In what was truly one of the year's most exciting events, UFC 139 produced the next bantamweight contender and provided fans with one of the greatest fights in the history of the sport. A five-round war between Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua ended in a narrow decision that went in Henderson's favor.
After beating Brian Bowles in impressive fashion, Urijah Faber earned a rubber match with 135-pound champion Dominick Cruz. While Faber's next opponent is set, some matchmaking must be done for the rest of UFC 139's competitors.
Here are some options that UFC matchmaker Joe Silva may come up with in the coming weeks and months.
Danny Castillo bounced back from a loss in his previous fight by defeating Shamar Bailey at UFC 139. The win gave Castillo wins in four of his past five fights, meaning he should get a step up in competition for his next contest.
After being knocked out by Melvin Guillard earlier in the year, Evan Dunham is still looking to rebuild before making a run at the top fighters in the lightweight division. A bout with Castillo could give us a chance to see some of Dunham's ground game, which we haven't been able to see in either of his past two fights.
Matt Brown got off to a strong start against Seth Baczynski at UFC 139. However, Baczynski caught Brown in a guillotine choke early on in the second round, forcing the UFC veteran to tap.
Though he lost four of his past five fights, Brown will likely be given another shot inside the Octagon. A fight with another recent welterweight loser, Paul Bradley, could give one fighter the chance to get their career back on track.
Since being released from the UFC in June 2010, Seth Baczynski has won four straight bouts. Beginning to look like he has some serious potential, it might be time to match Baczynski up with another up-and-coming fighter to see which one is ready for a big-time fight.
Unable to deal with Gleison Tibau's size at UFC 139, Rafael dos Anjos suffered a deflating decision loss. Prior to the fight, dos Anjos was coming off of a win over George Sotiropoulos and looked to be ready to become a serious contender in the division.
Now, dos Anjos will have to work his way back up the ladder. A fight with Mac Danzig, another fighter who recently took a step back from his bid to become a contender, would seem to make sense for both competitors.
Gleison Tibau has quietly won five of his past six fights. It's time for the Brazilian to receive consistent fights with other lightweights who are working their way into a role as contenders in the division. The winner of a bout between Sam Stout and Thiago Tavares would be a good test for Tibau and his opponent.
With his loss to Chris Weidman on Saturday, Tom Lawlor has now lost three of his past four fights. Lawlor may need a win in his next fight to remain on the UFC roster, so let's set him up with another fighter in the same position.
Alessio Sakara is also coming off of a loss to Weidman and has been plagued by injuries and illness in 2011. Both Lawlor and Sakara are in desperate need of a win, so this bout should bring the best out of both competitors.
With a quick submission victory over Tom Lawlor, Chris Weidman showed that he is ready to take himself to the next level of the middleweight division. The rising star could benefit from some experience in the striking department, so a bout with a wrestler like Aaron Simpson, who has the ability to force a stand-up fight, could be next.
At UFC 139, late replacement Alex Soto suffered the first loss of his MMA career. Soto showed aggressiveness that could make him a fan favorite in the future, though. Most likely, the UFC will set Soto up with a fighter like Joseph Sandoval, another new face to the organization.
This probably isn't the matchup Miguel Torres would want to see after picking up a win at UFC 139, but 20-year-old Michael McDonald is becoming a serious contender in the bantamweight division. It's time for the youngster to get his shot against a top 135-pound fighter.
Ryan Bader avoided going winless in 2011 by knocking out Jason Brilz on Saturday night.
Phil Davis was set to compete against fighters much higher on the ladder than Bader, but a knee injury has held him back. Instead of throwing Davis to the wolves, a matchup with Bader could test Davis' abilities against a fellow wrestler.
At UFC 139, Kyle Kingsbury was given a golden opportunity to make a name for himself against a well-known fighter like Stephan Bonnar. However, Kingsbury showed some major holes in his ground game.
Against Cyrille Diabate, a striker, Kingsbury would have the chance to show some improvement in his wrestling and jiu-jitsu. Kingsbury is still early in his career and has time to make improvements where he needs them.
Although he has a long way to go to become a serious light heavyweight contender, Stephan Bonnar has won three straight fights and earned the right to take on another big name in the division. Bonnar has expressed interest in fighting Quinton Jackson, and "Rampage" reciprocated, but there are better matchups out there for both fighters.
If Tito Ortiz can get past Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, a bout between "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" and "The American Psycho" could generate some interest.
After beating Thiago Alves, Rick Story has quickly fallen back out of contention for the UFC welterweight title.
Another fighter who briefly posed as a contender, Mike Pyle, would make for an good opponent for Story. The winner of this potential fight could find themselves back in the position where they were earlier in 2011.
Had controversial decisions in his two fights prior to UFC 139 gone his way, Martin Kampmann would be riding a five-fight winning streak and looking for a shot at the welterweight belt. An impressive win over Rick Story should earn Kampmann a big fight in 2012.
A bout with the up-and-coming Rory MacDonald could put the winner within one or two fights from a title shot.
Brian Bowles missed out on his chance to earn a rematch with UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, but he remains a top 135-pound fighter. A bout with Brad Pickett, another talented bantamweight coming off of a loss, would make for a big bounce-back win for whoever came away the victor of the potential meeting.
Making my job easy, the UFC has already announced that Urijah Faber will compete with UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz in a rubber match.
Considering he has also lost to current featherweight champion Jose Aldo, this could be Faber's last chance to earn UFC gold.
After being knocked out by Wanderlei Silva, there is a good chance Cung Le will fade back into his acting career and never be seen in the Octagon again. However, if he does decide to return, a bout with Chris Leben would provide even more excitement than Le's bout with Silva did.
Wanderlei Silva's career was likely on the line heading into UFC 139, but "The Axe Murderer" lived to see another day by mounting a comeback win over Cung Le. Unfortunately, it will take another big win before Silva is given a realistic chance at fighting a top contender.
Demian Maia has been floating around in a similar state of being unable to come within striking distance of another middleweight title shot. Let's match Silva up with a fighter who doesn't pack a ton of power in his punches and see what the former Pride champion can do when his suspect chin isn't being tested.
Mauricio Rua nearly mounted an incredible comeback in the first ever fourth and fifth rounds of a non-title fight. Unfortunately for Rua, it wasn't enough to overcome his slow start, as he came out on the losing end of a close decision.
Especially if Rua would be ready to go by the UFC's return to Japan, a rematch with Quinton Jackson would be a fight that many long-time MMA fans would love to see.
After beating Mauricio Rua the way that he did, Dan Henderson is probably deserving of a title shot at middleweight or light heavyweight. Unfortunately, timing is an issue, as Chael Sonnen will likely be next for 185-pound champ Anderson Silva and Rashad Evans is still in front of Henderson in the line for a shot at the 205-pound title.
Since Evans and Henderson will both have to wait for champion Jon Jones to take on Lyoto Machida next month, a matchup between the two in early-2012 could give a more clear indication of which fighter is more deserving of the title shot.