Cung Le is looking to be the next in a short line of 40-something-year-old fighters to find success at the highest levels of MMA. At UFC on Fuel TV 6, Le knocked out former middleweight champion Rich Franklin with a brutal overhand right.
Having failed to win back-to-back fights since September 2008, Franklin may decide to call it quits now that any hope of making one last middleweight title run is essentially vanquished. Franklin is at a point in his career where he should only be fighting big names, but there aren't many matchups opposite big names that make sense for him after being stopped so violently by Le.
With two straight wins since a disappointing loss in his UFC debut, Le is ready to attempt an unlikely run toward the top of the middleweight division. Let's take a look at what fight could be next for the former Strikeforce titleholder and the rest of the UFC on Fuel TV 6 competitors.
Tom DeBlass has come up short in his first two trips to the Octagon, putting him in danger of being released from the UFC, but the organization may have other plans for him.
Having lost two straight fights, The Ultimate Fighter winner Court McGee is in need of a win in his next fight, and a bout with DeBlass gives him a good chance of picking up that victory.
In the UFC's eyes, DeBlass would be a sacrificial lamb of sorts in the matchup, but that's better than the alternative, which would be looking for a different place to fight.
Riki Fukuda has alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC, though it could be argued he should have won three of four were it not for a questionable decision loss. With his dominant win over Tom DeBlass at UFC on Fuel TV 6, Fukuda is ready for a tougher challenge.
Chris Camozzi has won three straight fights, but he doesn't appear quite ready for a shot at a middleweight contender, so it makes sense to give him a chance to showcase his skills against an opponent like Fukuda.
Former Shooto champion Yasuhiro Urushitani has not been the fighter the UFC had hoped for when they signed him on to compete in the four-man flyweight tournament to determine the organization's first ever 125-pound champion.
The Japanese fighter has lost his first two fights, but he's known well enough in the MMA community to keep around for at least one more fight. That fight won't come against an opponent on the rise, though.
Urushitani will have to work his way up the flyweight ladder by beating the loser of an upcoming bout between Tim Elliott and Jared Papazian—two fighters also in search of their first UFC victory.
In his first two UFC appearances, John Lineker has proven to be one of the more entertaining fighters in the flyweight division, but a win over Yasuhiro Urushitani showed he's more than just a showman.
Lineker is now ready to meet a fighter who is coming off of a win, and why not make that opponent one who can match Lineker's aggression and exciting fighting style?
A bout with the winner of an upcoming fight between Tim Elliott and Jared Papazian would give Lineker a chance to earn Fight of the Night honors for a second time in three fights.
Alex Caceres' bout with Edwin Figueroa resulted in one of the more controversial outcomes of the past year. Though Caceres looked to be the better fighter, accidental kicks to the groin led to a two-point deduction that caused the 24-year-old to end up on the wrong side of a split decision.
Since then, Caceres has won two fights, while Figueroa has had problems with injuries.
Let's have the pair start 2013 just like they started 2012. A bout between the two fighters would bring closure to the first fight between them and would set the winner up for a bigger and better fight later in the year.
Low-ranked bantamweights Jeff Hougland and Motonobu Tezuka each suffered decision losses at UFC on Fuel TV 6. Hougland was dominated in a bout with Takeya Mizugaki, while Tezuka fought to a split decision against Alex Caceres.
Unless the UFC opts to part ways with Hougland after back-to-back losses, a bout between the 34-year-old and Tezuka would make plenty of sense.
With his victory over Jeff Hougland, Takeya Mizugaki continued his crazy pattern of alternating wins and losses that has lasted 11 fights. That pattern has left Mizugaki with defeats against most of the elite bantamweights, so he'll need another win to get a shot at a 135-pound contender.
Let's give Mizugaki a chance to win back-to-back fights for once by matching him up with Chico Camus. The Roufusport fighter looked solid in his UFC debut against Dustin Pague, but he lacks experience against high-level fighters like Mizugaki.
