A year marked by outstanding growth for MMA ended with the retirement of a fighter largely responsible for the growth of the sport. In the UFC's final event of 2011, Brock Lesnar called it quits after a quick defeat at the hands of former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem.
While Lesnar may never step into the Octagon again, the rest of UFC 141's competitors are likely to continue competing under the UFC banner. Lesnar's opponent, Overeem, even earned a title shot with his victory on Friday.
Aside from Lesnar, here are the bouts that the rest of the UFC 141 fighters should be scheduled for next.
With a victory over Manny Gamburyan at UFC 141, top 10 featherweight Diego Nunes is now back in the mix for a title shot. Likewise, Chan Sung Jung recently became a contender by knocking out Mark Hominick in just seven seconds.
The winner of a bout between Nunes and Jung could possibly meet the victor of a UFC 144 fight between Hatsu Hioki and Bart Palaszewski in a matchup that would very likely produce a top contender to the 145-pound title.
With another dominant decision victory at UFC 141, Jacob Volkmann continued to show why he is one of the best grapplers in the lightweight division. Aside from a late scare when he was forced to fight off an Efrain Escudero submission attempt, Volkmann displayed flawless top control throughout the majority of the bout.
Since moving down to lightweight from welterweight, Volkmann has been able to easily manhandle his opponents. A fight with another former welterweight and grappling ace, Dennis Hallman, would provide a stiff test for Volkmann.
If Volkmann can dominate Hallman on the ground like he has with his recent opponents, the fighter who once called out Barack Obama in a post-fight interview could be ready for a bout with a 155-pound contender.
Though he suffered a loss to Dong Hyun Kim on Friday, Sean Pierson performed much better than many expected he would against the Judo black belt.
While the 35-year-old Pierson may not be a threat to capture a UFC title, he has certainly earned another shot to compete inside the Octagon. Pierson's spot on the UFC roster will likely be on the line in his next appearance, though, which could come against Claude Patrick, another recent loser in the 170-division.
Dong Hyun Kim's title hopes suffered a setback when he suffered a knockout loss to Carlos Condit earlier in 2011, but a return to the win column at UFC 141 has Kim right back on track toward contending for the welterweight title.
Another unappreciated fighter looking to move into the elite welterweight ranks in Brian Ebersole. Both most successful on the ground, Kim and Ebersole can test one another's grappling ability, with the winner of the fight getting a significant step up in competition.
Lightweights Anthony Njokuani and Efrain Escudero both suffered losses at UFC 141. Njokuani dropped a narrow decision against Danny Castillo, while Escudero nearly secured a come-from-behind submission in a fight where he was otherwise dominated by Jacob Volkmann.
While both fighters have a lot of climbing to do before they become contenders of any sort in the 155-pound division, Njokuani and Escudero provide exciting fights and will certainly be given another UFC fight.
For timing's sake, matchmaker Joe Silva may decide to pair them together for their next bout.
Danny Castillo walked away from UFC 141 with a close, well-deserved decision win over Anthony Njokuani. Although he has won five of his past six fights, there still isn't much buzz going around about Castillo. A win over a former TUF champion, such as Tony Ferguson, could change that.
After releasing multiple former TUF champs over recent years, the UFC has seemed prepared to move Ferguson slowly up the lightweight ladder. Although Castillo is an experienced fighter with a solid ground game, he seems to fit along the progression line that Ferguson has been taking.
Junior Assuncao kept his fight with Ross Pearson at UFC 141 competitive, but his reluctance to engage couldn't have settled well the UFC brass. The Brazilian has been cut before and could be in danger of getting the ax again if he loses in his next appearance.
That being said, Assuncao likely won't receive an opponent any tougher than Pearson for his next fight. Instead, he will likely be matched against a lower-tier featherweight coming off of a loss. A fight with the loser of a UFC 142 bout between Felipe Arantes and Antonio Carvalho seems likely.
Ross Pearson picked up a win in his featherweight debut, but his performance wasn't without flaws. The Brit's takedown defense remains a concern, as he was taken down a number of times by Junior Assuncao at UFC 141.
If for no more reason than it would be interesting to see two TUF winners square off, Pearson might be a good fighter to gauge where Diego Brandao stands in the 145-pound division.
