At UFC Fight Night 36, Lyoto Machida and Ronaldo Souza both took a step closer to a shot at the UFC Middleweight Championship.
Machida utilized kicks and leg sweeps to beat Gegard Mousasi over five rounds. The Brazilian no doubt would have liked to make a statement by finishing the former Strikeforce champion, but he clearly established himself as the better fighter in a decision win.
Fellow Brazilian Souza is one of the best in MMA on the ground, and he showed it by controlling Francis Carmont with a body triangle for a large portion of two different rounds.
Which middleweight did more to earn a fight with the winner of a championship bout between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort in May?
Here is what should be next for Machida, Souza and the rest of the UFC Fight Night 36 competitors.
Douglas Silva de Andrade did not get out to a great start inside the Octagon.
He competed in front of his home crowd in Brazil but disappointed those in attendance with a decision loss. The Brazilian carried a 22-0 record into his UFC debut, but he surrendered four takedowns and landed half as many strikes as opponent Zubaira Tukhugov.
Coming off a loss in his first UFC appearance, De Andrade will now likely need to win his next bout in order to stick around. A matchup with the loser of a UFC Fight Night 37 matchup between Jumabieke Tuerxun and Mark Eddiva would make sense.
At 23 years old, Zubaira Tukhugov looks to be a nice addition to the UFC featherweight roster.
The Russian defeated Douglas Silva de Andrade on Saturday to pick up his first win inside the Octagon. It was the seventh straight win for Tukhugov, who trains at Tiger Muay Thai and showed a fairly well-rounded attack at UFC Fight Night 36.
Coming off a win over Felipe Arantes, Kevin Souza might be able to give Tukhugov a tougher test than De Andrade did over the weekend.
Albert Tumenov came out on the losing end of his first UFC matchup. However, he was hardly dominated and showed some promise against an opponent who owns three UFC victories.
Giving up four takedowns and spending more than five minutes on the bottom, Tumenov couldn't match Ildemar Alcantara on the ground and ended up falling in a split decision. However, the same could probably be said about a lot of UFC welterweights.
If Tumenov can show improved grappling against another adversary who is best on the ground, he'll be able to remain on the UFC roster. A loser-leaves-town contest with Anthony Lapsley, another fighter coming off a loss in his UFC debut, could be next for Tumenov.
Following a deflating loss to Igor Araujo, Ildemar Alcantara returned to the win column on Saturday.
The Brazilian started a bit slowly, landing four strikes in the opening round, compared opponent Albert Tumenov's 46 significant blows. However, Tumenov was only able to land 16 significant strikes over the final 10 minutes, and Alcantara closed the gap on the scorecards.
As he looks to climb the 170-pound ranks, Alcantara could now meet the winner of a UFC Fight Night 37 matchup between Zak Cummings and Alberto Mina.
Maximo Blanco is running short on UFC chances.
Following a narrow loss to Felipe Arantes at UFC Fight Night 36, Blanco now only has one win in four UFC appearances. He's also been defeated in four of his past five fights, dating back to his lone showing with the defunct Strikeforce promotion.
With one of those losses coming via disqualification due to an illegal knee against Akira Corassani, Blanco should get a shot to avoid a third consecutive UFC loss. That opportunity could come against fellow Strikeforce veteran Estevan Payan, who has also lost two in a row.
Felipe Arantes has only fought in Brazil since joining the UFC roster in August 2011. The home cooking has done more good than bad for him, and it produced positive results on Saturday.
The Brazilian was helped by a point deduction due to an accidental groin strike by opponent Maximo Blanco. However, he didn't end up needing that aid, as he owned a two-point edge on all three scorecards.
Up next for Arantes could be Robbie Peralta, who also recently picked up a rebound victory.
After beating Ivan Menjivar in his UFC debut, Wilson Reis suffered his first defeat inside the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 36.
Reis battled Iuri Alcantara for three closely contested rounds before the scorecards were read. Despite spending more than five minutes on top, Reis ended up on the wrong end of a split decision.
Heading into the weekend, he probably deserved a spot among the top 15 bantamweights, and this outcome did little to change the Brazilian's standing. A bout with Yves Jabouin would give him a good opportunity to bounce back against a solid adversary.
Coming off a loss to Urijah Faber, Iuri Alcantara was looking to return to the win column at UFC Fight Night 36.
He quite nearly ended up with two straight losses, but "Marajo" squeaked by Wilson Reis in a split decision. It probably wasn't a performance that will put Alcantara in title-shot conversation, but it was a step in the right direction.
A bout with Alex Caceres would give him an opportunity to build momentum in a matchup with an exciting fighter who is on a roll.
On the heels of a surprising loss to UFC newcomer Piotr Hallman, Francisco Trinaldo couldn't afford to fall against Jesse Ronson, who was coming off a loss in his first Octagon showing.
With an important takedown in a pivotal third round, Trinaldo secured a decision victory. The outcome will likely result in Ronson's release from the UFC roster, as he has failed to get his hand raised in two UFC appearances.
For Trinaldo, a bout with Ramsey Nijem could produce some more entertaining ground battles.
After beating Keith Wisniewski in his UFC debut, Ivan Jorge looked to take another step forward in the lightweight division on Saturday.
In a tight matchup, he landed only five fewer significant strikes than Rodrigo Damm. Still, he came up short on all three scorecards and suffered his first loss inside the Octagon.
Jorge could look to get back on track against Isaac Vallie-Flagg, who has also gone 1-1 inside the Octagon.
Rodrigo Damm is beginning to gain some momentum.
At UFC Fight Night 36, he beat Ivan Jorge on the scorecards. Now looking at two straight wins, the Strikeforce veteran will have a chance to advance his standing in the lightweight division.
