Dominick Cruz and the Rest of the UFC 132 Winners' Futures

C RContributor IJuly 6, 2011

Dominick Cruz and the Rest of the UFC 132 Winners' Futures

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    UFC 132 is in the books—and what a show it was. This was the best card of the year by far. It was the card you show your friends if you are trying to get them hooked on MMA.

    Knockouts, submissions, back and forth wars, debuts, legends, title fight, you name it and UFC 132 had it.

    I’m going to look over the winners from Saturday's fights and analyze not only where they sit in their respective divisions, but also who I would match them up with next.

Jeff Houghland

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    I honestly have not gotten around to watching Houghland’s fight with Donny Walker. It was both men's UFC debut and opened this stacked card.

    After doing some research, I see that Houghland is 10-4. Those four losses were consecutive and earlier in his career. He is currently on a nine-fight winning streak and has ended most of his fights by submission.

    Since both Houghland and Walker took this fight on short notice, it is hard to get a true read on either fighter. I say match Houghland up with the winner of next month's Edwin Figeuroa and Jason Reinhardt fight to better understand where he stacks up in UFC’s bantamweight division.

Anthony Njokuani

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    Anthony Njokuani out struck Andre Winner for a unanimous-decision win in a battle between two dangerous strikers.

    Going into this fight, Njokuani was on a two-fight losing streak and badly needed a win to keep his UFC career alive. Njokuani nearly finished Winner in the first round, but Winner somehow survived the onslaught.

    Winner could never find an opening to unleash his lightning-quick hands, and continued to be on the receiving end of his opponent's devastating limbs for the rest of the fight. While Winner will likely be cut after his third loss in a row, Njokuani booked himself another fight in the octagon.

    There are a few interesting choices for Njokuani, but I would pair him with the winner of the upcoming Thiago Tavares/Spencer Fisher fight in Brazil. Tavares and Fisher would provide a step up in competition and a chance for Njokuani to prove himself over a UFC veteran.

Aaron Simpson

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    It may not have been pretty, but Aaron Simpson stall-and-walled his way to a victory over TUF contestant Brad Tavares.

    Simpson used his wrestling to pin Tavares against the cage and smother any potential Tavares offense. While it won’t win “A-Train” new fans, it does give him a two-fight win streak.

    Losses to Munoz and Leben lead me to believe that Simpson is not ready for the mid- to upper-tier of the middleweight division.

    I would match Simpson up with young prospect Chris Weidman. Weidman is 2-0 in the octagon this year and Simpson would be a great test for the youngster. Also, Weidman’s wrestling could negate Simpson’s and force him into a striking battle. This fight will tell us how good Weidman is—and if Simpson is too old to make a splash in UFC’s middleweight division.

Brian Bowles

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    The former WEC Bantamweight Champion took a decision over the super tough Takeya Mizugaki. Although not the barn-burner we were expecting, Bowles implemented a solid game plan and beat a very game Mizugaki.

    The thing that still baffles me is how Bowles always seems to injure his hand in fights. It’s almost as if he somewhat mentally breaks when he unloads one of those thunderous punches and his opponent is still standing. Between quitting against Cruz last year and having his corner screaming at him to fight through the pain on Saturday, Bowles may not have what it takes to pull a Faber when he hurts his favorite weapon.

    In any case, his win over Mizugaki makes it two in a row since losing to Cruz last March. Bowles is currently on the very short list of contenders to face Dominick Cruz sometime later this year.

    However, I would not give Bowles his rematch yet. Bowles is the only person Cruz has finished at bantamweight and he got absolutely schooled the last time they met. So far, nothing that Bowles has done has made me think a rematch would go any different.

    Make him fight Demetrious Johnson next in a No. 1 contenders fight. Casual fans still don’t know who these men are and having them open a pay-per-view or co-headline a UFC Fight Night would introduce these fierce fighters to the crowd before they fight for the belt.

Rafael dos Anjos

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    Rafael dos Anjos blasted George Sotiropoulos in just under a minute to earn the first knockout of his UFC career.

    Dos Anjos came into this fight as a huge underdog to Sotiropoulus, who was nearing title contention before losing to Dennis Siver in February. Dos Anjos’ last two victories were finishes, proving that he can end the fight standing up or on the ground.

    The problem before with dos Anjos was that he could beat fighters towards the bottom of the division, but lost to guys in the middle. This win should indicate that he has possibly turned a corner and is ready for bigger fights.

