Five For Fighting – Fights To Make After UFC On Versus 6: Cruz vs. Johnson

With UFC on Versus 6 in the books, there are plenty of possibilities to be found with the winners and losers. With the dust settled, and Dominick Cruz defending a title on free TV successfully, it is time to play Joe Silva and see where five of the main fighters on this card will end up next.

Dominick Cruz vs. winner of Brian Bowles/Urijah Faber – This is almost by default because there’s not a whole lot of talent in the division outside of these three, Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson. Benavidez has had two chances at Cruz and lost twice, Faber has lost to Cruz this year and Bowles lost the WEC title (now the UFC title) to Cruz. Not a lot of great options but Bowles/Faber will provide at least a good fight for Cruz. That’s all you really can do at this point until someone Cruz hasn’t faced before wins enough fights to get a title shot or Cruz moves up a weight class to take on the winner of Jose Aldo/Kenny Florian; he’s pretty much stuck ruling a weak division until the UFC can get a number of better fighters in there. That has been Cruz’s main problem; most of his title victories over the top are in the WEC and no one has stepped up since then to make a case for a title shot that he hasn’t already beaten.

Pat Barry vs. Ben Rothwell – One of these guys is going to be cut soon. Rothwell didn’t look like he had much to offer Mark Hunt, who has seemingly come out of the blue to put together a solid streak of wins together. Barry is on a two fight losing streak, knocked out after a hellacious effort against Cheick Kongo and submitted by Stefan Struve. One of these two is on their way out and in grand tradition it’ll be amusing to see what happens when you have a fight with two people with their backs against the wall. Rothwell didn’t seem to be 100% in the Denver air and Barry, while he’s a fun fighter, hasn’t shown he can hang with anyone moderately talented. He’s got great leg kicks but he hasn’t shown anything more than that; his vaunted striking ability has lived up to the hype but he’s a one dimensional fighter. Anytime he’s gotten to the ground he’s been exposed, including by Struve. Rothwell was once a potential title challenger who injuries have taken their toll on; we don’t know his ceiling now for this part of his career. A fight with Barry could help us gauge whether or not he has something more to offer than being a journey heavyweight with some good wins on his record.

Anthony Johnson vs. Winner of Jon Fitch/Johny Hendricks – With another win, both Fitch and Hendricks would be closing in on a title fight once the GSP/Diaz/Penn/Condit bracket works its way out and one man stands alone with the belt. Johnson is another win away from being in the championship mix. Either way this fight would make for a great title eliminator, eventually either leading directly to a title shot or perhaps whittled down and have the winner of this fight against Jake Ellenberger with a title fight on the line from there. Between Ellenberger, Johnson, Fitch and Hendricks you can set up a mini-tournament of sorts and have the winner ready and battle tested for a title shot.

Charlie Brenneman vs. Duane “Bang” Ludwig – A classic striker/grappler matchup, Ludwig is looking to try and make one final run and Brenneman can still be considered a top 10 welterweight. If Ludwig has anything left “The Spaniard” would be a tremendous test to see if a run towards a title shot is in his future. Brenneman has lots of answers to questions he’s going to be asked now. Was his “Rocky” style run through Rick Story more indicative of his talent or were losses to Johny Hendricks and now “Rumble” Johnson proof that the short notice for the story fight contributed to a fluke loss for Story? A win over a guy like Ludwig could potentially give us a better gauge on his true talent level.

Matt Wiman vs. Gilbert Melendez – If Melendez is going to be in the UFC as soon as Dana White can get him in, he’ll have to wait a while for a title shot while the division sorts itself out. Wiman is one of the few lightweights with quality victories underneath him that would be a test for Melendez; Melendez is ranked by many as the third best lightweight in the world behind Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard. A stay busy fight against a very beatable opponent like Wiman, who might not have the tools to hang with him but would be a tough out, would give Melendez a test. If he can’t beat a guy who at best is a gatekeeper like Wiman then he’d be destroyed by someone like Edgar or Maynard. Everyone’s busy at 155, it seems, and you have a handful of fighters in line for a title shot with arguably better cases to make than Melendez. At this point a title fight in the spring between the Maynard/Edgar winner fight this upcoming weekend will most likely be facing the winner of Ben Henderson/Clay Guida on Fox, with Melendez in a stay busy fight in December. Unless he’s willing to wait six to eight months, potentially, he’ll either have his choice of a handful of top guys and a number of solid gatekeepers. Melvin Guillard could be in this spot, too, against Wiman or against Melendez.

There’s also a precedent: Jake Shields didn’t get an immediate title shot and got a tough fighter in Martin Kampmann despite being a champion coming into the UFC from Strikeforce. That was a case of timing, too, and so was Overeem taking the Lesnar fight instead of waiting for the winner of Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez. If Gilbert isn’t going to wait for the title scene to sort itself out, and wants to bet on himself like Anthony Pettis did against Clay Guida (another contender), a fight against a tough out like Wiman would serve notice to the rest of the division if he can finish him as violently as he’s finished other fights.

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