UFC 103 is the first fight card since UFC 92 where every fight on the main card avoided going to the judge’s scorecard. As a result, the consequences to each fighter’s career paths were clearly punctuated. Let’s take a look at the stock of each UFC 103 combatant, both rising and falling.
Vitor Belfort’s stock rose last night as rapidly as those infamous technology stocks of the late 1990’s. Belfort appears to have secured himself a title fight with a fellow Brazilian and current middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva.
When UFC President Dana White was asked at the post fight press conference about Belfort and a future title shot he simply stated, "I think Vitor might be ready now."
White went on to state that he believes Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt, who are a combined 0-2 against Silva, should duke it out to determine who deserves a rematch.
Like those technology stocks of the late 1990’s, one could argue Belfort is being overvalued here. Despite that, the combination of his name recognition and a flash win over a former champion will be enough for the phenom to shoot straight to the top of the middleweight ladder.
The only thing standing in the way of a title fight is Anderson Silva.
Silva has come off a bit erratic in his public statements as of late, and one can only guess where the current champion prefers to fight next. If Silva does balk at the idea of fighting Belfort, plan B would be a compelling rematch with Wanderlei Silva.
If a title fight does happen, it would be a perfect addition to UFC 108, also dubbed Ultimate 2009. The year-end show, which takes place January 2, is supposed to be the most marquee fight card of the year, and this year’s card currently lacks a marquee fight.
Junior Dos Santos
Pummeling a legend in the sport is always good for one's career aspirations. For Dos Santos, the victory over Mirko Cro Cop propels him into the upper echelon of the heavyweight division, or as Dana White put it, “He’s in the mix.”
Figuring out who is next for Dos Santos will be the question. One fighter who is not the answer is Antonio Nogueria. Nogueria, who is coming off his impressive UFC 102 win against Randy Couture, is the mentor to the young Brazilian fighter.
The most immediate and viable option would be a fight against Gabriel Gonzaga. Gonzaga has turned into a bit of a gatekeeper in the heavyweight division and would be one last tough test for Dos Santos before being branded ready for a title shot.
Another option would be to pit Dos Santos against the Cain Velasquez-Ben Rothwell winner—those two square off at 104. Velasquez may earn himself a title shot with a win though, unless the UFC decides to give the aforementioned Nogueria the winner of Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin.
For Daley, his fight with Martin Kampmann was filled with upside. No one expected the British Muay Thai fighter to beat Kampmann in his UFC debut, but beat him down is exactly what he did. In the process, Daley knocked out a potential opponent for champion Georges St. Pierre and threw the welterweight division into flux.
Daley will find himself squared off against a top 10 welterweight in his next fight. His aggressive fight style is something that the UFC will want to promote following a high profile win over Kampmann, and that leaves several big names available for Daley's next opponent.
One option would be to pit Daley against Mike Swick, the man who was originally slated to fight Martin Kampmann. If the UFC doesn’t want to propel Daley that fast, there are plenty of other options available in the welterweight division, like a scrap with Josh Koscheck or Carlos Condit.
Regardless of opponent, Paul Daley has sent a wrench into the welterweight mix.
Koscheck rebounded in perfect fashion from his huge upset loss to Paulo Thiago at UFC 95. A quick TKO victory over the returning Frank Trigg will get Koscheck back on track and looking for a title shot in 2010.
At the post fight press conference Koscheck said he is willing to fight anyone and at a moment's notice.
“I will fight next month if they need me to,” he declared.
Koscheck stated he would love a rematch with champion Georges St. Pierre and would also like to fight Matt Hughes if given the chance.
Given Koshceck’s willingness to fight anyone, UFC matchmaker Joe Silva can use Koscheck where needed. Picking the right opponent will be based on whether or not the UFC wants to push Koscheck back into the title picture or simply use him as a puzzle piece to book fights as needed.
Tyson Griffin had developed a reputation for exciting fights that always went to a decision. Finishing the fight against a durable opponent in Hermes Franca will serve him well as he looks to work his way back up the lightweight ladder toward a potential title shot in 2010.
A great potential fight would be with the undefeated Gray Maynard, who just beat Roger Huerta at Ultimate Fight Night 19. The only road block to booking that fight is the fact that Griffin and Maynard are teammates.
At the post fight press conference Griffin seemed to indicate he would be open to fighting Maynard if it was a fight that guaranteed a title shot. It was an answer that left Dana White smiling and stating, “This kid has all the right answers.”
If that fight does not go through, the UFC could market a rematch between Griffin and UFC veteran Sean Sherk. Sherk beat Griffin in a razor thin decision back at UFC 90, with some thinking that Griffin actually won.
Rich Franklin was knocked out for only the third time in his UFC career. The other two came courtesy of Anderson Silva. Franklin will limp back to the light heavyweight division without the momentum toward a title shot he wanted.
He will still be considered a top 10 fighter in the division though and find a fight against a similarly ranked fighter.
Looking at the light heavyweight landscape, the most immediate option would be a fight with the ultra aggressive Thiago Silva. Silva is coming off his UFC 102 win over Keith Jardine. For Franklin, he may have had his fill of fighting hard-hitting Brazilians, although he may have no other option.
If Silva is not in the cards, Franklin could fight the loser coming out of the Lyoto Machida-Shogun Rua UFC 104 title fight. Beyond that, Franklin could always be pitted against divisional gatekeeper Keith Jardine.
Mirko Cro Cop
Mirko Cro Cop is no longer the fighter that once terrorized the PRIDE organization with his brutal knockout power. Cro Cop re-signed with the UFC with the intention of making a run at the heavyweight title, but Dos Santos showed the MMA world that Cro Cop is in the twilight of his MMA career.
In post fight remarks, Cro Cop even hinted that he may in fact retire. Dana White said he will sit down with Cro Cop and figure out the dejected fighter’s next move. If Cro Cop does not ask to be let out of his contract he will most likely be used for future European cards.
Martin Kampmann was perhaps the biggest loser of the night given what he had to lose. Kampmann was originally scheduled to fight Mike Swick in what was being billed as a number one contenders fight.
The loss to Daley completely eliminates Kampmann from any shot at a title fight in the already crowded welterweight division.
Kampmann will likely be pitted against the loser of an upcoming welterweight fight. A potential opponent could come from either the Jon Fitch vs. Ricardo Almeida UFC 106 fight or Thiago Alves vs. Paulo UFC 107 fight.
Like Mirko Cro Cop, Frank Trigg came back to the UFC to make one last run at a title. That run was quickly thwarted by the crisp striking of Josh Koscheck. Trigg will now finish out his MMA career as a gatekeeper in the crowded welterweight division.
Beyond playing the role of gatekeeper, one last marketable fight for Trigg would be a match with short time welterweight champion Matt Serra. The fight would feature two UFC veterans who once made waves throughout the division.