UFC 156: What's Next for 6 Winners from Aldo vs. Edgar Fight Card
UFC 156 was a weird night.
I'm sure there have been cards filled with bigger upsets, but I can't recall one off the top of my head. From Bobby Green making a great UFC debut against Jacob Volkmann all the way to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira beating odds-on favorite Rashad Evans, it was a bad night for heavily-favored fighters.
Oh, and we can't forget about Antonio Silva, who put on the performance of the night in knocking out presumed top heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem.
What's next for some of the biggest winners on the UFC 156 fight card? I'm here to help answer that question. Read through the following slides to see what I'd do if I stepped into Joe Silva's shoes, and then leave your own fight ideas in the comments below.
Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia
Sherdog.com's T.J. De Santis and I were trying to figure out who, in the history of the UFC, has had a more violent and physically impressive debut than Tyron Woodley. The only name we came up with was Anderson Silva, so that should tell you how impressive we considered this win to be.
This was a statement fight for Woodley, but more than that, it was a career-defining moment. This was the moment when Woodley went from a guy considered to be a boring wrestler in Strikeforce to a dynamic finisher in the UFC. All in all, a good night for Woodley.
For his next bout, I'd like to see Woodley go in the cage with Demian Maia, who essentially out-Fitched Jon Fitch in dominant (and ugly) fashion.
You might think that's too much of a step up in competition for Woodley, but I disagree. Woodley and Maia have a common opponent in Nate Marquardt, and Woodley's stunning debut should be enough to earn him a next-level competitor.
Plus, it would be interesting to see if Maia can out-Fitch Woodley. Or out-Woodley him. Whichever.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson
I realize that Joseph Benavidez doesn't really want to wait for a title shot in his next fight. He wants to fight, and fight often, and he'll forego his chance at the gold in order to do so.
And as he said at the post-fight press conference last night, he wants to be at his absolute best before facing Johnson again. I don't know if he's there yet, and he and his coaches are the only ones who can make that decision.
But still, you have to think he's the next contender for the UFC flyweight title. Right? He beat a very good fighter in Ian McCall on Saturday night.
If John Dodson isn't going to receive a rematch against Demetrious Johnson (due to a point not being taken away for an illegal knee delivered by Johnson in the fight), then you have to assume Benavidez is next.
John Moraga is rising up the ranks, and Jussier Formiga remains an interesting contender despite his loss to Johnson. But neither man has any kind of name value right now, which makes Benavidez the logical choice.
Antonio Silva vs. Winner of Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt
Yes, Antonio Silva beat Fedor Emelianenko. That was a big win, to be sure. But his knockout victory of Alistair Overeem was the highlight of his career, and it's not even close.
Going into the fight, Overeem treated Silva as little more than a nuisance or a sparring partner. In all my years of covering this sport, I've rarely seen a fighter as cocky as Overeem, and he paid for it in spades in the third round against Silva.
Dana White said at the post-fight press conference that he's open to the idea of another Silva bout against Cain Velasquez. Silva's beaten Travis Browne and now Overeem, and both of those are good wins. But I'm still not ready to see Silva step in the cage for another fight with Velasquez. Not after the way Velasquez destroyed Silva the first time around.
With that in mind, I would match Silva with the winner of the March bout between Stefan Struve and Mark Hunt. Both would be interesting stylistic pairings, and the winner would certainly be in the mix for a title shot. If Silva can get past Struve or Hunt, then I would be open to another bout with Velasquez.
As for Overeem? It seems like the perfect time to set up a grudge match with Junior dos Santos.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira vs. Winner of Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi
Rashad Evans was a -575 favorite when he walked into the cage against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. To put that in perspective, Evans was nearly a 6-1 favorite; you'd need to bet $575 to win $100. Put simply, Evans was a favorite the likes of which we hardly ever see in the UFC.
All that went out the window when Evans put on the worst performance I can remember seeing from him. He was tentative and content to counter-strike, but was highly ineffective in doing so. But credit must be given to Nogueira, who quite obviously trained hard and was prepared with good boxing and wrestling.
It's weird to consider Nogueira in any kind of contention role. And yet that's exactly where he finds himself after beating one of the UFC's top light heavyweights.
For his next bout, I'd pair Nogueira with the winner of Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi, which takes place in Sweden in April. Gustafsson should rightly be considered a title contender, but likely finds himself behind both Dan Henderson and Daniel Cormier, which means he'll need at least one more fight before securing a title shot against Jon Jones.
Nogueira is a good pairing with both Gustafsson and Mousasi. And if "Little Nog" can score another big win, we might be looking at a potential title contender late in 2013 or early in 2014.
Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis
I know that there are plenty of you out there who believe that Frankie Edgar either came out on top or made the fight much closer than the judging scorecards indicated. I scored the fight 49-46 for Aldo, and I thought it was a clear-cut victory.
But as with every other Frankie Edgar fight, there seems to be controversy surrounding the decision. I know the American fans in the arena were furious, while the Brazilian fans were firmly in Aldo's corner.
And believe me when I tell you that the Brazilian contingent made up at least 50% of the audience, especially when you factor in the Brazilian media members who were cheering, clapping and screaming for Aldo (and every other Brazilian fighter on the card).
But I don't think this fight was close, and that's why I would go ahead and forego the traditional Edgar rematch, partially because I think Aldo was the clear victory. But mostly it's because of the news that Anthony Pettis wants to drop to featherweight and challenge Aldo.
Much was made of Aldo vs.Edgar and whether or not it was a superfight. It was to me, but I may be in the minority. But I'm also of the belief that Aldo vs. Pettis is another superfight, perhaps even one of a slightly higher grade than Aldo vs. Edgar.
Pettis is coming off two consecutive finishes in the lightweight division. He's slated to face the winner of Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez for the lightweight title. But instead, he's interested in moving down to challenge for the featherweight title.
Aldo vs. Pettis is a fight I thought we'd eventually see, but I figured it would be a few years down the road, and I assumed it would be at lightweight. Instead, we have a chance to both fighters face off in the early stages of their career.
Both men are dynamic strikers, and both are supremely talented in every facet of the game. Aldo might just be the second-best fighter in the entire world.
I feel bad for Ricardo Lamas, who undoubtedly deserves a shot at the title. But when you can make a fight like Aldo vs. Pettis, you do so, and you do it as quickly as you possibly can. Lamas will get his chance at some point; right now, the obvious fight to make is this incredibly intriguing superfight.