UFC 155: What's Next for the Losers?
The UFC had a huge night of fights. We saw triumphant returns, not-so-triumphant returns, savage beatdowns and a new heavyweight champion over the course of 12 great fights.
Still, not everyone can be a winner in a fight. We have 12 dudes who are now wondering where they go from here.
So where do they go from here? Find out right here as we discuss What's Next for the UFC 155 Losers!
We'll take a look at all 12 of the folks that came up short and break down where they are going, and who they could be facing next. Enjoy, folks!
This has to be a disappointing loss for Chris Cariaso. In the still-growing flyweight division, any given win can rocket you into title contention, and already riding a three-fight winning streak, Cariaso had to smell the gold that was right under his nose.
Then he got choked out by John Moraga.
Cariaso's job is not in question by any means, but he finds himself in an awkward position in a division with very few potential opponents. Still, there are some compelling fights that can be made for the WEC veteran.
Louis Gaudinot and Darren Uyenoyama both make a lot of sense. Both of them scored victories in their flyweight debuts, but need some wins to assert themselves further in the division. Fighting Cariaso is a serious test that will either show that they belong in the title picture or are still works in progress.
If this loss wasn't a controversial split-decision loss, this would be an easy answer; he'd be heading towards moderate success in Bellator or the World Series of Fighting.
That said, Dana White confirmed at the post-fight press conference that Garcia will not be getting cut, making this answer even easier. Garcia will be rematching Max Holloway, in all likelihood.
Watch for the rematch some time in 2013.
Phil De Fries
The UFC has been ridiculously inconsistent with its pink slips in the heavyweight division. Keep in mind, they cut Todd Duffee at the height of his popularity, and also axed Jon Madsen when he owned a 4-1 UFC record.
It's entirely possible de Fries gets cut. It's entirely possible he sticks around.
If the UFC keeps him, a match against another fighter coming off a loss, like Matt Mitrione, Dave Herman or the loser of Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell would be a good fit for his next fight. He may also end up fighting against promotional newcomers for a few fights as well.
De Fries is just 26 years old, and has a lot of room to grow. That said, who knows what the UFC is going to do? Hopefully they keep him around, just so we still have fights to be made in the heavyweight division. Things are just so shallow at the bottom right now.
This was a huge shock.
Michael Johnson was widely pointed to as one of the top prospects in the lightweight division, probably the most top-to-bottom stacked in MMA. While Myles Jury turned heads with his submission of Chris Saunders at the TUF 15 finale, I doubt many foresaw him dominating Michael Johnson this thoroughly.
While Johnson has lost in the UFC twice before, this was the first time we saw him downright bullied all over the cage. Because Johnson is a fighter to build up, the UFC is probably going to set him up for an easy win, a la Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado.
This may be against a promotional newcomer. This may be against a TUF also-ran like Al Iaquinta, Colin Fletcher or Joe Proctor.
Either way, watch for Michael Johnson to make a huge comeback, and work his guard in the gym for a good, long time.
This is definitely the toughest call to make of the night.
Guillard is a good fighter in a division of great fighters. As one of the longest-serving lightweights in the UFC, and just basically a human highlight reel, Guillard is somebody the UFC has to put a lot of thought into what they do with him.
Guillard's popularity necessitates matchups against strong fighters, hence why he ended up against Jamie Varner even though he was 1-3 in his last four fights. His excellent kickboxing also makes him somebody to get excited about seeing regardless of the opponent, hence why he was matched against top-ten fighter Donald Cerrone when he was sitting well outside the title picture.
He is sitting at 1-4 over his last five fights. Very few fighters survive that, and the UFC is about to add at least a few lightweights with the impending closure of Strikeforce. A legitimate case could be made for him getting the boot.
Even so, he is still better than a lot of other lightweights. Because of that, I'm expecting him to get at least one more fight before getting a pink slip. Watch for a fight against an up-and-comer like Michael Chiesa (assuming he wins his fight at UFC 157) or John Makdessi, or perhaps a fight against a Strikeforce import.
I said early on that the UFC was looking to feed Erik Perez when they matched him against Byron Bloodworth. I was proven right.
Unfortunately for the 29-year-old bantamweight, Bloodworth could find himself on the unemployment line after his second loss in the UFC in as many fights. As such, he will probably find himself back in Southeastern regional promotions.
If not, watch for him to get one more shot at a win in the UFC against a promotional newcomer or, what the hell, see if he possibly drops to flyweight.
