Is Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz the best option for UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre?
UFC 129 brought viewers Georges St-Pierre’s welterweight record sixth title defense by snapping Jake Shields’ six year, 15-fight win streak with a five-round unanimous decision.
A UFC record of 55,000 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Canada this past Saturday also watched Jose Aldo retain the UFC featherweight crown in a 25-minute Fight of the Night against Canadian challenger Mark Hominick and Lyoto Machida emphatically ended UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture’s storied career with a second round knockout.
Here are 10 bouts fans may find kicking around UFC matchmaker Joe Silva’s desk in the aftermath of UFC 129.
1) Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz
While Georges St. Pierre continued the most dominant run in welterweight history at UFC 129, “Rush” did so with his fourth consecutive decision. Striking with Jake Shields for 25-minutes did little to spark interest in the St-Pierre-Anderson Silva super-fight outside of notching the requisite "W."
Silva has finished all but two of his eight UFC title fights, while St-Pierre has only finished two of six—the last in January of 2009. Non-committal in his post-fight interview about moving up 15-pounds to face the most devastating finisher in UFC history, it’s likely “GSP” maintains his position at welterweight.
Enter Nick Diaz. The Strikeforce Welterweight Champion has won his last 10 fights and avenged the only loss on his ledger since 2007. A teammate of Jake Shields representing Cesar Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, the Stockton, Calif.-native has finished eight of his last 10 opponents and has a chip on his shoulder to get recognition as the top fighter in the world.
This champion versus champion battle would give St-Pierre a brash and threatening challenger with serious big fight potential as the contender well runs dry thanks to the UFC 170-pound kingpin’s unparalleled divisional reign.
2) Jake Shields vs. Paulo Thiago
Jake Shields showed none of his American Jiu-Jitsu in his title bout with Georges St. Pierre. His striking won him two rounds on two judges score cards, but still wasn’t enough to be seriously competitive.
The former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion can entertain a move to 185-pounds; however, the UFC’s welterweight class has stern challenges that weren’t available to him at his natural weight before entering the Octagon.
Paulo Thiago has the power to force Shields to be weary standing and the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt to push the blue-collar grappler’s strength to the limits.
The Brazilian has lost back-to-back although his most recent contest was a Fight of the Night performance—a perfect test for Shields, who must begin a new streak with solid UFC names if he intends to compete for the belt again.
3) Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes
UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo appeared fallible for the first time in a back-and-forth battle with Mark Hominick. Team Alpha Male representative Chad Mendes is an undefeated All-American wrestler that can chain together problems for the Brazilian.
Aldo proved he can handle adversity: something an overwhelming Mendes creates as he drags opponents across long distances with his repetitive power double leg takedown.
145-pounds has few compelling contenders at the moment. The style match-up and marketability “Money” has opposite a silent but violent champion like Aldo is surely the next chapter of Aldo’s UFC tenure.
4) Mark Hominick vs. Mike Thomas Brown
Mark Hominick went 25-minutes with a pound-for-pound stalwart like Jose Aldo. In former WEC Featherweight Champion Mike Thomas Brown, he can further establish the championship credibility he built Saturday night with a victory.
Despite Brown dropping three of his last four, his rough puncher-wrestler style honed at American Top Team makes for a compelling fight with a technical and tireless fighter like “The Machine.”
5) Lyoto Machida vs. Vladimir Matuyshenko
Former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida retired UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture with a crane kick so technical and violent it was more recognizable to Mortal Kombat fans than those of The Karate Kid.
“The Dragon” expressed his desire to return to the Octagon soon in order to compete in his native Brazil on “UFC: Rio” in August. Vladimir Matyushenko may not be the sexiest opponent for anybody, but “The Janitor” is a serviceable fight for Machida due to his stellar resume punctuated with a 20 second KO of Jason Brilz just moments before Machida’s Knockout of the Night.
Having dropped back-to-back bouts prior to Couture, Machida can continue impressing en route to a title shot before rematches with Quinton Jackson or Mauricio Rua atop the divisional ladder.
6) Benson Henderson vs. Jim Miller
Benson Henderson’s UFC debut versus Mark Bocek wasn’t spotless yet The Lab representative is still a contender at 155-pounds thanks to the win and his credit as former WEC Lightweight Champion. Jim Miller has staked his claim for a shot at the UFC belt, but a backlog of contenders means tangling with “Smooth” can determine a clear contender by year’s end.
7) Rory MacDonald vs. Charlie Brenneman
21-year-old Canadian welterweight prospect Rory MacDonald disregarded the dangerous game of Nate Diaz and seized a clear unanimous decision. His youth demands cage time, and a work-rate fighter like AMA Fight Club’s Charlie “The Spaniard” Brenneman can determine how “The Waterboy” does against a fighter equally determined to impose his will.
8) Jake Ellenberger vs. Brian Foster
Jake Ellenberger earned his fourth consecutive Octagon victory since losing his debut with a first round KO of Sean Pierson on just 17 days notice. The 26-year-old Reign Training Center representative has a wealth of experience and is emerging as a potential contender at 170-pounds.
Meeting Brian Foster, who withdrew from the contest with Pierson, puts Ellenberger across from a forward-first fighter that can mirror his strengths and expose potential weaknesses. It’s the kind of fight that decides if “The Juggernaut” is ready to ascend or still requires camp-to-camp improvement before mixing it up with contenders.
9) Nate Diaz vs. Takanori Gomi
Trainer Cesar Gracie hinted Nate Diaz’s loss to Rory MacDonald moves the Stockton, Calif.-native back to 155-pounds. Against former PRIDE Lightweight Champion Takanori Gomi, the UFC can draw upon Nate’s brother Nick’s classic scrap for two exciting fighters coming off demoralizing defeats. To see if Nate Diaz has the boxing and submission skills to escape the incinerating left hand of “The Fireball Kid” is a can’t miss match up.
10) Mark Bocek vs. Kamal Shalorus
Nova Uniao Jiu-Jitsu representative Mark Bocek couldn’t employ his submission skills to take out Benson Henderson. Staying competitive with the former WEC Lightweight Champion should keep the game Canadian in interesting lightweight bouts.
Hard-nosed wrestler-slugger Kamal Shalorus is susceptible to submissions as evidenced in his last outing versus Jim Miller, but Bocek would have to overcome the high-level wrestling “The Prince of Persia” touts first.
Danny Acosta is the lead writer at FIGHT! Magazine. Follow him on twitter.com/acostaislegend