Sometimes victory is the best thing to happen for a fighter. Jon Jones nearly had his arm broken and managed to come back to wreck Vitor Belfort en route to another stoppage victory over a former UFC light heavyweight champion. One victory away from tying Tito Ortiz’s win streak as light heavyweight champion, with a much higher caliber of fighter as well, Jones headlined what could be one of the best cards of the year at UFC 152. Now it’s time to see where he, and the other most intriguing fighters from this card, go to next.
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Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson – Jones was slated to fight Henderson, who’s on the mend right now, and I think that makes sense. It is still a bankable, promotable fight and a better option than Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida as a title eliminator at this point. Machida is the other option on the table but I think he waits a while before his next fight. Jones needs to find out what’s wrong with his arm first before we can play matchmaker in 2012, I think, but don’t be shocked if he tries to get this on the Super Bowl card if his arm can heal quickly. Hendo has said he can be ready by the end of the year; if Jones is ready to go in a month or two Jones/Hendo on Super Bowl weekend would be epic especially if one of Jones’s brothers is playing in the big game itself.
Demetrious Johnson vs. the winner of John Dodson/Jussier da Silva – Dodson was a top five talent in the flyweight division going into the final Spike TV season of TUF and then promptly winning it at bantamweight. A couple of nice victories in the UFC so far and Dodson is a fun guy to watch in a cage. Throw in da Silva, formerly the world’s #1 before a loss to Ian McCall, and you have the potential for an instant, credible contender to “Mighty Mouse.” You can’t do McCall/Johnson 3 right now and Louis Gaudinot only has one win in the division so this is the fight that makes most sense.
Michael Bisping vs. the winner of Tim Boetsch/Chris Weidman – I thought Bisping had done enough to get a title shot after the Mayhem Miller win and he debatably beat Chael Sonnen in Chicago. And I think he should get Anderson Silva next but here’s the thing: Silva wants GSP. And he wants him BADLY. Thus I think Bisping is going to get another fight before his title shot and the winner of Boetsch/Weidman, with the winner getting Silva in the summer, makes sense. I could see them giving him the winner of Palhares/Lombard, as well, if they don’t give him Weidman or Boetsch. The key will be Silva’s schedule; once he fights Bonnar, and GSP fights Condit, we’ll get to see where this all plays out.
Cub Swanson vs. The Korean Zombie – KZ isn’t getting a title shot anytime soon, as it looks like Frankie Edgar or Eric Koch will get the next shot depending on health. And no one has gotten a shot from a win on Fuel; this’ll be a barnburner and makes sense. Edgar would make for an interesting fight and the wild card would be a rematch with Chad Mendes; I don’t think that fight’ll happen but the UFC has done crazier things. Every fight he wins I keep being proven wrong; Swanson vs. Aldo 2 could be a possibility sooner than later if he keeps it up.
Vinny Magalhaes vs. Ryan Jimmo – Magalhaes is probably looked at as a title challenger down the line for Jones, especially with his BJJ background and the near win Vitor Belfort almost pulled off tonight. Jimmo is another prospect in a similar spot that could make sense, especially considering he has no fight lined up right now. Jimmo’s in a similar spot as another highly touted prospect that hasn’t had a lot of exposure in the UFC and would make for a nice style matchup. Matt Hamill might be a matchup, if Hamill cares enough to continue fighting, and the winner of Kyle Kingsbury/Jimi Manuwa could be another potential matchup as well. Vinny isn’t going high up the ladder but he’ll get someone reasonably tough.
Vitor Belfort vs. the loser of Rousimar Palhares/Hector Lombard – Belfort’s going back to middleweight now, most likely, and the loser of Palhares/Lombard would make for a fun fight. Lombard’s also certifiably nuts, and Palhares isn’t all there himself, thus seeing either of these guys opposite Belfort could be fun. Ed Herman might be another choice as well; Belfort is an odd guy to match up at this point so he’ll get someone good or interesting. I don’t think his standing will be affected that much by a loss a weight class up on short notice BUT he’ll get someone coming off a loss, most likely. I wouldn’t rule out Stann vs. Belfort, of course, or even Belfort vs. the winner of Chris Leben/Karlos Vemola. That could be a possibility as well and the thought of Belfort/Leben playing “face punch” is an intriguing one if you discount the potential brain damage caused.
Brian Stann vs. the loser of Rich Franklin/Cung Le – Stann is an interesting spot right now. He just lost a tough, close fight to the guy who probably has the next title shot. He’s still a Top 10 fighter but he has a glaring deficiency in his wrestling that’s been exploited in two of his last three fights. A matchup with the loser of this fight makes some sense. I could see them throwing Patrick Cote to him, if Cote loses to Sakara, or Clifford Starks as well. Stann is an odd spot in that the elite wrestlers of the division are going to be kept far, far away from him for a while so you can rule out Mark Munoz as well. The UFC has big plans for him in the future as a broadcaster and thus will give him a winnable fight.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Ian McCall – The only guy Benavidez didn’t fight in the tournament and another barnburner of a fight. Benavidez doesn’t deserve an immediate rematch but one or two wins could put him back in the title picture. McCall needs to actually win in the UFC, as well, and thus this could work. Ulysses Gomez could be another solid choice for Benavidez as well. He’s the clear #2 flyweight in the world right now, arguably the #1 as a lot of people scored the fight for him, so he won’t be down at the bottom for long. McCall/Benavidez would be a nice fight and the winner is an instant contender in a shallow division.
Evan Dunham vs. Jamie Varner – Dunham looked good last night and Varner had a war with Joe Lauzon. Dunham’s a former contender battling to stay in the UFC. Varner wants to prove he belongs. Desperate men make for desperate fights. I wouldn’t be shocked if Dunham gets Edson Barboza would be an interesting matchup. After a loss to Grant he could be shot back to the end of the line and get a guy on TUF, as well. Dunham’s going to be on the prelims, probably a Facebook mainstay for the next year, and needs some wins to maintain his place in the UFC. Dunham is getting close to the point where the UFC could cut him from the roster and let him rebuild on the regional circuit as well; Dunham needs some wins and my guess is that he gets a couple of feasts from guys who are marginal fighters to build him back up.
Jimy Hettes vs. Godofredo Castro – Castro was the TUF: Brazil season 1 runner up and a grappling whiz. It could make for an interesting matchup, if only to see if Castro has anything that he didn’t show on TUF: Brazil. Cody MacKenzie might be a sacrificial lamb in this situation. Hettes is in an awkward spot where he’s still a highly thought of prospect but just lost to another really talented prospect in Marcus Brimage. You can’t throw him a contender at this point but you can’t throw him someone new, either. He’ll get a winnable fight but not someone with any sort of name. Right now Hettes was exposed as having a number of flaws and he needs to rectify them. His standup game needs a lot of work and Brimage showed the entire division how to avoid his grappling offense.
You know what I half expect? Leonard Garcia. He doesn’t have an opponent and would be in desperation mode to keep a job in the UFC in his next fight; it would be a crazy thing to do but I can see them doing it.