UFC 129 Aftermath: What's Next for the Main Card Fighters?
Last night's UFC 129 event may have not had the most exciting main event, but all in all, it was a very successful and highly entertaining night of fights. As with all of the UFC's events, there's always a ton of questions that need to be answered the morning after.
Let's take a look at the 10 fighters who were on the pay-per-view portion of the card and what lies in store for them. Who is up next for UFC Champions Jose Aldo and Georges St. Pierre? Where does Jake Shields go from here and how will he react after losing for the first time in over six years?
Is Lyoto Machida ll on the way back, or was he just too quick and too young for Randy Couture to keep up with? No matter how that question gets answered, one thing is for sure: Couture went out doing what he loved most, fighting in front of millions of fans.
We may never see a fighter who did so much, so late in his career, always against younger, stronger opponents. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank "The Natural," aka "Captain America, for being who he is and helping this sport grow the way it has.
The former WEC Lightweight Champion walked into hostile territory against a very tough, very game veteran in Mark Bocek. Fighting for the first time since losing his title in an epic battle against Anthony Pettis at WEC 53 in December, Henderson used an array of powerful striking and terrific composure to outpoint the Toronto native.
Time and time again, Bocek looked for the take-down, and although he was able to land a few, he could not inflict any damage or seriously threaten with any submission attempts. Henderson took this opportunity to put the rest of the UFC's lightweights on notice.
So what's next for Tae Kwon Do Black Belt? The fan in me would love to see him take on Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez. Both men are powerful, intelligent, ever growing fighters who don't know the meaning of the word quit.
Henderson will more than likely face a top 10 UFC lightweight, and one that comes to mind is Jim Miller. The New jersey native has won seven straight fights and would offer a very stern test for Henderson. Other than Miller, most of the UFC's other top lightweights are booked.
Having lost two of his last three bouts and carrying an overall UFC record of 5-4, Bocek may find himself on very thin ice. He has losses to UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar, Henderson, Miller and Mac Danzig. He has yet to breakthrough and defeat any of the top UFC lightweights. He could be kept on the roster as a gatekeeper or possibly moved over to Strikeforce.
There is one fighter in the UFC I would like to see him paired up with, and that's Kurt Pellegrino. They are both coming off of losses and desperately need a win. Both fighters rely heavily on their Jiu-Jitsu to help them win their bouts while possessing less than stellar striking.
With a roster of solid fighters in the 155 lb. division, there isn't any room for dead weight. Bocek is by no means a bum, but nothing speaks louder in the UFC than wins, solid consecutive wins, something Bocek hasn't been able to accomplish.
I for one wan't overly impressed with "The Janitor's" quick knockout of journeyman Jason Brilz last night. He caught him with a good shot and pounced on his opponent and earned a very quick 20 second TKO. It didn't prove anything, other than Brilz is probably not long for the UFC and that Matyushenko still has some power in his hands.
I found it laughable that Matyushenko wants another shot at the Light Heavyweight Title before he retires. Does he really think the fans want to see him get elbowed over and over again in the face by Jon Jones in the same fashion he was the first time they met at UFC on Versus 2 last August? He had no business being matched up with Jones then and has no business even sniffing the title ever again.
There is one fight that really makes sense for the Russian, a third bout with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. The two each own a victory in their first two meetings, and neither man has much going on, as Nogueira is coming off a loss to Phil Davis last month. It shouldn't matter that Nogueira is coming off two losses in a row and Matyushenko is riding a two fight win streak.
The first time the two met was in August of 2002. Matyushenko walked away with a unanimous decision win. A little over six years later, the two met at Affliction: Day of reckoning, and Nogueira knocked out Matyushenko with a knee. Why not get these two together one more time and allow one man to own the bragging rights?
Unfortunately the UFC has booked Nogueira to fight former UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin at UFC 133 in August. Why not match-up Matyushenko with the winner of the Tito Ortiz-Ryan Bader fight scheduled for UFC 132 in July?
In all honesty, last night was probably the last time Brilz will ever step inside the Octagon again. With two losses in a row, a paltry record of 3-3 record in the UFC and nothing that makes him stand out, Brilz's 15 minutes of fame is over. He can go back on the regional circuit and concentrate on coaching the wrestling team at the University of Nebraska-Ohama.
Machida was really in a no-win situation last night as he stepped into the Octagon against UFC Hall of Famer and former two division UFC Champion Randy Couture. If he lost to the 47-year-old Couture, Machida would be riding a three fight losing streak and would have lost to a man 15 years his elder.
If he defeated Couture, fans would say he was supposed to and it doesn't really prove much. Well, Machida took the opportunity and turned in a solid performance punctuated by one of the most amazing highlight reel knockout kicks in the UFC's history. He sent Couture and his tooth crashing to the canvas and into retirement with one swift crane kick that will most certainly be part of UFC highlight reels for years to come.
Before the kick, Machida showed the elusiveness and pinpoint striking that made him the fighter who handed former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans his first professional loss back in May of 2009. He looked relaxed and fought like he had nothing to lose. He didn't let the pressure of fighting in front of 55,000 fans and, in what was potentially Couture's last fight, get to him.
So what's next for the "The Dragon," is a tough question to answer. He could potentially take on Rampage Jackson if Jackson defeats Matt Hammil at UFC 130. The two met at UFC 123, and Rampage was awarded a controversial split-decision victory. Maybe the two could meet at UFC Rio in August?
