UFC on Fox 10: Matches to Make for the Entire Fight Card
A controversial decision at UFC on Fox 10 cost the lightweight division its most logical championship matchup.
Had Josh Thomson defeated Benson Henderson on Saturday, and many feel he did, "Punk" would have been an easy choice to meet 155-pound champion Anthony Pettis. Instead, two judges sided with Henderson, who walked away with his third split decision win in five fights.
Considering he's lost to the titleholder twice in recent years, Henderson probably isn't the best option to be Pettis' first title challenger. With another highly ranked contender, TJ Grant, still recovering from a concussion, the lightweight title picture is becoming cloudy.
As UFC matchmakers sort out this mess, here are the fights that should be made for Henderson, Thomson and the rest of the UFC on Fox 10 competitors.
Nikita Krylov vs. Daniel Omielanczuk
At UFC on Fox 10, Nikita Krylov emphatically bounced back from a loss to Soa Palelei in his UFC debut.
Despite giving up 23 pounds on Saturday, Krylov was able to pull a David, using a head kick to stop the Goliath Walt Harris in the first round. With the win, Krylov ensured himself a few more fights inside the Octagon, while Harris will now likely be looking for a new promotion after losing his first two UFC bouts.
Weighing in at 218 ahead of UFC on Fox 10, Krylov could probably drop down to the light heavyweight division if he wants to. For now, though, we'll operate under the assumption his next fight will be at heavyweight again.
If so, a bout with fellow European Daniel Omielanczuk could be intriguing, with both fighters coming off of their first victories inside the Octagon.
Mike Rhodes vs. Claude Patrick
Debuting on short notice, Mike Rhodes disappointed at UFC on Fox 10.
The promising 24-year-old was unable to open up offensively and ultimately lost to George Sullivan on the scorecards. If he wants to maintain a spot on the UFC roster, Rhodes will need to show improvement in his next outing. Luckily, he has a good team around him at Roufusport and should make necessary adjustments.
Without a win since April 2011, Claude Patrick may also need a win to stay with the world's top MMA promotion. A bout between the Canadian and Rhodes could bring the best out of both fighters.
George Sullivan vs. Yan Cabral
At 32 years old, George Sullivan finally has a chance to make a name for himself inside the Octagon.
On Saturday, he picked up an important win over Mike Rhodes in his first UFC showing. While Sullivan didn't set the world on fire at UFC on Fox 10, he performed well enough to get his hand raised on short notice and earned some job security in the process.
Now, Sullivan could be matched with Yan Cabral, who is also coming off of his first UFC victory.
Daron Cruickshank vs. Anthony Njokuani
Bouncing back from a loss to Adriano Martins, Daron Cruickshank turned in one of his best performances at UFC on Fox 10.
Able to shut down Mike Rio's takedown attempts, Cruickshank unloaded his full striking arsenal on a fellow The Ultimate Fighter veteran. In the second round, "The Detroit Superstar" clipped Rio with a spinning heel kick and finished the fight with ground-and-pound.
With three straight losses, Rio's time with the UFC is likely over.
Cruickshank, on the other hand, will be sticking around and might find himself in a fight with Anthony Njokuani. That matchup would surely generate some more entertaining stand-up action.
Hugo Viana vs. Johnny Eduardo
After suffering his first MMA loss at the hands of TJ Dillashaw, Hugo Viana returned to the win column on Saturday.
The Brazilian dominated the striking in his bout at UFC on Fox 10. Over three rounds, Viana nearly doubled the strikes landed by opponent Junior Hernandez, who will likely be released now following a second straight loss to begin his UFC career.
Also coming off of a decision win, fellow Brazilian Johnny Eduardo would now be a good adversary for Viana.
Yaotzin Meza vs. Johnny Bedford
Yaotzin Meza was not able to build on his first UFC win.
Following a submission victory over John Albert, Meza was matched up with Chico Camus at UFC on Fox 10. Although it appeared he'd have an advantage on the ground heading in, Meza was controlled on the canvas for nearly nine minutes over three rounds.
As Meza looks to return to the win column, a bout with Johnny Bedford is a possibility. The matchup could provide Meza with another test on the ground.
