Fights to Make After UFC 181: Losers Edition

By Raphael Garcia

UFC 181 was a very anticipated card that delivered to mixed martial arts fans. They were able to witness the crowning of a new welterweight champion in Robbie Lawler, watch Anthony Pettis further establish himself as the lightweight king, and see a host of other men and women notch out their places on the UFC roster. But as the days move forward towards their next Octagon outings, these fight suggestions will help develop the careers of the fighters that were unable to get wins this past Saturday in Las Vegas:

Johny Hendricks vs. Demian Maia

Johny Hendricks had a strong performance in his unsuccessful first title defense, and while most would say that he did enough to remain champion, the judges did not agree. “Bigg Rigg” admitted that he needs to make some adjustments to address his weight issues, and that is perhaps the biggest story for him going forward. But beyond that, an interesting test in his next bout would be his ability to deal with the grappling abilities of Demian Maia.

Maia is coming off of a win over an unranked opponent (Alexander Yakovlev at the TUF Brazil 3 Finale) but he has slipped in most rankings after back-to-back losses to Jake Shields and Rory MacDonald. However, before that, he was on a run as a welterweight that led many to believe he had found a second wind in his career. If he is to reach a position of prominence within the 170-pound weight class, this fight would be the fastest way to do it.

Hendricks vs. Maia would work as a main event bout for a UFC Fight Night card on Fox Sports 1, or as a main card fight for any UFC PPV.

Gilbert Melendez vs. the winner of Benson Henderson vs. Eddie Alvarez 

Gilbert Melendez got off to a good start against Pettis in the co-main event, but found himself on the wrong end of the champion’s growing legacy. After 12 years in the sport, “El Niño” was stopped for the first time. Now he has to rebuild his career outside of the title picture. A fight against Eddie Alvarez or a rematch against Benson Henderson would give him the opportunity to do so, while drawing interest among longtime fans of the sport.

Alvarez and Melendez have long had issues with each other from a competitive standpoint. When they held the Bellator and Strikeforce belts, they and their respective promotions often called for a champion versus champion matchup. It never happened, but the fact that they are both in the UFC now makes this pairing a real possibility.

Henderson and Melendez had one of the best fights in 2013 at UFC on Fox 7. Henderson pulled out a close split decision that many felt should have gone to Melendez. A return match between the two would allow both men to remain relevant within the division while giving fans an exciting fight. 

Melendez vs. Alvarez or Henderson would work as the main event for a UFC Fight Night event on Fox Sports 1.

Francisco Rivera vs. Michael McDonald 

Francisco Rivera was fighting the best fight of his career before an eye poke allowed Urijah Faber to pounce on him. It was clear that Rivera was winning the contest in every way up until that point. Morale victories do not count for much, but Rivera proved that he has the talent to be an asset to the bantamweight division at this time. Matching him against Michael McDonald when he returns from injury would create a captivating fight for both men.

McDonald is a young competitor who caught the sport off guard with his quick rise to title contention. But as he heals from multiple health issues, he has been largely forgotten as of late. A return to the Octagon against Rivera would give him the opportunity to remind everyone that he is still here and has the ability to contend with the best in the weight class.

Rivera vs. McDonald would work best as a co-main event for a UFC Fight Night card on Fox Sports 1 sometime in 2015.

Abel Trujillo vs. the loser of Daron Cruickshank vs. K.J. Noons

Abel Trujillo has the ability to be a problem for many fighters in the lightweight division — if and only if he can get his cardio issues in check. He got off to a strong start against Tony Ferguson before running out of steam late in the first round. If the Blackzilian team member can address that glaring hole, he could make a run within the weight class.

Daron Cruickshank and K.J. Noons both present opportunities for the exact style of matchup that the UFC would love to create for Trujillo. Neither man shies away from exchanges, and both have a number of highlight-reel-worthy knockouts. A matchup against Trujillo would not make it the full fifteen minutes allotted.

Abel Trujillo vs. either Daron Cruickshank or K.J. Noons best works as a main card opener for a UFC PPV event.

UFC 181 is now behind us, and it was a strong way to close out 2014. With the momentum from this event, the UFC has the opportunity to move forward into 2015 in a number of ways. These bouts would give the fighters who were unable to score victories chances to redeem themselves and remain relevant within their respective divisions.


UFC 181: Hendricks vs. Lawler II (formerly UFC 181: Weidman vs. Belfort) took place on December 6, 2014 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click the stars to rate how good you think UFC 181 was.

What Do You Think of This Fight/Event?