It's double your matchmaking pleasure, as we pair up the fighters from last weekend's two UFC events, the Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale and UFC on FX 6.
Finally, we can put TUF's season 16 behind us. It was a year that was full of disappointment. Of the 15 fights that took place in the tournament, only two resulted in finishes. Twelve of the 16 fighters were immediately cut upon the conclusion of the season. And we didn't even get the final payoff, as Shane Carwin suffered an injury and couldn't make it to his scheduled fight against Roy Nelson.
At least Nelson got his shining moment with a knockout of former TUF season 10 cast mate Matt Mitrione.
Before we move on to the match-ups, a few words about Mike Pierce.
At what point does he earn consideration as a top welterweight? After beating Seth Baczynski, Pierce has a modest three-fight win streak, but most people believe that he beat Josh Koscheck at UFC 143, including FightMetric, and he also fought a razor close decision with Johny Hendricks, a result which was also disputed by many.
Even with that tough luck, Pierce is 7-2 in his last nine. The obvious conclusion is that his grinding style turns off some observers, but he also has three finishes in that time, the same number as Koscheck, who is considered a much bigger puncher. At some point, Pierce may find himself in the discussion of the welterweight division's best, but given his style limitations, it seems that he'll have to force his way in.
On to the predictions ...
This might be the first time we don't ever get the promised coach vs. coach matchup, as Carwin is on the shelf for the foreseeable future. Also, Nelson is on a two-fight win streak, and whenever Carwin returns, he'll be hoping to end a two-fight losing skid, so the fight might no longer make sense. Something about a Nelson vs. Mark Hunt fight intrigues me, but the "Super Samoan" is already locked into a March date with Stefan Struve.
Prediction: With few available options, I think the UFC sets Nelson up with Cheick Kongo
The former NFLer flashed a more diverse arsenal than in the past, but showed he wasn't immune to top firepower in falling to Nelson. Because he's only been in the game for a few years, it's hard to believe that Mitrione has reached his ceiling, but this sport is unforgiving at the top levels, and certainly a rough learning environment for a developing fighter, which frankly, Mitrione is. With a dearth of marketable heavyweight talents, he's likely to get another chance or two in the UFC, but he's running low on both time and opportunities.
Prediction: He faces the loser of February's Brendan Schaub vs. Lavar Johnson match
It wasn't exactly a rousing victory for Smith, but he got himself the win and a contract by beating Mike Ricci. With five decisions in his five TUF-related fights, Smith didn't show huge firepower, so expect a fairly inexperienced opponent next time around. By the way, expect Ricci to get another shot in his natural lightweight class after moving up to 170 for a chance to compete on TUF.
Prediction: Smith fights TUF: UK vs. Australia winner Robert Whittaker
Barry will never be a ground wizard, but he's made strides, and proved he'd improved his defense there after being taken down early by Shane del Rosario. Weathering the storm, Barry was able to reverse the tide and get back to his feet, where he did typical Barry work with thundering punches en route to a knockout win.
Prediction: He fights Stipe Miocic
Poirier has top three talent in the featherweight division, and his recent move to American Top Team should offer him his best chance of getting the most out of his natural gifts and strong work ethic. After a bit of a rocky start, he rebounded and finished an improved Jonathan Brookins in less than a round, something that had never happened in Brookins' career, which includes a fight against current divisional champ Jose Aldo.
Prediction: He faces Chad Mendes
It's a career rebirth for the 37-year-old Pyle, who recently left his longtime home at Xtreme Couture. His win over James Head was impressive, because Head was the bigger man and hurt Pyle early. Showing veteran savvy, Pyle composed himself and landed a crushing knee from the clinch and closed the show.
Prediction: He faces Mike Pierce
It was a resounding return to lightweight for the Brit, who battered Sotiropoulos around for most of their fight before finishing him in the third. At 28 years old, Pearson should be right around his athletic peak, making his next few fights crucial for any remaining title hopes.
Prediction: He fights John Makdessi
After nearly 17 months away, Sotiropoulos had the expected ring rust, and never really got any offense going. Worse, he was seemingly always an available target for Pearson, suffering two official knockdowns and getting touched up on several other occasions. At least the ring rust was knocked off, but at 35, how much does he have left?
Prediction: He faces Reza Madadi
The middleweight division just got significantly more interesting. Most of the people who had anticipated Lombard's move to the UFC got the destroyer they were expecting, as the Cuban decimated Rousimar Palhares. The division has plenty of matchups for him, but one or two of them may have to play out before he gets put on the schedule.
Prediction: He faces the winner of UFC 155's Alan Belcher vs. Yushin Okami fight
Although I already predicted Mendes would fight Poirier, it's simply worth noting that he deserves a much higher class of opponent than either of his last two foes: Cody McKenzie and Yaotzin Meza, one of whom was not particularly experienced, the other who was making his major organization debut. Whether it's Poirier or another top 10 fighter, Mendes needs a challenge.
At some point, Pierce has to get some respect as a top welterweight. He has three straight wins, but needs a breakout performance against a big name, something that's yet to come.
Prediction: As mentioned above, a date with Mike Pyle