Fuel and FX cards on the whole have been fairly strong so far in 2013. You have to give Zuffa credit in that they’ve developed some really good cards, even in spite of injuries, so far this year. Now it’s time to play Joe Silva and figure out how to move on forward from tonight’s events.
Vitor Belfort vs. Anderson Silva/Chris Weidman winner – Vitor Belfort has duplicated the same formula that Chael Sonnen did to earn his rematch … and then some. He’s finished two guys who would’ve earned title shots with a win and he’s done so in ridiculous fashion. He also nearly pulled off the impossible and tapped Jon Jones, the only guy besides Silva who’s beaten Vitor in the UFC since 2009. Outside of Zuffa he hasn’t lost since dropping a decision in Pride to Dan Henderson in 2006. Vitor’s earned his second shot and this new level of kick boxing power is scary. I’d still favor Anderson at this point but it’s feasible to do a stadium show in Brazil with Vitor/Anderson right now.
Ronald Souza vs. Michael Bisping – Souza looked stellar against a game Chris Camozzi, not showing any Octagon jitters and looked like an absolute killer inside it. He wants the winner of Vitor/Rockhold but I don’t think he’ll get it. My guess is they set up Souza/Bisping as a title eliminator for the summer, to set up a middleweight title fight for spring 2014 between some combination of Souza, Belfort, Bisping, Silva and Weidman.
Nik Lentz vs. Clay Guida – Lentz needs a top 10 guy to get him in the title mix. Guida was supposed to get Chad Mendes and pulled out. Makes sense right now for the two to fight to see who moves on to the crowded featherweight title. Lentz is about two fights away from a title shot right now and his next should be someone form that bottom rung of the Top 10; everyone is mainly tied up, though, except for Guida. Other than that he’s going to have to wait if he wants anyone else of note or he’ll be a late injury replacement for a high profile fight in the division. Granted the fight will probably be bowling shoe ugly, of course, but it’ll get us a title contender at least, right?
Fabio Maldonado vs. Forrest Griffin – Fabio Maldonado is the MMA equivalent of a scrappy wide receiver who manages to stick onto an NFL roster because he plays special teams, takes massive hits over the middle, et al. Mainly he’s Wayne Chrebet; Chrebet was a moderately athletic white receiver who played for the Jets for about a minute but made his chops by being scrappy and not really all that good out at football. Maldonado is not really all that good at MMA, at least compared to the top level of the UFC, but he might be the clubhouse leader in “amount of fucks given.” Griffin is on the down slope of his career and always good for a scrappy brawl; Griffin is also coming off of knee surgery and hasn’t looked all that good in the past two years or so. He barely squeaked by a shopworn Tito Ortiz, as well, thus the fight makes sense in an odd way.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. the winner of Donald Cerrone vs. K.J Noons – Dos Anjos is on the fringe of the Top 10 and, despite losing the fight to Dunham by everyone who watched but the Judges, is moving up the chain. Cerrone vs. Noons is a fight that places the winner in nearly the exact same spot as Dos Anjos. Makes absolute perfect sense for the winner of that fight and dos Anjos, the winner ultimately getting back into the title mix post haste.
Luke Rockhold vs. Alan Belcher – Rockhold’s going to fight for a UFC title sooner than later. He’s that talented … he just happened to get caught by one of the biggest hitters in the sport. It happens to a lot of guys. Rockhold against Belcher is a nice rebound fight for both, who are still Top 10 guys. Belcher probably gets someone in the Top 10 again and Rockhold isn’t going to fall far in the rankings as well. Yushin Okami could be in this spot as well as the loser of Munoz vs. Boetsch as well.
Chris Camozzi vs. the loser of Ed Herman vs. Trevor Smith – Camozzi waded into the deep end of the pool and got the life choked out of him for his efforts. It’s not a bad thing, of course, but Camozzi took a huge step forward and took the “Am I elite?” test way early than he should’ve. He flunked it, of course, and now he moves back to where he should be.
Chris Cariaso vs. Ian McCall – McCall needs a step back in competition and Cariaso just soundly lost to someone who’ll probably be in the title hunt in the near future.
Evan Dunham vs. Takanori Gomi – Both guys lost decisions that everyone else thought they’d won. Both are still on the cusp of getting back into the Top 10 lightweights in the world with another win or two.
Joao Zeferino vs. the loser of Ronny Markes vs. Derek Brunson - Zeferino came in on three weeks’ notice and lost to a tough out in Rafael Natal; on a full training camp he might’ve looked better. He won the first round and was in the fight until he gassed, obviously because he didn’t come in with a full camp. He looks like he belongs in the UFC and I think he gets another fight. The loser of Markes/Brunson will be in a similar spot in that with a loss they’ll be on the cusp of being sent packing.