A great heavyweight rivalry between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos is over for now—and maybe for good—following UFC 166 on Saturday.
For a second time, Velasquez dominated dos Santos over five rounds. This time, though, Velasquez was able to stop dos Santos before the judges could have their say. The decisive finish will likely delay talk of a fourth meeting between the elite heavyweights for at least a couple years.
What is next for Velasquez and dos Santos following an end to this chapter in their careers?
Here is a look at who should be next for every fighter on the UFC 166 fight card.
He started slow at UFC 166, but Kyoji Horiguchi picked up a big win in his UFC debut on Saturday.
In the opening round, Horiguchi had his back taken by Dustin Pague and had to fend off submissions. The Japanese bantamweight came out swinging in the second stanza, though, cracking Pague with a left hook that eventually led to a ground-and-pound finish.
With four straight losses, Pague is sure to be released from the UFC roster.
Horiguchi, on the other hand, should find himself meeting a fighter who is also coming off of their first UFC win. Yaotzin Meza works.
Andre Fili made up for missing his mark at UFC 166 weigh-ins by turning in a dominant performance on Saturday.
The Team Alpha Male featherweight bloodied Jeremy Larsen in the first round and staggered his opponent with a right hook in the second. Fili pounced on his rocked opponent and finished with strikes.
Jeremy Larsen has lost all three of his UFC fights since appearing on The Ultimate Fighter Season 15. He's been lucky to remain on the roster this long and is now likely to be released.
Conversely, Fili may have a bright future ahead of him in the world's top MMA promotion. A bout with Kevin Souza, another UFC newcomer coming off a win in his promotional debut, is a possibility.
Mike Rio is quickly headed in the wrong direction following another loss on Saturday.
After being rocked while standing with Tony Ferguson, Rio desperately shot in on a takedown attempt and got himself caught in a Brabo choke. Now a loser of two in a row, Rio is in danger of losing his spot on the UFC lightweight roster.
If he's kept around, Rio's next fight will be for his UFC job. The loser of a UFC Fight Night 31 matchup between Michael Chiesa and Colton Smith will be in a similar situation with back-to-back losses. Rio might be used as a potential sacrificial lamb to get one of those TUF winners back into the win column.
With 13 of 16 wins coming via submission, TJ Waldburger is often in trouble when he can't take fights to the ground. That was the case at UFC 166 on Saturday.
After having four takedown attempts stuffed, Waldburger was clipped with a left hand and finished with punches three minutes into the first round of his bout against Adlan Amagov. It was the sixth time Waldburger has been knocked out in eight career losses.
As he looks to get back into the win column, it'd be fun to watch Waldburger meet a fellow grappler. Justin Edwards would be an intriguing opponent.
Adlan Amagov is becoming a fighter to keep an eye on in the welterweight division.
At UFC 166, Amagov denied the takedown attempts of TJ Waldburger and scored a devastating knockout in the first round. Now 2-0 inside the Octagon, and with his only loss in nearly six years coming against Robbie Lawler, the 26-year-old Amagov is starting to look like a future contender.
The Jackson's MMA product still has some work to do before he's at that level, but he does deserve a step up in competition. The winner of a UFC 168 matchup between Siyar Bahadurzada and John Howard would give him that step up along with a more formidable test in the striking department.
Tony Ferguson didn't skip a beat following 17 months of inactivity.
The TUF winner clipped Mike Rio with a left hook in the first round. That forced a bad takedown attempt from his opponent, which allowed Ferguson to lock up a Brabo choke that earned him his first win since December 2011.
Also ending a long winning drought at UFC 166 was KJ Noons. The Strikeforce veteran was far from flawless on Saturday, but he did enough with his boxing to pick up a decision win over George Sotiropoulos, who is likely on his way out of the UFC following four straight defeats.
Noons and Ferguson are both entertaining boxers. A bout between the two would be stylistically intriguing, and Noons' name would give Ferguson a deserved step up in competition.
Sarah Kaufman is one of the best in the women's bantamweight division, but she came up short on the scorecards in her UFC debut.
Although she landed 22 more significant strikes than opponent Jessica Eye, Kaufman was seen as a loser on Saturday in the eyes of two judges. A third favored Kaufman, but that wasn't enough to help the former Strikeforce champion to her first UFC win.
