Gegard Mousasi is back, ladies and gentlemen, and he is a top-10 middleweight. No doubt about it. He made quick work of respected middleweight Mark Munoz on Saturday, beating him at his own game as he took the two-time NCAA Division I All-American down, took his back and choked him out in the first round.
The question now, of course, is "What's next?"
In the swirling middleweight division, which is high on talent and low on name value, there are plenty of options for the former Strikeforce and Dream light heavyweight champion. Who tops the list, though?
Well, the timing is perfect for this one. Minutes before Mousasi had his hand raised, CB Dollaway made a strong claim for a top-10 spot by beating Francis Carmont. While he probably won't leap that high up, he is going to finally get a number next to his name on UFC broadcasts.
Dollaway is 4-1 in his last five and could have easily been 5-0. While he lacks the name value, he has the resume to challenge Mousasi.
Unfortunately, that lack of name value is a big deal. As Matt Brown can tell you, it takes a long time to climb to the top when you've spent a long time in the middle, and for a guy like Mousasi who could be in line to fight a much bigger name, Dollaway is a tough sell.
Still, if they're both healthy and Mousasi just wants to get back into the cage as soon as possible, this might be a fight worth making.
Hendo is coming off an ugly loss to Daniel Cormier, but he expressed interest in coming back down to the middleweight division after he was woefully outmuscled by the accomplished heavyweight. While Henderson's career has hit the skids of late, he is still a legend in the sport and, as such, can still be matched against pretty much anybody outside the immediate title picture coming off a loss like the one he just suffered.
If he does indeed take that plunge back down to 185 pounds, which seems like it would be very easy to pull off considering he deflated to 198 pounds since dropping TRT, Mousasi would be a great first opponent for him.
Mousasi is currently a safe distance away from title contention, courtesy of his loss to Lyoto Machida (the current top contender), but is well-respected from his career in Japan and his time as Strikeforce's light heavyweight champion. It's a fight that would likely be appealing for both parties.
A bout between two former Strikeforce champs, Gegard Mousasi vs. Luke Rockhold is an interesting thought. Both of them have an exciting style, and both have legitimate all-over-the-cage skills. Rockhold is still desperately seeking to separate himself from his knockout loss to Vitor Belfort, and a fight with Mousasi would be a good way to do it.
Rockhold has put two big first-round stoppage wins over Costas Philippou and Tim Boetsch between him and Belfort's foot, meaning he is headed in a good direction. Mousasi seems to have noticed, too, and picked him out as a potential opponent at the post-fight presser.
This one makes a lot of sense and would be pretty darn fun to watch. Here's hoping it happens.