UFC Fantasy Matchmaker: December 2014 Edition

December 17, 2014 Posted by admin

There is an art to matchmaking in combat sports.

While some fights come together with natural ease, most bouts are formed through a hectic process of evaluation. Several aspects need to be graded on each side of the table before committing to the matchup.

Whether or not a fight makes sense in the divisional scheme, timing and making sure both fighters stand to gain similar rewards are the most pressing issues that come to mind. Then, of course, there is the most important aspect of a potential fight: Will both competitors be willing to mix it up and put on a show?

The unfortunate part of the process comes when all of these criteria are met, and the fight fails to deliver. That said, the UFC showcases far more exciting tilts than flat fights these days, which goes to show just how good Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are at their jobs.

2014 was certainly one of those strange years for the UFC. While there were high-profile tilts, championship scraps and toe-to-toe tussles for the ages, there were plenty of down moments as well. Several big fights fell through, and a small collection of champions spent more time on the sidelines than they did in the prime time in 2014. While ticket sales and pay-per-view numbers hinge on the biggest names showing up to do their things, the bigger issue at hand is the lack of divisional movement.

With a champion out, a contender cannot climb correctly. This leads to backups, logjams and all kinds of unnecessary business at the top weight classes that have become increasingly more competitive. And while there appears to be hope for an entire host of champions getting back to work in the coming year, we here at B/R MMA prefer to focus this column on the fights just below the title tier. The ones that keep the things rolling.

Every month we propose three potential fights that we believe would keep divisional pictures firing on all cylinders. Here are the most recent selections for “UFC Fantasy Matchmaker.”

 

Alistair Overeem vs. Matt Mitrione

Anytime the big boys are inside the Octagon throwing leather it’s going to draw eyes, but a potential bout between Alistair Overeem and Matt Mitrione holds a tremendous amount of upside with very little downturn on the line. Pairing up “The Reem” vs. “Meat” could be the next big fight in the heavyweight fold, and there are more than a few reasons why it needs to happen.


Christian Petersen/Getty Images

When a fighter carries a large amount of name recognition the way Overeem does, the promotion they compete for has only a few ways to use them. They can either be on the hunt for the title, which has been attempted and failed twice in the Dutchman’s case, or they can fend off the elite level of the divisional ranks for the up-and-coming hungry bucks of the heavyweight fold. 

While the former Strikeforce champion failed in his previous attempt to do this against Travis Browne, the “Demolition Man” was ultimately successful in his most recent showing against Stefan Struve. It took the muscle-heavy striker less than one round to leave “The Skyscraper” dazed and staring up at the arena lights, which gave him his second win in his past three showings.

And while that is solid progress for most heavyweights, for one who was figured to be as dominant as Overeem was assumed to be fresh out of the gates, it is going to take a few more solid wins over dangerous opponents to get himself back into the title conversation.

That said, a bout with Overeem would be a huge opportunity for Mitrione. The former NFL player turned mixed martial artist has been honing his craft on the sport’s biggest stage since being a cast member on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. The former Purdue University football standout came onto the reality-based fighting program with zero professional fights and has notched 12 in the five years since.

Furthermore, while Mitrione has admitted he was given an easy entry into the UFC for his first couple of fights, his past seven have come against legitimate competition.


Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Over this stretch, Mitrione has matured before the very eyes of the UFC fanbase and is shaping up to be quite a fighter by all measurable standards. His knockout power has always been on point and is only getting more dangerous as he picks up hand speed, and his ever-improving footwork is making it difficult for the competition to stay up with him as was on display in his win over Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC on Fox 13 in Phoenix. Mitrione was simply too fast and too powerful for “Napao” to handle, and the results produced themselves in brutal fashion.

Futhermore, both Overeem and Mitrione picked up victories on the same card. Neither took any type of damage and would be on a similar timeline. Then when you sprinkle in the rumored bitterness and animosity between Overeem and his former Blackzilians teammates—the squad Mitrione represents—the makings for a solid build up are all right there.

Sources close to the fighters say there is no love lost on at least one side of this particular equation, and these things add up to something the heavyweight division needs.

If Overeem is going to get back into title contention, make him prove he’s found his groove by knocking off a rock-solid Mitrione. That said, if the TUF alum is ready to parlay his three-fight winning streak into the elite level of the division, the former K-1 champion is the ticket. It’s a fight that’s just that easy to make, and it will be interesting to see if it’s the route in which the UFC decides to travel.  

 

Gilbert Melendez vs. Bobby Green

If you’ve read this column before (or any column I have written in the past three years) then you’ve surely been made aware of just how talented the UFC lightweight division is. The 155-pound fold is as stacked as they come under the promotional banner, with a dominant and exciting champion to go along with a collection of worthy title contenders. These elements combine to make it one of the best divisions in the UFC, and there are no signs of this changing anytime soon.


Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

While Anthony Pettis will most likely face Rafael dos Anjos with the winner facing Khabib Nurmagomedov in their following bout, this leaves a batch of past contenders and title challengers in a space where they are going to have to scrap it out in order to keep their places on the divisional hierarchy. With Benson Henderson vs. Eddie Alvarez and Donald Cerrone vs. Myles Jury already booked, the next fight to make in this mix would be Gilbert Melendez vs. Bobby Green.

Since coming over from Strikeforce in 2013, “El Nino” has been close to getting his hands on UFC gold. While his first attempt was a much closer affair that ended in a split-decision loss to champion Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 7 in his official promotional debut, he didn’t get nearly as close in his most recent attempt against striking phenom Anthony Pettis at UFC 181 earlier in the month.

That said, Melendez fought his signature gritty, in-your-face brand of fight, and he gave the talented young champion fits for the first seven minutes of the fight. Still, the “Skrap Pack” leader was dazed by a short counter shot attempting to close distance against the cage, then fell victim to a Pettis guillotine as he attempted a desperate takedown attempt.

And while his second setback in a UFC title fight was undoubtedly disappointing for the longstanding 155-pound standout, he’s far from being out of the mix for good in the lightweight fold. He’s going to need to jump right back into the cage to start making up the ground he lost, and Green would make for an excellent opponent against whom to do just that.

Much like Melendez, “King” is not only a transplant from the now-defunct Strikeforce roster, but a fighter who wasted zero time earning his respect under the UFC banner. The scrappy lightweight brought a four-fight winning streak into his UFC debut and then bolstered those numbers by adding four more straight wins to his resume all coming over tough competition.

Still, on the same night when Melendez was halted by Pettis, the California native had his momentum stunted by rangy striker Edson Barboza. It was a solid fight in which Green did his best to hang with the Team Renzo Gracie fighter’s rapid-fire offense, but in the end he was toppled via unanimous decision on the judges’ scorecards.


USA TODAY Sports

With Green battling so hard to get up to the top level of the lightweight division, it’s doubtful he’ll be looking to slide too far down and that’s why a potential bout with Melendez makes sense. That, and with everyone else ranked above them currently tied up or injured, a showdown between two fighters who always bring action-packed, fan-friendly tilts would be an easy make.

Granted, there is potentially a roadblock with Green having trained with the Diaz brothers for his most recent bout, but both of these fighters are professionals. The pairing would potentially be barn-burner between two fighters who are looking to claw their way back to the top of the division, and that has all the makings for some good action inside the Octagon. 

 

Jessica Penne vs. Tecia Torres

The latest installment of The Ultimate Fighter may still be fresh in the brains of fight fans, but that doesn’t mean there is any reason to take their foot off the proverbial gas pedal when it comes to working the women’s strawweight action into the regular divisional chaos of the UFC’s event schedule.

Granted, it may take a bit for the organization to determine who will get the chance to face newly crowned champion Carla Esparza in her first official title defense, but there’s no reason not to throw a batch of potential future contenders right back into the mix.


Photo courtesy of UFC.com

Although Tecia Torres’ season didn’t go remotely as planned, with “The Tiny Tornado” losing in the first round then again later on in the tournament when she was brought back, the fiery bomber had an excellent showing against Angela Magana at the TUF 20 finale to pick up her first official UFC victory. In the fight with her TUF housemate, Torres’ signature pressure was on point, and she fought relentlessly to pick up the win against an opponent who had zero answers for what she was throwing in her direction.

Still, while Torres looked solid at the finale, the best scrap of the night was easily the one that went down between Jessica Penne and Randa Markos. The Orange County representative and the savvy Canadian went all-out for 15 minutes as they spent the entirety of the three-round affair mixing it up in intense grappling exchanges and slick transitions. When the final bell sounded, Penne had her hand raised, and she not only picked up her first official victory as a UFC fighter, but her first official win competing at 115 pounds. 


Photo courtesy of UFC.com

Penne vacated her atomweight strap (105 pounds) to compete in the 20th domestic installment of the reality-based fighting program, and with each showing, she became increasingly more comfortable fighting up in weight. UFC President Dana White hasn’t made clear how many of the competitors from this most recent season are going to have a permanent home under the UFC banner, but there is no doubt that both Penne and Torres have their respective roster spots on lock.

When their dynamic styles and the possibility of future title contention are factored in, booking Penne vs. Torres would be a surefire hit for one of the early cards in 2015.

 

Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.

Article source: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2302312-ufc-fantasy-matchmaker-december-2014-edition

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