The fan-favorite bantamweight found his title hopes dashed on Saturday when he lost a split decision to Eddie Wineland. Now, he is back to square one, and will need an opponent that keeps him on the title track.
Who owns such a title?
Well, any young fighter currently on a winning streak. Alex Caceres comes to mind, as he is 3-1 as a bantamweight, though he is scheduled to face Kyung-Ho Kang in March. Johnny Bedford is another great potential opponent, coming off back-to-back knockout victories.
By far the best choice, though, is Erik Perez. Perez beat Byron Bloodworth earlier on the card, and the Greg Jackson-trained Mexican obviously doesn't have another fight scheduled. The two of them line up perfectly in this regard, and could easily be matched up to fight in early 2013.
The former TUF contestant came off his year-long suspension for pain-killers with an incredibly ugly effort against Strikeforce import Derek Brunson.
The long-time middleweight contender gassed quickly against Brunson, and that prevented him from demonstrating any of the knockout power or submission skills that have kept him relevant in the division. While Leben is 1-3 in his last four, his job in the UFC is likely secure.
So who are some potential opponents? Well, there are loads of both up-and-comers that would love to make a name off Chris Leben.
In the former category, we have the many talented Strikeforce fighters in the middleweight division looking to make a name for themselves, like Roger Gracie, Lorenz Larkin or Tim Kennedy, as well as UFC fighters like Nick Ring, Chris Camozzi and CB Dollaway (assuming he wins his next fight).
That, really, would be the best use for Leben at this point.
The eternal prospect finally found himself in position to start stringing together wins after overcoming a litany of injuries. Then, Yushin Okami reminded everyone that for all the bluster and all the hype, Alan Belcher is still an unknown commodity.
Okami, as one would expect from him, used his huge frame and powerful grappling to work Belcher over for the vast majority of the fight. Belcher had no real answer, and found himself on the bad end of a unanimous-decision loss.
To bounce back from this ugly loss, Belcher is needing an established fighter with some big wins that can keep him relevant in the top ten.
The best option, by far, would be Tim Boetsch. He is another top-ten middleweight who suffered a lopsided loss on the same night, and because of that, lines up perfectly for a fight with Belcher.
Boetsch found himself near the top of many middleweight rankings with his crazy comeback victory over Yushin Okami, followed by his lopsided win over Hector Lombard. The fact he was matched against presumed top contender Chris Weidman was a testament to how much faith the UFC brass had in him.
Weidman pulled out of the fight, Costa Philippou stepped in and worked Boetsch over mightily. To be fair, Boetsch had a huge amount of bad luck in this fight; he broke his hand in the first round, was cut with an unintentional headbutt, had one eye get swollen shut and got poked in the other. All that said, Boetsch was nothing close to a sure thing.
The loss is not quite a fluke, but Boetsch is still worth a big fight against a well-regarded middleweight. As stated last slide, the best option is Alan Belcher.
It's an exciting fight that can be made quickly and easily. Make it happen, guys.
The fan favorite lightweight found himself badly battered by Jim Miller in the first round. While he would show incredible heart, he simply would never recover from all the punishment, most clearly visible in the form of a massive cut that required 40 stitches.
In spite of the loss, Lauzon is still a fringe top-ten lightweight, who has the skills, chin and smarts to beat almost anybody. Because of that, there is no shortage of solid lightweights for Lauzon to get matched against.
Strikeforce fighters Jorge Masvidal, Josh Thomson and Pat Healy would both make great opponents for Lauzon. In the family, Rafael dos Anjos, Matt Wiman and Thiago Tavares are all great fights to either cement Lauzon in the lightweight's upper-echelon, or usher in a new contender.
Either way, any of those bouts would probably end up winning Fight of the Night honors. Joe Lauzon vs. a lunchbox would probably be end with a crazy submission.
Junior Dos Santos
This was an ugly night for the now-former champion. A really, really ugly night.
I was actually pondering to myself what could be next for Junior dos Santos because, honestly, I had no idea. Then Dana White made it easy for me.
At the post-fight press conference, it was announced that Junior dos Santos will probably be fighting the winner of UFC 156's Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. That fight, in all likelihood, will be a top contender's bout. So, there you have it.
As a contingency plan, if dos Santos ends up having to take a lengthy hiatus due to the beating that Velasquez put on him, a fight against Daniel Cormier or, possibly, the winner of the TUF: Brazil 2 coaches' match between Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum, would both be downright tantalizing.