Jon Jones Beats Rashad Evans in UFC 145: The Top 10 Dream Future Match-Ups

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 23, 2012

Jon Jones Beats Rashad Evans in UFC 145: The Top 10 Dream Future Match-Ups

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    With Jon Jones' UFC 145 victory over Rashad Evans, the focus now shifts to what's next for the 24-year-old champion.

    According to Dana White, Dan Henderson is next-in-line to attempt to figure out how to beat Jones. After watching how the rangy Jones picked apart Evans, it's hard to see how Henderson plans to neutralize Jones' attack.

    What fans are already wondering is how Jones would do in the heavyweight division.

    With Jones impressive size advantage equalized by the sports titans, would he fare any differently?

    Current heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos could answer that question in a fight that fans would love to see.

    Like most dream fights, there are reasons that Jones vs. dos Santos isn't likely to happen anytime soon. Primarily, the fact that both fighters have obstacles to overcome in their own weight divisions.

    Here's a look at the 10 biggest dream fights for the future of the UFC and why they just might happen one day.

Rory MacDonald vs. Georges St. Pierre

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    The Intrigue

    Pairing up Rory MacDonald and Georges St. Pierre in a welterweight title fight might seem like a lopsided proposal now, but two years ago you could have said the same thing for Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans.

    MacDonald—whom many consider to be a future champion of the welterweight division—trains with GSP and is one of the sport's fastest rising stars. At only 22-years-old, he has shown a raw skill set that already puts him in the top 10 of a division that is among the deepest in the sport.

    GSP is a top pound-for-pound fighter and one of the UFC's most dominant champions. A classic pupil vs. teacher matchup could be a dream fight for fans if both fighters continue to win.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    This fight isn't likely to happen for many reasons.

    Firstly, there is the matter of timing. MacDonald isn't close to a title shot right now. While he has looked impressive and has the tools to become an elite talent, but he simply hasn't had the experience to challenge for the title quite yet.

    With a long line of deserving challengers waiting on GSP's return, it could be a while before MacDonald gets his shot at UFC gold.

    Then there's the fact that MacDonald has no interest in fighting his friend, and training partner, from Tristar Gym in Montreal. If MacDonald is able to earn a title shot he would likely move to middleweight to avoid a forced fight with GSP.


    Why It Could Happen

    Because we've seen it before.

    An impressive young gun trains with the champion of his division and becomes friends with him only to have things become awkward when the young gun earns a title shot. Sound familiar?

    There was a time when we never thought we would see Jones vs. Evans. Jones was a raw talent who had yet to prove himself worthy of a title shot, and the two were good friends.

    While it appears MacDonald and GSP's friendship is the real deal, anything is possible and should the stars align for these two to fight it could be a great show.

Rashad Evans vs. Anderson Silva

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    The Intrigue

    What's not to love about this fight?

    Rashad Evans is one of the best fighters in the sport. His resume speaks for itself and his combination of quickness, athleticism and MMA wrestling makes him a difficult test for anyone. However, after watching his UFC 145 loss to light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, it's hard to see him winning the 205-pound belt anytime soon.

    Anderson Silva, on the other hand, tops the majority of pound-for-pound lists and is widely recognized as one of the true legends of the sport. Silva has long dominated the middleweight division—holding the UFC record for consecutive title defenses with nine.

    If Silva is able to win his rematch with nemesis Chael Sonnen, there are few fighters at middleweight that the fans could really get excited about that could challenge Silva for his title.

    One fighter that would certainly get fans buzzing is Evans. Evans skill set could give Silva troubles—especially with his quickness and wrestling abilities.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    These two aren't even in the same weight class—for now.

    Post-UFC 145, Evans still feels that his future is in the light-heavyweight division. It may take him a while, but Evans seems content to win his way back into contention at 205 rather than attempt to reinvent himself at middleweight.

