The main card of UFC on ESPN 11 saw five fighters leave the Octagon without their hands being raised. Some had momentum which they will need to get back somehow, while others were already on a roller-coaster. All of them—with one possible exception—need an opponent to fight next. That’s where we come in.
Here are some matchup ideas for Saturday’s main card losers:
Alexander Volkov vs. Junior dos Santos-Jairzinho Rozenstruik loser: “Drago” is in a tough spot. Curtis Blaydes’ 25-minute takedown clinic on Saturday night was sufficiently dominant—and, according to some observers, boring—that nobody is going to clamor for a rematch anytime soon. Yet as one of the few Top 10 heavyweights younger than Volkov, Blaydes represents an indefinite roadblock to title contention. Taking too much of a step back is not an option either; Volkov may have fallen victim to a buzzer-beater knockout after winning the first 14 minutes of his fight with Derrick Lewis, but he showed against Greg Hardy that it takes more than just power.
What Volkov needs is a fight with a Top 15-ish heavyweight he hasn’t fought before, in a fight that offers risk as well as reward for both men. Former heavyweight champ dos Santos and once-beaten “Bigi Boy” are scheduled to meet at UFC 252 on Aug. 15. Whoever loses that fight, assuming no lengthy medical suspension, would fit the bill nicely.
Shane Burgos vs. Calvin Kattar-Dan Ige loser: It is a cliché—and usually a lie, as well—that a fight had “no loser.” One fighter wins and advances; the other loses and takes a step back. However, Burgos’ “Fight of the Night” with Josh Emmett did as little damage as possible to the stock of the exciting New Yorker. A great chin is a poor substitute for an untouched chin, but it was impressive to see Burgos eat a dozen of the right-handed fastballs that Emmett has used to flatline other fighters. Burgos had been on a three-fight winning streak and remains 6-2 in one of the toughest divisions in the UFC.
Kattar and Ige are set to headline UFC Fight Night 172 at “Fight Island” on July 15. The loser of that fight would be a fantastic match for Burgos: Kattar actually handed Burgos his last loss, in a great fight that was very even until Kattar nailed Burgos with a beautiful right hand at the beginning of the final round, and few would complain about a rematch. Ige, if he lost, would be a similarly red-hot featherweight of similar standing and name value.
Lyman Good vs. Anthony Rocco Martin: That “Cyborg” is even on UFC roster and doing pretty well in 2020 feels like something of an upset. One of the most physically imposing fighters of this era, Good was an undefeated Bellator MMA champion when his stock plummeted after being more or less toyed with by Ben Askren to lose his title. That stock flat-out crashed when Good lost an eliminator fight to get onto Season 19 of “The Ultimate Fighter.” UFC president Dana White audibly chuckling and asking “That was the Bellator champ?” felt like a shovelful of dirt on a career grave.
However, Good brushed off the dirt, returned to the northeast regional scene and started finishing fights again. Since getting a call from the UFC in 2015, Good has alternated wins and losses, but with few surprises: He’s beaten the aging or unproven fighters, while he has lost to the serious prospects and contenders. Martin, who was giving Neil Magny a pretty good fight two weeks ago at UFC 250 until his gas tank betrayed him, is in a somewhat similar position.
Marion Reneau vs. Gina Mazany: This assumes that “The Belizean Bruiser” does not decide to hang up the gloves after her competitive but clear-cut decision loss to Raquel Pennington. At 43 and on a three-fight skid, nobody would blame her if she did. On the other hand, Reneau is in preposterous physical condition and those three losses have been against stiff competition. She is no longer a bantamweight contender, but she is probably still UFC material and then some, and should get a chance to prove it.
Mazany, who was blitzed by Julia Avila in under a minute at UFC on ESPN 10 last weekend, has lost three straight in the UFC as well, with a win in King of the Cage between them. Like Reneau, however, she has been matched tough so far: Avila is one of the promotion’s hottest bantamweight prospects and undefeated outside of a freak injury, while Macy Chiasson and Lina Lansberg were both ranked bantamweights with borderline featherweight bodies. Both women could use a small step back. Run it.
Roosevelt Roberts vs. Clay Guida: A stunning loss by first-round armbar to the ageless, ever-dangerous Jim Miller leaves “The Predator” at 4-2 in the UFC. To be blunt, Roberts’ four wins have been against fighters who have either proven not to be UFC material, or have yet to prove they are, while he has been turned back by Vinc Pichel and now Miller. Roberts sometimes looks like a world-beater and future contender, but he needs to prove it against someone above .500 in the UFC.
Guida, who lost a competitive but uncontroversial decision to Bobby Green immediately before Roberts fought Miller, would fill the bill. While “The Carpenter” is one of the UFC’s best-known veterans and a fighter whose job is likely safe for as long as he wants it, his only win in the last two years is against—speaking of people who got a long leash from the promotion—B.J. Penn. It may seem implausible to match longtime fan favorite Guida against an unproven up-and-comer like Roberts, but that is exactly what the UFC did to Miller, who, by the way, defeated Guida in similarly quick and nasty fashion less than a year ago.