Matches to Make: Next UFC fights for TUF 18 Finale main card winners

Photo by Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

What's next for Nate Diaz, Julianna Pena, Chris Holdsworth, Jessamyn Duke and Raquel Pennington, after their wins at UFC's The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 18 Finale last night (Sat., Nov. 30, 2013) at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada? We examine possible future opponents for all the main card winners, and try to find the matches that make the most sense for each of them.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) closed the chapter on another season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), and after 18 installments of the hard-hitting show, history was made on FOX Sports 1.

Julianna Pena became the first-ever female to ever win the tournament, stopping Jessica Rakoczy in the women's Bantamweight finale with one second left in the first round (watch video highlights here).

Chris Holdsworth and David Grant had an excellent first round, waking up the Las Vegas, Nevada, crowd at Mandalay Bay Events Center after a few uneventful fights. Holdsworth submitted Grant to become the men's 135-pound tournament winner.

Nate Diaz could not have ended his trilogy with Gray Maynard in more devastating fashion, knocking out "The Bully" on his feet after a barrage of punches wobbled and stunned him violently. Diaz's first round technical knockout last night (Sat., Nov. 30, 2013) was the first time he has stopped an opponent with punches since 2011 (watch video highlights here).

Diaz also took home the "Knockout of the Night" bonus for his efforts.

Now, it is time to match them up.

Indeed, after every fight card, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans are already thinking about what the future holds for the stars of the show. With another night of action-packed fights, let's peer into our crystal ball and predict possible matchmaking scenarios.

Winner: Raquel Pennington
Who She Should Fight Next: Jessica Andrade
Why They Should Fight: After seeing Andrade pummel Rosi Sexton at UFC Fight Night 30 in October, one thing was for sure: She is not shy to commit to a striking war.

Pennington showed good takedown defense, and was the more powerful striker in her exchanges with Roxanne Modafferi. This would be a great fight to book in the women's Bantamweight division between a TUF competitor against a fighter with an even (1-1) record inside the Octagon. It is definitely a step up for Pennington; however, it's a stand up fight matchmakers be unable to resist.

Winner: Jessamyn Duke
Who She Should Fight Next: Germaine de Randamie
Why They Should Fight: Not that either fighter truly deserved another bout in the UFC after that performance, but the fact is that Duke edged Peggy Morgan (full fight recap here), staying undefeated in her four-fight career.

"The Gun" should not be matched up with anyone coming off of a win, since she could use some tuning up before stepping inside the cage against her divisional counterparts. De Randamie is currently 4-3 in her career, and is coming off of a loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC Fight Night 31.

Therefore, a fight between both towering ladies might be a wise choice to book.

Winner: Chris Holdsworth
Who He Should Fight Next: Edwin Figueroa
Why They Should Fight: Figueroa is another fighter who is coming off a loss -- three to be exact -- and with a promotional record of 2-4, his days are numbered if he cannot win his next fight (unless they already are and we do not know it yet).

Holdsworth may have won the fight, although this fight card truly puts the "UFC caliber" term in perspective. Still, there is no underestimating he is a TUF winner. Match him up with Figueroa to see if that tag is truly deserved.

And if Figueroa is indeed "UFC caliber."

Winner: Julianna Pena
Who She Should Fight Next: Winner of Julie Kedzie vs. Bethe Correia at UFC Fight Night 33
Why They Should Fight: Pena looked outstanding in her win over Rakoczy, making her the first woman to win TUF, meaning things can only get brighter for "The Venezuelan Vixen."

She looked like she truly belonged in UFC, and even if her weigh class currently does not have many options, the winner of next week's fight between Julie Kedzie and Bethe Correia would be a good fit for Pena. Kedzie is a true veteran of the sport, while Correia is currently undefeated (6-0).

Winner: Nate Diaz
Who He Should Fight Next: Rafael dos Anjos
Why The Should Fight: Even though T.J. Grant would be better suited as an option (since him and Diaz stopped Maynard consecutively), this fight makes sense for a few reasons.

Diaz can never be counted out when it comes to him bouncing back ... and he proved it last night. He will always find himself in the big fights, and truthfully, he deserves it because he is incredibly well rounded and tough as nails.

Dos Anjos, who is coming off of a win over Donald Cerrone, was rumored to meet Josh Thomson because it made the most sense. Now that Thomson has his hands full with Ben Henderson, Diaz and dos Anjos would be a pivotal fight to make.

And all signs lead to this fight being one hell of a barnburner.

Not only is it another solid opponent for Diaz, but dos Anjos has won five straight and he needs that one massive performance over a quality opponent to convince observers he can be inserted into the title talk.

Diaz is that guy.

For news and updates regarding UFC's TUF 18 Finale, be sure to check out our story stream right here.

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