Matches to Make After TUF 16 Finale, UFC on FX 6

By: Brian Knapp
Dec 16, 2012
Hector Lombard has much to smile about. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

When Hector Lombard crossed the threshold into the Octagon at UFC on FX 6 on Friday at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, he had two goals in mind: make a definitive statement against Rousimar Palhares and leave the cage with his lower-extremity ligaments intact. Mission accomplished.

Lombard blew away Palhares with a volley of power punches 3:30 into the first round of their middleweight battle, winning for the 21st time in 22 appearances. The former Bellator Fighting Championships titleholder knocked down Palhares three times. Lombard’s final barrage -- a destructive left hook, right hook, left hook combination followed by thunderous standing-to-ground punches -- left the Brazilian leg lock specialist unconscious at his feet.

In that moment, Lombard re-established himself as a significant player at 185 pounds and started the process of erasing the disappointing memory of his split decision loss to Tim Boetsch in his promotional debut at UFC 149. The Cuban judoka called for a bout with “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 3 winner Michael Bisping, but with the world-ranked Brit hoping to pin down a title shot in his main event with Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7 next month, Lombard will likely need to look elsewhere for his next challenger.

Alan Belcher will meet Yushin Okami in a rematch at UFC 155 on Dec. 29, with the winner emerging as a sensible and viable alternative to “The Count.”

In the wake of UFC on FX 6 and “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Finale, here are nine other matchups that ought to be made:

Roy Nelson vs. Daniel Cormier:

Nelson looks like a truck driver and hits like a tank. The former International Fight League champion rang Matt Mitrione’s bell in “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Finale headliner, putting his heavy hands on display with a first-round technical knockout. Cormier, the reigning Strikeforce heavyweight champion, will join the Ultimate Fighting Championship following his Jan. 12 bout in Oklahoma City. The 33-year-old Olympian has won all 10 of his fights as a professional, including victories over Jeff Monson, Antonio Silva and former UFC heavyweight titleholder Josh Barnett.

Chad Mendes vs. Chan Sung Jung:

Those who expected Mendes to crawl in a hole after his knockout loss to current featherweight king Jose Aldo in January were sorely mistaken. The v standout needed less than two minutes to blast through newcomer Yaotzin Meza at UFC on FX 6, as he delivered his second first-round knockout in as many appearances and kept his name near the top of the 145-pound heap. The surging 25-year-old Jung has finished three consecutive opponents since joining the UFC, including a seven-second knockout against Mark Hominick at UFC 140 in December 2011.

File Photo

Poirier bounced back beautifully.

Dustin Poirier vs. Darren Elkins:

Poirier bounced back beautifully from his first defeat in nearly two years, as he submitted Jonathan Brookins with a brabo choke at “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Finale. Still only 23, the Louisianan has dropped anchor at American Top Team and figures only to improve with age and experience. A largely overlooked piece of the 145-pound puzzle, Elkins has quietly compiled a 5-1 record since arriving in the UFC.

Mike Pierce vs. Nate Marquardt-Tarec Saffiedine winner:

No one wants to fight Pierce. The rugged Oregonian cruised to a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 11 alum Seth Baczynski at UFC on FX 6, as he executed his clinch-heavy game plan to near perfection despite tiring down the stretch. Since entering the UFC in 2009, the 32-year-old Pierce has lost only to Jon Fitch, Johny Hendricks and Josh Koscheck, all on points. Marquardt will defend his Strikeforce championship against Saffiedine on Jan. 12 before returning to the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Rousimar Palhares vs. Mark Munoz:

Palhares wore the dreaded deer-in-headlights look in his ill-fated encounter with Lombard at UFC on FX 6. The Brazilian Top Team export offered little in the way of meaningful offense or defense and ultimately succumbed to first-round punches from the explosive Cuban judoka. On a two-fight losing streak, Palhares must regroup in a hurry or risk becoming a forgotten man at 185 pounds. The world-ranked Munoz crashed and burned against Chris Weidman at UFC on Fuel TV 4 in July, as he was victimized by a standing elbow and follow-up punches.

Pat Barry vs. Philip De Fries-Todd Duffee winner:

Few men in the heavyweight division are as flawed or as frightening as Barry. The 33-year-old New Orleans native dodged three submission attempts from Shane del Rosario in the first round and scored a vicious knockout in the second at “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Finale. A guaranteed source of entertainment, 11 of Barry’s 13 mixed martial arts bouts have ended inside the first two rounds. De Fries and Duffee will toe the line against one another on Dec. 29, the latter returning to the UFC for the first time in almost three years.

Ross Pearson vs. Thiago Tavares-Khabib Nurmagomedov winner:

Pearson settled back into life as a lightweight, as he wiped out Australian rival George Sotiropoulos with third-round punches in the UFC on FX 6 main event. The 28-year-old Alliance MMA representative buried Sotiropoulos with crisp standup, staggering him several times before delivering the finish less than a minute into round three. Tavares and the undefeated Nurmagomedov will lock horns at UFC on Fuel TV 7 on Jan. 19 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The 24-year-old Nurmagomedov has stopped nine of his last 10 opponents, seven of them in the first round.

Matt Mitrione vs. Brendan Schaub-Lavar Johnson loser:

A late replacement for the injured Shane Carwin in “The Ultimate Fighter 16” main event, Mitrione could not withstand the sheer force housed within Nelson’s hands. “Big Country” leveled him with a three-punch combination and finished him with a series of standing-to-ground punches in the first round. Mitrione, who now trains with the Blackzilians camp in Boca Raton, Fla., can only return to the drawing board following his failed upset bid. Schaub and Johnson will face one another at UFC 157 on Feb. 23 in a matchup that had to be postponed earlier this month.

George Sotiropoulos vs. Mark Bocek:

Once a dark horse title contender at 155 pounds, Sotiropoulos has lost his last three fights. His latest misstep, a technical knockout defeat to Pearson in the UFC on FX 6 headliner, raised some real questions about the Australian’s viability as anything more than a lightweight gatekeeper. Bocek faces similar doubts after dropping a unanimous decision to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 154 in November.

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