The most exciting UFC on Fox event is now in the books, and so it's time to take a look at what might be next for some of the winners and losers.
LYOTO MACHIDA vs. JON JONES
Let's face it: Machida isn't the best option to face Jon Jones for a second time. But then again, there really are no best options.
That's the current state of the UFC's light heavyweight division, a weight class that Jones has so thoroughly decimated over the past 16 months. Who of the four men involved in Saturday night's two featured Fox fights would you like to see face Jones again?
Rua, who took the worst beating of his career? Bader, who was made to look less like a prospect and more like a kid learning the intricacies of MMA from an elder statesman? Or Vera, who ended up screaming in agony with a broken orbital bone the last time he faced Jones?
In reality, Machida gave Jones the best fight he's had since assuming he ascended to the championship throne. That isn't saying much, but we play with the cards we are dealt. I'd love to see someone like Alexander Gustafsson or Glover Teixeira get their crack. And someday, they will. But right now, they're just not intriguing enough opponents to draw in the casual fanbase.
That leaves Machida. While he doesn't make for the most interesting opponent for Jones, he'll have to do because he's the best of the realistic options at this point.
I do have one request, however: Put this fight in the main event of the December Fox card.
We've already paid to see it once, and I can't imagine a lot of people will be all that interested in paying for it a second time. Plus, it would pay off the contender storyline from Saturday's event, wrapping everything up with a nice, red bow.
MAURICIO RUA vs. ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON
Rua needs another big win before he can convince Dana White that he really wants a second crack at Jones.
Truth is, maybe Rua just isn't all that eager to step back in the cage with Jones. Perhaps he knows what the rest of us could sense just from watching the first fight last year: that it would take a miracle for Rua to beat Jones, even on his very best day. And Rua's very best days are dwindling fast.
Gustafsson would provide a good litmus test. He's often compared to Jones, and for good reason, because they possess many of the same physical attributes. But Gustafsson needs a big win before being considered ready for title contention. Beating Shogun may not mean what it once did, but it would mean enough.
BRANDON VERA vs. RYAN BADER
This one is easy. Vera didn't beat Shogun on Saturday night, but he proved that he's still got the fire to compete with the best in the division. After the past few years, I never thought I'd use those words to describe Vera. But here we are.
Vera accomplished the rarest of feats on Saturday night: He elevated his stock despite being finished in a fight. And while he probably will never achieve those lofty double-title standards he set for himself so many years ago, he's no doubt earned a hall pass to stick around the promotion.
A bout with Bader, who was knocked into next week after trying to score on the increasingly frustrating Machida, makes perfect sense. Both guys are coming off losses on television, and both guys need bouts that will either keep them relevant or elevate their standing in the division. This accomplishes both.
JOE LAUZON vs. GRAY MAYNARD
Lauzon's out-of-nowhere triangle submission win over Jamie Varner was par for the course. Which is to say it was incredibly exciting and Lauzon ended up scoring multiple fight night bonuses. Just another night at the office for J-Lau.
For his next trick, I'd like to see him paired with Gray Maynard. Maynard is treading water, nowhere close to securing another lightweight title shot in the next 12 months. I like the idea of pairing up the two former members of Team Penn from the fifth season of The Ultimate Fighter.
JAMIE VARNER vs. DONALD CERRONE/MELVIN GUILLARD LOSER
Varner pulled off the same feat as Vera: scoring fans despite his loss to Joe Lauzon in a Fight of the Year contender.
Varner has come from the brink of retirement back to the UFC, where he's putting on thrilling performances and showing none of the immaturity that raised fans' ire during his WEC run. Personally, I'd love to see him face Donald Cerrone. The UFC loves trilogies, and this is one that needs to be finished.
But in order for that to happen, Cerrone would need to lose to Melvin Guillard, because his standing in the division will be far greater than Varner if he defeats Guillard on Saturday night. Either way, matching Varner up with the loser of the UFC 150 co-main event makes perfect sense on every level.
PHIL DAVIS vs. WAGNER PRADO
Let's be real: we're going to see this one again.
After all, the first one ended with Prado bleeding his own eye blood after a nasty unintentional eye poke from Davis. Prado was understandably upset with the ref's decision to call off the fight, but again, he was bleeding. From his eye. Not only is that disgusting, but it's a perfectly acceptable reason to end a fight prematurely.
No harm, no foul. Well, there was some harm and it was almost certainly a foul, but we'll get to see it again regardless.
I'd also like to send an obligatory "chill out, dude" to Rashad Evans, who laid into Davis for not using his wrestling and trying to strike in post-fight commentary on Fuel. Dude, the fight was roughly one minute old. As Davis said, there was plenty of time for wrestling.