UFC on Fuel 6 happened Saturday in Macau, China. The best fight outside of (and maybe including) the main event came when light heavyweight Thiago Silva choked out Stanislav Nedkov. The win garnered Silva Submission of the Night honors, but more importantly made him a winner for the first time since 2009.
So where does the highly dangerous Brazilian headhunter go from here? Here are five possibilities.
On the negative side, Jimi Manuwa has only fought once in the UFC, and thus may not be on Silva's level. On the bright side, it only took Manuwa one fight—a destructive doctor stoppage of Kyle Kingsbury—to establish himself as one of the hardest-hitting light heavies in the promotion.
Maybe it's not the world's best matchup on paper, but make no mistake: I would clear my schedule to watch this fight.
Another UFC newcomer, Ryan Jimmo tied a record for fastest UFC KO when he flattened Anthony Perosh in seven seconds back in July.
Opinions vary widely on Jimmo's UFC viability. A tangle with Silva would narrow that gap, for good or ill.
Do you see the pattern yet?
Another very dangerous but relatively unproven striker, James Te-Huna is 4-1 thus far in the UFC, with three T/KO wins to his credit in that run.
As with Jimmo and Manuwa, Te-Huna is a young buck looking for his first big scalp. If any of these guys can come over Silva, they will have to do so in a rain of good old-fashioned blood and guts. That will prove they belong.
This one's for all those people out there who don't think Thiago Silva should be given over to gatekeeping duties just yet. (I happen to believe being a gatekeeper is a compliment of sorts, but that's another discussion.)
If I had to vote right now for the 2012 comeback fighter of the year, it would have to be Brazil's Vinny Magalhaes. After being cut from the UFC, he came back up through lesser promotions and used his virtually peerless jiu-jitsu to snag an armbar submission win in his first fight back in the octagon.
As Silva showed on Saturday, he's got some pretty good jiu-jitsu of his own, even if his true calling card is his fearsome knockout blows. These men would seem to offer the other a strong test in their less-comfortable areas. The winner would take a significant step forward.
In other words, Phil Davis.
Silva versus this winner would unequivocally be a battle to see who's "in the mix" at light heavyweight. Davis's wrestling would be hard for Silva to overcome. On the flip side, I don't recall ever seeing Davis' chin truly tested by someone as powerful and aggressive as Thiago Silva.
If Silva wants to jump right back into the lion's den, and prove sooner rather than later that he's still elite, this is the fight.