Patrick Cote's decision win over promotional newcomer Bobby Voelker marked a successful transition to the welterweight division, though not an uncontroversial one.
Cote, a former middleweight competitor, was given the nod by all three ringside judges, but many fans felt differently. The phrases "hometown discount" and "home-field advantage" were tossed around after the result, though that's hardly uncommon anytime a fighter wins a close one in his native land.
Regardless, the result is in the book and the book says Cote won in his welterweight debut at 170. The question is, where does he go from here?
There are several viable options for Cote at 170. There are both handfuls of opponents that would direct him toward a title shot and handfuls that would be less meaningful but would still be sure to excite. Some options straddle the line, representing steppingstones as well as stylistically intriguing foes.
For now, style may trump importance in Cote's imminent future, given his friendship with current champion Georges St-Pierre and that his win at UFC 158 was hardly enough to fast-track him to a contender bout.
With an iron jaw and powerful hands, Cote embodies an interesting opponent for any fellow slugger out there. One that comes to mind is Robbie Lawler.
Lawler would kick-start a title run for Cote but wouldn't put him all that close. He is a former middleweight himself and is coming off of a big win over Josh Koscheck, but he's just 3-4 over his past seven fights. He is also a banger, one that would mesh nicely with Cote to produce a slugfest.
Lawler's attributes make him a reasonable selection for Cote's next opponent, though some may argue his win over Koscheck ranks him too high for Cote at this point. If the UFC shares that opinion, then Siyar Bahadurzada would work for Cote just as well.
Whoever the UFC decides on, expect Cote's next opponent to be a striking-oriented fighter. The promotion's choice will reflect precisely where it believes Cote fits into his new weight class and how optimistic it is about his potential to make a serious run at the division's crown.
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