Chico Camus vs. Erik Perez
Chico Camus is beginning to generate some momentum in the UFC's bantamweight division.
On Saturday, the Roufusport product controlled Yaotzin Meza on the ground for nearly nine minutes en route to a decision victory. The win gave Camus back-to-back wins for the first time inside the Octagon and should earn him a step up in competition.
Still looking to build some momentum of his own following his first UFC loss against Takeya Mizugaki, Erik Perez could use another bout with a non-ranked 135-pounder. Coming off of his rebound victory over Edwin Figueroa, Perez may be a good matchup for Camus.
Yves Jabouin vs. Vaughan Lee
Considering he was coming off of a split decision win over Dustin Pague, Yves Jabouin was given a golden opportunity against recent title challenger Eddie Wineland. However, he was unable to take advantage at UFC on Fox 10.
The Tristar Gym fighter had trouble finding his mark and was eventually dropped by a counter right hand from Wineland. Unable to withstand his adversary's ground-and-pound, Jabouin was stopped with strikes late in the second round.
Now looking at losses in two of his past three fights, Jabouin will likely take a big step down in competition. That could mean a matchup with Vaughan Lee, who has had similar problems putting two wins together recently.
Eddie Wineland vs. TJ Dillashaw
Coming off of a loss to bantamweight champion Renan Barao, Eddie Wineland showed he's still a force to be reckoned with in the 135-pound division.
Facing fellow striker Yves Jabouin at UFC on Fox 10, Wineland did not back down from a stand-up bout. That decision paid dividends, as Wineland dropped the Canadian with a right hand before finishing the fight with ground-and-pound in the second stanza.
It's back to highly ranked competition for Wineland. He'd be a great option to test the rising TJ Dillashaw, who recently scored a dominant win over Mike Easton.
Sergio Pettis vs. Nam Phan
The younger brother of lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, Sergio Pettis was touted as a future contender in the bantamweight division. He still could be, but it's going to take a bit longer following a loss at UFC on Fox 10.
Pettis put his solid striking on display against Alex Caceres, but he still showed some inexperience in his second UFC outing. In addition to being knocked down in the second round, Pettis was forced to tap with seconds remaining in a fight he may have won on the scorecards.
One of many excellent strikers training at Roufusport, Pettis is fun to watch against opponents willing to trade with him. A bout against Nam Phan would have Fight of the Night potential.
Alex Caceres vs. Bryan Caraway-Lucas Martins Winner
Had Alex Caceres not tested positive for marijuana following UFC on Fuel TV 8, he'd be looking at five straight wins. As it is, "Bruce Leeroy" now has four straight victories.
On Saturday, Caceres took some of Sergio Pettis' best shots before shifting the momentum with a knockdown in the second round. Still potentially needing a finish in the third round, Caceres was able to catch Pettis in a rear-naked choke with only 21 seconds remaining.
While he showed he's a capable striker at UFC on Fox 10, Caceres is most entertaining on the ground. So, should fellow The Ultimate Fighter veteran and grappler Bryan Caraway beat Lucas Martins at UFC 170, he could be an intriguing matchup for Caceres.
Darren Elkins vs. Dennis Bermudez-Jimy Hettes Loser
Darren Elkins' run as a Top 10 featherweight may be over following UFC on Fox 10.
Unable to score any takedowns, Elkins was forced to stand with a much better striker in Jeremy Stephens on Saturday. Having now lost two out of his past three fights, Elkins is likely to be bounced from the Top 10 in the official UFC rankings.
It'd now be interesting to see Elkins matched up with an opponent who is willing to grapple with him. The loser of a UFC 171 bout between Dennis Bermudez and Jimy Hettes would surely be comfortable going to the ground.
Jeremy Stephens vs. Dennis Siver
Jeremy Stephens has turned his career around with a move to the featherweight division.
After losing three straight in the lightweight class, Stephens began 2013 as a 145-pounder and hasn't looked back. At UFC on Fox 10, Stephens shut down everything Darren Elkins had to offer and likely earned himself a spot among the 10 best featherweights on the UFC roster.