    With a lot of the UFC’s lightweight division already matched up, dos Anjos does not have many options. Melvin Guillard would be too big a step at this point, but he deserves a higher-ranked opponent than someone like Anthony Njokuani.

    Have him fight the winner of Edson Barboaz and Ross Pearson. Both strikers would test dos Anjos’ stand up and prove that his knockout win was not just a lucky punch.


Melvin Guillard

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    Melvin “The Young Assassin” Guillard blitzed through wrestler Shane Roller en route to a first-round KO. Guillard is now on a five-fight win streak with three finishes.

    Now training under Greg Jackson, it seems that Melvin is finally living up to his potential; he is now a serious threat for anyone in the division. After his performance on Saturday, he deserves a top-10 ranked opponent.

    The problem with that, though, is the availability of opponents. Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard still don’t have a date for their title rematch, Jim Miller is fighting Ben Henderson next month and Clay Guida is Guillard’s teammate. Dennis Siver’s name was also brought up, but Guillard already knocked out Siver in Siver’s first UFC run.

    There really isn’t a top-ranked fighter available at the moment. After his fight, Guillard called out Jim Miller if he can get by Henderson next month. While that would be a great fight, Miller has more than proven that he is the top contender for a rematch with either Frankie or Maynard. Rumors suggest that a third Edgar/Maynard fight will happen in the fall, so the timing works out for Miller to fight the winner if he beats Henderson.

    With few fighters to choose from, I would match Guillard with Sam Stout. Stout is coming off of a big win over Yves Edwards last month (it is a front runner for Knockout of the Year).

    Guillard/Stout would be nothing short of fireworks and would be an early favorite for Fight of the Night. Stout has also won four of his last five fights; a win over “The Young Assassin” would put him near title contention.

Carlos Condit

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    Perhaps no fighter is more deserving of his nickname than Carlos Condit. “The Natural Born Killer” put on his Superman cape for his fight against Dong Hyun Kim, ending the fight with a spectacular flying knee in the first round.

    That makes it three-straight knockouts for Condit—and also his third-straight bonus check. Finishing an astounding 26 out of 27 opponents (the lone decision win was over Jake Ellenburger), Condit is by far the most exciting fighter in the welterweight division. Many are calling for Condit to get a title shot, but with GSP’s next title defense not until the end of October, Condit is unwilling to wait.

    Matching up Condit is a bit tricky, since the rest of the top end of the division is a mess.

    Thiago Alves was upset by Rick Story, who was then upset by an unknown Charlie Brenneman. Jake Shields is set to face Jake Ellenburger this fall. Martin Kampmenn is on a two-fight losing streak. Diego Sanchez and Matt Hughes are set to meet in September. B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch are probably going to rematch when both fighters are done nursing injuries and Josh Koscheck is still recovering from the beating that GSP gave him last December.

    In my opinion, the best option is the winner of Diego Sanchez vs. Matt Hughes. The fight is in September and the winner could possibly be ready for the New Years Eve show in the beginning of January.

    Even though Sanchez and Condit are teammates, I believe Condit would take the fight if it was to establish the No. 1 contender. I contemplated having Condit fight Fitch, but it just makes too much sense for Fitch and Penn to put a definitive end to their draw earlier this year.

Tito Ortiz

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    In an early contender for “Upset of the Year,” Tito Ortiz submitted Ryan Bader in the first round to keep his UFC career alive. It was well known that Saturday night was do-or-die for Ortiz, and he proved that he still belongs in the octagon by choking out the 12-1 Bader.

    What makes Tito’s victory even more impressive is that his opponent seemed to be a stylistic nightmare for him. Bader was essentially a younger, more well-rounded version of Tito, who most figured would have the advantage standing and on the ground. But Ortiz came through in the clutch and beat the Top 10 ranked Bader to keep his job in the UFC.

    The fight I’m hearing the most about is for Tito to face the winner of the Franklin/Nogueira fight at UFC 133.

    While Franklin/Ortiz or Nogueira/Ortiz sounds good, I have something else in mind. I suggest having Tito settle his trilogy with Forrest Griffin.

    It wouldn’t really matter if Forrest wins or loses against Shogun next month. If Griffin wins, the fight obviously carries more significance and divisional relevancy. But if Forrest loses, he is still a former champion and is 1-1 with Ortiz.

