Who's Got Next? 25 MMA Fighters Who are Hungry for Some Competition

Dale De Souza@@DaleDeSouzaMMAAnalyst IAugust 11, 2010

Who's Got Next? 25 MMA Fighters Who are Hungry for Some Competition

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    UFC 117 is in the books as of this past Saturday night along with last month's UFC 116, and now the question is "when are these guys going to fight next?"

    Easy question for some, as Brock Lesnar already has a fight with Cain Velasquez, Brendan Schaub already has a fight upcoming with Gabriel Gonzaga — both fights will happen at UFC 121, and Chris Lytle will meet Matt Serra in a rematch of their Welterweight Final from The Ultimate Fighter 4 finale when the UFC comes to Indianapolis for UFC 119.

    Yoshihiro Akiyama has a bout with Michael Bispng on his hands for UFC 120 in England, and the Quinton Jackson-Lyoto Machida bout that fans have been waiting for will finally happen at UFC 123.

    That just leaves everyone else on the UFC 116 card, along with basically everyone from UFC 117 in Oakland.

    Where do they go from here?

    Well... let's have a look and try to figure it out.

Let's Kick This off in the Lightweight Division!

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    First up, the Lightweight Division!

    If you're bothered by Frankie's picture, don't worry. BJ Penn has the chance to change that in a few weeks when these two throw down again in Boston.

1. Takanori Gomi

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    Has Takanori Gomi changed some minds or what?

    I mean, he comes in with a less-than-impressive debut against Kenny Florian and then he nabs his first "KO of the night" bonus by knocking out Tyson Griffin in his second UFC fight.

    So with no timetable defined for the return of Joe Stevenson, the man who was originally supposed to face Gomi on the UFC's second Versus card,  who do you line up next for the former PRIDE Lightweight Champion?

    Whoever you please, I suppose. Gomi's a gamer either way.

    He could've passed on Griffin, but he still wanted to fight even though he knew he had to alter his strategy a bit.

    If he can do that with a short-notice change in opponents, I like what I think he can do when he takes on his next foe in the UFC.

2. George Sotiropoulos

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    The season six favorite of The Ultimate Fighter had a rough night with Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 116, but he came out a winner without much debate.

    The battle of submission specialists served as a reminder why anyone in MMA should keep their eyes on these two lightweights.

    In a deep lightweight pool, anyone from Jim Miller to Sean Sherk could be lined up for George — provided Sherk gets by Evan Dunham at UFC 119, and Miller survives Gleison Tibau at UFC Fight Night 22.

    Anyone could face Sotipoulos though and attempt to knock him down a peg on the UFC lightweight ladder.

    Just don't call it an easy feat when it happens.

3. Tyson Griffin

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    It ain't how hard you can hit. It's how hard you can get hit and how hard you bring it after you've been it.

    The Gomi loss hit Tyson Griffin harder than the actual shot did, and who's going to blame him for taking the loss pretty hard?

    It's not easy to bounce back when you get knocked clean out, but I think if anyone can and will be able to do it, Griffin can.

    It's just like in Rocky III, Tyson -- only you didn't lose the UFC Lightweight Title to someone who was a scary beast at 155.

    The fact is, up until the loss to Gomi, his "eye of the tiger" at least kept him and his chin away from serious damage, even scoring him some clean KOs along the way.

    Now is the time for Tyson Griffin to reinvent Tyson Griffin in order to get the "eye of the tiger" back where it belongs.

    If Griffin can do that, then in no time at all, we'll see Tyson Griffin get back to where he belongs: in the upper echelon of the UFC 155-lb. division.

    Although whoever faces him next would probably beg to differ.

4. Kurt Pellegrino

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    Batman is a lot of things, among those is a standout at lightweight in the UFC, but he's not a champion and he's not the guy who walked out of UFC 116 with a win.

    So who do you give him after Sotiropoulos?

    Why not someone with good submission defense and takedown defense mixed with KO power, or someone else at 155 with the same slick submission skills and BJJ expertise that Kurt Pellegrino has?

