Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Stipe Miocic and UFC 226's other losing fighters?


(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 226’s winning fighters?)

The UFC 226 main card, which took place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and aired on pay-per-view, was the night of the underdog. The flip side of that, however, is five fighters who came out with unexpected results.

Stipe Miocic (18-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) had his UFC heavyweight title reign come to a screeching halt courtesy of Daniel Cormier (21-1 MMA, 10-1 UFC) and his right hand, because “DC” scored a first-round knockout to claim the gold in the event headliner.

Prior to the championship bout, betting favorites Francis Ngannou (11-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC), Paul Felder (15-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC), Michael Chiesa (14-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC) and Gokhan Saki (1-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) were all beaten by their respective opponents.

After every event, fans wonder whom the losing fighters will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 226’s losing fighters.

* * * *

Gokhan Saki

Should fight: UFC newcomer
Why they should fight: Saki’s knockout loss once again showed the unpredictable nature of MMA, with the former kickboxing standout being on the receiving end of a surprising knockout from Khalil Rountree.

It took just 96 seconds for the hype around Saki to take a serious blow when he ate an early shot from Rountree that put him down and out. It will certainly be a learning lesson for him, because even though his striking credentials are among the best in the UFC, it only takes one clean shot with MMA gloves.

UFC President Dana White admitted post-fight that he thought Saki was going to be the next big thing are light heavyweight, but some of the wind was taken out of those sails. Fortunately in a shallow division, it won’t take much to rebuild himself.

Despite the result, there aren’t many fighters in the 205-pound weight class who will be eager to stand with Saki, and if the UFC wants to build him up, it would be in their best interest to bring in a newcomer from outside the organization that will trade with him.

Michael Chiesa

Should fight: Zak Cummings
Why they should fight: After missing weight, Chiesa struggled to put on a good performance against Anthony Pettis, and now he’s in a difficult position going forward.

Chiesa said he was “done” fighting at lightweight after coming in 1.5 pounds heavy against Pettis. His second-round submission loss might convince him even further that it’s not the weight class for him, but it’s possible he changes his mind once the disappointment of his situation wears off.

Assuming Chiesa does decide to move to welterweight, though, there’s a whole new batch of compelling matchups for him in a new division. Cummings (21-6 MMA, 6-3 UFC) isn’t exactly a big name, but he has a grappling style that would mesh well with Chiesa. Moreover, he is a mid-tier fighter in the division who would help Chiesa get his feet wet in the weight class.

Paul Felder

Should fight: Dan Hooker
Why they should fight: Felder’s welterweight experiment didn’t go according to plan, and he’s going to have the scars to remember that fact after his loss to Mike Perry.

Felder jumped up from the lightweight division when a spot opened up on the card, but fell just short of victory when he suffered a split decision loss to Perry. “The Irish Dragon” suffered multiple injures in the fight which landed him in a local hospital.

Although he hasn’t expressed what the future holds, a return to his home at 155 pounds seems likely, and there’s a logical fight waiting for him against Hooker (17-7 MMA, 7-3 UFC), who scored a slick knockout of Gilbert Burns on the prelims and called Felder out face-to-face earlier this year.

The only potential roadblock is that Felder could be on the sidelines for quite some time, while Hooker is coming off a fight where he took no damage and may want to return sooner. If the timing does line up, though, is a matchup with backstory that both men have expressed interest in.

Francis Ngannou

Should fight: Loser of Junior Dos Santos vs. Blagoy Ivanov at UFC Fight Night 133
Why they should fight: In the span of two fights, the narrative on Ngannou has gone from being the future of the heavyweight division to someone with some serious work to do in order to rebuild his image and get some respect back on his side.

Ngannou turned in the worst performance of his UFC career so far when he suffered a unanimous decision loss to Derrick Lewis in a fight where he landed just 11 significant strikes over the course of 15 minutes. Afterward, UFC President Dana White ripped Ngannou, claiming that his “ego” has got the best of him after making a quick surge up the divisional rankings.

The upside for Ngannou is that one huge knockout will get people talking positively about him again, but he must tread carefully. Another ugly showing or loss would put his career in a worrisome state, so getting a fight that’s good for him is crucial going forward. A showdown with the loser of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 133 headliner between Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) and Ivanov (16-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) would present him a good opportunity.

Stipe Miocic

Should fight: Derrick Lewis
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Miocic should fight Lewis (20-5 MMA, 11-3 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC 226, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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