Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com
Playing fantasy matchmaker is one of the most enjoyable things to do for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, and with UFC on FOX 5: 'Henderson vs. Diaz' behind us, we put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play matchmaker for the event's main card winners.
UFC on FOX 5: "Henderson vs. Diaz" is in the books and once again, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a spectacular night of mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
Matt Brown, Rory MacDonald, Alexander Gustafsson and Ben Henderson were the big winners Saturday night (Dec. 8, 2012) at the KeyArena in Seattle, Wash., as each picked up a decisive victory over their respective opponents on the main card.
After every fight card, fans wonder who the winners will be matched up with next. With another night of heart-racing fights in the rear-view mirror, it's time to look forward and put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play UFC matchmaker.
Here we go:
Winner: Matt Brown
Who He Should Fight Next: Siyar Bahadurzada
Why They Should Fight: Brown picked up a brutal knockout of Mike Swick at UFC on FOX 5 for the first four-fight win streak of his MMA career. "The Immortal" moves a few notches up the ranks and with 14 UFC fights under his belt, most of which have proven to be exciting, Brown is going to be a mainstay with the organization for the foreseeable future.
Bahadurzada has been on the shelf since April nursing an injury to his hand, but the Afghan fighter is expected to return to the cage sooner than later. Bahadurzada scored a highlight-reel knockout over Paulo Thiago in his UFC debut earlier this year, and a match up with Brown would be a great clash of two 170-pounders with the ability to end a fight in the blink of an eye.
Bahadurzada would pose a huge threat on the feet because of his devastating knockout power, and vice versa, but considering neither man has ever been finished with strikes in 53 combined fights, it would be interesting to see how the fight would play out.
Both competitors are trying to establish themselves as contenders in the welterweight division and a win for either of them would help build ground towards that status.
Winner: Rory MacDonald
Who He Should Fight Next: Carlos Condit
Why They Should Fight: Rory MacDonald's one and only career defeat comes at the hands of Condit in a fight "Ares" was likely only a few ticks of the clock away from winning. The Canadian says the loss eats away at him and wants redemption against Condit. After utterly dismantling MMA legend B.J. Penn, the 23-year-old called Condit out in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan. And given his performance, it's hard to argue MacDonald doesn't have grounds to request a rematch.
We know MacDonald wants the fight, UFC President Dana White told FUEL TV after the event that he is warm to the idea of the match up, so now all that leaves is Condit, who has yet to comment on the situation.
Beyond MacDonald's quest for vengeance, the match up makes all kinds of sense for both men. Condit's status has elevated since the initial 2010 meeting between the two at UFC 115 and with "The Natural Born Killer" having just held the interim UFC title, MacDonald is catching him at a peak moment in his career and could use Condit's recent success to catapult himself further up the rankings.
Condit, on the other hand, would be granted an opportunity to take out a friend and training partner of the man who last defeated him, Georges St. Pierre. Moreover, Condit would be able to prove once and for all he is superior to MacDonald even though he had his hands full in the first fight.
Two of the three parties needed to make the rematch happen appear to be on board, now it just comes down to Condit and his camp.
Winner: Alexander Gustafsson
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156
Why They Should Fight: Alexander Gustafsson showed he is a legitimate contender in the light heavyweight division with a unanimous decision win over Mauricio Rua at UFC on FOX 5. With the win, "The Mauler" pushed his UFC record to 7-1, and lined himself up for another meaningful fight at 205-pounds.
UFC President Dana White said prior to UFC on FOX 5 that the winner of Gustafsson-Rua would get a title shot, but with the belt currently tied up between Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen until April, it's likely the Swede will fight again before challenging for the title.
If a championship fight is off the table, the most logical opponent for Gustafsson to face next would be the winner of Rashad Evans vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who face off in one of the featured bouts of UFC 156 on Feb. 2, 2013.
If Evans were to defeat Nogueira, a match up between "Suga" and "The Mauler" would pit two of the top-5 light heavyweights in the world against one another. Evans' wrestling would present a threat unlike anything Gustafsson has had to deal with and beyond that, it would be a pivotal fight for the division.
Should Gustafsson face Nogueira, it would make a fight that was supposed to take place at UFC on FUEL TV 2 last April before "Minotoro" suffered an injury, which resulted in Gustafsson facing Thiago Silva. There was interest in a Gustafsson vs. Nogueira bout before it was scrapped and considering both fighters would be coming off big wins, rebooking the fight is a logical next step.
Regardless of which man Gustafsson faces next, there is another fascinating match up in the light heavyweight division on the horizon.
Winner: Ben Henderson
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis at UFC on FOX 6
Why They Should Fight: After another successful title defense against Nate Diaz, Benson Henderson is one win away from matching Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn's record for the most title defenses in the history of the UFC lightweight division.
Some have suggested Strikeforce champ Gilbert Melendez as a potential opponent, but given the uncertainty surrounding the Strikeforce organization and its fighters paired with Melendez's nagging shoulder injury, it's too difficult to determine a timeframe for that fight.
Henderson has fought both Cerrone and Pettis before, defeating "Cowboy" on two separate occasions under the WEC banner while suffering what was his last loss to "Showtime" in 2010.
A fight against Pettis is certainly the more intriguing of the two options as Pettis holds a win over the champion and it would be interesting to see if he could put on a repeat performance and take Henderson's belt.
It's not often the UFC puts together a third fight when one man has won the first two, but an exception could certainly be made for Cerrone. His game has improved tremendously since last sharing the cage with Henderson and perhaps Cerrone could adapt and right the wrongs he made in the first two fights.
At the end of the day, the UFC is going to get a competitive title bout with a good storyline, so there should be no complaints regardless of how everything pans out.
That ends this edition of Joe Silva's shoes. What do you think of these potential match ups? Do you agree? Disagree?
Let us know in the comments section below what fights you would make if you were in Joe Silva's shoes and were playing the role of UFC matchmaker.