    Maybe a rematch with Sotiropoulos might work, but afterwards who can you line him up with without wrecking your brain cells trying to put him up against Florian?

    You tell me.

5. Joe Stevenson

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    He was supposed to be in that fight Tyson Griffin lost against Takanori Gomi.

    He's now on the outside looking in, waiting to make a return to the cage.

    No one's lined up for Daddy at the moment, so he's got no one to spank in the cage.

    Could Griffin be the first challenger to the original Welterweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter?

    Could Stevenson prove himself to be a strong, world-class machine by going a round or two with Gomi?

    Maybe there's someone else that could be better for Stevenson...

    Who's it going to be?

Next up, in the Welterweight Division!

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    The class headed by one of the sport's true epitomes of the word "class" comes in next on the list, as some of their own have guys on the outside looking in as well.

    Definitely can't call GSP one of those guys unless Koscheck somehow gets injured, which I hope doesn't happen.

    Chris Lytle's not on the outside either (Thank goodness), what with his UFC 119 bout with Matt Serra looming.

    So who does that leave?

6. Anthony Johnson

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    Rumble hasn't been seen in action since UFC 106 thanks to a knee injury, and at that time he was in a war with Josh Koscheck.

    Since the knee injury, talks were coming up that the injury, coupled with the struggle to cut weight, were all to be factors in Rumble's move to middleweight;

    Rumble insisted that he'd only take one fight at middleweight but he'd stay at 170.

    Kinda makes you wonder... who the heck can he tackle next?

    He couldn't beat Koscheck, but maybe he could handle Mike Swick somewhere down the line...

    ... Your move, Joe Silva.

7. Ricardo Almeida

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    For those who had begun to watch MMA this past weekend and are still new to the sport, I'll give you a very quick yet complex crash course of who these two guys are.

    The guy on the right is a UFC Hall Of Famer who's been a Welterweight Champ in the UFC twice before.

    The guy on the left is the guy he beat on Saturday.

    How does Ricardo Almeida bounce back from a fight that seemed to have intensity all over it?

    However the UFC decides to do it.

    Anyone that could counter the strengths of Almeida, which aren't limited to the BJJ skills, could make for some fireworkds with the Big Dog.

    Just make sure you stick the "Beware of Dog" sign on the cage before you let Almeida's opponent in the cage with him.

    He may not have shown it in Oakland, but he's still a dangerous man.

8. Jake Ellenberger

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    A dominant yet criticized victory over John "Doomsday" Howard that left Howard's eye disgustingly brutalized is reason enough to put the rising welterweight in the mix.

    Besides, he's not next in line for anyone.

    He took out Howard, and a test of the waters in the upper echelon at this point could result in some harmful consequences for Ellenberger, but it shouldn't be too long before he reaches that level.

    Who will he fight next?

    Who knows?

    Whoever it is, a victory over him could put Ellenberger's name with the elite at Weltterweight.

    It'll take some time, but don't be surprised if he earns himself a shot at the belt in the next few years.

9. John Hathaway

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    One of the most talked about welterweight prospects in the division, Hathaway does have an opponent in Mike Pyle at UFC 120.

    After that fight though is where the question comes up about the next challenge for the young 22-year-old British sensation.

    Depending on how he finishes Pyle, if he does beat Pyle, he could fight someone that's perhaps a top 20 fighter, though I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that he would.

    He'd have to impress pretty well before he got a top 20 fighter. Who knows, maybe one day Dan Hardy or Martin Kampmann or some other top-ranked UFC welterweight stands across the cage from Hathaway.

    Hey, you gotta beat the best to be the best, right?

10. Jon Fitch

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    Turns out that Dana White is a little iffy on the stip he put behind Fitch-Alves II on Saturday.

    Fitch was supposed to get the winner of GSP-Koscheck II in December, but I guess the fight may not happen that quickly.

    Okay, so it was really the title fight that Dana was iffy about. I don't see any iffiness from him when he says Fitch will challenge for the belt even if Kos is the champ, though.

