UFC 167: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
It wasn't as decisive as he or anyone would have liked, but Georges St-Pierre broke the UFC record for title fight wins with a decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167.
The controversial result seemed to set up an immediate rematch between St-Pierre and Hendricks. Then, St-Pierre dropped a bombshell on MMA fans, announcing on the pay-per-view broadcast that he'll be taking time away from the sport in his post-fight interview with UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
Now, it's unclear what will be next for the welterweight championship.
Despite the future of the 170-pound division being very much up in the air right now, here are the fights that should be next for the UFC 167 welterweights and the rest of the fight card's competitors.
Cody Donovan vs. Kyle Kingsbury
Cody Donovan's chin has been his biggest enemy over the course of his MMA career.
At UFC 167, Donovan was peppering Gian Villante with his jab throughout most of the first round. However, early in the second stanza, Donovan had a head kick countered by a strong right hook, which put him down.
Now, all four of Donovan's MMA defeats have come via knockout.
With back-to-back losses inside the Octagon, Donovan will need to complete a turnaround to keep his spot on the UFC roster. Another light heavyweight on the verge of being released is Kyle Kingsbury, who has been beaten in his past three bouts.
A loser-leaves-town matchup between Donovan and Kingsbury could be brewing.
Gian Villante vs. Robert Drysdale
Despite coming in on short notice, Gian Villante was able to earn his first UFC win on Saturday.
Villante started slow, unable to answer the jabs of Cody Donovan in the first round. However, a big right hook in the second frame was all Villante needed to come from behind and get his hand raised.
Donovan was originally supposed to fight Robert Drysdale, who was removed from the UFC 167 fight card due to elevated testosterone levels. If Drysdale is licensed to fight again soon, he could now make his UFC debut against Villante instead.
Sergio Pettis vs. Yves Jabouin
Sergio Pettis remained undefeated following his UFC debut on Saturday.
The brother of lightweight champion Anthony Pettis utilized leg kicks early on to slow down Will Campuzano. Committing to those kicks paid off in a fight that went the distance, but the 20-year-old Pettis showed he still has some developing to do by surrendering four takedowns.
Pettis is no slouch on the ground, but he's most entertaining when standing. A bout with a kickboxer like Yves Jabouin should give Pettis a better opportunity to prove he's worthy of the hype surrounding him.
Anthony Lapsley vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
Anthony Lapsley was handed a tough task in his first trip to the Octagon.
Most talented on the ground, Lapsley made his UFC debut against one of the better wrestlers outside the Top 10 in the welterweight division, Jason High. So, Lapsley gave up four takedowns and wasn't able to threaten with submissions often against an even better grappler.
While Lapsley wasn't given much of a chance to succeed in his first UFC bout, his job with the organization is already in jeopardy. To determine which fighter belongs at the highest level of MMA, Lapsley could be matched up with a fellow newcomer Santiago Ponzinibbio, who was also defeated in his first UFC outing.
Erik Perez vs. Wilson Reis
Erik Perez bounced back into the win column at UFC 167, showing he's still one of the brighter young fighters in the bantamweight division.
Usually one to stand and brawl, Perez mixed in some takedowns on Saturday en route to a decision victory over Edwin Figueroa. At 23 years old, Perez's only loss in his past 10 fights came against a tough veteran in Takeya Mizugaki.
While a loss to Perez is tough to go out on, Figueroa has now lost three in a row and is likely to be released after being dominated on Saturday. As for Perez, a bout with fellow fringe contender Wilson Reis, who is coming off of a win over Ivan Menjivar, could be coming.
Brian Ebersole vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama
At UFC 167, Brian Ebersole returned from a 16-month hiatus.
Ebersole was far from eased back into competition, having been matched up against a potential welterweight contender in Rick Story. For three rounds, Ebersole was forced to stand with a better striker and was nearly stopped with leg kicks by the time it was all over.
Although he's become noteworthy among MMA fans for his unique style, Ebersole has now lost two in a row. He'll be fighting for his UFC job in his next outing, so the UFC may match him with a struggling Yoshihiro Akiyama in an attempt to ensure one of the well-known welterweights gets back into the win column.
Rick Story vs. Jason High
Rick Story and Jason High put together dominant performances in very different ways on Saturday.
Using his wrestling in reverse, Story stuffed eight takedowns while battering Brian Ebersole with heavy punches and leg kicks. Conversely, High used his wrestling offensively, recording four takedowns and spending nearly nine minutes on top of Anthony Lapsley.
