UFC 194: Matches To Make

Esther Lin|MMAFighting

Conor McGregor transcended the hype with a once in a lifetime performance in the main event of UFC 194. McGregor proved himself as one of the best martial artists on the planet and as the undisputed featherweight champion of the world by stopping Jose Aldo in just thirteen seconds. Aldo, a man who's reign over the 145 pound division had lasted over seven years, was thought of by many as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in the world before this defeat. He had used blistering punches, brutal leg kicks and world class Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to deny all challengers, but something was different when Aldo stepped into the cage against the Irish phenom Conor McGregor. Aldo appeared nervous, tense, and this was reflected in his performance. He came out very aggressive against the relaxed McGregor, charging forward with a left hook early. McGregor read the shot, catching the rushing Aldo with a beautifully timed left hand. The punch crushed Aldo, putting the featherweight champion out cold on the canvas and securing 'The Notorious' his first UFC title. This ground breaking performance has put McGregor on a new level of stardom, elevating him to new heights in the minds of both hardcore and casual MMA fans. Let us now look to the future and at potential opponents for McGregor and all of the other main card fighters. Conor McGregor: With Aldo out of the way, McGregor has two options; defend his newly minted featherweight title against top contender Frankie Edgar or move up to 155 pounds to challenge the winner of next weekend's bout between Rafael Dos Anjos and Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone. Either of those would be outstanding fights and all three of those potential opponents present new and fascinating challenges for the UFC's new biggest superstar. Jose Aldo: Aldo seemed very keen on the idea of an immediate rematch in his post fight interview, but I highly doubt that UFC will give it to him. That does not mean that Aldo's next bout will not be for a title, however, as, if McGregor moves up to lightweight, the UFC could definitely book Aldo in an interim title rematch with Frankie Edgar to see who gets to fight McGregor when he returns to 145 pounds. If McGregor stays at featherweight Aldo is really stuck in limbo unless he himself moves up to 155 pounds, likely left facing one of the few top ten featherweights he has not already defeated. Aldo has expressed his interest in making a move up to lightweight in the past and if does I would love to see him meet the loser of the upcoming Anthony Pettis vs. Eddie Alvarez fight. Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero: Rockhold looked outstanding while dethroning the very tough Chris Weidman. Matchmaking for Rockhold is fairly straightforward; Yoel Romero is coming off a narrow win over Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza in what was a title eliminator bout so that is the obvious fight to make. Chris Weidman and Ronaldo Souza: Weidman was competitive with Rockhold up until the end of the third round where he found himself being smashed by the terrifying top game of the larger man. Weidman should next meet 'Jacare' Souza in what could be a potential title eliminator bout given the razor thin nature of Souza's loss to Yoel Romero. Demian Maia: Maia thoroughly dominated Gunnar Nelson in the talented Icelander's own wheelhouse for three rounds. At 38 years of age Maia's time to win a UFC title is running out; he should be booked against Matt Brown, a fight which could warrant him a title shot should he win it impressively. Gunnar Nelson: Nelson was game in defeat but took an utter thrashing on the ground at the hands of the supremely technical Maia. 'Gunni' looked outstanding the last time he was matched up against striking specialist in Brandon Thatch, so I would love to see him fight the loser of the dynamite Albert Tumenov vs. Lorenz Larkin bout. Max Holloway: Holloway could have made a case for a title shot in the main card opener against Jeremy Stephens but instead turned in a surprisingly dull decision win. He still needs one more major win before he can be considered for a featherweight title shot; Ricardo Lamas is coming off a win and would be an important feather in the cap of Holloway should he defeat 'The Bully'. Jeremy Stephens: Stephens tried to turn his fight with Holloway into a wild brawl but was foiled time and again by the length and footwork of the Hawaiian. A match up with Chad Mendes would be appropriate for Stephens at this point, more as a test for Mendes than anything, but also to see whether Stephens can be competitive against the very elite fighters at 145 pounds.

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