There’s already been a lot of talk about future match ups for several of the fighters from Saturday’s UFC 110 event, but why should Joe Silva have all of the fun? Here are some options for the next opponents to face Saturday’s winners and an assessment of those proposed matches.
Option 1: Brock Lesnar
Velasquez dismantled Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with in less than a round. At worst, he’s the third best Heavyweight in the UFC at this moment, but realistically he’s probably only behind Lesnar. The winner of Frank Mir v. Shane Carwin will be the preferred opponent when UFC Heavyweight champion returns to action for several reasons, not the least of which is the money to be made by choosing the right opponent for Lesnar. For all his talent, Velasquez has yet to become a superstar, though a match with Lesnar would go a long way to fix that.
Option 2: Junior dos Santos
Assuming either Mir or Carwin fights Lesnar in his return to action, Velasquez can fight dos Santos to determine the next top contender. For this scenario, dos Santos will need to defeat Gabriel Gonzaga on March 21.
Option 1: Yoshihiro Akiyama
What was once a match proposed for UFC 110, is now being discussed as the next step in Silva’s foray into the UFC’s Middleweight division. Akiyama will be returning to action after suffering a broken orbital bone in his UFC debut against Alan Belcher. The winner of that match will likely be on the short list of contenders for the UFC Middleweight title.
Option 2: Nate Marquardt
In another match that would likely vault the winner into title contention, Silva could return to fight Marquardt. This would be a large step up in competition over Michael Bisping, one that Silva probably shouldn’t make at this point. Still, Silva is not getting any younger, and a win over Marquardt would solidify his position as a top Middleweight. On the other hand, if Marquardt beats Silva, he will have beaten a legend, and that will likely go a long way towards getting him back into the title mix.
Option 1: Mac Danzig
Sotiropoulos victory over Joe Stevenson went a long way towards legitimizing him as an up and coming Lightweight, but he’s still got a ways to go before he is a contender. At this point, a win over a fighter with a bit of name value would be the best way to continue Sotiropoulos ascension up the ladder towards Lightweight title contention. Against Danzig, Sotiropoulos would be able to prove that he is the better fighter from their season of The Ultimate Fighter, a la Michael Bisping v. Matt Hamill. Plus, who doesn’t like to see Danzig lose?
Option 2: Clay Guida
If Sotiropoulos can beat Stevenson and Guida in back-to-back matches, he’ll definitively move into the title mix. Even if Sotiropoulos loses, a match against Guida will be incredible entertaining, and not just because Guida is involved. Putting on exciting matches, win or lose, can help a fighter more than just earning a mundane victory; just ask Frank Edgar and Gray Maynard.
Option 1: The winner of Brandon Vera v. Jon Jones
Against Keith Jardine, Bader reaffirmed a lot of things that were already known: he is a powerful striker, and a little bit of aggression goes a long way against Jardine. Now, Bader needs to show that, if forced to do so, he can truly hang with a striker. Both Vera and Jones have wrestling backgrounds that will at least give Bader as much trouble with takedowns as Jardine, if not more. On the feet, Vera is similar to Jardine, as both rely on leg kicks, though Vera puts a bit more behind his kicks than does Jardine. Jones’ aggression on the feet will be new to Bader. Regardless of who wins between Bader and Vera/Jones, he will be recognized as a top-ten Light Heavyweight at the very least.
Option 2: Matt Hamill
Hamill and Bader have very similar styles. Both Hamill and Bader have good wrestling bases and power in their hands. Bader is the superior wrestler, and Hamill is the more aggressive striker. Bader v. Hamill would match fighters of similar skill levels and accomplishment in the Octagon, and the winner would get a nice push in the direction of the title.
Mirko Cro Cop
Option 1: Ben Rothwell
The plan is for Cro Cop to fight his originally scheduled opponent for UFC 110 in their next match. Making that match happen seems reasonable enough.
Option 2: The winner of Kimbo Slice v. Matt Mitrione
If the fight with Rothwell doesn’t happen, there’s no point in giving Cro Cop a tougher opponent, unless the goal is to cut Cro Cop. Instead, Cro Cop should fight someone in between the level of previous opponent Anthony Perosh and Rothwell. If Mitrione beats Kimbo, he’ll have the chance to prove that he’s an up-and-comer by fighting an actual legend after having beaten a manufactured one. If Kimbo beats Mitrione, a fight with Cro Cop would look great as a semi-main event or lower on any card. If Kimbo loses to Cro Cop, hey, he lost to a legend, no big deal. If Cro Cop loses to either Kimbo or Mitrione, the UFC will be able to cut him without concern that he could regain his former glory elsewhere.