Heading into UFC 149, Renan Barao was considered by some to be the best MMA fighter without a championship belt around his waist. With his win over Urijah Faber, Barao proved those individuals right and earned the interim bantamweight title.
Barao may now be given the option of defending his strap or waiting to put it on the line for a shot at the undisputed title against Dominick Cruz. While it appears Barao will choose the latter, that option would create a logjam of sorts with up-and-coming contenders like Michael McDonald inching closer to the top of the division.
With another event in the books, let's take a look at what matchups the UFC should make for Barao and the rest of the UFC 149 competitors.
Anton Kuivanen showed improved wrestling from his UFC debut in a split decision victory over Mitch Clarke on Saturday. Now Kuivanen can feel comfortable in knowing he'll have at least a few more opportunities to display his skill inside the Octagon.
At UFC 148, Rafaello Oliveira also picked up his first UFC win in a decision against Yoislandy Izquierdo.
As Kuivanen and Oliveira look to climb the treacherous lightweight ladder, a bout between the two fighters seems to make sense at this point in time, as it would give an indication of which fighter is more prepared for their first significant step up in UFC competition.
After impressive wins in his first two UFC fights, Daniel Pineda has dropped two in a row in a two-month period. While taking his UFC 149 fight with Antonio Carvalho on short notice may not have given him the best chance to bounce back from a loss to Mike Brown, it earned Pineda favor in the eyes of the UFC brass and likely another fight inside the Octagon.
Pablo Garza had been booked for a fight with Josh Grispi at UFC on Fox 4, but he was forced out of that bout due to injury. Assuming Garza isn't out for an extraordinary amount of time, the fighter who is also on a two-fight losing streak would make sense as the next opponent for Pineda, who will have to serve a mandatory suspension for a knockout loss.
Antonio Carvalho bounced back from a loss to Felipe Arantes in his UFC debut with an impressive knockout win over Daniel Pineda in his return to his home country of Canada.
While the 33-year-old Carvalho might not have contender potential in the featherweight division, his experience is understated. Earlier in his career, Carvalho picked up wins against the likes of Hatsu Hioki, Rumina Sato and Takeshi Inoue, so he has the ability to be competitive against some of the best in the world today.
Coming off of a win following his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, Rodrigo Damm is also an under-appreciated veteran ready to make waves in the UFC's 145-pound division.
Let's match these jiu-jitsu black belts against one another and enjoy what could turn into a extremely entertaining grappling match.
Anthony Perosh's three-fight winning streak came to an abrupt halt at UFC 149. To be exact, it only took UFC newcomer Ryan Jimmo a record seven seconds to hand Perosh his first loss since his February 2010 return to the Octagon against Mirko Filipovic.
The 40-year-old Perosh may consider retirement after suffering such a devastating knockout. However, if Perosh does return to the cage, a bout with Joey Beltran would give him a chance to redeem himself against another heavy-handed light heavyweight.
Anthony Perosh has lost only three times in his past 10 fights. Ryan Jimmo and James Te-Huna knockouts now account for two of those three losses.
With only one UFC bout under his belt, Jimmo might not seem ready for a bout with a hot fighter like Te-Huna, but the Canadian is on an equally impressive streak. Jimmo has won 17 straight fights dating back to his only loss in his MMA debut. With victories over the likes of former UFC fighters Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou and Wilson Gouveia, those wins didn't come against weak competition either.
A bout between Jimmo and Te-Huna would have potential for a slugfest and could put the winner on the map as a possible contender in the 205-pound division.
Competing in their home country at UFC 149, Canadians Roland Delorme and Mitch Gagnon saw winning streaks come to an end in their respective matchups against Francisco Rivera and Bryan Caraway. However, both fighters have bright futures in the UFC and will probably still have multiple opportunities to turn things around.
A bout between Delorme and Gagnon would essentially ensure one promising bantamweight a victory and would at least give the other fighter a chance to prove themselves against a less experienced opponent.
Released from the organization after a loss to Reuben Duran in his UFC debut, Francisco Rivera has returned to the Octagon and quietly put together a four-fight winning streak in the process. Rivera has proven his stand-up game against Roland Delorme and Alex Soto, but it's time for his ground game to be put to the test once again.
Bryan Caraway might not be a big step up in competition for Rivera, but he will force his fellow WEC veteran to the ground, where Rivera's submission defense failed him against Duran. If Rivera can score another impressive win against Caraway, it will be time for him to face a more noteworthy opponent.
Despite dominating the third round of the UFC 149 fight, Court McGee fell short on the scorecards against Nick Ring and joined Riki Fukuda as the second UFC opponent to lose to the Canadian in extremely controversial fashion.
McGee and Fukuda also suffered recent decision defeats against Costa Philippou. Being in such similar positions in the middleweight division, it seems a bout between the two fighters would be very competitive and would give one fighter a chance to get back into the win column.
