UFC Fight Night 21 Winners: What's Next?

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UFC Fight Night 21 Winners: What's Next?

The UFC closed out the month of March with three events in 11 days—the final one being UFC Fight Night 21 in Charlotte, N.C.

As a precursor to The Ultimate Fighter Season 11, the excitement of the fights was seemingly crushed after each bout by the 15 minutes of constant previews and commercials.

To top it all off, the lights of Bojangles Stadium went dead minutes before the fight between Roy Nelson and Stefan Struve.

Promotional ads and technical difficulties aside, the fights were about as good as they can get for a free broadcast.

Many of the odds-on favorites won their matches, so let's take a gander at possible upcoming fights for the winners.

 

Ross Pearson

Once again, Ross "The Real Deal" Pearson was given a much tougher opponent than many fans would believe—stepping into the octagon against Dennis Siver.

Siver, a German-born fighter, was riding a four-fight win streak—during which he finished off every opponent. The most notable of that streak was Siver's flawless, spinning back kick that deflated the momentum—as well as the rib cage of Paul Kelly.

Conscious of Siver's diverse attack, Pearson calmly pressed the action throughout the three-round fight. While Pearson appeared to be relaxed, Siver looked to be tentative and indecisive.

Although Pearson clearly controlled every aspect of the battle, Siver did have his moments—including a slight connection of his exalted spinning back kick, in which Pearson admitted that it tickled a bit.

Pearson earned the nod with a unanimous decision from the judges.

Now, while he won handily, let's not jump the gun and fast-track Pearson toward a title shot.

One more fight against someone on the outskirts of the top 10 would give Pearson much needed experience before battling a top-10 opponent.

UFC 113 has a fight between two guys who fit that bill, as Jeremy Stephens battles Sam Stout. Give Pearson the winner of that fight to determine if the confident Brit is really ready for the top-10 competition.

 

Jorge Rivera

Stand and bang, fellas. Much to the crowd's delight, Jorge Rivera and Nate Quarry did just that.

Many believed that whoever connected with the first big shot was going to take the fight. To the surprise of a few—including myself—Rivera was the man who connected first.

While Quarry was able to survive through the first round after being rocked numerous times, his survival skills weren't enough to ink out the victory.

Despite being visibly tired, Rivera was able to continue his heavy-handed assault on Quarry. Rivera ended up dropping him with a left hook before finishing off his opponent with strikes.

Rivera has now won three-straight fights since returning to the UFC after an extended break. Finishing his last two opponents, the UFC veteran deserves a chance to impress fans against another skilled fighter.

If Rivera is willing to wait it out three months, a perfect opponent for him would come in the form of Rousimar Palhares.

Palhares is a known threat in the art form of jiu jitsu, so it wouldn't be the type of fight that Rivera might be looking for. However, if Rivera truly wants to find his way back to the top of the division, he is going to have to test himself against his weaknesses.

 

Roy Nelson

Once again, Roy Nelson came in to the octagon and gave chunky men around the world hope that anyone can be a cage fighter—but don't let his looks fool you. Nelson got where he is today with constant training and an insane work ethic.

When the fight finally began, Nelson took all but 39 seconds to bypass the reach of Struve and end the night of the much taller opponent with an overhand right—followed by strikes once Struve hit the ground.

Two UFC fights down, with both of his opponents severely outmatched. There's no doubt that Nelson should be fighting the cream of the crop.

Now, with the lights biting the dust minutes before the fight began, the mixed martial arts gods may have been sending a message about who Nelson's next opponent should be, as Nelson was calling out James "Lights Out" Toney prior to his fight with Struve.

While that would be a potentially exciting match-up—with emphasis on potentially—a fight against Toney would actually be a huge step back in competition for Nelson, regardless of what the boxing community may think.

Nelson needs to be fighting the best of the heavyweight division—and Toney is far from that description. So give him Junior dos Santos.

Both warriors offer noticeable challenges to each other. Dos Santos could test Nelson's stand-up game, while the big man could test the ground game of the exciting heavyweight prospect.

Whoever wins that fight could potentially line himself up for a future title shot—especially if he wins impressively, which is a definite possibility between these two.

 

Kenny Florian

Well, what can you say about Kenny Florian that hasn't already been said?

The man is about as technical as they come in the UFC's lightweight division. He usually comes in with a solid game plan—as he did against former Pride superstar Takanori Gomi.

Florian controlled the pace of the entire fight on the feet, despite many people giving the striking edge to the Japanese-born fighter. He used an excellent jab to keep Gomi at bay for two rounds—as well as mixing it up with leg kicks and combinations.

In the third round, with Gomi desperately seeking a shift in momentum, Florian was able to score a takedown. From here, to quote Looney Toon's Porky Pig, "That's all, folks!"

Gomi struggled to try to break from Florian's excellent ground control, but he ultimately rolled right into a rear-naked choke. Florian wasted no time in squeezing the windpipe shut, forcing Gomi to tap out moments later.

Once again, Florian proved that he is the UFC's second-best lightweight behind B.J. Penn—regardless of his spot in the title picture.

Knowing that he's still a few spots away from his third crack at the elusive title, Florian knows that he still needs at least one more win over tough competition.

A certain undefeated, top-five fighter called out the winner of the Florian-Gomi fight a month before the bout took place. Florian, before his win over Gomi, said he would gladly fight this guy—so let's make it happen.

How about a fight between Florian and Gray Maynard to determine the next No. 1 contender for the lightweight strap? A win for either fighter should be more than enough to warrant a title shot.

 

Check out Robert Gardner's article on who the losers should fight next.

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