It started with a sick undercard and wound up with the end of an era. I predicted it but I never thought I’d actually seen it, honestly. My confidence wavered in Weidman as the card came on and that first round made me think that Silva was going to finish him in the second. And then this happened.
It’s been more than 24 hours since Silva got wrecked and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It was one of those big moments in MMA, bigger than Fedor tapping, and a big moment in combat sports. I’ll have more for it later today, of course, but now it’s time to play Joe Silva and figure out who goes where next. As always you can check out all of our UFC 162 coverage by clicking here as well as Ryan Frederick’s live PBP from Vegas.
Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort – Anderson Silva doesn’t want a rematch and I’m not sure if he’ll ever return to the UFC. Will Cooling thought it’d be a good time for him to walk away, of course, and I’m half convinced he may take an extended break from the sport that turns into a full-fledged retirement at some point. In the meantime Weidman’s going to need a fresh matchup and Vitor Belfort is now a bankable contender with Silva’s loss. He’s also #2 behind Weidman before Saturday night, thus he’s the next logical contender as well.
Frankie Edgar vs. the winner of Eric Koch vs. Dustin Poirier – Frankie needs to be rebuilt back into a contender and one win isn’t going to do it. But you can’t give him like Cody McKenzie to beat up on, either. Thus you need to give him someone who’s being rebuilt, as well, but who’s still close enough to being a Top 10 caliber fighter. The winner of Koch/Poirier would be a worthwhile matchup and I can see the loser of Clay Guida/Chad Mendes in this slot as well. Edgar isn’t going to be pushed into the title picture in the next 12 months unless he gets 2-3 more wins; he had three straight title shots that he lost which followed four straight title shots in which many thought he lost two of them.
Cub Swanson vs. Jose Aldo/Chan Sung Jung Winner – Cub Swanson earned a title shot last night by thrashing Denis Siver. He’d be a new matchup, as well, and I think he might’ve leaped Ricardo Lamas and Chad Mendes with that win. The winner of Mike Brown vs. Steven Siler could be here, as well, if he takes a fight while the title division works itself out. I think the UFC will keep him away from someone with wrestling heavy credentials, as well, thus eliminating the winner of Mendes/Guida from this fight. Swanson’s in a unique spot in that he’s on such a roll, has a great story and has finished four of his last five opponents. That means something, I think, when it comes to doling out title shots. Especially considering his resurgence in the UFC a title shot can be sold much more strongly with him occupying one half of a title fight.
Edson Barboza vs. the winner of Rafael Dos Anjos/Donald Cerrone – Barboza is someone the UFC wants in a title fight sooner than later because he’s a genuinely exciting fighter. The winner of Cerrone/Dos Anjos will be ranked but far enough from the elite of the division that this could make sense. Depending on whether or not he’s hurt I could see the winner of Diego Sanchez/Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson could make some sense too. Barboza is in a great spot in that he’s going to get someone with a big name but not too big of a name to spoil the title situation sooner than later. The winner of Michael Johnson vs. Joe Lauzon could be in that mix, too, and the Myles Jury/Mike Ricci winner might not be a bad matchup as well. Barboza’s next matchup will tell you where the UFC views him in the division; if it’s a tough but winnable fight they want to build him. If they put him against someone not far from a title shot they think he’s ready to be in the title hunt.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. the winner of Josh Barnett vs. Frank Mir – Gonzaga’s been feasting off of guys who aren’t in the Top 10 so far in this stint in the UFC. It’s time for him to try to prove he can hang with someone in the Top 10 again and the winner of Mir/Barnett will be far enough from a title shot to need 1-2 more fights. Gonzaga is on enough of a roll that another win and he’s ready for potentially being in the mix as well. Don’t be surprised if he gets the winner of Travis Browne/Alistair Overeem next or potentially Daniel Cormier as well. Cormier wants a big name but doesn’t want a heavyweight title shot while he sees if he can make 205. I don’t imagine Zuffa wants to potentially lose a title contender in Fabricio Werdum in a Cormier/Werdum matchup with Cormier eyeing 205 so I can see Cormier/Gonzaga as well.
