March 7, 2016

UFC 196: Fights to Make - Main Card Edition

By Michael Ford

After an exciting UFC 196 event, the winners and losers from the main card deserve to be involved in high-profile matchups. This piece suggests the best possible pairings for those athletes. Agree or disagree? Make your opinions known in the comments.

Conor McGregor vs. Frankie Edgar

The sport's biggest star put on a show in the UFC 196 main event, and although he fell via submission in the second round, he still has the featherweight title, as well as the charisma and fan following to remain super-relevant. His pursuit of glory two weight classes up might have been misguided, but a superfight at lightweight is still in the cards for him. However, the first step would be to take out the only featherweight contender he has yet to vanquish, the former UFC Lightweight Champion Edgar.

Edgar showed a lot in his first round KO victory over Chad Mendes at the TUF 22 Finale, but he doesn't quite have the skillset nor physical tools that Nate Diaz employed against McGregor. However, he is a deserving contender, and "The Answer" deserves the opportunity to demonstrate that he too can solve the Irishman's puzzle. If he can come out on top, he obviously undercuts the superfight dreams of "The Notorious One," but he would get the chance to avenge his 2013 decision loss to Jose Aldo, one of the defeats that he has clamored to even up since he has embarked upon his featherweight campaign.

For McGregor, though, defeating Edgar reestablishes his hegemony at 145 pounds, and puts him right back in line for a fight with his original UFC 196 opponent in Rafael Dos Anjos, or a rematch with the man who defeated him. And as big as UFC 196 might end up being, a rematch between two champions would be even bigger.

Nate Diaz vs. Rafael Dos Anjos II

When Diaz faced RDA the first time at UFC on FOX 13, he was coming off of a yearlong layoff due to a contract dispute, and missed weight before putting forth a listless performance en route to a decision defeat. Since then, Dos Anjos has established himself as the top lightweight on the planet, and Diaz has both reestablished himself as a contender and put himself on the map with the biggest performance of his career. To capitalize on that big win, Diaz should step into the shoes that McGregor hoped to occupy, that of lightweight title challenger.

Who knows how big the McGregor-RDA superfght would have been, but doubtlessly a second go of it would be even bigger, despite McGregor's defeat. Diaz's profile has never been bigger, and if dos Anjos can cut him down again, he'll put himself on the map. But if Diaz can springboard from the McGregor win to a championship win, he'll have finally stepped out of the shadow of his big brother Nick. From there, a rematch with McGregor with gold on the line would captivate casual and hardcore fan alike, and validate the trash talk Nate has spent a career dispensing.

Ideally, McGregor vs. Edgar and RDA vs. Diaz would take place on the same card, so that the prefight press conferences can feature crossfire trash-talking and the postfight interviews could lead to both champions calling out the other. No matter who comes out on top, the interest in the lightweight and featherweight championships would be at their highest points to date, which can only be a great thing for the sport.

Miesha Tate vs. Ronda Rousey III

Tate gave her fans something to cheer for with a fifth-round submission victory over Holly Holm in the co-main event. It was a gritty and gutsy performance, like her other Octagon wins, and it made the case for her being at least considered the best 135-pound woman in the sport. However, her glaring 0-2 record against Rousey makes that assertion very hard to defend.

Rousey has dominated their first two matchups, and would likely be the prohibitive favorite in their trilogy bout. That being said, there's no telling what the effects of Rousey tasting defeat will be, as the stories of Rousey contemplating suicide could give pause to any analyst looking to take the former champion in a walkover. Tate has shown a level of fortitude unmatched by any bantamweight, and the longstanding rivalry between these two fighters might create an even bigger buyrate than their UFC 168 matchup did. If Tate can score her sixth straight win against her archnemesis, she very well could solidify herself as the biggest female star in the sport.

Holly Holm vs. Cat Zingano

Holm had a strong showing in her first title defense, but even if she hadn't been finished in the fifth round of her matchup, she likely would have barely escaped with a draw. It's tempting to hold her out of competition in favor of a rematch with the winner of Tate-Rousey 3, but with not too many UFC fights under her belt, Holm could use a win to get her back on track, and a matchup with Zingano fits the bill.

Zingano hasn't competed since her 14-second loss to Rousey at UFC 184, but she has a win over the current champion, and she represents a strong win for any bantamweight's resume. Even a decision victory would position Holm for the opportunity to regain her belt, and while a second Zingano-Rousey matchup wouldn't be ideal, it would be earned if Zingano can stop the woman who handed Rousey her first loss. If it isn't impressive, though, she may have to let Amanda Nunes, another UFC 196 main card victor, get the title shot in her stead.

But the best case scenario for the UFC is Holm winning this matchup, and taking on either Rousey or Tate in a big time money matchup in the main event of a late 2016 or early 2017 PPV.

Ilir Latifi vs. Corey Anderson

It was closer than the scores would appear, but Anderson defeated Tom Lawlor by unanimous decision on the pay-per-view main card, maintaining his position on the fringes of the light heavyweight contendership queue. Latifi also scored a unanimous decision victory, sweeping Gian Villante on all the judges' scorecards. The next logical step should be a matchup between the two, one that should springboard the winner into the Top 10 at 205 pounds.

Latifi has put together strong showings in his seven Octagon appearances, amassing a 5-2 UFC record, but his TKO defeat to Jan Blachowicz at UFC Fight Night 53 raises questions as to exactly where his celing is. He may have made improvements, but he'll likely need to stop Anderson to truly gain traction with the fans and UFC matchmakers. For the TUF 19 winner Anderson, his lone blemish is a TKO loss to Villante at UFC on FOX 15, but he was able to defeat Blachowicz at UFC 191. Their 1-1 records against common opponents make this an evenly-matched bout, and the fighter who comes out on top will be the one who makes improvements and closes the holes in his game that have been apparent thus far in his Octagon career.

Latifi vs. Anderson would make a solid main card bout for a UFC Fight Night event on Fox Sports 1.


UFC 196: McGregor vs. Diaz (formerly UFC 196: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor, UFC 197: Dos Anjos vs. McGregor) took place on March 5, 2016 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC 196 was.

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