Well, he did it. With the weight of a headlining spot on a UFC card resting firmly on his shoulders, and thousands of screaming countrymen cheering for him in the audience, Irish face-puncher extraordinaire Conor McGregor took center stage at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 46 and put away TUF 14 winner Diego Brandao in clear and convincing fashion. And now the UFC – and the sport as a whole – has one more shining star to count on in terms of excitement and the creation of must-see TV.
So what now? McGregor has made no bones about his desire to clear out the division and dispatch whoever possesses the featherweight belt. But should he face champ Jose Aldo right away? Or should he continue to methodically work his way up the ranks?
I’m glad you’re asking these questions, because I’ve pondered the issue and have come up with five smart fights for the Irish slugger.
-The Winner of Clay Guida vs. Dennis Bermudez: We know that McGregor can throw leather, but he has yet to answer the Riddle of the Wrestler. When the much-heralded Anthony Pettis made his UFC debut back in 2011, it was against Clay Guida, and if you’ll recall, Pettis lost that one pretty handily because he had no answer for the Riddle. Does McGregor? We don’t truly know, so logically, we should see him against someone whose bread and butter is takedowns and scrambles. Since Guida and Bermudez are set to scrap next weekend, give McGregor a shot at the winner. If the Irishman defeats either man, he proves he has the Riddle solved – and he beats someone who just fought on the main card for a big FOX show.
-The Korean Zombie: Chan Sung Jung, a.k.a. our favorite member of the undead, has been on ice since losing in his attempt to dethrone champ Aldo. But he should be back soon, and since he and McGregor share a penchant for standing-and-banging, why not pair them together? There is literally no way the fans would be disappointed by the outcome, and if McGregor gets past a top challenger like the South Korean, he puts himself infinitely closer to title contention.
-Ricardo Lamas: Like Jung, Lamas is a banger who failed to knock Aldo off the top of the heap. Unlike Jung, though, Lamas tends to be more of a technical striker than a balls-out brawler – which would be an intriguing test for McGregor’s unorthodox striking style. Pit Lamas and McGregor against each other and we’ll definitely see where the Irishman stands in the rankings, and we’ll likely get an exciting fight to boot.
-Cole Miller: Yeah, he was originally supposed to fight McGregor yesterday but was replaced by Brandao due to injury – so what? He’s still a grizzled vet, an ace jiu-jitu practitioner, and a heck of a good foil for McGregor’s boisterous personality. Sparks would fly for sure in this one, so why not make this match when Miller is healed?
-Dustin Poirier: “The Diamond” and “The Notorious One” have already expressed a desire to fight each other, and in terms of firming up the rankings and the potential for fireworks, this bout makes perfect sense. Piorier has yet challenge for the 145-pound belt, but it’s undeniable that he’s a top talent. A win here for McGregor means he truly is a badass.
These are my five suggestions for McGregor opponents – what are yours?