Friday, 11 May 2012

Who will challenge Jeremy Smith for the EFC Middleweight title?

Yesterday EFC Matchmaker Graeme Cartmell posted on twitter that EFC Middleweight champion Jeremy Smith had signed the contract for his first title defence. Now I am not entirely familiar with the EFC’s protocol surround contract signing, but I cannot imagine the EFC and Smith putting pen to paper without a fight in mind. Who then, will Jeremy Smith defend his title against?

My initial thoughts were that Jeremy Smith may headline the fight card for EFC Africa 15, but on analysing the Middleweight landscape, this just doesn’t seem possible, who would he fight? With the recent developments regarding Darren Daniel and Tyron Rightford, the last two plausible opponents for Smith seem to have been removed from contention.  Here are my thoughts on Jeremy Smith’s possible opponents and why it is impossible for him to fight them at EFC 15:

Possible middleweight challengers for Jeremy Smith:

Tyron "Rush" Rightford

Reason: Already has a fight
In my article matches to make after EFC 12, Tyron Rightford (#3 Middlweight rankings) was my selected opponent for Jeremy Smith's first title defence. Rightford is currently 3-0 in the EFC and has won his last two fights in convincing fashion. However, as mentioned earlier, Tyron Rightford will now likely face Darren Daniel at EFC 15.

Garreth "Soldierboy" McLellan

Reason: Already has a fight
Post EFC 12, former EFC Africa middleweight champion Garreth McLellan (#2 Middleweight rankings) called for an immediate rematch with Jeremy Smith. While I think that this would be premature and that McLellan needs to string together a couple of wins first, many fans think otherwise. McLellan however is now slated to fight Danie van Heerden at EFC 14.

Darren "Double D" Daniel

Reason: Already has a fight
Darren Daniel (#4 Middleweight rankings) has long been one of the top fighters in South Africa. Daniel has been absent from the EFC Hexagon for almost two years, but looks all set to make his return at EFC 15 against Tyron Rightford.

Danie van Heerden

Reason: Already has a fight
Danie van Heerden made a giant leap up the South African middleweight rankings when he defeated ranked fighter Donavin Hawkey at EFC Africa 12. Van Heerden has also been touted by many as the rightful challenger  to Smith’s title. My feelings were that he required another convincing win against a top opponent to earn a shot, an opportunity he will been afforded in his upcoming fight against Garreth McLellan at EFC 14.

Armand de Bruyn

Reason: Has not earned a title shot yet
At EFC 13, Armand de Bryun defeated Abrie Valentine to take his current EFC win streak to three. De Bruyn however has not fought the level of opposition that would warrant a title shot, and has at most earned himself a shot at a top 5 opponent. With all these men, barring Smith, already in action, De Bruyn will have to wait for things to play out in the Middleweight division.

Michiel Opperman

Reason: Has earned himself a welterweight title shot
The EFC seem to have a tendency of allowing fighters to earn title fights in adjacent divisions. Opperman, a former middleweight, has been rampant across two divisions of late and has definitely earned himself a title shot. While it is generally believed that Opperman will face Jadyson Costa for the welterweight title, there is an outside shot that he may move back to middleweight to face Smith. To me this seems preposterous, but stranger things have happened.

So where does this leave Jeremy Smith?

After looking at the evidence, it is inconceivable that Jeremy Smith will defend his title at EFC Africa 15. Why then did he sign a fight contract? With all the top middleweight fighters in action, the logical answer is that one of the fights at either EFC 14 or EFC 15 is a number one contender fight and that the winner will get Jeremy Smith.

Which is the number one middleweight contender fight?

This is a very difficult call to make, as one could argue the case for either Garreth McLellan vs Danie van Heerden or Darren Daniel vs Tyron Rightford. Here is the evidence we have to work with:
  • Darren Daniel (2) and Tyron Rightford (3) are currently on better win streaks than Garreth McLellan (0) and Danie van Heerden (2)
  • Garreth McLellan has just fought Jeremy Smith in a title fight and following his loss needs to work his way back to the top
  • Darren Daniel has not been in action for almost two years
There are definitely pros and cons for each fight and depending on how one see's the division and weights the importance of each of the above-mentioned points, the viewpoint may change. I personally believe that Tyron Rightford has the strongest claim for a title fight in the middleweight division right now, and short of him being awarded the shot, Rightford vs Daniel should be the number one contender bout. That being said, I can easily see it going the other way. 

What does it all mean for the middleweight title?

I believe we will see the winner of one of the potential number one contender bouts earning a title shot against Jeremy Smith at EFC 16 or 17 later this year. This however is purely my interpretation of recent events and could very well be way off.


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