UFC 106 Winners: What's Next?

Robert GardnerSenior Analyst INovember 23, 2009

LAS VEGAS - NOVEMBER 21: Ben Saunders (R) battles Marcus Davis (L) during their Welterweight Fight at the UFC 106 at Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 21, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images)
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

UFC 106 was the finale for a stellar month of fight cards, and while this particular card underwent many changes along the way, it was able to create some excitement.

Ben Saunders showed us that he is for real, and we learned that Anthony Johnson is not quite ready for the spotlight. “Little Nog,” Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, put the light-heavyweight division on notice with his impressive first-round TKO of Luis Cane in his UFC debut.

After spending some time looking over various rankings and upcoming events, let’s take a look at the fights that would make the most sense for the UFC 106 winners.

Ben Saunders

Ideally, this article is set to focus on only the main card participants, but after the performance that Ben Saunders gave Saturday night, his future deserves to be mentioned here.

Displaying deadly accuracy and power, Saunders dismantled the always-game Marcus Davis. Saunders was able to do something no one else could, handing Davis his first career TKO loss. The Thai clinch was where Saunders was able to deliver the majority of his punishment by utilizing his vicious knees. Saunders deserves a step-up in competition and Anthony Johnson is just the test that Saunders needs.

In Saunders’ lone venture into the upper echelon, Saunders was defeated by Mike Swick. Johnson is in a similar boat, having been exposed as not ready by contender Josh Koscheck. Both Saunders and Johnson are rising stars in the welterweight division and both have displayed impressive striking.

This is a matchup that the fans could really get behind, one that would decide which of these two young guns is ready for the next step.

Amir Sadollah

TUF 7 winner, Amir Sadollah, did exactly what he needed to do Saturday night. He not only earned the victory over veteran Phil Baroni, but also displayed impressive Muay Thai. Sadollah now has his first post-TUF win under his belt and he is ready for something more.

The UFC realizes that Sadollah is still a pretty raw talent, so it is likely that they will try to build his confidence while offering matchups that will test his growth. The name that has to be atop the list right now is Paul Taylor. Taylor is an exciting fighter that will push the pace and test the will of Sadollah.

Taylor has yet to be in a disappointing fight and if Sadollah and the UFC want to build some momentum going forward, Taylor is someone you want to go through. Taylor already has three Fight of the Night honors to his credit and he has just enough name recognition to the casual fanbase that the matchup would create some buzz. A win over Taylor would not only build confidence for Sadollah, but it would also push him into that middle tier of welterweight competitors.

Paulo Thiago

Thiago was able to earn a unanimous decision victory over UFC newcomer Jacob Volkman. The victory really needed to be more impressive to move into any title talk, though.

After being screwed over by Karo Parisyan, Dustin Hazlett’s dance card is now empty. It’s very likely that the UFC will get “McLovin” onto a card as soon as possible, but he would be a great matchup for Paulo Thiago. Both Thiago and Hazlett come from strong BJJ backgrounds and both have improving striking. A win over a fan favorite like Hazlett could help to build some hype around Thiago.

This is not a fight that is main event worthy at all, not even for an UFN. But, it is a matchup that would really gauge where Thiago is. Thiago only has a flash KO win over Koscheck, a UD loss to Fitch, and a UD win over Volkman, so the jury is still very much out about what kind of fighter Thiago really is. Taking on an experienced and effective grappler like Dustin Hazlett would go a long way towards clearing that up.

Josh Koscheck

By getting back to basics, Josh Koscheck showed that he is worthy of title consideration. Kos displayed superior wrestling and submission skills in his victory over the talented, yet unproven, Anthony Johnson.

It’s well-documented that Koscheck is against the idea of fighting either of his AKA teammates, so it makes figuring out a future matchup that much more difficult. The name that pops out, though, is Thiago Alves. Yes, Alves already holds a UD victory over Koscheck, but Koscheck took that fight on two weeks notice, so it’s worth a second look.

Alves is a devastating striker, but has shown that he is vulnerable against elite-level wrestlers. Wrestling is what Koscheck does best. It would be interesting to see how different the fight would go had Koscheck been able to devote an entire training camp to preparing for Alves. A win leaves no question as to why Koscheck deserves a title shot.

Forrest Griffin and Antonio Rogerio Nogueria

With a big win over an aging Tito Ortiz on Saturday night, Forrest Griffin proved that he is still a force to be reckoned with in the light-heavyweight division. Griffin displayed that he is no longer the simple brawler, but rather an evolving fighter with well-rounded skills.

Little Nog, on the other hand, made his debut in impressive fashion by displaying crisp, powerful boxing. Nogueria deserves to be in the title discussion and will be looking for a fight that will cement his status in the UFC.

The fight that makes the most sense right now is to pair Griffin and Nogueria. Griffin and Little Nog are both searching for their place in the division and a fight between the two would go a long way towards creating some separation between title contenders and pretenders.

While this is a matchup that could no doubt carry a PPV, it is more likely that this fight would be a solid co-headliner to add depth. A win for Nogueria would likely make him the new number one contender and earn him a future title shot. If Griffin were to win, it would still leave him at least one victory from contention, but it would be a feather in his cap; defeating the teammate of the man who embarrassed him.

For those interested in where the UFC 106 losers go from here, check out Sterling Spiar's latest article.