Former TUF finalist Brendan Schaub achieved the biggest win of his career against faded legend Mirko Cro Cop last night at UFC 128.
After a very competitive fight that Schaub could have been behind in after a point was deducted from him for hitting Cro Cop behind the head in the second round, Schaub countered a left kick from Cro Cop with a right hand and knocked him out in the third round.
The win made it four in a row for Schaub, with three of them coming by knockout.
Schaub is a young heavyweight that is still learning, but with this kind of a win, a step up in competition is inevitable. Schaub is now a recognizable name in the UFC, so there are plenty of interesting options for him.
Here are five possibilities to consider as Schaub's next opponent.
Former title challenger Shane Carwin has been sitting out of action since he let the title slip out of his exhausted hands against Brock Lesnar at UFC 116.
Carwin has undergone a successful neck surgery in his time off, and is expected to return at UFC 131, but no opponent has been named.
Considering the cut sustained on Schaub's eyelid, UFC 131 in June might be a little too soon for his return. Still, the UFC could easily move the fight back another month if Carwin vs. Schaub was a matchup they were interested in.
This would be a massive step up in competition for Schaub, as Carwin is a much more dangerous fighter than faded versions of Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop. The UFC would probably not put Schaub in this deep of water just yet, but Carwin is going to need a name heavyweight to fight.
Heavyweight contenders Stefan Struve and Travis Browne are scheduled to meet at UFC 130 in May.
The 6'11" Struve is coming off of two straight come-from-behind wins over Christian Morecraft and Sean McCorkle. At this point, fans can be assured that Struve will always make it fun.
Travis Browne most recently fought to a draw against Cheick Kongo back at UFC 120. Prior to that, he stopped James McSweeney in the first round in June.
As long as the winner doesn't sustain a bad cut, which probably won't be the case with a fighter like Struve, a fight between Schaub and the winner could be made for sometime around late August.
Veteran strikers Cheick Kongo and Pat Barry are scheduled to face off at UFC on Versus 4, June 26.
The loser will basically be rendered to journeyman status, while the winner will set himself up for a notable fight.
Barry rebounded from a third-round submission to Mirko Cro Cop by earning a competitive decision win over Joey Beltran in January.
Kongo has not fought since battling to a draw against Travis Browne at UFC 120, in a fight that saw Kongo land several low blows.
The winner of this bout would make an exciting opponent for Schaub, as all three of these fighters have knockout power and good skills on the feet.
The former PRIDE heavyweight champ and UFC titlist is currently recovering from hip surgery, but is expected to return to action around August.
In his last fight, Nogueira was knocked out in the first round against future champion Cain Velasquez.
It is hard to say what Nogueira has left at this point of his career, but considering Schaub just knocked out a former legend in Mirko Cro Cop, why not pit him against another faded legend?
A win for Schaub would help boost him into the top-10 rankings, while a win for Nogueira would revitalize his career and set up a UFC main event.
I have a good feeling this is the direction the UFC is leaning.
Brendan Schaub was originally scheduled to face former champ Frank Mir at UFC 128, but the UFC reconsidered the idea after needing a co-main event at UFC 130 and using Mir and Roy Nelson for the job.
Now that Schaub matched Mir by also knocking out Mirko Cro Cop in their previous fights, a fight with him or Nelson would make a lot of sense.
Nelson is coming off of a unanimous decision loss to top contender Junior Dos Santos that saw Nelson dropped and hurt by several punches. Still, he showed a lot of heart in surviving.
Mir, as previously stated, knocked out Cro Cop in his last fight, after boring the crowd to tears for the first 14 minutes of the fight. If he can't get a win in his next two fights, the UFC may very well be done with him.
The winner of Mir vs. Nelson would be a nice step up in competition for Schaub, and give him the opportunity to put another former titlist's name on his resume. It would make a good co-main event for an event in August or September.