After Dan Henderson was forced out of a UFC 151 title fight against Jon Jones, four different fighters were considered as replacements. Two of those fighters, Lyoto Machida and Mauricio Rua, were fighters Jones had already beaten. The other options, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen, were fighters who competed at middleweight in their prior appearance.
Ultimately, Jones ended up meeting Belfort, who fought admirably despite being submitted by the champion in the fourth round. Still, the fact that Jones was subjected to fighting a middleweight was a testament to how short he is on serious contenders just four title defenses into his reign as champion.
So, with Henderson's timetable for a return from injury still unknown, who will be next for Jones? It's a tough question, and it's one that will be answered in the following slideshow as we take a look at the matches that the UFC should make after UFC 152.
Coming off of back-to-back losses in the middleweight division, Kyle Noke looked like a much better fighter in his welterweight debut. The Australian displayed some solid striking in an opening-minute knockout of Charlie Brenneman that makes him a very interesting addition to the 170-pound division.
Though he hasn't been with the UFC for very long, the 32-year-old Noke is a well-rounded veteran who won't want to take a slow path to tougher competition at welterweight.
A jiu-jitsu brown belt coming off of a knockout of Josh Neer, Mike Pyle has the ability to provide a better test of Noke's all-round skill level. The winner of a bout between seasoned fighters like Noke and Pyle would also likely be ready to mix it up with a 170-pound contender in their following fight.
In handing his opponent a third straight loss, Mitch Gagnon may have ended Walel Watson's stay in the UFC's bantamweight division. However, the Canadian's victory ensured himself at least a couple more chances to put his talents on display inside the Octagon.
Johnny Eduardo recently knocked Jeff Curran out of the world's premier MMA organization with a unanimous decision win.
Since both fighters have won one and lost one in their first two UFC appearances, it could make sense for Gagnon and Eduardo to battle for a step up in competition when they enter the Octagon for a third time.
Simeon Thoreson and Charlie Brenneman both had rough outings at UFC 152. The welterweights were both knocked out in the opening round of their respective bouts against Seth Baczynski and Kyle Noke.
With 15 of his 17 wins coming by submission, Thoreson is best when competing on the ground. Against Brenneman, a somewhat one-dimensional wrestler, the 28-year-old Thoreson would have a better opportunity to showcase his talent than he had against Seth Baczynski. At the same time, Brenneman would not face as much opposition going to the ground against Thoreson as he did against Noke.
Let's give these ground specialists a chance to grapple and get back on a winning track.
There was plenty of hype surrounding Jimy Hettes after his dominant win over Nam Phan. However, Hettes hadn't really shown much of his stand-up game in his first two UFC appearances, and we found out why on Saturday night.
Against Marcus Brimage, Hettes showed a solid chin, but it's never a good thing when that is the highlight of a fighter's performance.
Now, Hettes' next fight should come against an opponent who is coming off of a loss. There's a good chance he'll meet the loser of a UFC on Fuel TV 5 bout between Jason Young and Robbie Peralta.
Since being submitted by Brian Caraway on The Ultimate Fighter, Marcus Brimage has made great strides, going undefeated in three official UFC contests.
At UFC 152, Brimage escaped a precarious position after having his back taken by skilled jiu-jitsu practitioner Jimy Hettes. Aside from that brief scare, Brimage blasted Hettes with several heavy shots throughout the fight and walked away with a clear decision win.
Brimage will get another tough opponent after silencing the Hettes hype train. A bout with Jason Young, should he defeat Robbie Peralta at UFC on Fuel TV 5, would make a lot of sense, and would provide Brimage with a tough test against an opponent who has hung with Dustin Poirier and Michihiro Omigawa.
After looking like a truly bright prospect in his UFC debut against Matt Riddle, Lance Benoist has now lost two straight fights after dropping a decision against Sean Pierson.
The 24-year-old Benoist is now in danger of losing his UFC roster spot, so he'll likely meet an opponent who is also having trouble finding success inside the Octagon as of late.
