USA TODAY Sports
Playing fantasy matchmaker is one of the most enjoyable things to do for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, and with UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" behind us, we put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play matchmaker for both event's main card winners.
UFC 156: "Aldo vs. Edgar" is in the books and in the organization's first pay-per-view (PPV) event of 2013, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a scintillating night of mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
Jose Aldo, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Antonio Silva, Demian Maia and Joseph Benavidez were the big winners Saturday night (Feb. 2, 2013) at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, as each picked up a victory over their respective opponents on the main card, which aired on pay-per-view (PPV).
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.
Winner: Joseph Benavidez
Who He Should Fight Next: Demetrious Johnson
Why They Should Fight: UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson is awaiting his next challenger after defending his gold for the first time against John Dodson at UFC on FOX 6. It now appears Joseph Benavidez will be that man.
"Mighty Mouse" got past "The Magician," who proved to be formidable challenger, in impressive fashion for the first successful in what is starting to look more and more like the beginning of a dominant reign.
Considering the thin nature of the 125-pound division, it's likely that Johnson will make his next defense against a familiar foe in Benavidez, who defeated Ian McCall by decision at UFC 156.
Johnson defeated Benavidez to become the inaugural UFC flyweight champion at UFC 152 in September 2012. The fight was a competitive five-round battle, but Johnson was clearly the superior of the two and walked away with the split decision victory and the belt around his waist.
How would a rematch go less than a year later? It's hard to tell. But Benavidez is certainly capable of defeating Johnson with the right game plan. Unfortunately for "Joe-Jitsu," fighting Johnson again this soon would be a major risk as two losses to the champion in such a short time span would put him in title purgatory in the division, a situation very similar to what he faced at bantamweight with two losses to Dominick Cruz. However, if Benavidez loses to Johnson again, this time there's no lighter weight class to drop down to.
It would be nice if there were an option for Johnson's next fight outside of a rematch with Benavidez, especially since "Joe-Jitsu" has hinted he wants another fight before the belt, but with the current landscape of the flyweight division, there isn't any fighter with enough momentum or a big enough name to warrant a title shot.
Johnson has fought four times in the last 10 months, so it's possible he may want to take some time off, which would allow Benavidez to get another fight in. If he wants to stay active, though, a rematch with Benavidez is the only fight that makes sense.
Winner: Demian Maia
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald at UFC 158
Why They Should Fight: The welterweight title picture if very crowded at this point, and with his dominant win over Jon Fitch at UFC 156, Demian Maia is right in the thick of the mix.
To break things down briefly, Georges St-Pierre will fight Nick Diaz for the 170-pound strap at UFC 158 in March. Johny Hendricks, who meets Jake Ellenberger at the same event, will likely be next in line for the belt should he emerge victorious over "The Juggernaut."
After that, things begin to get a little bit fuzzy.
Carlos Condit and Rory MacDonald are set to rematch in the UFC 158 co-main event, and the winner will receive a high spot in the welterweight rankings. The chances are slim Condit would get another title fight just one win removed from losing to St-Pierre, and MacDonald seems disinterested in fighting his teammate "Rush" anytime soon.
If Diaz or Hendricks defeats St-Pierre, that throws a curveball into the division, but assuming he wins both of those fights, Maia vs. the winner of Condit and MacDonald would be a legitimate No. 1 contenders fight.
Condit nor MacDonald has faced a high-level jiu-jitsu specialist with the talents of Maia in the UFC, and the Brazilian would certainly put their skills to the test in that area.
If everything pans out as it should, you could see the Maia vs. Condit/MacDonald winner challenging for UFC gold in late 2013, early 2014.
Winner: Antonio Silva
Who He Should Fight Next: Josh Barnett
Why They Should Fight: Antonio Silva send the UFC heavyweight division into a loop with his upset of Alistair Overeem, leaving the top of the division in a very messy state.
Overeem was expected to challenge Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight championship with a win over "Bigfoot" at UFC 156 but feel short, suffering a highlight reel knockout in the third round.
While UFC President Dana White isn't ruling out giving a title shot to Silva, the gargantuan Brazilian fought Velasquez just two fights ago and was utterly decimated by the champion. While Silva has strung together back-to-back wins since losing to Velasquez, neither of those victories proved a rematch would go any differently.
If Silva wants to truly be the No. 1 contender, he needs to get by a strong wrestler. Silva was trapped on the bottom for his entire fight with Velasquez and had difficulties getting up against Overeem.
A fighter who will test Silva's bottom game is Josh Barnett, who is expected to officially sign with the UFC in the coming weeks and will have to work his way up the rankings to a title shot, according to UFC President Dana White.
From a purely competitive perspective, Silva vs. Barnett would be all kinds of fun. Both men have knockout power in their hands when striking and suffocating ground control when on top.
Taking out a former world champion in Barnett would be huge for Silva's career and prove he is shortening up the holes in his game, while a victory for "The Warmaster" would immediately give the UFC a new title challenger in the heavyweight division.
Winner: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Who He Should Fight Next: Glover Teixeira
Why They Should Fight: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Glover Teixeira have a few things in common, other than being Brazilian, of course.
Both light heavyweights picked up wins over former UFC champions over the past two weeks and both claim they want to waist no time getting back into the Octagon.
Having fought just seven days apart from one another, it only makes sense to match "Minotoro" against the Chuck Liddell protégé.
Nogueira and Teixeira both possess quality boxing skills along with dangerous submission arsenals and the match up is actually quite fascinating if you stack their skill sets up against one another.
There are some politics involved booking a Nogueira vs. Teixeira bout, as both fighters have the same management group and share a number of common acquaintances, including training partners. It's unknown if the two Brazilian countrymen would have any problems facing off, but assuming they didn't, it would certainly be a bout worth watching.
An argument can be made that the winner of Nogueira vs. Teixeira could make a claim as the No. 1 contender in the light heavyweight division, but even if you disagree, the victor of this potential bout would be at most one more win away from the title.
Winner: Jose Aldo
Who He Should Fight Next: Ricardo Lamas or Anthony Pettis
Why They Should Fight: After his knockout of Erik Koch at UFC on FOX 6 last month, the star appeared aligned for Ricardo Lamas to challenge the winner of the UFC 156 main event between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar. Even after Aldo's win, a match up with "The Bully" seemed like the most logical pairing.
That's right up until Dana White announced at the UFC 156 post-fight press conference that lightweight contender Anthony Pettis texted him expressing interest in dropping to the featherweight division to challenge "Scarface."
Lamas is certainly a deserving title challenger, but it's hard not to salivate over the thought of a striking battle between Aldo and Pettis, even if "Showtime" has never had a fight in the weight class.
For a lengthy breakdown on the entire featherweight title situation and what Aldo should do next, read "Who Is Next For Jose Aldo?"
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 played the role of UFC matchmaker.