Anthony Pettis finally reached the top of the UFC mountain over the weekend.
Originally promised a title shot after a 2010 win over Benson Henderson, Pettis finally had the opportunity to compete for UFC gold on Saturday against none other than Henderson. Showtime made the most of his chance, submitting Henderson in the first round after landing a series of damaging kicks.
As a new champion, there are plenty of options for Pettis moving forward. However, Pettis made it clear whom he would like to meet in his next outing, as he called out Jose Aldo in his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan on the UFC 164 pay-per-view.
Here are the opponents Pettis and the rest of the UFC 164 competitors should meet next.
Magnus Cedenblad picked up a much-needed win at UFC 164, avoiding an 0-2 start to his UFC career.
Less than one minute into his second Octagon appearance, Cedenblad caught Jared Hamman in a mounted guillotine choke and forced a tap. With a third straight loss coming against an opponent with no prior UFC victories, Hamman is likely to be released from the UFC roster.
As for Cedenblad, a matchup with former The Ultimate Fighter standout Josh Samman would give him a chance to move up in the middleweight division.
Ryan Couture suffered his second loss in as many UFC appearances on Saturday. That and having a father who is in the doghouse with UFC brass puts Couture in danger of losing his spot on the promotion's lightweight roster.
That said, the UFC could have rid themselves of Couture after his previous loss to Ross Pearson, and they chose not to. With UFC president Dana White giving Couture props for his toughness in defeat against Al Iaquinta, there's a good chance the Strikeforce veteran will be given an opportunity to avoid a third straight loss inside the Octagon.
Al looked amazing tonight!! What a chin and heart Ryan has!!! He got destroyed and hung in there #muchrespect— Dana White (@danawhite) August 31, 2013
If Couture is defeated by the loser of a UFC 166 matchup between Tony Ferguson and Mike Rio, though, it'll be back to the drawing board.
It took Al Iaquinta awhile to get back into the Octagon after a loss to Michael Chiesa in the TUF 15 final, but the wait paid off in the form of his first UFC win.
Iaquinta looked a much more experienced fighter on Saturday than he did on the UFC reality series. In beating Ryan Couture soundly on the scorecards, the 26-year-old showed he could be a fighter to keep an eye on in the lightweight division.
The next step for Iaquinta is to beat an opponent with a UFC victory. That's why a bout with the winner of a UFC 165 matchup between Michel Prazeres and UFC newcomer Jesse Ronson makes sense for the TUF runner-up.
Kyung Ho Kang started strong at UFC 164, maintaining the top position for most of the first half of his bout with Chico Camus. However, rallies from Camus late in the second and third rounds led to a decision loss for Kang.
Although the 25-year-old showed potential on Saturday, he's now winless in two UFC tries. The Korean is still likely to be given another shot, however, with the UFC looking to expand its fanbase in Asia.
Expect Kang to meet a bantamweight coming off of two straight losses. A loser-leaves-town matchup with Edwin Figueroa is a possibility.
Early in his bout with Kyung Ho Kang, it looked as though Chico Camus was headed toward a second consecutive loss. Instead, he now owns a respectable 2-1 UFC record and is headed in the right direction in the 135-pound class.
Camus found himself fighting on the bottom through most of the first two rounds on Saturday, but he began doing damage late in the second round and the third stanza. The late rally was enough for Camus to edge out Kang on the scorecards.
A bout with a fellow rising bantamweight in Johnny Eduardo would make sense for Camus.
Pascal Krauss continued on his UFC roller coaster ride Saturday, dropping back into the loss column against Hyun Gyu Lim.
As the first round of a stand-up brawl with Lim neared its end, Krauss was blasted with a knee and couldn't recover. Krauss has alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC roster, so he'll have to look to make some changes in order to make any kind of run up the welterweight rankings.
Krauss is now looking at a step down in competition, so a bout with Marcelo Guimaraes is a possibility, with the Brazilian also coming off of a loss to Lim.
With knockout wins in his first two UFC outings, Hyun Gyu Lim is looking like a fighter who could join Chan Sung Jung as a face of Korean MMA.
Lim stopped both Marcelo Guimaraes and Pascal Krauss with knees. After such impressive performances, Lim is looking at a step up in competition or at least a matchup with a more well-known opponent.
Since Lim has already beaten a European and South American inside the Octagon, it'd be fun to see him take aim at another continent in the form of Australian Kyle Noke.
After picking up a win in his flyweight debut, Louis Gaudinot went inactive for over a year and returned with a loss on Saturday.
Unable to deal with the wrestling and size of Tim Elliott, Gaudinot spent most of his three rounds at UFC 164 on the ground. Although he survived to the scorecards, Gaudinot was dominated and lost 30-26 in the minds of two judges.
Now, Gaudinot will have to meet an opponent coming off of a loss. Chris Cariaso or a UFC newcomer seems most likely for the green-haired flyweight's next outing.
Quietly, Tim Elliott is becoming a contender in the UFC flyweight class.
After going the distance with former title challenger John Dodson in his UFC debut, Elliott has picked up back-to-back wins.
While he may not be quite ready for an elite flyweight again, the timing is right for Elliott to meet Ian McCall. Uncle Creepy is slowly working his way back up the 125-pound ladder after a losing streak, so a matchup with an up-and-comer like Elliott makes sense right now.
After making a big splash in his UFC return against Edson Barboza, Jamie Varner has started to slide with losses in two of his past three outings.
On Saturday, Varner ended up on the wrong side of a split decision against Gleison Tibau. Although it was a competitive contest, most MMA media members agreed with the judging and saw the bout in favor of the Brazilian.