    Either way, if the fight isn't for a while, then Fitch is on the outside looking in for a while.

    Whether another opponent for Fitch is a good idea or not, at least Fitch won't have to battle through ring rust when he faces the champ.

Moving Along to the Middleweight Division!

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    Lots of boys on the fence in Middleweight, and one of them is actually the champ himself...

11. Anderson Silva

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    He went to hell and back with Chael Sonnen, slapping on a Triangle Choke that cause Chael to tap near the end of round five.

    Now, Anderson Silva is still UFC Middleweight Champion and despite his human traits is the pound for pound king of MMA once more.

    The only thing he isn't right now is 100%, a fact once thought to be an excuse for the four-and-a-half rounds in which he made no attempt to thwart Sonnen.

    He's got a cracked rib, nothing broken, but he can't come back until sometime in early 2011, so pinpointing a fight for Anderson would be difficult to touch on unless the opponent openly agreed to throw it entirely.

    A healthy Silva being beaten beats the hell out of an unhealthy Silva being beaten

    Even still, it's tough to find a way to really beat Silva. even if you're Chael Sonnen, and he did it in almost 25 minutes

    Now who says that Silva still only crushes cans?

12. Chael Sonnen

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    He's the only person to ever decimate Silva to the point of almost winning the entire fight by decision.

    Sonnen did what no one could but still came up short in the fight.

    Does Sonnen's performance warrant a rematch or a reward for his efforts, though?

    That's the question everyone including myself has been asking.

    Maybe a rematch with Anderson does happen though, or maybe Sonnen faces a striker with equally insane cardio in Brazilian speed demon Vitor "The Phenom" Belfort.

    Or maybe Nate Marquardt beats Rousimar Palhares in Austin and desires to prove to the world that, to quote the great Burgess Meredith in Rocky II, "it was nothin' but a FREAK the first time out."

    I wouldn't say it, personally, because a win over a contender to me puts you in a pretty good spot in line for a shot at the belt, even if it's not an immediate shot, which Sonnen wasn't supposed to have yet.

    Something tells me Sonnen will be back in line for a shot at the belt, and that's regardless of whether or not Silva is still champ by that time.

13. Vitor Belfort

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    The Phenom's out of action at the moment, and Dana White has said that nowadays, the shot at the Middleweight title isn't in dried ink because it has no lock on it as a possible direction to steer Silva towards.

    Where do you take Vitor from there?

    He's got no guaranteed shot at the belt anymore, and many thought that the win over Rich Franklin was enough of a statement to make.

    Okay, so if a victory over Rich wasn't enough of a statement for Vitor, then look at the roster and tell me someone besides Silva and Sonnen that could bring up one problem for Vitor Belfort.

    He earned a spot in the rankings for a title shot when he KOed Ace in Dallas, but as long as he's on the sidelines, it would be to the UFC's advantage to have him face someone else in the cage when he's cleared to come back.

    It doesn't hurt to make sure there's no cage rust, does it?

14. Wanderlei Silva

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    The Axe Murderer was supposed to be the man Akiyama faced at UFC 116, but an injury forced him out, opening up the gates for "The Crippler" Chris Leben to step in — two weeks after snapping Aaron Simpson's perfect record, I might add.

    Now, Wanderlei's out of action with a bummed knee that recently had to undergo surgery.

    The timetable on his return isn't known as of yet, but one thing is for certain, and that's one thing that the one-man-welcoming-committee for Wanderlei had better keep in mind:

    Even though Wanderlei hasn't been swinging the axe since UFC 110, that doesn't make the axe any less sharper.

    In other words, Wanderlei is still one scary-tough motherf**ker.

15. Chris Leben

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    He used to be that nutcase from the original Ultimate Fighter.

    He's now the guy everyone hopes is the UFC's first choice for a replacement every time a middleweight gets injured.

    Can you blame the Leben fans?

    He's one of the toughest and grittiest fighters in the promotion, and he's fought a who's who.

