UFC 148, one of the biggest fight cards in UFC history, is finally in the books.
After an exhausting week in Las Vegas, the Bleacher Report team finally got to see history in the making when Anderson Silva decimated Chael Sonnen in the second round of their main-event rematch. It was an emphatic win for Silva. After a first round that made me believe we were in for a virtual repeat of their first bout at UFC 117, the middleweight champion rebounded in the second and put Sonnen away.
What's next for the champion? The win cemented him as the greatest fighter in the history of mixed martial arts. As Brian Stann so deftly noted on the post-fight show, Silva is so good at what he does that there aren't really any contenders worthy of stepping in the Octagon to challenge him.
But the show must go on, so let's take a look at what might be next for Silva and the rest of his UFC 148 compatriots.
ANDERSON SILVA vs. HECTOR LOMBARD or MARK MUNOZ
As I noted above, there are no true deserving contenders for Silva's belt at the moment. This is not to say that there aren't good middleweights out there, because there are quite a few. Mark Munoz, Hector Lombard, Michael Bisping, Brian Stann and Alan Belcher are all deserving of title consideration. They'd be worthy of title shots against any other champion, but Silva is a different beast.
But the champion will need a new foe, so who will it be? I think there are two optimal opponents.
I've gone on record as saying that Lombard doesn't deserve a title shot, and I still think that's true. But he seems to be the guy that Dana White and Joe Silva are targeting for the next Spider bout, assuming that he beats Tim Boetsch in a few weeks. He has a long winning streak—even though most of it came against inferior competition—and that might be enough to secure him the shot. But I'd only give Lombard the shot if he beats Boetsch and does so in impressive fashion.
If Munoz beats Chris Weidman on Wednesday night, he should also be in consideration. A win would give Munoz five in a row against some of the toughest competition in the UFC. He would be a deserving challenger.
I can't say the same for Weidman, though. A win over Munoz would make a big statement for the wrestler from New York, but I think he'll still need one more win to secure his chance at the gold.
If Weidman beats Munoz, I think a fight against Alan Belcher makes perfect sense.
One thing is for sure: The middleweight division is getting a lot more interesting these days.
CHAEL SONNEN vs. WANDERLEI SILVA
This one is a no-brainer. Sonnen has nearly talked as much trash about Silva as he did the other Silva, and it's a fight fans want to see. Both guys are also coming off a loss, which makes it appealing from a booking standpoint.
Personally, I'd like to see Sonnen try his hand at light heavyweight. But if he elects to stay at middleweight, this is the fight to make. A date with Vitor Belfort might also be interesting.
CUNG LE vs. JAKE SHIELDS
We don't know if Le will retire or continue fighting. I have a hunch we'll see him in the cage at least one more time. A bout with Shields would be interesting, providing Shields gets past Ed Herman at UFC 150 in August.
It would be a classic striker vs. grappler battle and a good test for both men.
CHAD MENDES vs. RICARDO LAMAS
Mendes easily handled Cody McKenzie at UFC 148 in a mismatch. Despite his loss to Jose Aldo earlier this year, Mendes should still be considered a legitimate contender, and he should face another fighter near the top of the division.
Lamas fits that description perfectly. He's riding a three-fight winning streak and beat Hatsu Hioki his last time out. He's the ideal opponent for Mendes at the moment, and the winner should be in consideration for a shot at Aldo.
DEMIAN MAIA vs. MIKE PYLE
Because his fight against Dong Hyun-Kim didn't last very long, we still don't know what to make of Demian Maia at welterweight. He looked to be executing a grappling-heavy game plan prior to the injury that ended Kim's night, and that's a good thing for the submission specialist.
A date with Mike Pyle would be interesting. Pyle has won two in a row and would be an interesting opponent for the Brazilian. Pyle's striking abilities would likely overmatch Maia on the feet, but it would be a different story if Maia could get the fight to the ground.
MIKE EASTON vs. MICHAEL MCDONALD
To me, Mike Easton is one of the more interesting fighters in the bantamweight division. He has more charisma than 90 percent of the UFC roster and could be a legitimate superstar in the division. And the UFC is clearly interested in pushing him into title contention, especially since he's willing to fight teammate Dominick Cruz in a championship setting.
Easton has an eight-fight winning streak and is 3-0 in the UFC. McDonald is already championship material and could face the winner of the Urijah Faber/Renan Barao interim title match that takes place in a few weeks at UFC 148. But if the UFC elects to give McDonald another fight before putting him in a championship bout, Easton makes perfect sense.
Fans haven't exactly been happy with Easton's decision-heavy style over his past two fights. Putting him in the cage against McDonald would certainly ensure that we'd see one heck of a fight.