Nick Ring picked up a win at UFC 149, but it wasn't a victory that will move him up the middleweight ladder, as he barely survived the third round of his bout against Court McGee. The debatable decision win allowed Ring to avoid the second loss of his career, but he won't be getting a fight with a contender after his showing on Saturday.
Instead, a matchup against Andrew Craig would be logical for Ring's next appearance. Craig has had to come from behind to earn his past two victories, so he is also looking to validate his standing in the 185-pound division with a more decisive win in his next fight.
After picking up a decision victory in his UFC debut, Chris Clements was curiously scheduled for a fight with Siyar Bahadurzada. Perhaps thankfully for Clements, that bout fell through due to injury, as the performance he put together against Matt Riddle probably would have led to a much worse result against Bahadurzada.
A bout against DaMarques Johnson would be feasible for Clements' next appearance, especially if The Ultimate Fighter 9 runner-up loses in his upcoming bout against Mike Swick.
After picking up his second straight win at UFC 149, Matt Riddle wants a fight with Dan Hardy. However, the Englishman has a bout scheduled against Amir Sadollah two months from now, so Riddle would have to wait quite some time for that matchup unless the opportunity arose for him to fill in as an injury replacement.
Instead, the time frame for a bout against Mike Swick would make much more sense should the long-time UFC veteran defeat DaMarques Johnson in his return to the Octagon at UFC on Fox 4. Swick is looking to ease his way back into welterweight competition after a long battle with injuries, and a fight with Riddle would be a natural progression after a potential win over Johnson.
Mitch Clarke is now winless in two UFC appearances, but he put together a strong enough performance against Anton Kuivanen at UFC 149 to deserve a third and final chance at victory inside the Octagon. That said, he will not be handed an easy opponent to get things turned around against.
Following his loss to James Head on Saturday, the UFC will want to give Brian Ebersole a good opportunity to start another winning streak, as Ebersole is a popular fighter who is planning a new start in the lightweight division.
Ultimately, Clarke will have to score an upset in his next fight in order to retain a spot on the UFC roster.
James Head appears to have made a great decision in moving from the middleweight division to the welterweight division. Since dropping to 170 pounds, Head has picked up two straight wins, including his upset victory over Brian Ebersole at UFC 149.
As Head continues to climb the welterweight ranks, a bout with Seth Baczynski, who is also coming off of an important split decision win, would give him a chance to prove his win over Ebersole was no fluke due to his opponent taking the fight on short notice.
Shawn Jordan wasted an excellent opportunity to make a name for himself against Cheick Kongo. In an uneventful contest, Jordan refused to vary from his game plan of trying to score takedowns along the fence, which was clearly not having its desired effect against the UFC veteran.
Jordan is still developing as a fighter, but his lack of success against Kongo showed he's not ready for higher-level competition. The UFC should give Jordan a step back against the loser of an upcoming bout between Matt Mitrione and Rob Broughton.
In MMA, a win isn't always a win, as they say. Cheick Kongo's victory over Shawn Jordan at UFC 149 proved that, as he was ripped for his lackluster performance by UFC president Dana White following the event.
It's unlikely Kongo will be getting a big step up in competition due to his win over Jordan. Conversely, expect the UFC to punish him with a bout against the winner of a bout between relatively unknown heavyweight Phil De Fries and Oli Thompson.
Prior to UFC 149, Hector Lombard was expressing his eagerness to fight Mark Munoz, an odd stance from a fighter who was expected to immediately contend for the UFC's middleweight title after dominating competition under the Bellator banner.
However, after a surprising loss to Tim Boetsch, a bout between Lombard and Munoz now seems to make much more sense. A more aggressive fighter than Boetsch, Munoz may also bring the headhunter out of Lombard that many were hoping to see on Saturday night.
Alan Belcher has been waiting for news on his next opponent, and the middleweight revelations from UFC 149 may have provided him one in Tim Boetsch.
Boetsch looked like a top middleweight against Hector Lombard, but his win certainly wasn't impressive enough to warrant a title shot over a contender like Chris Weidman. Instead, Weidman should be given a fight against champion Anderson Silva, while Boetsch tests the up-and-coming Alan Belcher and looks to take one step closer to his own championship bout.
At a period in time, former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber and former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres were considered two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Both fighters are now experiencing difficult stretches in their careers, though, and could use a win over a big-name opponent to boost themselves. A bout between Faber and Torres would have been a dream matchup in 2008, but it would still make for a very intriguing contest between MMA greats in 2012.
Dominick Cruz is still expected to be months away from training following his knee injury during filming of The Ultimate Fighter. During those months, Renan Barao could do what was meant to be done with interim titles and defend it against the next bantamweight in line for a crack at a championship belt.
Michael McDonald is coming off of a knockout of Miguel Torres and is considered a big part of the future of the 135-pound division. There was even speculation that McDonald would replace Cruz against Urijah Faber at UFC 149 instead of Barao.
Before Cruz looks to regain the undisputed title that went along with his belt over recent years, let's settle the argument regarding which fighter is the second best bantamweight in the world.