Jose Aldo managed to hold on to his title at UFC 156 by taking an unanimous decision over Frankie Edgar. It was close, but Aldo managed to inflict enough damage to sway the judges in his favor.
Now Aldo will look to the future in which a new set of title challengers will emerge. The Brazilian has been on the shelf for quite some time prior to UFC 156, which has given opportunity to a number of guys to step up and warrant a title shot.
Edgar could make a claim for a quick rematch, but that would mean jumping ahead of the guys on this list and a surging lightweight as well.
I'm not ready to call any of these fighters as being the guy to take out Aldo, but they certainly have earned a title shot and could provide an interesting matchup for Aldo.
After winning a handful of close decisions, Frankie Edgar has now dropped three of them in a row. It's not like he lost badly or to inferior competition, as there's nothing wrong with losing to guys like Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo, but a loss is a loss.
Still, we've all seen how much the UFC brass love Edgar, and it honestly wouldn't shock me to see him get a rematch.
The Aldo-Edgar fight was the chess match everyone thought it would be, and it was also fairly close on the scorecards.
Although Edgar has the UFC brass in his corner, I believe he's the least likely to face Aldo next after dropping three-straight bouts. Expect to see Edgar's name come up once more after he takes out a top challenger at 145 pounds.
A guy who's been lost in the shuffle of the featherweight rankings is Chad Mendes.
The Team Alpha Male competitor faced Jose Aldo at UFC 142 but suffered his first defeat after the champion landed a knee as the first round came to a close.
Many people forget that Mendes likely would've scored a takedown had Aldo not grabbed the fence and likely could've been on his way to grappling the title away from Aldo.
Of course, all we know for sure is that he lost the fight and hasn't been seen in the title picture since.
After the Aldo loss, Mendes has racked up two straight victories, with both of them ending in the first round. They were against lower-level competition, but Mendes should still be considered one of the top-five featherweights in the world.
Although Mendes only has one loss on his mark, it came against the current champion, and I don't foresee the UFC awarding him a rematch after taking out Cody McKenzie and Yaotzin Meza.
Times looked rough for "The Korean Zombie" prior to joining the UFC's ranks, as he had dropped two straight inside the WEC cage.
It only seemed to motivate Chan Sung Jung, who has rattled off three straight victories in the Octagon, all of them before the final bell.
Jung captivated MMA fans with his first performance against Leonard Garcia and then decided to show us something from his bag of tricks, as he latched on a Twister to secure the tapout in their rematch.
A one-punch knockout of Mark Hominick would follow and then Jung found himself in another MMA classic against Dustin Poirier in May of 2012.
Jung certainly has a resume to warrant a title shot, just as Ricardo Lamas does, but I don't envision "The Korean Zombie" getting the next title shot. He's been out of action since May of last year with an injury and is a relative unknown to the non-hardcore MMA fans.
Those two reasons could force Jung into another fight before he gets a chance to dethrone Aldo.
Ricardo Lamas is the guy who should be fighting Jose Aldo next.
He's defeated a number of talented fighters and is also riding a four-fight winning streak. He's also undefeated as a featherweight and is coming off a victory over Erik Koch, the guy originally slated to face Aldo prior to Frankie Edgar sliding in.
Lamas has made it look easy thus far in his UFC career by tapping out Cub Swanson, controlling previous number one contender Hatsu Hioki for three rounds and wrecking Koch in two and a half minutes.
Given the quality of opposition he's defeated and the impressive finishes, how can Dana White protect the integrity of the sport without giving him a title shot?
In a move that came straight out of left field last night, Anthony Pettis threw his name into the hat for future title contenders against Jose Aldo.
Pettis was supposed to be awarded an UFC title fight after defeating Benson Henderson in the WEC but found himself pushed to the back of the line after dropping a fight to Clay Guida in his UFC debut.
Now Pettis has won three straight in the Octagon, including two first-round TKOs against Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon.
Pettis should be next in line to face the winner of Henderson versus Gilbert Melendez, but he's obviously looking for a title shot as soon as he can.
It would certainly be an entertaining stand-up affair between these two men with Aldo's muay Thai and Pettis' Taekwondo background. Aldo would have an advantage on the ground, but I wouldn't predict him to abandon his greatest strength, which is his striking ability.
Although Pettis has yet to win a featherweight fight or ever make the 145-pound weight limit, I can see the UFC pushing Pettis to the front of the line for a big payday on pay-per-view.