What do you get when you combine eight knockouts and a main event that could double for the fight of the year? UFC on Fox 7, the best card of the year so far and free to boot. It was an absolutely memorable night for everyone who tuned in, of course, and led to some far flung changes for the UFC universe. Now the question remains: where do we go from here for the five most intriguing winners and losers from Saturday night’s card?
Benson Henderson vs. the winner of Gray Maynard vs. TJ Grant – Dana White announced this at the presser after the card and it makes sense. Maynard is an elite talent who’s been on the mend for a while making another run to the top of the card. TJ Grant is a solid contender with a good win streak going.
Josh Thomson vs. the winner of Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy – Thomson would make for an excellent challenge to Benson Henderson, of course, but I think he gets another fight in before a UFC title shot. The winner of Healy vs. Miller will be in the title mix, of course, and Thomson vs. the winner makes a ton of sense. This is naturally the spot I’d have loved for Anthony Pettis if he hadn’t dropped to 145 for Jose Aldo, of course.
Matt Brown vs. the winner of Tarec Saffiedine vs. Robbie Lawler – Brown’s got five wins in a row and is finishing dudes in awesome fashion. He has to move into a Top 10 matchup now; you can’t keep giving him guys on the come up and let him get this massive, Jon Fitch 2006-08 level win streak going without letting him move up. He’s on the fringe of the Top 10 right now and his next opponent has to be in the same spot.
TJ Dillashaw vs. Ivan Menjivar – Dillashaw is in the same spot as Brown: it’s time to move him into the Top 10 for a matchup. Menjivar just lost to Urijah Faber, Dillashaw’s teammate, but the fight makes sense for Dillashaw. Mike Easton could be another matchup, potentially, but Easton is on a two fight losing streak right now and might be shuttled down the card.
Chad Mendes vs. the winner of Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Siver – Mendes looks like the baddest man in the division not named Jose Aldo right now, of course, but he’s also been feeding on some suspect competition during this three win streak because of injuries. He wants the winner of Aldo/Pettis and normally I’d be inclined but he has that pesky knockout loss to the champion on his record. With Lamas/Korean Zombie positioned as a title eliminator it makes sense to make this one for the title shot after.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Donald Cerrone – Gil deserves an immediate rematch considering how close it was but kudos to the UFC for allowing the division to move forward instead of doing an endless amount of rematches. Gil won’t be that far from another title shot, though, and Cerrone would make for an exceptionally exciting fight.
Nate Diaz vs. Joe Lauzon – Nate Diaz’s move to welterweight won’t be happening now that Gil has lost his shot at Benson Henderson. Expect him to remain at 155 and I like the Lauzon matchup a lot. Both guys are gamers
Frank Mir vs. Gabriel Gonzaga – Mir is on a two fight skid right now and his chances of making it back to the top of the heavyweight division aren’t nearly as good as they were. Gonzaga is a fresh matchup and an interesting one to boot.
Ramsey Nijem vs. Michael Johnson – Both guys of these have now become flailing prospects who just got tanked by Myles Jury in recent months. Time for one of them to step up and figure out whether or not they can stay in the UFC, I think. Nijem’s a hard one to figure out a next fight for because he’s a good prospect but he’s been mercked a couple times by better prospects. His ceiling is coming into focus and it isn’t too much higher than it is right now I think.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Ed Herman – Larkin lost a tough fight but he has some value. The guy is a good talent but Francis Carmont is MMA’s version of the Neutral Zone Trap: effective at getting the win but it’s not going to be pretty in any aspect. Larkin still has some talent and Herman is in a similar spot: he’s a good, serviceable fighter but not a guy you’ll count on to make up your Top 10 in the immediate future.
Ok … so now we’re in a pickle with Daniel Cormier. He’s spoken of fighting at 205, if he can make it, but he also would make for a very interesting challenge at heavyweight as well. So I’ve opted to give him his own division and speculate where he could go at both LHW and HW.
Daniel Cormier vs. the winner of Glover Teixiera vs. James Te Huna – The winner of this fight would make for a good title eliminator for the next man to challenge for the light heavyweight strap. Lyoto Machida, if he has to fight again, would make for another awesome match as well. Cormier needs to show he can make 205 without killing himself more than once before he gets a title shot, I think. Zuffa thinks the same as well; a title shot isn’t something to mess around with at the higher weights. Gegard Mousasi would be another great matchup as well.
Daniel Cormier vs. the winner of Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo – Cormier needs another win or two before he’ll take on Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title. The one thing he’s said is that he’s softening on the “I don’t to fight a teammate” bit and with another big win or two it’ll be a much bigger fight. If he can’t make 205, and we can’t discount that possibility especially considering he’s in his mid 30s, then he’ll get another fight at a minimum before a title shot. Cormier is a smart guy and so is Velasquez; another win or two from Cormier and you can add another 100,000 buys or so on the intrigue alone.