After what could be the biggest card of the year, which was not even on Pay Per View or television, it was time to see who was next for the winners from the UFC Fight Night 46 Main Card. Joe Silva and Sean Shelby’s jobs may be easier now, thanks to the rankings and callouts.
Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier
After eleven months out of the Octagon, Conor McGregor returned with a first-round TKO victory over Diego Brandao. There were a lot of concerns following the ACL surgery, as well as the amount of time without a fight. He shut down those critics by earning the biggest win of his career in his hometown of Dublin, Ireland.
As a result, McGregor will most likely become a Top 10 UFC Featherweight. With the bottom half of the rankings either coming off losses or already booked, the next opponent for “Notorious” should be #6 UFC Featherweight, Dustin Poirier.
The two featherweights have been attacking each other on social media and during interviews for quite a while now. Poirier’s association with Cole Miller at American Top Team didn’t help cool down the heat with McGregor either. If there was a time to set up this grudge match, it’s now.
McGregor is 3-0 in the UFC and is on an 11-fight winning streak. Prior to his introduction to the UFC, the Irishman won both the Cage Warriors Featherweight and Lightweight Championships. There is plenty of pressure weighing on McGregor with all the hype and trash talk. However, the pressure appears invisible to the 26-year-old.
Poirier is 8-2 since debuting in the UFC as a featherweight. “The Diamond” dropped down a weight class when he made the transfer from WEC to UFC. He was on the verge of a title shot until he fought Chan Sung Jung, in what many believe was the Fight of the Year in 2012. Unfortunately, he fell short, suffering his first defeat in the UFC. Now the 25-year-old from Louisiana is in the same position if he fights McGregor.
After the fight, Poirier tweeted “UFC 178 sounds good to me.” With the September card being so stacked, McGregor vs. Poirier may be added to the Las Vegas event.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Kelvin Gastelum
In his post-fight interview with Dan Hardy, after his second-round submission over Zak Cummings, Gunnar Nelson asked for a Top 5 or 10 UFC Welterweight next. Unfortunately, he may have to settle for #11 UFC Welterweight, Kelvin Gastelum.
Both undefeated prospects are on the verge of breaking into the Top 10 UFC Welterweight Rankings. It would be more than fitting for Nelson and Gastelum to fight next.
Nelson is 4-0 in the UFC since joining the promotion in 2012. As perfect as his career was going, he suffered a few setbacks. Iceland’s first and only UFC fighter was scheduled to fight Mike Pyle last year. However, he injured his knee and needed MCL surgery, forcing Nelson to pull out.
Months later, Nelson went through a serious car accidently. Fortunately, “Gunni” only needed a few stitches to recover as the injuries were minor.
Over a year later, Nelson returned to the Octagon, first submitting Omari Akhmedov before submitting Cummings. In both wins, he earned Performance of the Night Bonuses.
Just like Nelson, Gastelum is 4-0 in the UFC. He was a contestant on the seventeenth season of The Ultimate Fighter, competing on Team Sonnen. He would eventually win the entire season before moving down to a weight class, which may not have been the best decision since he has struggled to make weight in his past two fights. A win over Nelson, in addition to making weight, could boost Gastelum up the rankings.
There were talks before and after Nelson’s fight that there is a possibility for a fight with Rory MacDonald next. As great as that sounds, it would be more beneficial if they slowly build up Nelson.
Ian McCall vs. Joseph Benavidez 2
With Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez being Top 3 UFC Flyweight Contenders, and both fighters coming off impressive victories, it’s time for the WEC veterans to fight again.
If these two were booked to fight again, it would be a rematch from UFC 156 back in early 2013, where Benavidez earned the Unanimous Decision over “Uncle Creepy” in a close bout.
Since their first fight, McCall has gone 2-0, including his win over Brad Pickett. Prior to that fight, he defeated Iliarde Santos in Brazil for his first UFC win by yet another Unanimous Decision.
As for Benavidez, he followed up his win over McCall with two TKO victories over Darren Uyenoyama and Jussier Formiga. That led him to a rematch with Demetrious Johnson for the UFC Flyweight Championship, where Benavidez was knocked out in the first round. Since then, he defeated Tim Elliott with a first-round Guillotine Choke.
A fight between Benavidez and McCall could determine who the next challenger for the UFC Flyweight Championship is.
Norman Parke vs. Diego Sanchez
If “Stormin’” Norman Parke didn’t get the finish over Naoyuki Kotani, he would have been suggested a lesser-known name. However, with the second-round TKO – along with the post-fight callout, Parke should receive Diego Sanchez as his next opponent.
In addition to the performance and the challenge, there is a connection between Parke and Sanchez.
On TUF: Smashes, where Parke would be the lightweight winner of the season, his coach was Ross Pearson. In his last fight, Sanchez is coming off a Split Decision win over Pearson, in a fight where many believe Pearson should have earned the victory. A fight with “The Nightmare” will give Parke the opportunity to redeem his coach.
If there’s another reason needed, both Parke and Sanchez are past TUF winners. The perfect time for these two to fight is in their next fight.