Three straight losses often spell a fighter's release from the UFC. However, Manny Gamburyan has only been narrowly defeated in his past two fights, including a decision loss to Diego Nunes at UFC 141.
Coupled with the fact that he is a well-known TUF contestant, Gamburyan is likely to receive some leeway when it comes to being cut from the organization.
Because the UFC probably wants to keep Gamburyan around, a bout against a beatable opponent like Nam Phan could be next. With Gamburyan being a black belt in judo and the holes Phan showed in his ground game against Jim Hettes at UFC 141 could lead UFC brass to believe the Armenian would win this fight.
Through his utterly dominant performance against Nam Phan on Friday, Jim Hettes became one of the brightest prospects in the featherweight division. Hettes did everything except finish Phan at UFC 141, but not for lack of trying.
While Hettes dazzled fans with his win over Phan, there's no reason to rush the 24-year-old along too fast. A fight against the winner of a bout between Yuri Alcantara and Michihiro Omigawa, with the preference being that Omigawa wins, would provide a nice test of Hettes' consistency.
After having his two-fight win streak ended by a quick knockout from Alexander Gustafsson, you have to begin to question what 40-year-old Vladimir Matyushenko has left to fight for. A proud veteran, Matyushenko likely won't want to go out on a sour note, though, so we may see him inside the Octagon at least once more.
A bout against a striker like Cyrille Diabate would allow Matyushenko to show off his grappling ability in a farewell fight. Matyushenko has had a more than respectable career, but the time is coming for "The Janitor" to start focusing on his gym and using his knowledge to train younger fighters.
With back-to-back knockouts over two tough opponents in Vladimir Matyushenko and Matt Hamill, Alexander Gustafsson has officially arrived as a light heavyweight contender.
It is now time for the Swede to start mixing it up with some of the best 205-pound fighters in the world. A bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira would be a good way for the UFC to ease Gustafsson into his new role as a contender.
Jon Fitch has contemplated a move to the middleweight division in the past, though certainly not under these terms. After suffering a deflating knockout loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141, it may be time for a change of scenery for Fitch.
Middleweight Jason Miller also had a rough outing in his last Octagon showing, when he was defeated by Michael Bisping in a battle of TUF coaches. Since the UFC hasn't made any announcement regarding the release of Miller yet, it seems he'll remain on the roster.
With both fighters being at a crossroad in their careers, now would be a great time to match the two ground specialists against one another to see if Fitch can hack it at 185 pounds.
By knocking out long-time contender, Jon Fitch, Johny Hendricks has skyrocketed into title contention in the 170-pound division. Talk of a title shot may be a bit premature, but one more win over a highly-ranked fighter would certainly make Hendricks deserving.
Unfortunately, Hendricks will have to wait at least one month for a top welterweight to free up, as most 170-pound contenders are currently locked into other matchups. A bout with the loser of an interim title fight between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit would certainly be an option.
Donald Cerrone had a heck of a year in 2011, but "The Cowboy" stumbled across the finish line in a loss to Nate Diaz at UFC 141. Had Cerrone won, he'd be extremely close to competing for the title, but now he will have to start climbing back up the ladder.
As we have seen, Cerrone is the type of fighter who will go to war as soon as the promoter is willing to match him up with an opponent. Therefore, a bout against Jeremy Stephens, who has been without a scheduled opponent since his last appearance in Early-October, seems likely.
With his win over Donald Cerrone at UFC 141, Nate Diaz joined his brother as a top contender in the UFC. Like his older brother, Diaz's boxing continues to get better and better, and it allowed him to overwhelm one of the most aggressive fighters in the division.
While two consecutive wins may not be enough for Diaz to be given a title shot, a victory over the winner of a bout between Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller might be.
Alistair Overeem's surprisingly dominant victory over Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 earned him a title shot against UFC champion Junior dos Santos. With dos Santos recovering from a knee injury, a date for the fight has not been set, but it should go down before mid-2012.
Whereas Overeem's fight with Lesnar was billed as striker versus wrestler, his bout against dos Santos should turn into a slugfest.
Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, you can follow Sean on Twitter @SeanSmithMMA.