What a card last night! Might be the best card of 2012 when all is said and done. You can read my play by paly right here. Now it’s time to play Joe Silva’s game after UFC 153 and figure out where the five most intriguing winners and losers will go after tonight.
Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping – If you think Chris Weidman is ready after watching Silva tonight you’re crazy or high. While my guess is that GSP at a catchweight this spring is next if you want to be logical and make his next fight a middleweight title fight Bisping is the fight to make. Weidman isn’t ready and needs another fight or two to make it a more marketable fight if not a competitive one. Don’t get me wrong, I like Weidman, but he’s not ready to make that leap yet. If Anderson is content to stay at 185 then Bisping is the big money fight he’ll wind up taking; he’s earned the right to pick his spot and Bisping will excite him more as a matchup.
Demian Maia vs. Jay Hieron – How can you not love the old Maia, the crazy BJJ wizard who’d do anything to make this a grappling fight? Story’s no joke as a wrestler, either, and I think Maia gets the same steady diet of wrestlers to choke out at welterweight that he got at middleweight. Wouldn’t be shocked if someone like Josh Koscheck was placed here, either.
Jon Fitch vs. Jake Ellenberger – Welcome back to elite status Mr. Fitch as you earned this distinction in spades. With the dismantling of Erick Silva he’s not going to get an easy fighter this time around, either, as a couple of big finishes or dominant/exciting fights from Fitch can get him that coveted second chance at Georges St. Pierre. Ellenberger makes the most sense, coming off a similar scenario.
Phil Davis vs. Thiago Silva – Davis is in an awkward spot now. He’s clearly one of the top eight or so light heavyweights in the world. No question. But he needs to work on his game a lot still; Prado is a nice win but a blue belt on the ground against what’s essentially is a functional high level black belt in Davis is a mismatch of epic proportions. An NCAA title at the division one level in grappling purposes puts you in the elite division of any high level BJJ tourney at this point and Davis on the ground is what Jon Jones is to striking: the guy is a revelation with his ground game. Silva makes sense in that he’s not a jump into the truly deep end again like the Rashad Evans fight was, and Dan Henderson would be, but he’s still a top tier fighter.
Glover Teixeira vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson – Glover wants it. It was supposed to be Rampage until he got hurt. Teixeira needs to be fed some stars in order to become one and Jackson wants out; Glover will hurt him badly if he doesn’t get super serious, either.
Erick Silva vs. Brock Jardine – For all the good he showed against Fitch, and there was an awful lot he did well, this was a learning experience for Silva. I can’t hate on a guy who took on the best welterweight of the past five years that isn’t named GSP. Silva is going to get handled with kid gloves in the same way Phil Davis was after the Rashad Evans fight. He’ll get a winnable fight or three, allowed to build his skill set a bit more on less than elite competition. Jardine is a tough but winnable fight for him and right now he needs to learn better takedown against elite fighters; the division is chock full of elite wrestlers and Fitch showed everyone how to beat the Brazilian off of Erick Silva.
Rick Story vs. Pascal Krauss – Story is in an interesting spot. He has wins over some really high level fighters but has faltered a number of times to guys perceived to be not as good as him. He’s got wins over Johny Hendricks and Thiago Alves but losses to Maia and Charlie Brenneman. Story has that elite feel but he falters when he should be putting together a streak as he hits that line where great meets elite. With Maia running roughshod over him my guess is that he takes a step back in competition against someone like Krauss, who’s a tough but winnable fight for him.
Wagner Prado vs. Kyle Kingsbury – Kingsbury is slowly becoming the Mendoza line of the light heavyweight division; a win over him and you’re a UFC caliber fighter. A loss … and probably not. Prado got tossed around by Phil Davis, which isn’t the worst thing in the world for a low level prospect. Kingsbury is in a similar spot as DeMarques Johnson right now and I think the UFC holds his feet to the fire with Prado in a “loser leaves the UFC” fight.
Fabio Maldonado vs. Roger Hollett – What a tough guy, Maldonado, and I think he gets another shot in the UFC because of the hellacious beating he took. Hollett looked awful against Matt Hamill and probably gets another shot at showing what he has.
Stephan Bonnar vs. Forrest Griffin – Bonnar and Griffin both want a trilogy, even if no one is clamoring for it and the second fight was definitive for Griffin. Kind of like the Ortiz/Griffin series. Bonnar won’t accept a fight with anyone who’s a prospect or isn’t as well known, either, but I imagine the outing with Silva was his last fight and that official retirement will come sometime in a week or so.