A central narrative emerges from every MMA event, and UFC 153 was no different. To my mind, UFC 153 was about a crop of combatants who either established or re-established themselves as elite fighters. In this event, several fighters had a chance to prove their mettle on a stage that, for various reasons, maybe they hadn't had a chance to perform on before, or at least not for a long time.
Here's a look at the potential next steps for every winner on the card.
Cristiano Marcello def. Reza Madadi by split decision
Marcello waited a long time for his UFC debut. And he made the most of it by edging Madadi in a high-energy slugfest. A fight with another recent UFC newcomer and split-decision winner, Anton Kuivanen, could further separate wheat from chaff.
Chris Camozzi def. Luiz Cane by unanimous decision
Camozzi's win over a back-pedaling Cane was not exactly the stuff of legend, but it did give the 25-year-old three consecutive UFC wins. Next up? I suggest Nick Ring, who has won three of four in the Octagon but hasn't inspired a ton of confidence in the process.
Sergio Moraes def. Renee Forte by submission
World jiu-jitsu champion Moraes looked extremely tentative on the feet before finally locking in a choke in the final round. Forte also didn't look like an extremely game opponent.
A win is a win is a win, though, and this is Moraes' first in the UFC. Another grappling ace, Marcelo Guimaraes, might be a good test in his next one. The winner of that should face a great striker.
Diego Brandao def. Joey Gambino by unanimous decision
This one could have easily been a knockout. It was a bit like a mini-sized version of Glover Teixeira's win later in the night over Fabio Maldonado. Gambino's admirable toughness was the only thing that prevented the finish.
In my opinion, Brandao is certifiably for real at featherweight. It's time for a big step up the ladder. Nam Phan would be a very intriguing foil.
Gleison Tibau def. Francisco Trinaldo by unanimous decision
The hulking Tibau engaged in a back-and-forth battle with another big lightweight in Trinaldo. It was good to see the veteran return to the win column after losing his last bout, and he's still a tough out for anyone. "Handsome" Matt Wiman would be a good test for Tibau, and vice versa.
Rony Jason def. Sam Sicilia by TKO
Jason showed he's no passing fancy with a very impressive performance over the hard-hitting Sicilia. He also showed great improvement and a very high level of popularity in front of his home-country fans.
Long story short: This guy's a star in the making. That's why I say fast-track him. Give him Marcus Brimage; the winner is officially "in the mix."
Demian Maia def. Rick Story by submission
Striking, shmiking. Maia finally returned to his peerless jiu-jitsu roots, and it worked. He smushed Story against the cage and exerted his will and his skill, finishing the fight with some kind of neck crank that squeezed blood out of Story's head like it was a forensic examiner's sponge.
With this bout, Maia proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is a force in the welterweight division. The winner of Rory MacDonald and B.J. Penn would not be a stretch at all for his next opponent.
Light heavyweight bout
Phil Davis def. Wagner Prado by submission
Like Maia before him, Davis returned to his roots; in this case, those roots are Davis' physical wrestling game. He controlled Prado throughout.
After his freaky first fight with Prado and that loss to Rashad Evans, Davis is back on track. He'd be a good opponent for the winner between Forrest Griffin and Chael Sonnen. In other words, Chael Sonnen.
Jon Fitch def. Erick Silva by unanimous decision
What a performance from the veteran. Fitch is back, he is better than ever and he prevailed in a great fight that saw him not only outclass a very game young prospect in Erick Silva, but look for the finish throughout.
Credit Fitch for recognizing that his boring style was hindering him and for doing something about it without departing too far from what brought him success in the first place. I'd love to see him tangle with Jake Ellenberger next.
Light heavyweight bout
Glover Teixeira def. Fabio Maldonado by TKO
It's about to get a lot harder to say no to Glover Teixeira, albeit no less scary to say yes.
Teixeira absolutely dominated Maldonado, to the point that tweeters watching the fight were more vocal about Maldonado's heart and will to survive (for better or worse) than they were Teixeira's full and brutal mastery of his opponent.
This guy is an elite light heavyweight. There is no denying that. He needs a big name next. If Quinton Jackson is game, I say go ahead and reschedule that fight. If Jackson is game.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira def. Dave Herman by submission
In jiu-jitsuing an opponent who said before the bout that jiu-jitsu didn't work, Nogueira proved he is all the way back from that broken arm and, at age 36, has plenty left to give to the sport.
Having seen the way he was cheered by his fellow Brazilians, I say let him fight in Brazil every time. Mark Hunt would be a cool opponent; let's see which old guy still has a serious run in him.
Light heavyweight bout
Anderson Silva def. Stephan Bonnar by TKO
It's like the cycles of the moon. Another fight, another jaw-dropping win for Anderson Silva. We are watching the Michael Jordan of MMA at the top of his game, and he's not slowing down.
Next up should be Georges St-Pierre. It's time for a superfight.