2 UFC Lightweight, Gilbert Melendez.
Edson Barboza vs. Gleison Tibau
With both Edson Barboza (14-20) and Gleison Tibau (29-10) coming off wins at UFC Fight Night 45, matching them up would make a great classic striker vs. grappler bout for their next fight.
Barboza bounced back from his first-round submission loss to Donald Cerrone back in April, earning a first-round TKO victory over the durable Evan Dunham. The 28-year-old Brazilian is 8-2 in the UFC and has won four of his last five.
Much like his opponent, Tibau also bounced back from a loss, defeated by Michael Johnson by a second-round TKO back at UFC 168. The ATT lightweight handed Pat Healy his fourth straight loss for the Unanimous Decision in the main event of the UFC Fight Night 45 prelims. He also earned his fourteenth win in the division, the most in UFC Lightweight History.
If the fight does happen, this bout could likely grant the winner access into the Top 15 UFC Lightweight Rankings.
Rick Story vs. Kenny Robertson
Rick Story (17-8) was originally scheduled to face John Howard at UFC Fight Night 45. However, Howard was forced to pull out due to an injury and was replaced by Leonardo Mafra. Story submitted Mafra with a second-round Arm Triangle, bouncing back from his last loss to Kelvin Gastelum back at UFC 171.
Since Howard is already slated to face Brian Ebersole at UFC 178, the fight with Story cannot be rebooked at the moment. Instead, Story should face the rising Kenny Robertson (14-3). Two hard-hitting wrestlers clashing would make a great fight for the fans.
Story has been alternating wins and losses for the past seven fights. With the move to The MMA Lab, “The Horror” may have the skills to start a streak in the welterweight division.
Robertson is on a two-fighting winning streak, coming off a dominating Unanimous Decision over Ildemar Alcantara earlier this month. He’s 3-2 since his return to the UFC and has had a couple of highlight submissions in the process.
A win for either Story or Robertson could lead to a fight against a fighter in the Top 15 UFC Welterweight Division. That’s if the fight happens.
Joe Proctor vs. Vinc Pinchel
After Joe Proctor (10-2) overcame the odds and a hematoma near his ear to earn a second-round TKO over the favorite, Justin Salas, his next opponent should be fellow TUF 15 Alum, Vinc Pichel (9-1).
With both fighters are on 2-fight winning streaks, Pichel being on Team Cruz while Proctor was on Team Faber on the first live season of TUF, there’s not a better time for these two to meet in the Octagon than in their next fight.
Just like Proctor, Pinchel was the underdog in his last fight, but managed to defeat WEC veteran, Anthony Njokuani by Unanimous Decision.
These two TUF 15 contestants have never crossed paths on the show. Hopefully they do in their upcoming bouts.
John Lineker vs. Jussier Formiga/Zack Makovsky
After the shocking announcement came out that #8 UFC Flyweight, Chris Cariaso, would be the next challenger for Demetrious Johnson’s UFC Flyweight Championship, the pick for John Lineker’s (24-7) next opponent was easier to make.
At UFC Fight Night 47, there will be a critical bout in the Flyweight Division, where #6 UFC Flyweight, Jussier Formiga (16-3), will take on #9 UFC Flyweight, Zack Makovsky (18-4). Depending on their condition after the fight, the winner should face “Hands of Stone”.
Lineker is coming off the biggest win of his career when he defeated Alptekin Ozkilic via TKO with nine seconds left to spare in the final round. He and Ozkilic earned the Fight of the Night Bonus for their efforts. In his last three fights, he won twice but also missed weight in those bouts, and then was defeated by Ali Bagautinov, who challenged for the title in his next fight. Lineker needed this win more than ever.
If the winner of Formiga vs. Makovsky is next for Lineker, then the winner of that fight should face the winner of Johnson vs. Cariaso for the UFC Flyweight Championship.
Lucas Martins vs. Jim Alers
In his return to the featherweight division and US debut, Lucas Martins (15-1) earned a Performance of the Night Bonus with his third-round knockout over Alex White. “Mineiro” earned his third consecutive victory with that performance.
He was originally booked to face Jim Alers (13-1) at UFC Fight Night 45 before he pulled out with an injury and was replaced by White. In a tweet the day after the fight, Alers congratulated Martins on his fight. He also said he would have given him his second loss and called him out.
The former Cage Warriors Featherweight Champion made his UFC debut back in April, defeating Alan Omer via Split Decision. Alers is on a 9-fight winning streak and a majority of his wins come by submission.
The featherweight division continues to impress more and more and a win for either Martins and Alers will do wonders for their career.