    Another issue with this fight is that Silva isn't exactly a spring chicken. At 37 years old, retirement becomes a hot topic after every Silva fight and it is unclear if the timing will ever be right for these two to square off.


    Why It Could Happen

    Evans wants to wear UFC gold. When he said that his future was in the light-heavyweight division, he left the door open to making the drop to 185 saying, "If an opportunity happens at 185-pounds then I'll take it. But I like 205-pounds."

    A fight against Silva for the belt would certainly qualify as an "opportunity" that would likely entice Evans to make the drop. That means for all the things holding this fight back, it's a fight that could happen if Dana White wants it too.

    Evans remains one of the most popular names in the UFC, and if he shows that he can rebound from his loss to Jones he will need to be in the biggest fights that he can be in. Even if that means a drop to middleweight.

B.J. Penn vs. Eddie Alvarez

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    The Intrigue

    Eddie Alvarez is considered by many to be a top-10 lightweight. Fighting outside of the UFC, Alvarez has compiled an impressive 23-3 record.

    In the final fight of his current Bellator contract, he avenged one of this three career losses when he demolished Japanese star Shinya Aoki in the first round at Bellator 66.

    B.J. Penn retired after a unanimous decision loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137 but still remains the most widely recognizable lightweight in UFC history. Penn and Alvarez are both dynamite strikers who would put on quite a show if pitted against each other.

    Fans would love to see Penn make one more run at 155 now that Frankie Edgar is not the champion, and anyone who has seen Alvarez would love to see him on the UFC roster. In this fight, fans get both wishes granted.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    Neither is currently a UFC fighter.

    Penn remains retired and hasn't fought at lightweight since August 2010 when he lost a rematch with Frankie Edgar.

    Alvarez is officially a free agent but has fought for Bellator since the organization's inception, and it isn't clear that Alvarez will choose the UFC or remain with Bellator. After Alvarez's impressive beatdown of Aoki, he called for Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to "show him the money".

    Bellator holds the right to match any offer made from other organizations so it will be interesting to see how the bidding for his services plays out in the near future.


    Why It Could Happen

    According to Dana White, B.J. Penn may not be as retired as he leads on. With speculation rampant that Penn will make a return at some point, it's hard to believe that we have really seen the last of Penn.

    For Alvarez's part, it all comes down to the interest level the UFC has for him and how far Bellator is willing to commit to retaining their star.

    Alvarez—along with fellow free-agent Hector Lombard—is the biggest draw the organization has, but a bidding war with the UFC over his rights isn't a battle they can win. The fact is the UFC is well-equipped to outbid Bellator if it is their choosing.

    With Penn's possible return and Alvarez potentially heading to the UFC, the fans may get to see these explosive lightweights match up after all.

Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo

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    The Intrigue

    The champion vs. champion aspect of this long pined-for-fight may be gone, but there is still plenty of interest.

    Both Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo can be found near the top of the pound-for-pound rankings and they are both near the top of the list when it comes to the UFC's most entertaining fighters.

    Edgar is an undersized lightweight with an impressive all-around skill set and the heart that gives him a chance no matter what the circumstance. Aldo is a massive featherweight (if that's not an oxymoron), with dynamic skills both on the feet and on the ground, who is working on cleaning out his division.

    The second this fight is booked, it will immediately become an odds-on favorite for fight of the year honors as it would be guaranteed to be back and forth action.


    Why It's Only a Dream

    Much like Rashad Evans vs. Anderson Silva, these two have to be in the first weight class first. Edgar is one of the few remaining fighters in the sport that doesn't cut a significant amount of weight and prefers to fight as close to his natural weight as possible.

    Even after losing his lightweight belt to the much bigger Benson Henderson, Edgar was determined to remain at 155 and reclaim the belt rather than make the drop to challenge Aldo at featherweight.

    Aldo makes a difficult cut to remain in the featherweight division where he has dominated throughout his early career en route to a 21-1 record. Most speculate that Aldo will eventually have to come up to heavyweight as he gets older and the big cut to 145 becomes more strenuous on his body.