Damm could take a step forward in a matchup with the winner of a UFC Fight Night 39 bout between Leonardo Santos and Norman Parke.
At 36 years old, Cristiano Marcello may not have many more UFC fights left in him. With losses in three of his past four appearances, the Brazilian is already in jeopardy of being released.
However, he did start well against Joe Proctor on Saturday, winning the first round on all three scorecards. Given the fact that he hasn't lost three in a row, Marcello may receive one more shot to prove himself inside the Octagon.
A UFC 170 matchup between Yosdenis Cedeno and Ernest Chavez could produce Marcello's next adversary.
Joe Proctor spent 14 months away from competition before returning to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night 36.
Following an understandably slow start, he took control against Cristiano Marcello in the second and third rounds. The turnaround came soon enough for Proctor to surpass Marcello on the scorecards and take a decision victory.
After beating Marcello, he could now meet another fellow The Ultimate Fighter 15 contestant in Vinc Pichel.
At UFC Fight Night 36, Andy Ogle had a chance to bounce back from a loss in a big way against highly touted Brazilian Charles Oliveira.
Instead, Ogle had few answers for his opponent's grappling abilities. Eventually, he was forced to tap when caught in a triangle choke during the third round.
Now having lost three of his past four fights, he is suddenly in danger of losing his UFC job. A bout with Sean Soriano could serve as a must-win.
Bouts with Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson showed Charles Oliveira wasn't quite ready to contend for a UFC championship. However, at 24 years old, the Brazilian remains one of the best young fighters in the featherweight division.
At UFC Fight Night 36, he submitted Andy Ogle to avoid a third straight loss.
"Do Bronx" can now aim at earning another fight with an elite 145-pounder. Beating the winner of a UFC Fight Night 37 matchup between Hatsu Hioki and Ivan Menjivar could vault Oliveira back into title contention.
Viscardi Andrade brought seven straight wins into his bout with Nico Musoke on Saturday.
The Brazilian scored a knockdown in the first round and appeared to be on his way to another victory. However, Musoke survived and rallied in the later rounds, controlling Andrade on the ground for more than five of the final 10 minutes.
For Andrade, it's back to the drawing board and a possible meeting with the loser of a UFC 171 matchup between Sean Spencer and Alex Garcia.
Nico Musoke entered hostile territory at UFC Fight Night 36 but was able to remain undefeated inside the Octagon.
Despite meeting Viscardi Andrade in his home country of Brazil, Musoke managed to put together a winning performance on Saturday. He was dropped in the first round, but he answered by maintaining top control for most of the final two rounds, which only saw him absorb four more significant strikes.
As the Swedish fighter looks to keep gaining momentum, he could meet the winner of that matchup between Sean Spencer and Alex Garcia.
Takenori Sato was used as a sacrificial lamb at UFC Fight Night 36.
The UFC brass wanted to ensure that young Brazilian star Erick Silva returned to the win column, so they handed him the UFC newcomer on Saturday. Sato wasn't ready for the step up in competition and was stopped via strikes in the first round.
Now, Sato should see a more favorable matchup. He could meet the loser of The Ultimate Fighter: China final between Wang Sai and Lipeng Zhang.
Following a loss to Dong Hyun Kim, Erick Silva was handed a very winnable matchup with UFC newcomer Takenori Sato.
At UFC Fight Night 36, Silva took care of business, stopping Sato with punches in the opening round. As one of only two fighters to record a finish, Silva took home a Performance of the Night bonus.
Silva can now focus on making another run at title contention. A bout with the winner of a bout between Thiago Alves and Seth Baczynski would allow Silva to take another step forward.
After winning his first six fights inside the Octagon, Francis Carmont was matched up with elite grappler Ronaldo Souza.
The matchup proved to be a difficult one for Carmont, who had been able to control previous opponents on the ground. That was not the case against Souza, who spent a large portion of the fight on Carmont's back and looking for submissions.
Following his first UFC loss, Carmont should meet Mark Munoz, who would also be capable of testing the Frenchman on the canvas.
Ronaldo Souza is only three fights into his UFC career, but he's already among the top candidates for a shot at the middleweight championship.
On Saturday, "Jacare" improved to 3-0 inside the Octagon by utilizing his world-class jiu-jitsu against Francis Carmont. Whenever the fight went to the ground, it didn't take Souza long to move to an advantageous position.
Maybe falling a step behind Lyoto Machida despite his win at UFC Fight Night 36, Souza could meet the winner of an April bout between Luke Rockhold and Tim Boetsch. That could mean a rematch of a Strikeforce championship bout between "Jacare" and Rockhold, which saw Souza lose his strap.
Gegard Mousasi's return to the middleweight division did not go as planned.
Over five rounds, he could not get much going as he faced the kicking game of Lyoto Machida. On two scorecards, Mousasi did not win a single round.
Middleweight is still probably the best place for Mousasi. If he remains at 185 pounds, a matchup with the loser of an April bout between Michael Bisping and Tim Kennedy could be interesting.
Lyoto Machida remained undefeated at 185 pounds on Saturday, but he probably would have preferred to make a bigger statement against Gegard Mousasi.
"The Dragon" looked excellent in a chess match with the former Strikeforce champion and took home Fight of the Night honors following his decision win. However, it wasn't a fight that left many screaming for Machida to get the next shot at the middleweight champion.
Still, given his resume at 205 pounds and his early success in the middleweight division, Machida has already established himself as the most intriguing contender at 185 pounds. He'll have to wait a few months, but Machida should meet the winner of a May title fight between Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort.
Statistics via FightMetric.com.