They beat different levels of opponents at UFC 167, but Story and High are at similar spots outside the Top 10 in the welterweight division. Stylistically, Story and High have the ability to test each other, so a matchup between the two would likely set up the winner for a step up in competition.
Ed Herman vs. Daniel Sarafian
Ed Herman is still winless against Brazilians inside the Octagon.
Unable to prevent the takedowns of Thales Leites on Saturday, Herman was defeated in a clear decision. Having also lost to Demian Maia and Ronaldo Souza, Herman is now 0-3 when facing Brazilians under the UFC banner and had trouble on the ground in all three bouts.
With losses in two of his past three appearances, Herman will see a step down in competition. A bout with another Brazilian could make sense, with Daniel Sarafian also coming off a recent decision loss in the middleweight division.
Thales Leites vs. Cezar Ferreira
Thales Leites has been involved in more than a few lackluster UFC fights. However, in terms of winning or losing bouts, the Brazilian has a very solid track record inside the Octagon.
Although Leites did not stop Ed Herman on Saturday, he dominated the UFC veteran on the ground for three rounds. In doing so, Leites improved to 2-0 since returning to the UFC roster, and he's now won seven of his 10 career UFC fights.
Leites will need to make a bigger statement to earn a significant step up in competition. However, he should find himself in a noteworthy bout—perhaps against TUF: Brazil winner Cezar Ferreira, who is also coming off of a less-than-stunning decision victory.
Evan Dunham vs. Pat Healy-Bobby Green Loser
One of the more exciting fighters in the lightweight division, Evan Dunham has not found a way to win a big fight and put himself in title contention.
In his past four outings, Dunham has lost to three different Top 10 lightweights. A loss to No. 10 contender Donald Cerrone on Saturday essentially ensured Dunham won't be finding his way into title-shot talks anytime soon.
However, a three-time Fight of the Night winner, Dunham still deserves big fights against well-known opponents. A matchup with the loser of a UFC on Fox 9 bout between Pat Healy and Bobby Green would be entertaining.
Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza-Danny Castillo Winner
Donald Cerrone maintained his Top 10 position at UFC 167.
After losing two out of three, Cerrone needed a turnaround on Saturday. By becoming the first fighter to submit Evan Dunham, Cerrone bounced back and turned in one of the best performances of his UFC career.
Some might feel Cerrone should now return to Top 10 competition should he stay at 155 pounds instead of making a move to the featherweight division. However, considering he lost twice in 2013, Cerrone could use one more win to build himself back up before returning to elite competition. Besides, should Edson Barboza beat Danny Castillo at UFC on Fox 9, a kickboxing match between the Brazilian and Cerrone would be gold.
Tim Elliott vs. Will Campuzano
Tim Elliott and Will Campuzano both performed well at UFC 167, but both ended up on the wrong side of close decisions.
Although Elliott landed more strikes and scored more takedowns than opponent Ali Bagautinov, he was on the receiving end of heavier shots and wasn't able to do much damage with his volume striking. Likewise, Campuzano hit Sergio Pettis more than he was touched on Saturday, but the brother of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis landed more significant strikes.
Despite losing in his UFC return, Campuzano took his fight on short notice and should be rewarded with another opportunity. He'll likely return to the flyweight division if he does make his way to the Octagon again, and Elliott could be standing in the opposite corner.
Ali Bagautinov vs. John Moraga-Darren Uyenoyama Winner
Two fights into his UFC career, Ali Bagautinov is already in the running for a title shot in the flyweight division.
At UFC 167, Bagautinov landed some heavy shots on Tim Elliott en route to a decision win. After beating the No. 7 flyweight contender, Bagautinov should now find himself in the Top 10 and could be a couple wins away from battling for the 125-pound strap.
Bagautinov could play a big role in the UFC expansion into Eastern Europe and is ready for a step up in competition. In 2014, look for the Russian to compete overseas against the winner of a UFC on Fox 9 matchup between John Moraga and Darren Uyenoyama.
Josh Koscheck vs. Nate Marquardt
Retirement is a legitimate option for Josh Koscheck following UFC 167.
In a wild fight with fellow wrestler Tyron Woodley, Koscheck was taken out in the final minute of the first round. The former welterweight title challenger has lost three in a row and, at 35 years old, may decide there's no reason to keep competing now that another title shot doesn't seem like a realistic possibility.