    For now he seems content to stay at featherweight as long as possible.


    Why It Could Happen

    Even Edgar thinks this fight is almost a certainty at some point in his career.

    Aldo has also addressed the possibility of the matchup and sees the two fighting at some point regardless of weight division.

    The fact is, these two were built to fight each other and everyone wins when these two eventually meet. Edgar is just the high-energy, in-your-face challenger that Aldo needs to be tested and it would be fun to see Edgar attempt to weather Aldo's dynamic striking to battle his way to a win.

    If these two somehow don't fight each other in their careers then it will be disappointing for everyone.

Benson Henderson vs. Georges St. Pierre

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    The Intrigue

    As always, fans are fascinated by a champion vs. champion fight.

    The newly-crowned lightweight champion has plenty of challenges left in his own extremely deep division, but its hard to deny how much fun a matchup between Benson Henderson and Georges St. Pierre could be.

    Henderson is a massive lightweight. In his title fight against the diminutive Frankie Edgar, it looked like the two fighters were literally in two different weight classes, so the size difference should be no problem.

    Stylistically, Henderson and GSP are very similar. Both are imposing wrestlers, have impressive fitness and are dynamic strikers. When two fighters that are used to imposing their will on opponents collide; a recipe for an instant classic is born.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    Unfortunately the issue with a champion vs. champion fight is that both champions need to have at least somewhat cleared their divisions. That could take a while for Henderson and GSP.

    Lightweight and welterweight are the deepest divisions in the UFC and the chances that one of them cleans out their division—especially Henderson—are slim.


    Why It Could Happen

    Obviously this fight needs some time before it becomes a possibility, but both fighters have the potential to be dominant enough to set this fight up.

    GSP has obviously shown his brilliance throughout his career but needs to prove that he can bounce back after an extended layoff due to his recovering knee. When GSP comes back there will be a logjam of welterweight contenders, but if he is vintage GSP, it won't be an issue: His dominance will continue.

    Henderson is more of a wild card.

    We don't know what kind of champion he will be, but the potential is there for him to be dominant. The first order of business will be to remove all doubt that he deserves to be the champ in a rematch with Frankie Edgar.

    If he is able to do that he will need to beat a slew of contenders that hover around the top of the UFC lightweight division. Henderson's strength and dynamic striking give him the tools to be dominant, so consistency will be key in establishing dominance.

    If both fighters are able to establish themselves as the undisputed kings of their division, this could become the next hot dream matchup fans clamor for.

Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jon Jones

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    The Intrigue

    Jon Jones finally picks on someone his own size.

    The light heavyweight champion still has detractors despite defending his belt three times and defeating four former champions consecutively. The detractors primary argument against Jones is that he always has a significant size advantage over his opponent.

    Enter Alexander Gustafsson.

    The fast-rising Swede stands at 6'5" and has a 76.5" reach. It isn't quite the insane 84.5" reach of Jones, but Gustafsson is taller than the 6'4" Jones and is one of the longest fighters in the UFC.

    Some feel that Gustafsson could ultimately be the fighter to put Jones in legitimate trouble for the first time in his career. At this point, anyone that can be thrown at Jones in the light-heavyweight division, qualifies for dream fight status.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    Gustafsson isn't nearly ready for Jones, and by the time he is, Jones may be ready to move to the heavyweight division.

    Gustafsson has a bright future in the UFC.

    He has the potential to hold the title one day but not as long as Jones resides in the division. Gustafsson has looked impressive in his last few outings—knockout victories over Matt Hamill, Vladimir Matyushenko and a unanimous decision victory over Thiago Silva have put him on the map.

    However, Jones moved beyond that level of opponent long ago and has continued that dominance against the best in the division.

    Gustafsson needs to defeat a top-five opponent before he can be named a true threat to Jones just yet, and even then, it will be questionable if his length and footwork are enough to give Jones any trouble.


