UFC 159: What Big Wins Mean for Top Fighters Moving Forward
The UFC put on a show in New Jersey on Saturday night, starting with the preliminary bouts and moving all the way to Jon Jones' fifth straight light-heavyweight-title defense against Chael Sonnen.
Jones, Roy Nelson, Phil Davis, Michael Bisping and Pat Healy are among those that move up the MMA latter after the conclusion of UFC 159, as most of the main-card fights went the way we all expected them to in this 11-fight showcase of the company's top talent.
What does it all mean?
The winners and losers from Saturday's card now have different opponents lined up within the minds of those who are in charge of making fights, a theme that continues every Sunday morning after a UFC event.
With respect to the top fighters in the company who were on display at UFC 159, let's take a look at what big wins mean for their statuses moving forward.
UFC 159 Full Results
|Light Heavyweight*||Jon Jones def. Chael Sonnen||TKO||1|
|Middlewight||Michael Bisping def. Alan Belcher||Stoppage |
|Heavywight||Roy Nelson def. Cheick Kongo||KO||1|
|Light Heavyweight||Phil Davis def. Vinny Magalhaes||UD||3|
|Lightweight||Pat Healy def. Jim Miller||Submission||3|
|Lightweight||Rustam Khabilov def. Yancy Medeiros||TKO||1|
|Light Heavyweight||Ovince St. Preux def. Gian Villante||MD||3|
|Women Bantamweight||Sara McCann def. Sheila Gaff||TKO||1|
|Bantamweight||Bryan Caraway def. Johnny Bedford||Submission||3|
|Featherweight||Cody McKenzie def. Leonard Garcia||UD||3|
|Featherweight||Steven Siler def. Kurt Holobaugh||UD||3|
*Designates Title Fight
What Wins Mean for Top Fighters
Jones had maybe his most impressive victory to date on Saturday night, using the best part of his opponent's game—wrestling—to completely dismantle Sonnen by the end of the fight.
Although Jones ended up breaking his toe during the fight and virtually had to win in the first round to avoid being medically disqualified at the start of the second round, this was a huge win for both his status as one of the company's top three fighters and his place as the biggest rising star in the UFC.
Jones will now be the subject for three different fights.
The first one is the most logical as intradivisional rival Alexander Gustafsson has been waiting for a title shot for quite some time now. With Lyota Machida already dispatched by Jones in his title defense, Gustafsson should jump the No. 1 contender for a shot at the title in this scenario.
Jones responded to Gustafsson's "Harlem Shake" video earlier in the week, claiming that he would love to get a chance to beat the Swedish high-riser (h/t MMA Junkie).
While that fight exists as the strongest possibility for Jones when his toe fully heals, another could be the dip of Daniel Cormier to the light heavyweight division for a shot at the champion. Cormier is listed as the No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division, but Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem are two guys that might get a title shot first.
In Cormier, Jones would face one of his toughest tests of both power and raw strength, as the challenger would be cutting weight to take that fight.
The last fight, and maybe most important one for the UFC, is with middleweight champion and undisputed UFC king Anderson Silva. Dana White hinted after the match that Silva called and asked for Jones after the conclusion of his stomping of Sonnen, but at this point it's all purely speculation (h/t UFC on Twitter):
Dana says Anderson Silva called him tonight and said he wants a fight - Dana won't say whether it's GSP or Jones but it's one of those— UFC (@ufc) April 28, 2013
With a commanding victory and some time to recover from his nasty toe injury, Jones is sitting pretty atop the UFC mountaintop. He continues to demolish opponents, and at this point the company is doing its best to mention fighters that could last more than one round against him in a title fight.
"Big Country" Nelson was part of one of the most embarrassing fights in MMA history if you listen to White talk about UFC 130, where he and Frank Mir put on a terrible show in what looked more like sumo wrestling than mixed martial arts.
My my, how things have changed.
Nelson (20-7) wasn't guaranteed a fight after that Mir blowout, but he has dropped only one fight since then and has taken out Dave Herman, Matt Mitrione and now Cheick Kongo in first-round fashion in his last three fights.
Which heavyweight fighter would give Cain Velasquez the biggest challenge?
Taking down Kongo with a big right hook was the Knockout of the Night at UFC 159.
While fans of Big Country are clamoring for a title shot with Cain Velasquez, the big man with the big beard has at least one fight to go before he'll get a shot at the heavyweight belt. If you listened to White at the post-fight press conference, that man will either be Cormier or Mark Hunt (h/t ESPN).
Those are two big-time opponents for Nelson, in large part because he's faltered in fights against the company's top stars at this weight class (Mir, dos Santos, Fabricio Werdum) when given an opportunity to assert himself as a star.
He'll get another chance to do just that in his next fight, and a win could mean a title shot in the near future for a fighter that took a big leap forward on Saturday night.
Bisping was so close to a shot at Silva when he lost to Vitor Belfort at the pair's UFC on FX event, but he bounced back against Alan Belcher without any lingering effects of that second-round TKO.
Moving 24-5 in his professional career, Bisping continued to prove that he's in the conversation for ascension to the top of his weight class if he can put together a string of fights against top opponents in big venues.
As one of the fighters than fans love to hate the most, Bisping is a huge draw no matter who his opponent is, and that makes him a valuable asset in a division in which Silva's dominance has precluded us from respecting the rest of the fighters underneath him.
Bisping is expected to undergo minor neck surgery (h/t Sherdog) in the coming days, meaning he'll likely be out for a few months as he recovers and preps for his next fight. Although he won on a technical decision against Belcher, it was clear he was in control of the fight and the unanimous judges card proved just that.
To gain a shot at the title, Bisping will have to win at least two more fights, and his next opponent could be another fighter in the mix for said appearance in a five-round fight.
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