If Koscheck does return to the Octagon, he's not going to be fighting any no-name prospects. Instead, a bout with Nate Marquardt, who has also lost three straight and been knocked out twice in a row, would give Koscheck a chance to really rebound.
Tyron Woodley vs. Hector Lombard
One of the stronger wrestlers in the welterweight division, Tyron Woodley is slowly converting to a sprawl-and-brawl style of fighting.
At UFC 167, Woodley traded heavy leather with Josh Koscheck until ending their fight as the first round neared its end. Since joining the UFC roster, Woodley has now recorded two brutal knockout victories, also stopping Jay Hieron.
Coming off a big win in his welterweight debut, Hector Lombard brings similar weapons to Woodley when he enters the Octagon. A bout between Woodley and Lombard would earn the winner a shot at a Top 10 welterweight while likely entertaining in the process.
Rory MacDonald vs. Carlos Condit-Matt Brown Loser
Heading into UFC 167, many saw a Rory MacDonald title shot as an eventuality.
Facing the most aggressive opponent he's seen inside the Octagon, MacDonald was forced outside his comfort zone on Saturday. In the end, the Canadian saw Robbie Lawler end his five-fight winning streak in a decision.
Aside from a fight with Tristar Gym teammate Georges St-Pierre, the most intriguing fight for MacDonald is a Carlos Condit rematch. If Condit is also upset at UFC on Fox 9, he'd be a good opponent for MacDonald. If not, Condit's adversary, Matt Brown, would be able to test MacDonald's reaction to aggression again.
Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit-Matt Brown Winner
Robbie Lawler's impressive UFC return continued on Saturday.
Never one to make things easy on his opponents, Lawler brought the fight to Rory MacDonald at UFC 167 and overwhelmed the Canadian. While MacDonald survived to the scorecards, he was taught a lesson by Lawler, a veteran who finally appears to be reaching his full potential.
Had the result of the UFC 167 main event been more decisive, Robbie Lawler might have put himself in position for a title shot by beating MacDonald. Instead, should Georges St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks meet in a rematch, Lawler may need one more win against the victor of a UFC on Fox 9 matchup between Carlos Condit and Matt Brown.
Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva
As far as fights with relevant title contenders go, Chael Sonnen's days in the light heavyweight division might be over.
Sonnen had no answer for Rashad Evans' speed and strength on Saturday. The former middleweight title challenger was quickly taken down and stopped with ground-and-pound at UFC 167.
A TUF coaching assignment and bout with Wanderlei Silva have already been booked for Sonnen. After that matchup, expect Sonnen to return to 185 pounds for one final title run in his old stomping grounds.
Rashad Evans vs. Mauricio Rua-James Te-Huna Winner
Rashad Evans appears to be back, but the light heavyweight title picture has changed drastically since he dropped out of title-shot conversation with a poor outing against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
While a rematch between Jon Jones and Evans could be intriguing, Evans has some hurdles to surpass.
Glover Teixeira, Alexander Gustafsson, Phil Davis and Daniel Cormier are all ahead of him in the race for a shot at Jones. Teixeira is next up for Jones, Gustafsson could be next with a win over Jimi Manuwa in March, and a bout between Davis and Cormier seems like a real possibility.
The fighter ranked one spot below Evans in the light heavyweight Top 10 is Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and he won't be ready to fight in the coming months due to injury. Below Nogueira, there is Sonnen and Dan Henderson, who Evans defeated in his past two fights.
With Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida now competing in the middleweight division, that leaves Mauricio Rua as the only soon-to-be-available option for Evans within the 205-pound Top 10. It's obviously not the ideal matchup for Evans, with Rua coming off of a submission loss to Sonnen. However, unless the UFC decides to do something out of the box with Davis and Cormier, Evans really has no other choice than to meet the winner of Rua's bout against James Te-Huna at UFC Fight Night 33.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
Georges St-Pierre is still king of the welterweight division, but he needed more help than usual from the judges at UFC 167.
Johny Hendricks gave the long-reigning champion everything he could handle on Saturday. Despite taking much more damage than Hendricks, St-Pierre found a way to squeak by on the scorecards for a ninth consecutive title defense. He's now one victory away from tying Anderson Silva's legendary middleweight run.
Yet, so close to strengthening his case for being the greatest fighter in MMA history, St-Pierre stated he needs some time away from fighting. Fighters say a lot of things after having their head punched several times in front of hundreds of thousands of people, and UFC president Dana White seemed confident St-Pierre will return, so a rematch with Hendricks could be coming sooner rather than later.