This is a whole new chapter in the career of Kaufman. Much of what she has accomplished in the past will be recognized by most UFC fans, so rematches with opponents she's already beaten are a possibility. Kaufman earned decision victories over Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis under the Strikeforce banner, but she could meet the loser of the UFC Fight Night 31 bout between those two ladies.
Jessica Eye was highly regarded heading into her UFC debut, but she was still a big underdog against a decorated veteran in Sarah Kaufman.
Though undersized, Eye was much quicker than Kaufman. That allowed her to land from the outside, especially early on, which kept the fight close and resulted in Eye stealing a narrow decision win from Kaufman.
While controversial, Eye's UFC 166 win puts her among the elite in the women's bantamweight division. A bout with the winner of a UFC Fight Night 31 matchup between Liz Carmouche and Alexis Davis could give Eye a chance to earn a title shot.
Nate Marquardt's UFC career is in jeopardy again.
The veteran's loss to Hector Lombard on Saturday was his second straight first-round knockout loss. After a stint with Strikeforce that saw him become the promotion's champion, Marquardt has lost his first two UFC bouts since returning to the Octagon. He's also now looking at an overall three-fight losing streak.
While there's a good chance the UFC will cut ties with Marquardt for a second time in around two years, it's also a possibility he's given a shot to avoid a third straight UFC loss.
If he is kept around, Marquardt should meet the loser of a UFC 167 matchup between Rick Story and Brian Ebersole. Story was the man Marquardt was supposed to fight prior to being released at UFC on Versus 4 weigh-ins due to a high testosterone levels. A chance for Marquardt to avoid being cut during a second booking with Story would provide an interesting back story.
Hector Lombard is not messing around at 170 pounds.
At UFC 166, Lombard blitzed through former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt for a first-round knockout win in his welterweight debut.
Looking like he could become a serious contender in the division, Lombard is already deserving of a matchup with a Top 10 opponent. Jake Shields is coming off of a big win over Demian Maia, but he needs an opponent who will test his striking. With outstanding takedown defense and devastating punching power, Lombard can be that adversary for Shields.
CB Dollaway was on the rise heading into UFC 166, but he suffered another setback on Saturday.
In a grueling match with Tim Boetsch, Dollaway lost a point due to multiple eye pokes. While he still would have lost on the judges' scorecards regardless of the deduction, Dollaway looked good in many spots against a Top 10 middleweight in Boetsch.
Despite the narrow decision loss to a highly ranked opponent, Dollaway is likely looking at step down in competition now. A bout with Tom Watson, who is also coming off of a loss, could happen.
Tim Boetsch defended his Top 10 ranking at UFC 166, but just barely.
A tough fight with CB Dollaway ended in a controversial decision win for Boetsch. The 32-year-old was helped by a point deduction from Dollaway for eye pokes, but he would have still won on the scorecards, which were all over the place in a split decision.
Michael Bisping is ranked much higher than Boetsch, but he'll have been out of action a long time dealing with an eye injury before his return. Somehow, Bisping is also without a win over a current Top 10 middleweight, so a bout with Boetsch would allow the British fighter to ease back into title contention without dropping out of Top 10 competition.
Darrell Montague was thrown into deep waters in his UFC debut.
Despite being knocked out by John Dodson at UFC 166, Montague is still one of the better flyweights in the world.
Even though Montague was decisively beaten on Saturday, the former Tachi Palace Fights champion is probably still looking at another fight with a top 125-pounder. A matchup with Jussier Formiga, who is also coming off of a loss, would ensure one talented, young flyweight gets back on track toward title contention.
John Dodson may already be back in the front of the line for a 125-pound title shot.
At UFC 166, Dodson quickly disposed of former Tachi Palace Fights champion Darrell Montague. Although Montague is a UFC newcomer, a win over the the 25-year-old is no small accomplishment.
Aside from Joseph Benavidez, who is already booked to meet champion Demetrious Johnson, Dodson is the most highly ranked 125-pounder coming off of a win. With the biggest upcoming fight between contenders in the 125-pound division featuring Ian McCall and Scott Jorgensen, Dodson may just be set up to meet the winner of the TUF 18 Finale matchup between Johnson and Benavidez.
He had a chance to boost his standing in the heavyweight division on Saturday, but Shawn Jordan was not ready to take a step to the next level.