    Why It Could Happen

    Because Gustafsson will develop. Every time we see Gustafsson step into the octagon, we see a noticeably better version of himself than what we saw in the previous outing.

    In Gustafsson's most recent fight—the decisive victory over Silva—we saw a much more confident version that showed a very developed sense of timing and range in the striking department as he totally neutralized the powerful Silva's attacks.

    This is the kind of development we have seen from Jones.

    With the constant comparison to Jones, and a suddenly short supply of true contenders at 205, we will eventually see this fight, whether Gustafsson is ready for the challenge or not.

Alistair Overeem vs. Junior Dos Santos

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    The Intrigue

    The fight that never was.

    Alistair Overeem vs. Junior dos Santos was scheduled to headline the all-heavyweight UFC 146 main card in a matchup that was sure to provide fireworks.

    Unfortunately, Overeem was found to have an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone level that was well above the allowable limits and has since been replaced by former titleholder Frank Mir.

    The UFC was completely justified in making the switch.

    Overeem's negligence in testing positive was not to be taken lightly, and it is easy to see why they would not want to allow Overeem to fight for the title after a failed test.

    However, the fans were still robbed of a great fight.

    Overeem and dos Santos are two of the most powerful heavyweights in the world, and watching these two champions try to knock each other out would have been fun for the whole family. Should Overeem redeem himself and remain with the organization, it is a fight that fans will still have interest in.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    Obviously this fight is a possibility since it was scheduled to happen before Overeem's failed test complicated matters.

    The question now becomes if Overeem can keep his job.

    Undoubtedly Dana White can't be happy that he was forced to pull the main event due to Overeem's negligence in testing positive. You can ask Nate Marquardt how White feels about fighters that have to be pulled from the main event due to breaking the rules.

    White hasn't been willing to speculate on Overeem's future with the company, but he certainly isn't promised anything at this point.


    Why It Could Happen

    For every Nate Marquardt there's a Chael Sonnen.

    Sonnen was found to have an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone level after his championship bout with Anderson Silva and after serving out his punishment for his infraction, he was awarded with a track to another crack at the middleweight championship.

    The UFC has a history of dealing with infractions on a case-by-case basis so moving forward there is a possibility we see Overeem continue to fight for the UFC and eventually earn a shot at dos Santos.

Michael McDonald vs. Dominick Cruz

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    The Intrigue

    Reigning bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz has lived up to his "Dominator" moniker as he has ruled the division going back to when he won the title in the WEC before the organization merged into the UFC.

    Cruz's footwork and wrestling have made him a tough puzzle to solve and has allowed him to outpoint anyone who has challenged for his belt.

    Michael McDonald is the hottest young prospect in the division and, at only 21 years old, has already established himself as a future contender in the division. The heavy-handed McDonald most recently put former champion Miguel Torres away in the first round at UFC 145.

    A battle between Cruz's finesse and elusive style and McDonald's raw power could be a very marketable matchup for the division. McDonald is one of the few people who could put Cruz in hot water.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    At the moment, Cruz is booked to fight Urijah Faber for the third time in what should be a highly entertaining rubber match.

    A loss for Cruz would make this matchup lose some momentum as a dream fight.

    Also standing in the way of this fight is the fact that McDonald needs a few more fights before stepping up to take on a test like Cruz.

    Aside from Torres, McDonald's competition has been very pedestrian. With young prospects, timing is vital. Pairing a guy like McDonald against Cruz too early could have devastating effects on his career going forward, so the UFC must be sure that the timing is right for a matchup with Cruz.

    In order for McDonald to get the shot against Cruz, he must continue to look impressive as he takes another fight or two against the best in the division.


    Why It Could Happen

    Because Michael McDonald is legitimate.

    McDonald does need more seasoning, but from what he's shown so far in his career that shouldn't be a problem.

    His last two fights—a pair of first round knockouts—present compelling evidence that he has the heaviest hands in the division. That kind of power will go a long way in securing a title shot.

