UFC 150: "Henderson vs. Edgar 2" is officially in the books after a long night this past Saturday (Aug. 11, 2012) from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
Ben Henderson staked his claim as the best lightweight in the world by defeating Frankie Edgar in the main event of the evening, winning a grueling five-round split decision. Sure, a million people disagree, but the judges decision is final.
Deal with it.
Meanwhile, the co-main event couldn't have been any more definitive. Donald Cerrone cleaned Melvin Guillard's clock after nearly falling victim to one of "The Young Assassin's" missile left hands. When "Cowboy" survived and Guillard backed off, it didn't take long for Cerrone to win "Knockout of the Night" with a well timed head kick and vicious follow up dagger.
This was also the shortest fight in UFC history to receive "Fight of the Night" honors.
But where does everyone go from here? Let's look at four fights to make involving the aforementioned individuals following UFC 150: "Henderson vs. Edgar 2."
Ben Henderson vs. Nate Diaz
It's probably the most compelling five-rounder available in the ultra-deep lightweight division, if for no other reason than how perfectly they complement one another. Diaz' high-volume, high-pressure style is backed up by one of the most feared submission games. Henderson is one of the most physically imposing guys in the sport, with a skill set and incredible ability to wrest himself out of bad positions that make him exciting even when he's in dire straits.
They're both also hard-wired for five rounders. Diaz' aggression and disdain would push the issue against Henderson from the jump, forcing him to work between his newly-improved standup and switching up for takedowns while testing the dangerous waters of Diaz' excellent jiu-jitsu. Both have incredible conditioning and resilience, and a new wrinkle by either guy could swing the scales in an tough fight. I even play this one regularly on UFC Undisputed 3, and even there, it's always an insanely wild battle.
Jake Shields vs. Yushin Okami
Shields was workmanlike and effective in his UFC debut at 185 in decisioning Ed Herman. It's time to bump it up a few notches and Okami is the logical next step. After blasting out late sub Buddy Roberts on the card, Okami remains Okami. He's an imposing power-wrestling style with limited standup and few mysteries. He comes right at you to steamroll you into Bolivia, or a decision if Bolivia is not available. Shields has always been at his best against guys who come after him (think Robbie Lawler and Dan Henderson) and it's probably best if his 185 campaign gives him a chance to take on a former title challenger and/or top contender sooner, rather than later. Why mess around with a midlevel middle? Shields has beaten the best in Strikeforce and other organizations, and I don't see any reason to not throw him in there with a tough guy like Okami. It's also a good fight for Shields in that it minimizes what will probably be his biggest challenge at 185, which is matching standup against much bigger opponents. Okami doesn't have a lot of it, and with that, Shields could match up well here.
Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis
Nobody makes a dogfight exciting like Cerrone, and this lightweight tussle would be a nice loose end tied up from the final days of the WEC, where this duo never met despite tangling with all the other top 155ers there. It's also timely and relevant, as Pettis is at least a win removed from his long-elusive UFC title shot, while Cerrone's huge comeback KO win over Melvin Guillard was a big boost to his career. Both men are dynamic strikers with exceptionally diverse games, with a common hole in their style - powerful wrestlers will make no bones about gunning to take and hold them down to largely uneventful decision wins. That's not a problem here, as both are too prideful in their standup games to even think about taking the other guy down, and it's doubtful either man could given their takedown defense and incredibly stifling jiu-jitsu from the bottom.
Cerrone-Pettis would also be eminently promotable, with both guys talking mad trash and hyping the fight. If the UFC at its apex is exciting action delivered through world-class athleticism and skills, Cerrone-Pettis is the phenotype. This one would be a dizzying mix of Muay Thai, crazy exchanges and probably a new technique or two we haven't seen. They're also game-bred to the hilt, and there would surely be a violent swing of momentum or two. The only shame about this one would be if it were three rounds instead of five.
It'd also go a long way toward positioning the winner for a title shot, especially if it were Pettis. Once Ben Henderson-Nate Diaz is finished, the lightweight champion definitely has his plate full, and Pettis or Cerrone would be an excellent challenger to wait in the wings.
Melvin Guillard vs. Edson Barboza
Guillard's run of rough luck continued Saturday night, as he opened in typical style, sending Donald Cerrone to the mat in the opening moments with a nasty left hook counter. If you've watched Cerrone in his many knock-down, drag-out wars over the years, it's hard to recall him ever being so badly hurt. The look on his face was priceless - he was a walking zombie. But in typical hardnosed style, Cerrone shook off the cobwebs, ate some more blistering shots while his senses returned, and proceeded to blitz Guillard with a perfect left high kick to the head, followed by a finishing right.
Guillard's still as exciting a fighter to watch as there is in the lightweight division. With Barboza's burgeoning aura as the next great lightweight suddenly revealed to actually human after his shocker KO defeat to Jamie Varner, a collision between these two would be an outstanding strikers' delight. Barboza needs a win to resurrect his career momentum and Guillard is in a must-win situation, having dropped three of his last four.
Another easily overlooked aspect of this matchup is Guillard's outstanding wrestling, which he usually keeps in a defensive role to deny takedowns and continue striking. Melvin would be a legit takedown threat to the dynamic Barboza if he needed it. And, assuming, the fight went long enough for a change of pace. Either way, this is a high-octane lightweight showdown that would be can't-miss viewing and it makes sense from a matchmaking perspective as well. It's almost inevitable that a hyped super-prospect like Barboza will lose eventually. An opportunity against a tough contender like Guillard would virtually erase the impact of the Varner loss on his career.
Jason Probst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/jasonprobst.