    Even though Ortiz won last weekend, he does not have a whole lot of mileage left on his body; it was his first win in five years. The UFC has an extremely short window to book the third Griffin/Ortiz installment and they need to do it as soon as possible, while Tito is still hot.

    Giffin/Ortiz would cap off an amazing trilogy that spans across several different significant times in both fighter's careers.

Dennis Siver

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    Dennis Siver scored a somewhat controversial win over Matt Wiman that had the crowd booing at the decision. I personally scored the fight for Wiman (giving him Rounds 2 and 3), but the fight was close enough that it could have gone either way.

    Siver showcased great take-down defense (for the most part), good scrambles on the ground and punishing leg kicks that threw Wiman off his rhythm. His win on Saturday was his seventh in eight fights and he has completely erased his unsuccessful first UFC stint.

    Siver has built himself a nice little win streak in one of UFC’s deepest divisions. After his win over Sotiropoulus, fans expected him to get a higher-ranked opponent than Wiman. However, Wiman gave Siver all he could handle and showed that Siver still needs work on getting up from his back—which is a huge hole in a division full of wrestlers and Siver will need to address that problem if he ever wants to become a champion.

    The perfect fight to truly test Siver’s ability to fight off his back is Clay Cuida. Guida is also on a four-fight win streak and the winner would establish himself as a legitimate threat in the 155-pound division.

    Guida last fought in June, when he beat former No. 1 contender Anthony Pettis. Guida/Siver would go a long way in clearing up the logjam at lightweight.


Chris Leben

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    It really was depressing to see “The Axe Murderer” get knocked out so quickly. Not that I thought the fight would last the full 15, but I thought Wandy would at least last more than 30 seconds.

    No matter how you look at it, Chris Leben put on an excellent performance.

    “The Crippler” crushed an MMA legend and scored the biggest win of his career. While Leben may never hold UFC gold, fans can always count on him to deliver exciting brawls that lead to someone getting put to sleep. With his win over Silva, Leben has won four of his last five fights and he is creeping toward title contention.

    Leben has a few options for his next fight. There are a few middleweights who either just fought recently or who are fighting soon. Brian Stann and Mark Munoz both earned impressive victories recently, Chael Sonnen’s suspension is now up and Vitor Belfort fights Yoshihiro Akiyama next month at UFC 133.

    While I hate matching up fights when one of the fighters still has a fight coming up, I would match Leben up with Vitor Belfort (providing he gets by Akiyama). Stann just beat Leben in January and I think the UFC is going to pit Munoz and Stann against one another some time later this year. Sonnen and Leben are good friends and Sonnen has said that he does not want to fight his buddy.

    Also, a fight between Belfort and Leben would be a clash of two powerful strikers looking for the knockout. We would see Leben’s looping hooks and zombie forward march against “The Phenom’s” whirlwind fist flurry.

    But if Akiyama upsets Belfort, then I have no idea who to match Leben with. He just fought Akiyama last year and while a rematch would be fun, it really wouldn’t make sense for the two to meet again so soon.


Dominick Cruz

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    Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber gave Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard a run for their money for Fight of the Year.

    The two bantamweights went all out for the full twenty-five minutes, at a pace that would make Sonic the Hedgehog jealous. Cruz darted in and out, landing his usual unorthodox punches and kicks. Faber caught Cruz a few times, dropping him in multiple rounds. When the action hit the mat, Faber and Cruz scrambled for position and immediately sprang back to their feet. After five hellacious rounds, Cruz was given the decision victory.

    For Cruz’s next fight, I can’t see how you don’t do a third Cruz/Faber fight. There are too many positives to not make an immediate rematch.

    First, it was an incredibly close fight that could have gone either way, and was one of the best fights in recent memory.

    Second, the series is tied at one fight a piece and fans deserve a conclusion to the best rivalry in the history of the lighter weight classes.

    Third, the UFC has done a horrible job building up the bantamweight division and its fighters. The other two fighters who could challenge Cruz (Bowles and Johnson) have had minimal exposure. Both are 2-0 in the UFC and each fighter has only had one televised fight. Let Faber and Cruz settle the series and have Bowles and Johnson fight on television to introduce fans to the next challenger.

    Last and arguably least, Faber is 32 and his time as an elite fighter is dwindling. The UFC needs to capitalize on Faber’s popularity and rivalry with Cruz to shine some much needed attention on the division.