He's passed his test against a top featherweight wrestler. Now, Stephens should meet one of the better strikers in the 145-pound division before being placed in a title-shot eliminator.
If he can beat fellow former lightweight Dennis Siver, Stephens will separate himself as one of the biggest threats to featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
Adriano Martins vs. John Makdessi-Alan Patrick Loser
Adriano Martins wasn't ready for Top 10 lightweight competition, but he's still a fighter to keep an eye on in the 155-pound division.
The Brazilian landed some solid shots on Donald Cerrone early, but he wasn't able to keep up once "Cowboy" got going. Before he made it out of the first round, Martins was downed by a brutal head kick, leaving him with his first UFC loss.
Now, Martins will have to work his way up the ladder the hard way. He can start with a bout against the winner of a UFC 169 matchup between John Makdessi and Alan Patrick.
Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza
Donald Cerrone is ready to make another run at a title shot in the 155-pound division.
Facing a hungry Brazilian with nothing to lose at UFC on Fox 10, Cerrone wasted little time in knocking out Adriano Martins. In doing so, "Cowboy" picked up his second straight impressive finish, having submitting Evan Dunham in his prior outing.
Before he tries to elevate himself against another Top 10 lightweight, Cerrone should serve as a gatekeeper against Edson Barboza, who due to be tested. If paired, the hard-nosed kickboxers would be favorites to earn Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night bonuses.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Geronimo dos Santos
Gabriel Gonzaga was not ready to go three rounds at UFC on Fox 10. No, he was barely ready to go one round in an important bout with Stipe Miocic on Saturday.
While the Brazilian started strong, landing leg kicks and scoring a takedown in the opening stanza, he faded quickly. Unable to keep up with Miocic's pace, Gonzaga was picked apart and fell short in a clear decision.
"Napao" will have to return to fighting non-ranked heavyweights now. Since Geronimo dos Santos has finally been medically cleared to compete, Gonzaga may meet his fellow countryman in a bout that was originally booked for UFC 153. Dos Santos was pulled from that matchup when he tested positive for hepatitis B, but MMAJunkie.com reported in August that "Mondragon" now has a viral count of zero.
Stipe Miocic vs. Antonio Silva
Stipe Miocic is one step closer to the top of the heavyweight division following a win at UFC on Fox 10.
While he'll need to work on checking leg kicks, Miocic didn't show many other flaws in a decision win over Gabriel Gonzaga. The well-conditioned heavyweight kept a fast pace over three rounds and broke his opponent down.
A bout with Antonio Silva would be a logical step forward for Miocic now. He'll have to sit out a bit for "Bigfoot" to complete a suspension, but it's a matchup worth waiting on.
Josh Thomson vs. Rafael dos Anjos-Rustam Khabilov Loser
Josh Thomson barely missed out on a lightweight title shot at UFC on Fox 10.
Despite breaking his hand in the first round, Thomson scored several takedowns on former champion Benson Henderson. The takedowns and back control weren't enough on the scorecards, though, as two judges sided with Henderson in a split decision.
At the post-fight press conference, "Punk" was visibly frustrated and hinted at retirement multiple times. If he does return to the Octagon, Thomson should meet the loser of a UFC 170 bout between Rafael dos Anjos and Rustam Khabilov.
Beating either highly ranked lightweight would put Thomson back in the running for a shot at the 155-pound championship.
Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez
Benson Henderson is back in the running for a shot at the lightweight belt he lost to Anthony Pettis.
It took a controversial decision, but Henderson will remain the second best lightweight in the world with his win over Josh Thomson on Saturday. Henderson was taken down multiple times and gave up his back frequently, but he battled back in the later rounds as Thomson fought through an apparent hand injury.
Having lost to Pettis twice in the past 37 months, Henderson probably isn't going to get another rematch off of a debatable decision victory. However, he could meet Gilbert Melendez in a rematch to determine which fighter is more deserving of a shot at the lightweight championship.
Hopefully, TJ Grant will be cleared to train soon enough to be Pettis' next title challenger. Previously named the lightweight division's top contender, Grant has been recovering for months from a concussion suffered during training.