This article is part of our MMA Barometer series.
After a spotty schedule for the past few months, there will be a UFC event every weekend until the end of 2017, except for Christmas weekend. That makes 11 events in 12 weeks. The highlight of those 11 events is certainly UFC 217, which features three title fights including the return of Georges St. Pierre. Furthermore, fans will be treated to a matchup between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt for the UFC bantamweight strap, where saying there is bad blood between the two would be putting it lightly. There are great fights throughout the eleven events, but one of the best may be this weekend in Gdansk, Poland: Donald Cerrone and Darren Till.
Till is an undefeated welterweight with fifteen wins and four in the UFC. He loves to strike and has nine professional wins by knockout. Till has stated on multiple occasions that he is the best striker in the UFC. This makes him the perfect partner for "Cowboy," who almost never has a boring fight. It is well known that Cerrone prefers to stand, even though he has high level grappling. If Cerrone obliges Till and engages in a firefight, this has the potential to earn both athletes Fight of the Night bonuses. Even if it goes to the ground, Till is a purple belt in the Brazilian martial art Luta Livre. Cerrone won't be able to walk all over him on the mat, though Cowboy is still the more accomplished MMA grappler. Hopefully this fight remains standing, where the fighters seem to be very equal. If so, the fans would be treated to a striking clinic, and possibly a late candidate for Fight of the Year.
As always, below is your MMA barometer with rising, falling, and check status fighters.
RisingKamaru Usman, UFC, Welterweight
Usman is one of the hottest welterweights in the UFC, as he is undefeated in the promotion with a pristine 6-0 record (only one loss in his professional career). "The Nigerian Nightmare" is primarily a wrestler. He has great credentials as a three-time NCAA Division II All-American. Usman has been successful on 50 percent of his takedowns throughout his UFC career, which is close to being in the top-10 in UFC history at welterweight for fighters with at least 20 takedown attempts, per Fightmetric.com. Usman has also landed at least one takedown in each fight, save his last which he ended quickly in the first round by TKO. Along with his excellent takedowns, Usman has steadily improved his striking. He is very explosive and has a lot of power, as was shown in his previous contest with Sergio Moraes. In fact, the former wrestler is sixth in UFC history with 51.9 percent significant strike accuracy (though that number has been aided by a high volume of ground strikes). Despite the success so far, Usman has not faced elite competition in his UFC career, and he has not fought anybody ranked in the top 15.
In his next fight, the No. 11-ranked UFC welterweight Usman will undoubtedly face a huge step up in competition. He will likely get a top-10 opponent, but the current top 10 welterweights are already scheduled for fights. Usman will either have to hope to replace one of the fighters on short notice, or wait until the fights occur and hope for an opponent who is willing to fight on a quick turnaround. Ideally, he will get the winner of one of the matchups so he can continue to increase his stock and possibly position himself for a title shot.
Next Fight: TBA
Thiago Santos, UFC, Middleweight
After losing two fights in a row, Santos has righted the ship and won his last two fights, both by KO/TKO. Santos' kicks are devastating to opponents. He fought the seasoned Gerald Meerschaert in his last fight, and hurt him badly with kicks to the body and legs. The Brazilian middleweight is most successful when he can avoid takedowns. Santos has above-average takedown defense at 69 percent over the course of his UFC career. In his last 10 fights, he has only lost three. He was taken down at least once in those three fights. In the seven wins, he was only taken down one time against Elias Theodorou. In the fights he hasn't been taken down, Santos has four first-round finishes and two in the second round. This finishing ability makes him a very attractive pick for daily fantasy lineups, but will also keep his price on the rise. Based on his next opponent's brief UFC career, that could be the case in two weeks at UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida.
"De Lima Marreta" faces off with Jack "The Joker" Hermansson on Oct. 28. Hermansson has two first-round victories in his last two fights, but he has only been successful on 38 percent of his takedowns in his brief UFC career. This does not bode well for Hermansson, who will fight the toughest opponent of his career in the No. 15-ranked UFC middleweight Santos. Hermansson has a background in wrestling, so Santos will be ready to sprawl and then unleash his striking. This seems like a recipe for another quick Thiago Santos victory.
