In February, Mike Pierce nearly made an enormous leap in standing as he battled former title contender Josh Koscheck in a closely contested contest at UFC 143. When the scores were read, Pierce was on the wrong side of a split decision.
Since that time, Pierce is 2-0 in the UFC after knocking out Aaron Simpson on the preliminary portion of UFC on FX 5. With the first round looking bleak for Pierce, everything turned around as we entered the second frame.
Pierce is ready for a step up in competition, and he certainly earned one tonight. Here is a look at five fights for Mike Pierce to take next.
While name-value isn't something that Gunnar Nelson brings to the table, his name has been on the tongue of MMA pundits for some time now.
Nelson holds an undefeated record of 10-0-1 in his professional career, and he looked absolutely fantastic in his UFC debut against DaMarques Johnson.
This is certainly a low-profile option for Pierce, but when you consider that he went from Josh Koscheck to Carlos Rocha after a split decision loss, it's not far-fetched to think that Pierce might still be swimming with the lower ranked opponents only two fights later.
Siyar Bahadurzada is a fast-rising prospect in the UFC's welterweight division. With a lot of hype prior to his debut, there was question as to how he would perform against a tough opponent like Paulo Thiago.
It took little time for the Afghan fighter to live up to the hype, as he knocked out Thiago in only 42 seconds.
Can Pierce derail the hype train? Or will he be run over by it.
Winning seven of his eight UFC contests, John Hathaway is another fighter who is deserving of a step up in competition. No offense to John Maguire, but he wasn't the caliber of opponent that Hathaway, a man who dominated Diego Sanchez and Rick Story, should be facing.
There is little doubt that Hathaway has impressed during his time in the Octagon, and a win over Pierce is something that would elevate the Brit to a level he hasn't seen since his UFC 120 loss to Mike Pyle.
Mike Pierce has already met Jon Fitch before, and a major upset over the longtime AKA fighter was almost in the cards. Fitch was able to survive the flurry, and ended up on top in a 29-28 decision back at UFC 107.
Since that time, Pierce has gone 6-2 in the UFC, while Fitch is only 2-1-1 during the same time frame. A rematch between the two would be a chance for Pierce to redeem himself, and a message to Jon Fitch that he has a long road back to the top.
This fight would work regardless of the outcome out Fitch vs. Erick Silva next week, but is better in the event that Fitch comes out victorious.
Jake Ellenberger was successful tonight in avenging the first loss of his professional career. While the fight didn't feature many images of Ellenberger throwing his trademark power punches, he was successful in working Jay Hieron to the canvas and winning two of the three rounds in the evening's co-main event.
Pierce and Ellenberger are alike in the fact that their wrestling has been effective against all opponents, but they can do major damage with their powerful striking if the situation calls for it.
Considering that the top of the division is wrapped up for the time being, finding an opponent for Ellenberger who is ranked and coming off of a win doesn't appear to be much of an option. Despite Pierce being somewhere around No. 15 in the division, he might just be the best choice that is available.