Like Benoist, Kenny Robertson has lost the past two times he's appeared in the Octagon. Robertson is also similar to Benoist in that he is a grappler who isn't afraid to stand. With both fighters desperate for a win, a matchup between Benoist and Robertson could provide plenty of entertainment on an upcoming preliminary card.
On Saturday, welterweights Sean Pierson and Seth Baczynski both picked up important wins that will push them closer to competing against the top 170-pound fighters in the world.
Recently, Pierson and Baczynski have earned decision wins over Lance Benoist, so it appears safe to say the fighters are fairly evenly matched. With both men seemingly in good health, it would be logical to match Pierson and Baczynski up against one another in the near future, with the winner earning a step up in competition.
Though he came out on the wrong side of a close decision, Evan Dunham earned Fight of the Night honors and likely more respect from the UFC brass for his bloody performance against T.J. Grant at UFC 152.
Breaking up a two-fight winning streak, the loss will be a setback for Dunham, but it shouldn't be a significant one for the Xtreme Couture lightweight. A fight with the loser of a UFC on Fuel TV 5 bout between Paul Sass and Matt Wiman would give Dunham the chance to bounce right back to the standing he had before his fight with Grant.
T.J. Grant's win over Evan Dunham on Saturday night was the biggest of his MMA career. The 28-year-old is now undefeated in three fights since moving to the lightweight division and appears to be nearing a chance to fight one of the contenders in the 155-pound weight class.
An excellent grappler, it would be interesting to see how Grant would handle Paul Sass, who has picked up 12 of his 13 wins via submission. Should Sass beat Matt Wiman at UFC on Fuel TV 5, he should meet Grant in a fight between up-and-comers that would turn the winner into a legitimate contender.
Igor Pokrajac was doing well against world-class grappler Vinny Magalhaes until he decided to take the fight to the ground by his own free will. After that, it didn't take Magalhaes long to lock up an armbar and hand Pokrajac a submission loss.
Also coming off of a stoppage loss to a highly touted UFC newcomer, Anthony Perosh would make a good opponent for Pokrajac's next appearance.
Because Pokrajac possesses knockout power and Perosh is a fighter not many light heavyweights want to go to the ground against, this matchup would allow both fighters to improve in their weak areas and test themselves.
Vinny Magalhaes can roll with any 205-pound fighter in the world. He does have significant holes in his striking game that could derail a rise to the top of the division, though.
The jiu-jitsu world champion is riding plenty of momentum right now, so it would be interesting to see how he swims if he is thrown straight into the deep end of the UFC's light heavyweight pool of talent.
Let's see how Magalhaes deals with fellow Brazilian Antonio Rogerio Nogueira's boxing in a fight that could produce some great ground work should the former The Ultimate Fighter contestant find a way to take it to the canvas.
When they entered the UFC's featherweight division, Hatsu Hioki and Charles Oliveira were expected to quickly become title contenders. Both neared that point, and Hioki even turned down a title shot, but the promising grapplers are now both coming off of deflating losses.
There will still be plenty of buzz about these fighters when they have upcoming fights, though, so let's give one of them a chance to bounce back in a big way by pitting them against one another in early 2013.
Hioki has been criticized for having a slow pace to his fights, but that shouldn't be an issue against Oliveira, whose untamed style makes just about any fight he's involved in an exciting one whether he wins or loses.
Cub Swanson has scored knockout wins in three straight fights. The Greg Jackson-trained fighter appears rejuvenated and ready to make a run at a title shot, which could potentially mean a rematch with current champion Jose Aldo.
If Swanson wants that rematch, though, he's still going to need another big win or two. Swanson could get a chance to pick up one of those wins against Erik Koch, who had been scheduled for a title shot until an injury led to the booking of a superfight between Aldo and former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.
Now, Koch can fall back to where he really belongs in the line for a 145-pound title shot after a decision win over Jonathan Brookins, while fighters like Chan Sung-Jung and Ricardo Lamas can battle for a meeting with the winner of the Aldo-Edgar bout.