Next Fight: Jack Hermansson, UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida (Oct. 28, 2017)
Luke Rockhold, UFC, Middleweight
Rockhold made his long-awaited return to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch. This was Rockhold's first fight since June 2016 when he was knocked out in the first round by Michael Bisping and lost his UFC Middleweight Championship. Rockhold showed he is still a little sloppy with his striking defense – he came out ready to engage in a firefight and got rocked early by Branch – but he also showed his grappling is some of the best in the division. He got a takedown late in the first, and then was able to get to mount in the second round and forced Branch to tap to strikes. It is likely Rockhold was a little bit reckless with his striking because Branch is better known for his grappling and Rockhold didn't see him as a threat standing. Branch likely gained his respect in striking, but he was clearly outmatched by the former UFC middleweight champion. The big question is where Rockhold goes from here.
The title picture at middleweight is complicated, as UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping will fight UFC legend, and former UFC welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre in November. With Bisping's future uncertain after the fight, Rockhold could potentially have a long wait for a shot at the title. Interim champion Robert Whittaker is currently injured and will not return until 2018. This leaves Rockhold with the options of either sitting out potentially six months to wait for a title shot, or accept a fight against a dangerous opponent like Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza or Chris Weidman. Neither option is attractive, leading to rumors of Rockhold potentially moving to light heavyweight. At middleweight, even though he got knocked out by Michael Bisping the last time they fought, he still would be the betting favorite in a trilogy fight. He dominated "The Count" in their initial meeting, eventually submitting him in the second round after a brutal head kick. At light heavyweight, the biggest issue is Daniel Cormier holding the title. Cormier and Rockhold are teammates and most likely would not fight each other. Assuming Cormier continues to win, it could be a while before Rockhold competed for the title. Whichever route Rockhold chooses, he will have a chance to be the champion – it is only a matter of when he will get that opportunity.
Next Fight: TBD
Check StatusFabricio Werdum, UFC, Heavyweight
Werdum's stock neither rose nor fell in his latest victory on against Walt Harris at UFC 216. Harris, a middling heavyweight with a UFC record of three wins and four losses entering the fight, took the fight on less than a day's notice. Harris was slated to fight on the undercard, but when Derrick Lewis had back issues Saturday morning, it forced the UFC to scramble for a replacement to fight Werdum on the main card. The fight went about as expected: Werdum got a takedown in the first minute of the fight, and quickly submitted Harris, finishing the fight in a little over a minute. This was the anticipated outcome, but was still a risk for Werdum to take on an unknown fighter on such short notice. He delivered, but it does not increase his standing in the division. In his next fight, Werdum will once again step in on short notice against the streaking Marcin Tybura on Nov. 18 in Australia.
The matchup against Tybura is significantly more dangerous than when Werdum took the Harris fight. Tybura is the No. 8-ranked UFC heavyweight and on a three-fight winning streak. He was also the M-1 Global heavyweight champion. The aspect of this fight that favors Werdum, the No. 2-ranked UFC heavyweight, is Tybura likes to grapple. The Polish heavyweight has a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but Werdum is a high level black belt and possibly the best submission artist in UFC heavyweight history. He will not walk through Tybura the way he did against Harris, but Werdum should win this fight fairly easily as his grappling and striking are both better than Tybura's. A win here could put Werdum in position for a title shot in the near future.
Next Fight: Marcin Tybura, UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Tybura (Nov. 18, 2017)
FallingTakanori Gomi, UFC, Lightweight
"The Fireball Kid," a mixed martial arts legend, has lost five fights in a row dating back to 2014. In every fight he has been finished in the first round. It must be some sort of record. Four of those fights have been first-round knockouts, which does not bode well for the health of Gomi's brain. The former PRIDE champion was one of the best in the world at 155 pounds, but those days are long gone. If Gomi fights, it seems as if it is a virtual certainty he will get knocked out against decent fighters. In his defense, the level of competition in his last five fights has been high with names such as Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon. However, he didn't even get hit with a big shot in his last fight with Dong Hyun Kim. Gomi's style is not conducive to having a diminished chin, as he prefers to slug it out on the feet. With five first-round losses in a row, and four by KO/TKO (the fifth, a submission loss, was after he got clipped by John Tuck), it is time for Gomi to hang it up in order to save his health for later in life. If he does continues to fight, it would be a good idea to put his opponent, whoever it may be, in your daily fantasy lineup. Barring a major downgrade in competition, Gomi being knocked out is a virtual certainty at this point.
Next Fight: TBD