By Showdown Joe Ferraro-
The UFC is set to make their promotional debut in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and will be headlined by a bout that could have title implications for one of the sport's top pound for pound fighters.
One look at the UFC’s Pound for Pound rankings -- and sitting at number two is Bantamweight Champion, Dominick Cruz. The UFC is currently looking for an opponent for “The Dominator” and it come between the Sioux Falls main event between Michael MacDonald and John Lineker.
Before UFC 200, there were whispers within various MMA circles that if Raphael Assuncao would have defeated TJ Dillashaw, he was all but a shoe-in to stand opposite Cruz in the octagon later this year. But the Brazilian fell short, leaving many wondering if Dillashaw officially earned himself a rematch with the champ. But the chatter has yet to gain any momentum.
MacDonald sits at number five on the rankings while Lineker is looking upwards, currently standing at number eight. Should the Brazilian emerge victorious, he would likely replace “Mayday” at five, but would it be enough to land him a title shot? Unless it’s an overwhelming victory, my gut feeling is no.
On the other hand, providing MacDonald doesn’t win a snoozefest, a victory by the Modesto, California native could raise some eyebrows at 135 lbs and perhaps even the UFC Matchmaker’s dialing fingers.
Strangers things have happened in MMA - in fact many other title challengers have earned their shots with far less work put in. This could be a golden opportunity for Michael MacDonald and one he would be more than happy to accept, considering he fell short against Renan Barao in February, 2013 … his first opportunity at a UFC title (albeit the interim strap).
And speaking of golden opportunities, how about Landon Vannata? Who?
Vannata, a featherweight fighter from Jackson-Wink MMA, is jumping up to 155 lbs and will make his octagon debut in the co-main event against Tony Ferguson. “El Cucuy” is currently the number three ranked fighter on the official UFC rankings and to be frank, all the pressure is on him.
Imagine losing to a UFC newcomer (who isn’t even ranked at 145 lbs on their roster, let alone 155 lbs) in an original bout (vs. Michael Chiesa) that was likely going to put you one more win away from a title shot?
The lightweight division appears to be wide open right now. There is a new champion in Eddie Alvarez. The man he defeated, Raphael Dos Anjos isn’t getting a title shot anytime soon while the near consensus pick Khabib Nurmagomedov is all but signed to take on Alvarez.
At -700, Ferguson just needs to do what he’s supposed to do. Win the bout (perhaps convincingly) and let the chips fall where they may. I’m not trying to mess with anyone’s karma, but there’s a good chance (with a win) Ferguson should remain ready for a last minute call-up. Ask Michael Bisping what that can do when you say “Yes” to that call.
Oh yeah - Vannata. Well, if he pulls off the victory, his options are plentiful. He takes out a top three lightweight but likely goes back to 145 lbs, and attempts to take out some of the top contenders at featherweight. Either way, Landon has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The rest of the card isn’t a bad one at all. Some fun matchups on slate with Tim Boetsch vs. Josh Samman , Daniel Omielańczuk vs. Oleksiy Oliynyk while Lauren Murphy will take on Katlyn Chookagian.
Hope you’re over the UFC Fight Week Hangover from the UFC 200 festivities. It’s MMA midweek and this couldn’t ask for anything more.
Be sure to join Showdown Joe and Sean Ross Sapp after UFC Sioux Falls Wednesday night for a Fightful.com Podcast!