    He also has shown he has no problem going the distance. His previous two fights he won by decision, earning fight-of-the-night honors in a decision victory against Edwin Figueroa.

    As long as McDonald continues with his progression, we should see this dream fight happen sooner rather than later.

Dan Henderson vs. Shogun Rua II

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    The Intrigue

    It isn't often you'll see a rematch on a list of "dream" fights.

    In general, rematches aren't all that exciting, especially when you think of all the great matchups that are possible in a dream scenario. However, a rematch between Dan Henderson and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua is the exception.

    Given that their fist encounter was arguably the best fight in UFC history, you'd have to be crazy to not want these two to go put on a show for another five rounds.

    The first fight provided a back-and-forth affair that saw Dan Henderson dominate the early round—battering Shogun to the brink of a stoppage a few times.

    Just when it appeared Henderson would easily put Shogun away, the comeback was on.

    Shogun was able to turn the tide and convincingly win rounds four and five, gaining mount on Henderson and landing heavy ground and pound.

    The valiant comeback effort wasn't enough. Henderson did enough early on to secure the victory on the cards despite the rally. Buzz for an immediate rematch was high, but Henderson will instead be the next in line to challenge light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones.


    Why It's Just a Dream

    As previously mentioned, the notion of an immediate rematch was passed up for naming Henderson the No. 1 contender to Jones' title.

    Shogun appears to be headed toward a fight with Rampage Jackson, although it's unclear when that fight will take place. The fight figures to be Rampage's last in the UFC.

    With Shogun drawing little interest and Henderson getting a shot at the title, both fighters appear headed in opposite directions. The chances that these two meet again could be hindered, especially if Henderson finds a way to beat Jones.

    At some point, Henderson's age has to deter the chances this fight happens again too. Henderson is 42, and although he seems to be getting better with age, retirement will become a real possibility at some point.


    Why It Could Happen

    Because it needs to.

    We got to see Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar square off again after putting on one of the greatest fights in the sports' history. The sequel didn't live up to the original, but it was still a great fight.

    This is a guaranteed moneymaker for Dana White and Co.and a classic show for the fans.

    What's not to love?

Jon Jones vs. Junior Dos Santos

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    The Intrigue

    Two of the UFC's biggest emerging stars collide in the octagon.

    Jon Jones' quick ascension up the ranks of the light-heavyweight division has made him one of the UFC's most marketable faces and sparked debate over his potential to one day own the title "greatest of all time."

    Junior dos Santos gained notoriety as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter alongside superstar Brock Lesnar and has since carried that momentum to a heavyweight championship. Dos Santos won the title on the organization's network television debut when he knocked out Cain Velasquez in the first round.

    Dos Santos'  likeable personality outside the octagon and his jaw-dropping power in it gives him the potential to be one of the UFC's biggest stars—especially in Brazil.

    A few years down the road and this could be the biggest fight in history.


    Why It's a Dream

    Jon Jones needs to wait as long as he can to move to heavyweight.

    He may be in a hurry to get to heavyweight but Dana White has encouraged him to stay at 205 as long as he can.

    That could be good advice as Jones can really establish a legacy as the most dominant light-heavyweight champion before moving to heavyweight where he will have a much tougher road to domination.

    Jones possesses phenomenal strength and uses his reach better than anyone ever has—both of which will be mitigated by the world's best heavyweights—so taking his time will be crucial in successfully transitioning to heavyweight.


    Why It Could Happen

    Junior dos Santos isn't going anywhere.

    In the UFC's most volatile division, dos Santos may not hold onto the belt for the duration of time that Jones will spend as a light heavyweight, but his spot at the top of the division is secure. Dos Santos' is still young at 27 years old and should be favored in every fight he is in.

    When Jon Jones is ready to make the leap to heavyweight, dos Santos will be waiting for him, and the fans should be treated to one of the biggest fights in promotion history.