Photo via UFC.com
Last Saturday night (May 28, 2011), a handful of questions were answered, but a few more were raised in the process.
UFC 130: "Rampage vs. Hamill" was a melting pot of divisional stars, featuring a pay-per-view (PPV) main card that ranged from welterweight to heavyweight bouts.
Divisions got some ladders set and a few relative unknowns have staked their claims to title contention.
Middleweight contender Brian Stann walked through Jorge Santiago like a daisy cutter. And welterweight fighter-turned-contender Rick Story shocked the mixed martial arts community as he stood and traded leather with feared striker, Thiago Alves, en route to a unanimous decision win.
Frank Mir beat up Roy Nelson in the co main event, highlighting the drastic changes "Big Country" must make, as well as how far (or close) Mir is to earning a shot at heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
Travis Browne proved he has some merit to his impressive undefeated record. And now he gets to fight some of the gatekeepers and prospects in the heavyweight ranks. Stefan Struve proved once again that stepping up in competition is a "tall" task.
Finally, Quinton Jackson did everything but knock out Matt Hamill, stuffing 17 (yes, 17 ) takedown attempts by the Ohio native. He also showed a range of kicks, knees and fluid combos to earn a unanimous decision win.
So, how close is "Rampage" to earning that coveted title shot against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones? And where does "The Hammer" go from here?
Let's examine the wreckage!
Brian Stann: The war veteran and new "Captain America" proved that he is no plain old heavy hitter, but rather a vastly improving striker in the middleweight division. He has shown a true dedication to getting better and is simply on a roll that could land him in the headlights of Anderson Silva (or Yushin Okami) if he keeps it up. He has a beautiful right hand, but his cardio may be his biggest weapon as he simply doesn't seem to tire. He has a relentlessness that is too much for lesser cardiovascular endowed fighters. His potential is coming to fruition and coming home alive may get him that next award: UFC champion.
What's next? Stann has stated he still desires to face Wanderlei Silva at some point, but if Silva doesn't get past Leben then the "All American" must look elsewhere. I feel Stann is above where the winner of Belfort/Akiyama is right now. I see it breaking down this way:
2. If Anderson Silva or Yushin Okami lose, Stann faces loser as his contender shot.
Stann is nothing but short of a great story and has shown to be an exciting fighter. He is a potential cash cow for the UFC based on his exploits outside the cage.
Rick Story: WOW! The "Horror" Story has been on an absolute tear that hasn't been seen in the welterweight ranks since Jon Fitch came on the scene. His opponents are not the most noteworthy, but going 6-0 in your past six in the heavily stacked welterweight ranks is no joke at all.
He took a giant leap last Saturday night at UFC 130 when he threw all caution out the window and earned his place by throwing bombs with Thiago Alves. The ruthless and relentless Story would earn a major decision win. With Jon Fitch being out, every welterweight vying to fight 170-pound champion Georges St.Pierre must make their mark now and Rick Story did so against Alves.
What's Next? Story just beat possibly the best striker at 170 at his own game for three long rounds. So he needs a fight to prove it wasn't just a lucky night.
1. Story vs. winner of Condit/Stun Gun.
Travis Browne: The large-framed man earned his spot in the ranks as he knocked out the tall and lanky Stefan Struve with a "Superman" punch of all possible outcomes. The highlight reel will fit nicely on his resume as he is now 11-0 and one draw with Cheick Kongo.
He holds wins over Abe Wagner, James McSweeney and now Stefan Struve, which means he has beaten prospects and needs a step up in competition. The waters are filled with sharks and Browne has dropped blood into the ocean after his "Knockout of the Night" win at UFC 130.
What's Next? The heavyweights who are of note are booked so let's examine my top three choices for an opponent for Travis Browne.
2. Pat Barry if he defeats Cheick Kongo
Frank Mir: The brash and sometimes-hated Frank Mir proved to be the far superior fighter as he bullied Roy Nelson for three hard fought rounds. He used his Muay Thai and improved takedowns to batter the mullet-clad warrior to a decision win.
He has earned a huge step towards gaining a shot against the heavyweight champion and showing he may have the tools to regain the belt. Mir has clearly shown improvements outside the cage as he looked his best physically as well. He had a mix of brawn and lean as he didn't gas other than the fact he tossed a 260-pound man around.
I was really impressed by Frank Mir and even more-so that he has the tenacity to wear a shit with his own face on it (lol).
What's Next? He has already beaten up everyone that's considered a pretender and deserves a contender to see if Frank Mir can become champion once again. Here are my two options for Joe Silva to make happen:
1. Loser of Shane Carwin vs. Junior Dos Santos
Quinton Jackson: Leading up to UFC 130, one thing seemed to get Quinton Jackson to fall in love with "Rampage" and that was when Matt Hamill said he'd break his will. That remark gave Jackson a fire that showed through as he stuffed an amazing 17 takedown attempts by one of the best wrestlers in the 205-pound division.
He punched, kneed, kicked and just simply broke the will of "The Hammer." What is also amazing is that Jackson did so with a fractured hand and did everything but knock out Hamill before the "Sin City" crowd.
What's Next? Since Jackson did not stop or earn a highlight-reel knockout over Hamill he may not get that title shot automatically as if he had KOed Hamill. So here are my top choices to see where Rampage will go next:
1. Jon Jones (Gets the shot regardless since he beat both Hamill and Lyoto Machida)
2. Winner of Shogun/Forrest (Gets a chance to avenge a loss before Jones)
Well Maniacs, what do you think?