    Will Wanderlei Silva be the next target for The Crippler?

    I can't tell you for sure.

    Maybe it's a rematch with the winner of Akiyama Vs. Bisping.

    Maybe Ryan Jensen gets injured and Leben has to be the guy that officially welcomes Court McGee into the UFC at UFC 121.

    Or maybe he faces off with some cardio machine in Sonnen or Belfort for a shot at Anderson.

    I don't see anywhere for Leben to go except up, either way.

THE CO-MAIN EVENT, in the Light Heavyweight Division!!

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    It's a light heavyweight ensemble of guys on the outside looking in -- an ensemble that doesn't exclude champ Mauricio Rua either,

16. Rampage Jackson

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    He's an angry Tennessee animal who can and probably will slam you until you forget you even had a career, yet a loss to Rashad Evans made people forget that Quinton was a former UFC champion.

    He's scheduled to face Lyoto Machida in Anaheim this fall, but if he should win, where does that put him?

    The UFC Light Heavyweight Championship scene is in disarray at the moment with Rua gone from injury, but with Rampage beating Machida, the title could wind up back on Rampage's shoulder.

17. Rashad Evans

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    He beat Rampage for a shot at Shogun, and now he's the new number one contender...

    ... Or so we all thought, before Shogun got injured.

    Now the question is in the air about who Rashad faces next, or rather, if he should face Shogun for the belt or Machida.

    The difference: One's a rematch, and one's not.

    Either event aside, Evans needs to be prepared thoroughly for his next fight and possibly expand his skill set beyond his wrestling.

    If not, "Suga" may turn sour... after he's looking up at the lights, of course.

18. Mauricio Rua

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    A knee injury suffered while being taken down by Lyoto Machida has people wondering when Shogun will be back.

    Many thought Rashad Evans would be the first opponent for the new champ, but with Shogun out, the question of the bout and whether it'll still commence as planned in still very much at hand.

    Looks like it'll be a while before the champ makes his first title defense.

19. Jon Jones

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    Jon Jones has made quite the impact as of late, finishing Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko after suffering a controversial DQ loss to Matt Hamill.

    Now, the Most Valuable Prospect in the UFC is hungry for more action, looking to fight off anyone who wants to challenge him. and the only definite is that his opponent won't be Shogun, Rashad Evans, or Forrest Griffin...

    I still say it could happen, Forrest. It couldn't suck that bad if you faced Bones.

    Oh well, I could dream.

20. Chuck Liddell

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    This guy is already a legend, but he's got a recent history of losing in the cage.

    He's supposed to be retired in the UFC right now, but I foresee this upcoming year being the same as this year and last year for Liddell.

    Dana begs Chuck to wrap it up, Chuck gets beaten, Chuck is "forced" to check himself out of active competition, and then BOOM! goes the dynamite: Chuck is back in the cage.

    But if he does get to fight Tito in his first fight back, where is he going to go from there?

    Sure, there's young talent for him to face, but how do we know that Chuck can hang with any of this young talent?

    We may not know that he can't, but we also aren't sure that he can.

    He may have the chance to prove us all wrong sometime in the future, but I think he might do well to just leave his career on the note that it's on now.

OUR MAIN EVENT, in the Heavyweight Division!

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    Even the big boys ain't shy of a few guys on the outside looking in.

    The champ's no problem — he's got Cain Velasquez at UFC 121, and if he gets by him, he'll have Junior "Cigano" Dos Santos waiting for him at a later date.

    Brendan Schaub and Jon Madsen are slated for the card too, as Schaub faces Gabriel Gonzaga and Madsen faces Todd Duffee.

    Travis Browne, best known as the man who made a stunning debut at The Ultimate Fighter 11 Finale by beating James McSweeney, will be the man testing Cheick Kongo at UFC 120.

    So who does that leave in the UFC's largest weight class?

21. Shane Carwin

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    The fact that Brock Lesnar beat Shane Carwin by an Arm Triangle completely overshadowed the fact that Shane Carwin finally lost a fight.

