UFC 117 Winner Options
Through four and a half rounds at UFC 117, Chael Sonnen didn’t just back up his trash talking of middleweight champion Anderson Silva, he dominated him. Sonnen was able to take Silva down at will and keep him on his back for the vast majority of the fight. Then, Silva channeled Paulo Filho. Not the Paulo Filho who had lost his mind and will to fight hard, but the Paulo Filho who caught Sonnen with a triangle set up and took a hold of his arm, hyper-extending the elbow and forcing Sonnen to cry out in pain. In Filho’s case, he did not tap. Against Silva, after dominating the fighter who the UFC bills as the best in the world, Sonnen tapped out in what may have been the greatest comeback in the history of MMA.
Prior to their fight, no one felt that Sonnen had a chance to get the better of Silva. Despite making a fight-ending mistake in the final round, Sonnen proved that he is capable of beating Silva and absolutely deserves to be on the short list of the best Middleweights in the world.
Silva now has seven consecutive successful UFC title defenses, matching the total number of successful UFC title defenses held by fellow UFC 117 victor Matt Hughes, with seven. Of course, Hughes did so across two title defenses (five straight, then back-to-back defenses). Though he is no longer invincible as he had appeared to be since joining the UFC, Silva may be the sport’s greatest champion. Of course, a champion needs a challenger, and that’s where we jump off with the options for the winners from UFC 117.
Option 1: Chael Sonnen
It’s rare that a fighter not only loses but is stopped and has a valid claim for a rematch, but indeed Sonnen proved that he belongs in the cage with Silva for another 25 minutes. The fight could absolutely end much quicker the second time around, and while that seems likely to long time witnesses of Silva’s career, it seems even more likely at this moment that Sonnen could again put Silva on his back and batter Silva to earn a victory. He’ll have to learn to defend the armbar from the triangle position, and there’s no indication that he will do so, but you simply cannot discount Sonnen’s first 22 or so minutes of success against Silva.
It’s been suggested by several people, including Sonnen, that the two could be featured as coached on TUF 13 in a USA v. Brazil edition, and that makes perfect sense not only to hype up the rematch as much as possible but also to give the division some time to breath. Sadly, this may mean that Yushin Okami, the last man to earn a victory over Silva, may once again find himself unable to make his way into a title match, at least for another year.
Option 2: Vitor Belfort
Though it had been a foregone conclusion that Belfort would receive the next title shot following Silva v. Sonnen, Belfort may find himself a victim of circumstance. Sonnen simply outperformed all but his own expectations, and he will make the decision between he and Belfort as the next middleweight title challenger a difficult one for UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. As many fans have pointed out, it would make sense to have Belfort win at least one fight at middleweight before receiving a title shot. Sure, his knockout of Rich Franklin was impressive, but the fight took place at 195lbs. Despite the arguments against Belfort receiving the next title match, his name remains in the mix as it has for nearly a year, and aside from Sonnen and perhaps Yushin Okami, he remains the most reasonable challenger to Silva at this point.
Option 1: Georges St. Pierre
Let no one say that Fitch has not improved since his first fight against St. Pierre. Fitch’s take downs are rivaled only by St. Pierre’s, and at this point, Fitch may be evenly matched against the UFC’s welterweight champ in that category. As seen in the rematch against Thiago Alves, Fitch’s standup has improved quite a bit. Few people can stand and trade with Alves, and while some of Fitch’s success must have been the result of Alves’ poor conditioning, the battle on the feet was not close. He may be unbeatable by anyone other that St. Pierre, and it will be very interesting to see if Fitch can give the champ a better fight should St. Pierre defeat Josh Koscheck in December.
Option 2: Move up to Middleweight
In the seemingly slim chance that Koscheck defeats St. Pierre to become the UFC welterweight champion, Fitch is extremely unlikely to face his teammate and training partner. In that case, it is likely that Fitch, who began his UFC career at Middleweight, will move back up to 185lbs. Fitch did look a bit more muscular against Alves than he had in previous fights, and adding lean muscle mass has become part of the focus of his fight preparation.
It is difficult to forecast who Fitch might fight should he move up to Middleweight, but a match against Chael Sonnen would make a lot of sense, though it may wind up as a mismatch for Fitch. Regardless, Fitch should be relatively close to a title shot should he move up to Middleweight by virtue of his great success at Welterweight and because Silva has very nearly cleared out all available challengers.
Option 1: Takanori Gomi
Gomi may be close enough to title contention by virtue of his knockout of Tyson Griffin to avoid fighting Guida at this point, but the match would be fascinating. Gomi’s boxing is, or at least was against Griffin, on point, but his conditioning is still a question mark. Guida would give Gomi the best opportunity to answer the question about his conditioning, and Gomi’s wrestling background should allow him to put up a hell of a struggle against Guida’s take downs. To summarize: Guida v. Gomi has fight of the year potential and clear title implications.
Option 2: The winner of Jim Miller v. Gleison Tibau (UFC Fight Night 22, September 15)
In truth, I am hoping and predicting that Jim Miller beats Tibau. Miller’s style matches up evenly with Guida and should result in a fast paced battle that mixes boxing and wrestling for an entertaining 15 minutes. Though, if Tibau beats Miller, I think there is a lot of merit in putting him against Guida. Both fighters would be on their way up in the division, but neither will be particularly close to a title shot. Additionally, Tibau is a big, powerful Lightweight who doesn’t always have the most fast-paced fights. Guida should get a lot of mileage out of Tibau, both in terms of length of the fight and entertainment value of Tibau. Then again, it’s easy to expect Guida to maximize the entertainment value of just about any of his opponents.
Option 1: The winner of Matt Serra v. Chris Lytle (UFC 119, September 25)
Whether Serra or Lytle emerges victorious, a pairing with Hughes would be a rematch. This makes slightly more sense if Serra wins, as his first fight against Hughes was both entertaining and close. Conversely, Lytle v. Hughes in 2007 wasn’t particularly exciting but was a one-sided decision victory for Hughes.
If the former rematch were to occur, there would be plenty of money to be made as a semi-main on a larger event or a third from the top match on what would be a stacked event. If the latter rematch were to occur, it seems likely that the fight would be an improvement over their first engagement, as Lytle has improved since that time and is almost always a lock to win some manner of award for his submissions, knockouts, or fight of the night performances.
If Lytle were to beat Hughes and Serra in back to back matches, he may even find himself as a welterweight title contender. Serra or Hughes might as well, but given their most recent run ins against champ Georges St. Pierre, they’d likely need at least one more win in order to work their way into the conversation of contenders.
Option 2: Dennis Hallman
Over his 12-year career, Matt Hughes has lost to only two men on two separate occasions: Georges St. Pierre and Dennis Hallman. Only in the case of St. Pierre, however, has Hughes managed to earn a victory. It’s an odd distinction for Hallman, who has never come close to the top of either the Welterweight or Middleweight divisions despite competing in Mixed Martial Arts even longer than Hughes.
Given all that Hughes has accomplished, it’s not a sure thing that Hughes even cares to avenge his losses to Hallman, the most recent of which occurred nearly 10 years ago, at this point. Then again, the match up would have some juice to it when promoted by the UFC, which seems to be of particular importance to Hughes at this point in his career. One would think that given the paths each fighter has taken that Hughes could even win their third encounter, but that’s hardly a guarantee. If Hallman did earn another victory over Hughes, it would certainly give him some much deserved notoriety, but it’s unlikely that it would do a great deal to move him towards title contention in and of itself.
Junior Dos Santos
Dana White has already granted Dos Santos first crack at the winner of Lesnar vs. Velasquez.