If Tiequan Zhang were from any other country than China, he'd be released from the UFC after the third straight loss he suffered at UFC on Fuel TV 6. However, for now, Zhang is the face of Chinese MMA, and that means he'll be sticking around at least until the sport is built up in his home country.
Zhang seems like a sure bet for the UFC's next event in Asia, and he could meet the loser of a bout between Daron Cruickshank and Henry Martinez on that fight card.
Jon Tuck picked up his first UFC win by defeated Tiequan Zhang, but the lack of conditioning he showed in the third round of that fight was troubling. Had the fight ended after two rounds, Tuck might be looking at a big step up in competition, but now he'll probably see another fighter coming off of their first UFC victory.
A bout with Rafaello Oliveira, who just broke a two-fight losing streak with a decision win over Yoislandy Izquierdo, could be first for Tuck heading into 2013.
After losing to Takanori Gomi on Saturday, Mac Danzig hasn't won back-to-back fights since submitting Mark Bocek in April 2008. Maybe a rematch with Bocek would reignite something in the 32-year-old fighter.
That matchup would probably depend on a Bocek loss in his upcoming fight with Rafael dos Anjos. Though, should Bocek win, a bout with dos Anjos would also be logical for Danzig's next appearance.
It wasn't the most decisive win of his career, but Takanori Gomi's split decision win over Mac Danzig has given the former Pride champion back-to-back UFC victories.
Despite his early struggles inside the Octagon, Gomi remains within striking distance of the lightweight division's top-10 fighters. One more win could earn the Japanese MMA star another chance to compete against one of those highly-ranked individuals.
Until then, the UFC should try to match Gomi up with some strikers like Ross Pearson. Gomi's power makes him one of the more entertaining stand-up fighters in the lightweight division, yet the UFC has continually matched him with opponents who have tried to avoid exchanging with him.
Should Pearson defeat George Sotiropoulos in December, he'd be an excellent opponent for Gomi's next bout.
Paulo Thiago had no answer for Dong Hyun Kim's grappling at UFC on Fuel TV 6, and it led to the Brazilian's fourth loss in his past five fights.
Ever since his knockout of Josh Koscheck, Thiago has been one of those fighters who is too popular to match with unknown opponents, but he hasn't been skilled enough to find consistent success against the stiff competition he's been facing.
It's time for Thiago to take a step backward, but he can still do so and compete against somewhat big names. A bout with Amir Sadollah, who has lost two of three fights, should be next for Thiago.
Dong Hyun Kim and John Hathaway have been on the edge of becoming contenders for some time now.
Both fighters are also best in the grappling department, so a matchup between the two welterweights should be entertaining and competitive. More than that, it would almost certainly catapult the winner into a fight with a top-10, 170-pound fighter.
Stanislav Nedkov may not have defeated Thiago Silva at UFC on Fuel TV 6, but the fact that he was beating the UFC veteran through two rounds shows he's worthy of competing against established light heavyweight fighters.
A bout with Brandon Vera could produce some exciting striking exchanges, as Nedkov throws wildly for the knockout and Vera is considered one of the more technical strikers in the 205-pound division.
Thiago Silva was unimpressive in the first two rounds of his bout with Stanislav Nedkov on Saturday, but he found a way to win with a third-round submission.
In equally disappointing fashion, Matt Hamill faded after a strong first round in his return from retirement against Roger Hollett.
These UFC veterans are in need of a big win over a big name in order to get people talking about them as potential contenders again. Matching them up against one another will give one fighter the opportunity to earn that much-needed victory.
Cung Le is in a position where he should only be interested in taking the biggest fights with the most entertaining fighters. However, he still hasn't quite done enough to earn a fight with the best of the best in the middleweight division, so he may have to just settle for the most entertaining stand-up fighter available.
Though Hector Lombard disappointed in his UFC debut against Tim Boetsch, he still has the potential to be one of the most entertaining fighters in the middleweight division when he comes to finish his opponents.
Should Lombard pick up his first UFC win against Rousimar Palhares, a bout between the former Bellator champion and former Strikeforce champion in Le could draw plenty of interest.