Mark Munoz vs. Costa Philippou – Munoz and Philippou both have history with Weidman and a win here potentially gets one into a title fight next. Munoz has the bad loss but it’s going to be explained away with injuries. Philippou left Serra/Longo after being a training partner of Weidman’s because he probably assumed Weidman would be in his near future for a title. Munoz’s hand may be broken, which could derail him for a while. A matchup with Michael Bisping this fall in the UFC’s rumored return to England wouldn’t shock me, either.
Tim Kennedy vs. the winner of Brad Tavares vs. Bubba McDaniel – Kennedy looked significantly better as the fight wore on and I think he should be a Top 10 fighter in the division right now. Unfortunately his only two fights against Top 10 fighters haven’t gone his way so I think he needs to win a couple before he gets a chance at someone of note. Throw in his remarks about fighter pay recently and I think the UFC won’t push him into a top level fight anytime soon. Tavares/McDaniel would be a good fight and I wouldn’t be surprised if he got Andrew Craig, either. Welcoming back Thales Leites could be another matchup for him as well.
Seth Baczynski vs. the loser of Pascal Krauss vs. Hyun Gyu Lim – Baczynski was able to ride a winning streak while not being quite the finished product because he’s a massive welterweight, one of the biggest in the division. He just lost a tough, tough fight and needs to be rebuilt. He has a ton of talent but he’s right where he needs to be: on the Facebook prelims, building up his ability while getting ready to take on elite talent. The loser of Krauss/Lim will be in a similar spot. Baczynski is in a good spot, despite the bad loss, in that you can tell the talent is there it just needs to be refined a bit more. He’s still a work in progress, more or less, and we don’t know his ceiling quite yet.
Chris Leben vs. the loser of Uriah Hall vs. Josh Samman – I think Chris Leben should retire. His fight against Craig felt like a retirement fight, honestly, and I really hope Leben walks away from MMA. With three straight losses he’s in danger of being cut but he’s also never dull. I think he’s done enough to earn one last shot in the UFC and isn’t getting anyone of note. Leben’s done enough, and is liked enough, to not get a public execution against someone like Luke Rockhold. He’s going to get someone on the verge and who would probably benefit with a win over Leben. Nick Ring might be another to slot in here and I wouldn’t be shocked if Tom Lawlor got a shot at Leben as well. Leben’s going to be a Facebook guy next time around, most likely, and will get the requisite level talent.
Tim Boetsch vs. Chris Camozzi – Camozzi is coming off a first round strangulation by Jacare, which isn’t anything to be ashamed of. Souza’s one of the best in the world at choking dudes out. Camozzi goes to the back of the line, as he didn’t look like he was joining the elite anytime soon. Boetsch is in the same equation, with two Top 10 losses and being outclassed in the second defeat. Time for him to get off the main card and onto FX one more time and I think he gets someone like Camozzi for his next fight. Ed Herman could be another matchup to make and don’t discount Alan Belcher being in this mix too.
Roger Gracie vs. Stanislav Nedkov – Roger Gracie should be fighting at 205 as 185 seems like it’s just too much being taken out of him for 185. I’d like to see him at 205, where he’s not killing his chances to win as the fight goes on, as Gracie is a big guy for 185. 185 is a massive, massive cut and he’s gassed in both fights that went the distance at that weight class because of it. If he stays at 185 Nedkov makes a lot of sense; it’s another style matchup that could make for a fun fight as well as both guys are potentially out of the UFC with another loss.
Charles Oliviera vs. the loser of Eric Koch vs. Dustin Poirier – Oliviera went three rounds with Frankie Edgar and more than held his own. It was the case of a loss elevating a fighter. Koch vs. Poirier would be in a similar spot as Oliviera, as well, and I can see the UFC making that fight. “Da Bronx” looked like he belongs with the elites of the division, or at least he could be there sooner than later. It all depends on how the UFC views him; if they think he’s Top 10 right now he’ll get Koch/Poirer’s loser. If they think he needs more seasoning he’ll get some winnable fights before. He’s young and insanely talented thus he might get the Rory McDonald build-up treatment.