    It happens, Shane.

    Even Fedor lost a fight.

    All it means is that Shane's going to have to cross over to a different dimension the next time he fights.

    That might mean troubling Marquardt for some lesson in BJJ so that he can move up a belt or two, or it might mean using another person's triangle choke attempt to score a win by way of a slam.

    Maybe it could mean throwing a few kicks into the mix, if Carwin really wants to stand and bang.

    Duke Roufus, anyone? Hey, worked for Pat Barry.

    Not to say "change camps", because Greg Jackson is one of, if not the BEST damn trainer in the sport of MMA, but a little outside help never hurt anyone.

    If he does that, then the opponent he faces might have to worry about dangerous all-around striking as well as explosive wrestling.

    Whoever can do that, I will be deeply impressed with.

22. Mirko Filipovic

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    Beating Pat Barry is by no means an easy feat, and contrary to popular belief, neither is beating Cro Cop.

    He supposedly has retired from the sport after wins over Anthony Perosh and Barry, but how do we know that Cro Cop himself is done with the sport.

    Couture's long since passed his prime, and he can still kick some ass.

    Cro Cop's proven that even though he may not be in line for one more run at a title, he can still hang with the best at heavyweight in 2010.

    That's what the Pat Barry fight was about.

    I think Cro Cop needs a smooth takedown artist and/or a strong BJJ expert to counter his revered kickboxing game.

    Thing is, he's already face Minotauro and Junior Dos Santos already has an opponent waiting for him with a belt at stake.

    So... would that basically leave Frank Mir open for a fight after Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 119?

    It could. After Cro Cop's last fight, I don't think it'd be wise to say that Mir would "destroy" Mirko.

    Maybe Mirko still has one more kick left in him.

23. Roy Nelson

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    An iron chin and a stomach like a brick wall with padding for a cover.

    Roy Nelson proved he had both of those when he went fifteen minutes with Junior Dos Santos in Oakland this past Saturday.

    The shots that would have ended a normal opponent in the first fifteen seconds of a fight didn't take Big Country off the map in fifteen minutes.

    That tells you something about Nelson.

    That tells you he's a tough SOB who will one day become the UFC's next big thing.

    For now though, he's going to have to look to the present, and his next opponent in the Octagon.

    It sure isn't going to be Lesnar, the JDS fight didn't end in controversy, Cain's got next against Brock, and Frank Mir has another fifteen minutes for Minotauro at UFC 119.

    But what about after UFC 121, just to give Nelson a bit of a break?

    Maybe the field could be more open at that time.

    Or maybe the loss to JDS puts that bout with Cheick Kongo back into "possibility mode"

    It's the UFC's call, but it should still be something of a crazy fight.

24. Stefan Struve

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    What a way to rebound from a KO loss, huh?

    He had a rough first round with Christian Morecraft in Oakland only to finish the newcomer off in the second round.

    Struve, a submission expert who does have KO power and long limbs, yet possesses the physique of something other than a heavyweight. is a threat in any aspect of the game.

    The perfect foil? A fighter who is equally well-rounded and can give Struve the same problems he presents for any fighter.

25. Ben Rothwell

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    After a win over Gilbert Yvel at UFC 115, the question now is who gets Big Ben next?

    Will it be a striker who can end Rothwell on the feet or even on the ground?

    Will it be a powerful takedown artist that can take down, ground, and pound Big Ben when he's on his back?

    Maybe it's a submission expert who can get Rothwell in a bad spot and crank the neck or an extremity to force a tap.

    Good luck getting any of the above on Rothwell though. The guy is tough as nails and can finish from anywhere he chooses.

    He's a threat to his opponent just as much as his opponent is a threat to him.


    Anybody I missed? Let me know, and leave your comments in the comments section.

    Thanks for viewing the slideshow!


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    Well, for now at least, but keep your eye on those UFC fighters who are looking to get back in the Octagon.

    The next time you see them, they could be on their way towards a title shot