Or he could wait and face the winner of the rematch between two former champions in Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and Forrest Griffin at UFC Rio in August. Other than that, there aren't too many other options, unless Phil Davis defeats Evans at UFC 133 and the UFC doesn't want to feed Davis to Jon Jones just yet. Machida could slide in and take on Jones.
Captain America Aka the Natural- Randy Couture
There isn't much more that I could day that already hasn't been said a million times. Randy Couture is a gentleman, a pioneer, a fighter, a teacher and an ambassador for the sport of mixed martial arts. A five time, two division champion who took on all challenges head on and who, along with Chuck Liddell, helped propel this great sport by becoming the first coaches on The Ultimate Fighter.
So maybe we didn't get our fairytale ending last night; you know, the one where Couture defies the odds one last time and defeats Lyoto Machida to end his career on a high note, but he went out on his own terms and no one can ever take that away from him. The sight of watching Machida raise Couture's hands and listening to him call Randy a hero is something I will never forget.
We'll have our favorite moments in this sport. Mine is watching Couture come out of retirement, move back up to heavyweight and planting Tim Sylvia on his ample rear at UFC 68 to capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship. I can watch that fight over and over again and never get tired of it.
Thank you, Randy Couture, for that moment and so many others.
UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo
Jose Aldo made his first defense of the newly created UFC Championship last night a successful one, but not before showing some chinks in his armor and narrowly surviving a hellacious fifth round that saw challenger Mark Hominick turn up the heat. Aldo started off the fight with his usual array of punishing leg kicks and stiff combinations, but he seemed to tire rather quickly, allowing Hominick to hang on a lot longer than most thought he would.
Some have said Aldo had a rough weight cut, but he refused to use that as an excuse; that is something a true champion does. He paid Hominick the credit he deserved for hanging in there and putting on a fight that was very deserving of "The Fight of the Night," bonus. Being on the shelf for seven months could have hindered Aldo, and I am sure the next time we see him, he will be stronger than ever.
So when do we see him again? Apparently that has already been decided, as he will face Chad Mendes at UFC 133 in Philadelphia on August 6. Mendes is a teammate of Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez at Team Alpha Male. He has yet to lose in 10 career professional bouts, including wins over Michihiro Omigawa, Javier Vasquez, Cub Swanson and Erik Koch.
Mendes's strength is his wrestling, but much like Faber and Benavidez he has solid striking and looked very impressive against Omigawa at UFC 126, dominating the Japanese superstar and handing him his first loss after five consecutive wins. Aldo will be the favorite, but he is in for a tough fight.
"The Machine" gained a lot of new fans last night, including yours truly. I had always enjoyed watching him fight, but the gritty, gutsy performance he put on last night, along with a huge heart and a strong overall game, had me shaking my head the entire 25 minutes he was locked inside the Octagon with Aldo. I for one would pay whatever was asked to watch him and Aldo go at it again.
So where does he go from here? To be honest, he shouldn't be too far from gaining a rematch with Aldo or whomever is the UFC Featherweight Champion by the end of the year. Josh Grispi, the man Hominick replaced as number one contender, has a date with George Roop, the man Hominick defeated to earn the right to face Aldo, at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 13. I can't think of a better match-up for either man. Winner takes on the winner of Aldo-Mendes, who will fight at UFC 133 in August.
UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre
Depending on how you look at things, GSP either looked almost human last night or Jake Shields actually proved he belonged in the same Octagon with St. Pierre. Many are asking why GSP didn't go in for the kill on the couple of occasions he had Shields hurt, but how do we know how hurt Shields really was? You could tell GSP wanted absolutely nothing to do with Shields on the ground, and that is what people should focus on.
He showed no killer instinct and was content on jabbing Shields to death, but a funny thing happened. Shields started to jab back and caused some swelling in or around the left eye of the champion. Two judges awarded Shields two rounds, ending GSP's streak of winning 30 straight rounds. Where does GSP go from here? Hopefully he stays at WW for the time being; I would hate to see him take a ton of time off to try and bulk up to 185 lbs.
Assuming he stays at welterweight, the one fight people want to see if a bout between GSP and Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz. I believe it's highly unlikely that the bout happens anytime soon. Who's left in the UFC? Jon Fitch is out for the time being with an injured shoulder, no one wants to see him fight BJ Penn again anytime soon, and Thiago Alves needs a few more wins to be considered for a rematch against GSP.
There is a fight scheduled for UFC 132 in July that could put the winner against GSP. Neither man has ever faced GSP, and both have defeated some really good fighters. Carlos Condit will battle the undefeated Dong-Hyun Kim. If Condit wins, he would be riding a four fight winning streak, and Kim would be 15-0 with a UFC record of 7-0.
Two fresh faces, one coming off a high profile win over the other. There is GSP's next opponent.
Shields surprised me on a few different fronts last night. He showed some improved striking, especially with his jab, and he showed absolutely no urgency as the fight started to move more and more into GSP's control. He barely attempted any take-downs and just looked lost. He did show up to fight, but he implemented the completely wrong game-plan.
So after suffering his first loss in over six years, what does the future have in store for Shields? A trip down the ladder with an opportunity to work his way back up. Where does that start? Against Josh Koscheck, the man who was beaten by GSP at UFC 124 last December. Why not match-up the two former number one contenders? Both men have solid wrestling backgrounds. Koscheck has better striking, but Shields is by far and away the better submission grappler.
A win would be huge for either fighter and would help them gain back some of the confidence they lost while losing to GSP. At this point, both men need to fight top-flight competition while they still are young enough and still have a lot to offer.