UFC 152: What's Next for the Winners
After what seemed like an eternity, the UFC finally put on a pay-per-view. As always, the show had a few memorable moments and a few snoozers. But, overall, it was a pretty solid show.
The main event saw Jon Jones face perhaps his first taste of true adversity when Vitor Belfort slapped on a tight armbar. Reports have been circling about possible damage to Jones' arm, which only adds to the impressive nature of the champion's victory.
Demetrious Johnson became the first UFC flyweight champion in a technical battle against Joseph Benavidez. It was a good fight, but some may have been left feeling a bit "wanting" after so many entertaining 125-pound fights prior to this one.
In the feature fight, perennial title contender Michael Bisping was just too much to handle for Brian Stann. The win could vault Bisping into the title picture. He looked like a very well-rounded fighter.
Of course, all this is now old news. It's not what these guys did Saturday night, but what they will do that matters now.
Winners: Prelims Edition
Kyle Noke: He's always been an entertaining grappler since he was introduced to fans on The Ultimate Fighter, but his striking is what won him the bout against Charlie Brenneman. A bout against Sean Pierson or Matthew Riddle make sense at this point.
Mitch Gagnon: The Canadian didn't allow Walel Watson to utilize his height advantage as Gagnon dropped his opponent with a punch. Gagnon quickly followed that up with a rear-naked choke and could have a rematch Bryan Caraway in a bout that earned Fight of the Night honors at UFC 149.
Seth Baczynski: He continued his winning ways by dropping Simeon Thoresen in the first round at UFC 152. James Head makes logistical sense as his next opponent, but if Stephen Thompson can win at UFC 154, a bout between him and Baczynski would be a strong contender for Knockout of the Night on any card.
Marcus Brimage: He has become one of the top prospects in the division after winning his first three fights inside the Octagon. A bout against Dennis Bermudez or Max Holloway could be very exciting.
Sean Pierson: He controlled much of the action for the first two rounds but was clearly gassed toward the end. Lance Benoist nearly had the fight won, but was unable to put the much older fighter away. Rich Antonitio may be coming off a loss, but he is an older guy the UFC could match up against Pierson.
T.J. Grant: The Fight of the Night for UFC 152 was entertaining from start to finish. You could also make the case that Evan Dunham's name belongs on this list instead of Grant. The closeness of the fight could lead to an immediate rematch, or Grant could also face Anton Kuivanen, who recently bounced back with a win at UFC 149.
Vinny Magalhaes: For many fans, Magalhaes displayed the traits we've already known about him. He's a Brazilian jui-jitsu wizard, but he struggles with the standup game. The flashy finish will set up Magalhaes for a possible fight with Ryan Jimmo or Brandon Vera.
A lot of people forget just how good Cub Swanson can be. He was practically buried by MMA fans after his roller-coaster ride to end his run in World Extreme Cagefighting, which was followed by a string of injuries.
But now that he's on a more active schedule, Swanson has looked great in his recent outings. Swanson's opponent, Charles Oliveira, is a very good fighter despite his weight-cutting issues. The KO by Swanson is one of the weirdest I've seen, but it was the end result of a dominant opening round on the feet for Swanson.
After putting together three straight wins against quality opponents, Swanson should get a step up in competition for his next fight. Chad Mendes and Ricardo Lamas are the high-profile names in the division.
Matt Hamill made a successful return from retirement against Roger Hollet at UFC 152. Hamill displayed his trademark wrestling prowess as he controlled Hollet for the majority of the contest.
The fight was the complete opposite of exciting, as neither man did much to wow fans over the course of 15 minutes. Hamill looked to be getting a bit tired toward the end of the fight, but he was still able to secure a takedown whenever he wanted.
Hamill showed small improvements in his standup game and was able to avoid Hollet's strikes.
A fight against Vinny Magalhaes would seem to satisfy both parties as each fighter likes to fight on the ground. It would also be a good barometer of where these two plan on taking their careers. Hamill facing the winner of Cyrille Diabate vs. Chad Griggs makes sense as well.
Michael Bisping proved what everyone knew coming into his matchup with Brain Stann; he's the more well-rounded fighter. All the Bisping haters were anticipating a Dan Henderson like KO courtesy of Brian Stann's right hand, but Bisping never let it happen.
Stann came close toward the end of the first round. But other than that, it was total control by Bisping as he mixed his combinations with a few takedowns en route to a decision victory. The win was impressive as Bisping showcased his ground skills. But he still may be one more fight away from title contention.
There's no doubt Bisping could sell a match against Anderson Silva. But with so many quality fighters "in the mix," the Englishman may face one of the men he's been bashing in recent weeks like Alan Belcher (if he returns from his injury in a timely manner). Vitor Belfort is also another possibility. He's won two straight at 185 pounds and is a top-10 fighter.
"Mighty Mouse" was crowned the first UFC flyweight champion in the co-main event of UFC 152. Yet Demetrious Johnson finds himself in quite a predicament. The division is extremely shallow. Outside of the man he just beat, Joseph Benavidez, few credible challenges await him as champion.
The five-round affair between he and Benavidez was scored as a split decision, which means an immediate rematch is a strong possibility. It makes a lot of sense for both guys.
If the UFC chooses not give Benavidez a rematch right away, look for Johnson to defend his belt against John Moraga, who made a big debut with a KO of Ulysses Gomez in August. Jussier da Silva could also be in line for a title fight if he can defeat John Dodson in impressive fashion on Oct. 5.
Jon Jones finally faced adversity in an UFC title fight. Vitor Belfort was within seconds of snapping Jones' arm, but the champion continued to fight through the submission attempt. Outside of the armbar, Belfort offered nothing in the remaining minutes of the fight as Jones used his reach and dangerous elbows to batter the Brazilian.
At this point in his career, what's next for Jones is up to him. There are a few marketable fights left at 205 pounds with Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. But outside of those, the big-money fights will be if/when he moves to heavyweight.
Jones has shown that his reach and athletic ability are simply too much for the top contenders at light heavyweight. Henderson, Sonnen and Lyoto Machida present tough obstacles for the champion to overcome, but it's nothing we haven't seen Jones conquer before.
If he wants to continue building his brand and become the greatest fighter on the planet, a move to the big-boy division is in store for the champion.