Roger Hollett simply wasn't ready for a veteran like Matt Hamill in his UFC debut. The Canadian swung for the knockout to no avail and had no answer for Hamill's wrestling once "The Hammer" began looking for takedowns.
However, while watching a less-than-technical Hollett compete at UFC 152, I imagined how entertaining a bout between him and fellow slugger Joey Beltran might have been. Let's see how powerful Hollett's punches are when they actually land on the jaw of the granite-chinned Beltran.
While Roger Hollett dealt with a Bellator contract dispute, Vladimir Matyushenko temporarily stepped in as a replacement for the fight against Matt Hamill until he was injured during training.
Honestly, the matchup between Matyushenko and Hamill was a bout that was much more intriguing than the one that ended up going down between Hamill and Hollett. Once Matyushenko is ready to go, the UFC should rebook that fight and let the heavy-handed wrestlers go at it.
After knocking out Chris Leben, Brian Stann was briefly linked to a bout against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 130. However, Silva ended up turning that fight down in hopes of meeting a bigger-name opponent who he had less respect for as a person.
Since that series of events, Stann has become a much more well-known commodity in the MMA world and still possesses the knockout power that would make a fight between him and Silva very interesting.
It wouldn't be overly surprising to see Silva turn down this matchup once again, but the UFC brass should at least try proposing it to "The Axe Murderer" as an option.
Michael Bisping feels he's done enough to earn a middleweight title shot. However, that might not matter, as champion Anderson Silva doesn't appear in any hurry to compete at middleweight in the near future.
Besides, a strong argument could be made that Chris Weidman is more deserving of a title shot than Bisping. So while the UFC decides what the future holds for Silva, Bisping should meet the winner of a December bout between Weidman and Tim Boetsch to determine the next 185-pound title challenger.
Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall both came up short against Demetrious Johnson in the four-man flyweight tournament that decided the UFC's first ever 125-pound champion. However, both fighters will remain serious contenders in the division for the foreseeable future.
Though Benavidez may have been the one to lose in the championship fight, it could be argued McCall was the second best fighter in the flyweight tournament. Let's figure out who the second best 125-pound fighter in the world truly is by setting up a fight between Benavidez and McCall in early 2013.
With his win over Joseph Benavidez, Demetrious Johnson will forever be in the history books as the UFC's first-ever flyweight champion. That being said, who is next for Johnson in a division that is still taking form?
Though it seems unfair, considering Jussier da Silva lost to Ian McCall in February 2011, a bout between the UFC newcomer and The Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson will likely decide Johnson's first challenger.
After all, the UFC would love for Dodson to help re-legitimize The Ultimate Fighter as a pipeline for talent. The show hasn't produced a champion since Rashad Evans beat Forrest Griffin in December 2008.
After losing against Jon Jones, some might think Vitor Belfort's next move is an obvious return to the middleweight division. Though it might not be so easy for Belfort to return to 185 pounds after putting on the weight for a light heavyweight title fight.
After all, this was a move Belfort was already considering before receiving his unexpected title shot against Jones.
We may see Belfort continue to compete in the 205-pound division and wait for Jones to make his inevitable move to heavyweight.
If that's the case, a bout with Brandon Vera would be interesting. Both fighters are exciting strikers who surprised in recent main events that many believed they didn't deserve to be competing in.
Due to an injury suffered while escaping a Vitor Belfort armbar, Jon Jones could be out of action for an extended period of time. That layoff could allow Jones' originally scheduled UFC 151 opponent, Dan Henderson, to heal from his knee injury and re-earn a title shot in an expected bout against Lyoto Machida.
If Jones wants to return sooner, he may have to fight the winner of a matchup between former champion Mauricio Rua and Alexander Gustafsson. That fight also isn't until December, though, so there's even an outside chance we could see Jones take a one-off fight at heavyweight to preview his eventual move to that division.