As Varner looks to bounce back, a matchup with fellow fringe contender and grappler Mark Bocek could be intriguing.
Here Gleison Tibau is again.
The Brazilian constantly finds himself between title contention and gatekeeping duties. After beating Jamie Varner on Saturday, Tibau is probably a win or two away from the former.
Should The Young Assassin beat Ross Pearson at UFC Fight Night 30, a rematch with Melvin Guillard could be a good measuring stick of Tibau's progression over recent years. Tibau and Guillard fought to a split decision in June 2009, with Tibau losing a split decision.
Once named the top contender in the featherweight division, Erik Koch is beginning to fall out of title contention altogether.
Koch has lost to Ricardo Lamas and Dustin Poirier in 2013, leaving him without any wins over current UFC featherweights. Based on his competitive bout with Poirier on Saturday, there are plenty of 145-pound fighters Koch is capable of beating, but he'll need to do so in order to return to the race for a title shot.
A matchup with the loser of a UFC Fight Night 31 bout between Nik Lentz and Dennis Bermudez could help Koch get back into the win column.
There's a really good chance both of these fighters have seen their last fight inside the Octagon.
Brandon Vera has had years to prove his worth at the UFC level. After failing to reach the potential many felt he had, Vera now appears to be declining.
Nikita Krylov, meanwhile, did not gain many fans in his UFC debut on Saturday. The Ukrainian heavyweight gassed out and was eventually stopped by Soa Palelei in the third round.
If Vera and Krylov are given another opportunity and the former chooses to remain at heavyweight, they should meet in a loser-leaves-town matchup.
Their technique isn't outstanding and their conditioning is questionable, but Ben Rothwell and Soa Palelei have found a way to win against UFC competition.
Rothwell and Palelei stopped their respective opponents, Brandon Vera and Nikita Krylov, in the third round of their bouts on Saturday. Despite their victories, though, Rothwell and Palelei are still a few wins away from the top 10, even in the shallow heavyweight division.
Since they would likely be ready to go again relatively soon, Rothwell and Palelei should meet in late 2013 or early 2014.
After a controversial win over Hatsu Hioki in his featherweight debut, Clay Guida suffered his first 145-pound setback on Saturday.
Taking a big step up in competition after a debatable win, Guida was overmatched at UFC 164. Early in the third round, Guida was blasted by some big right hands from Chad Mendes, who became the first fighter to score a knockout win over the former Strikeforce champion.
If Guida remains at featherweight, it'd be interesting to see him fight another former 155-pounder like Dennis Siver.
Chad Mendes is clearly one of the best in the featherweight division, but he may have to wait for a title shot, as he's already been knocked out by champion Jose Aldo.
With fresh challengers like Ricardo Lamas vying for a title shot and Aldo potentially lined up for a superfight with lightweight titleholder Anthony Pettis, even Mendes' impressive showing against Clay Guida on Saturday probably won't be enough to earn a spot in a championship bout.
Dustin Poirier may be behind Mendes in the 145-pound rankings, but he's a worthy opponent for the former title challenger. The Diamond picked up an important win over Erik Koch on Saturday and is now back in the hunt for a title shot of his own.
While things get figured out with Aldo's future, Mendes and Poirier should meet in a bout that would push one fighter very close to that coveted chance at UFC gold.
With three straight losses, 34-year-old Frank Mir may have to start thinking about the "r" word.
Mir had no answer for an aggressive Josh Barnett on Saturday and was knocked out in the first round. A grappling match between the two veterans would have been entertaining, but Mir didn't have an opportunity to take the fight to the ground.
Should Mir return to the Octagon, he'll likely do so against another experienced opponent with solid grappling ability. A bout with Antonio Silva would be intriguing should Mir find a way to avoid making the same mistakes he did against Barnett.
Josh Barnett made a triumphant return to the Octagon at UFC 164 and is already one of the top contenders in the heavyweight division.
In destroying Frank Mir in the first round, Barnett proved he's still among the elite heavyweights in the world. With Daniel Cormier leaving the division for 205 pounds, Barnett's path to a title shot does not look all that long.
Barnett isn't going to be handed a shot at a UFC championship though. Formerly stripped of a UFC title for a failed drug test, Barnett will need to earn it and may have to do so against the loser of the upcoming title fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
Benson Henderson's plans of breaking Anderson Silva's records hit a serious speed bump on Saturday.
In a rematch of the final fight in WEC history, Henderson once again lost to Anthony Pettis. While Pettis' striking played a bigger role in the first meeting between the lightweights, Henderson found himself caught in an armbar this time around.
Although title-fight losers often meet opponents coming off of wins, Henderson should meet Gray Maynard in his next outing. There are plenty of rising contenders in the lightweight division, so they can battle each other for upcoming title shots rather than having to build themselves against the former champion.
The potential matchup between Henderson and Maynard, meanwhile, would ensure one of the bigger names in the 155-pound class gets back in the race for a championship.
Anthony Pettis took a long and winding path to a UFC championship, but he finally got there on Saturday.
The former WEC champion was promised title shots in the lightweight and featherweight divisions only to see them taken away by rematches and injuries. At UFC 164, though, Pettis finally captured UFC gold with a first-round submission of Benson Henderson.
Superfights would not usually be considered in situations where one champion hasn't even defended their belt, but this an exception. Pettis was already scheduled to fight featherweight champion Jose Aldo, who has previously expressed interest in moving to 155 pounds, so we may finally get to see a superfight in 2014.