Jordan could not land early against Gabriel Gonzaga and was quickly knocked out by the UFC veteran. While his athleticism made him a favorite in the gambling world, Jordan's technique was lacking against the more experienced Gonzaga.
Still a promising talent, Jordan will now have to take a step down in competition and look to build himself back up. A bout with a fellow football player like Matt Mitrione would be intriguing and would likely result in an exciting knockout either way.
Gabriel Gonzaga is becoming the premier heavyweight gatekeeper in his second run with the world's top MMA promotion.
At UFC 166, Gonzaga halted the rise of another promising heavyweight in Shawn Jordan. Though an underdog in the matchup, Gonzaga scored a knockout win in the first round on Saturday.
While he's probably not going to become a serious title threat at 34 years old, Gonzaga does deserve a step up in competition and a break from his gate-keeping duties. It's unusual that the UFC would match a winner with a loser, but a fight with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is more intriguing for Gonzaga than one with any UFC heavyweight coming off of a win right now.
Diego Sanchez may or not may not earn another title shot in the lightweight division, but he's going to cause chaos while trying.
At UFC 166, Sanchez engaged Gilbert Melendez in one of the most entertaining fights in MMA history. Though Sanchez fell short on the scorecards, he earned well-deserved Fight of the Night honors for his efforts.
Sanchez may not have won on Saturday, but he deserves another big fight for his showing against the highly ranked Melendez. A bout with the loser of a TUF 18 Finale matchup between Gray Maynard and Melendez teammate Nate Diaz seems like a strong possibility for Sanchez.
Gilbert Melendez is back in the hunt for a lightweight title shot.
After the dust cleared from an absolute war with Diego Sanchez, Melendez had his hand raised in a decision victory on Saturday. While Sanchez isn't currently ranked in the Top 10, he's one of the toughest lightweights to beat, and Melendez was mostly making it look easy until a wild third round.
Dealing with injuries, TJ Grant has likely lost his claim to a 155-pound title shot, but he's still at the front of the line. While Anthony Pettis and Josh Thomson sort out who will be champion heading into 2014, a bout between Melendez and Grant should be booked to determine the next title challenger.
Roy Nelson was given a perplexing step up in competition following a loss to Stipe Miocic, and the result was as expected.
For three rounds, Nelson was outwrestled and outquicked by Daniel Cormier. The result was a second straight decision loss for Nelson, who did slim down for Saturday's outing.
Although "Big Country" has been dropping the pounds lately, he's been noncommittal about a drop to the 205-pound division. If he stays a heavyweight, a bout with the loser of a UFC Fight Night 33 matchup between Antonio Silva and Mark Hunt could be next for Nelson.
While Roy Nelson hasn't said the light heavyweight division is definitely in his future, Daniel Cormier will be dropping to 205 pounds for his next outing.
As a preview to his move to the light heavyweight division, a 224-pound Cormier beat Nelson in all areas on Saturday. Cormier will have to prepare for much quicker opponents than Nelson as he moves to the 205-pound class, but his wrestling advantages will likely remain.
Considered one of the elite UFC heavyweights, Cormier shouldn't be far from a light heavyweight title shot. Coming off of a narrow loss to 205-pound champion Jon Jones, Alexander Gustafsson may also be one win away from a championship bout.
This seems like an easy problem to sort out. Have Cormier and Gustafsson meet to determine who gets the winner of an upcoming title fight between Jones and Glover Teixeira.
The future is now very foggy for Junior dos Santos.
After a second lopsided loss to Cain Velasquez, the former champion isn't likely to be seeing another title shot anytime soon. While it's possible dos Santos could fight for the belt again, that's going to take a lot of wins or a Velasquez loss.
Right now, dos Santos beating Top 10 heavyweights would only create a shortage of challengers in the heavyweight division. The Brazilian needs to take a step outside the Top 10 and slowly work his way back up by beating notable veterans.
A bout with the currently suspended Ben Rothwell would give dos Santos a chance to recover from Saturday's beating and build confidence against an opponent whose title prospects are slim.
Cain Velasquez now has his sights set on greatness.
After reigning victorious in his trilogy with Junior dos Santos, Velasquez is now clearly the best heavyweight in the world. Moreover, he's now going to be considered one of the best heavyweights in MMA history.
Velasquez will look to surpass the likes of Fedor Emelianenko with a few more title defenses. Next up is Fabricio Werdum, who has won three in a row since returning to the UFC roster.