UFC on FUEL TV 8: "Silva vs. Stann" is in the books and in the organization's first event Asian stop of the year, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a scintillating night of mixed martial arts (MMA) action.
Wanderlei Silva, Mark Hunt, Diego Sanchez, Yushin Okami, Rani Yahya and Dong Hyun Kim were the big winners Saturday (March 2, 2013) at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, as each picked up a victory over their respective opponents on the main card, which aired on FUEL TV.
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: Dong Hyun Kim
Who He Should Fight Next: Robbie Lawler
Why They Should Fight: Following Robbie Lawler's upset knockout victory over Josh Koscheck at UFC 157 last month, it was suggested "Ruthless" takes on the winner of UFC on FUEL TV 8's Dong Hyun Kim vs. Siyar Bahadurzada bout.
Lawler looked phenomenal in his first 170-pound fight in nearly 10-years, finishing Koscheck off with strikes in the first round at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The 30-year-old proved he is still a threat to anyone and after arguably the biggest win of his career, it only makes sense to let Lawler try and build his momentum further by putting him in some winnable fights against mid-tier opposition.
Kim is a smothering grappler with a solid 8-2 record in the UFC and a style of fighting that would pose an even bigger threat to "Ruthless" than Koscheck was able too. Lawler stuffed or got up from Koscheck's takedown attempts in their bout, but Kim's ability to control his opponents on the ground is arguably on another level. If Lawler could get by Koscheck and Kim in back-to-back fights, it would be hard to say there is anyone in the welterweight who's grappling he can't handle.
It appears Kim came out of his fight with Bahadurzada unscathed, which means the timing for a match up with Lawler would line up perfectly.
Winner: Rani Yahya
Who He Should Fight Next: Dennis Bermudez
Why They Should Fight: Rani Yahya continued to look impressive with a dominant decision victory over Mizuto Hirota in their featherweight affair in Saitama. After scoring a beautiful submission over Josh Grispi in his last fight, Yahya followed up with another quality effort for a clear-cut win over his Japanese foe.
The 28-year-old has looked outstanding since moving up to 145-pounds from the bantamweight division and with back-to-back wins under his belt, will be looking to continue to move up the ladder with another big victory in his next outing.
A suitable next opponent for the Brazilian fighter would be Dennis Bermudez, who picked up a decision win over Matt Grice in a ‘Fight of the Year' candidate at UFC 157, which took place just one week prior to UFC on FUEL TV 8.
Yahya vs. Bermudez would be an interesting clash of styles as Yahya likes to take the fight to the ground the first chance he gets while Bermudez is content with slugging it out on the feet or using his wrestling background to score takedowns when necessary.
Both fighters sit in the middle tier of the 145-pound rankings and it would be interesting to see which man could take the next step forward.
Winner: Yushin Okami
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Costa Philippou vs. Ronaldo Souza at UFC
Why They Should Fight: Once again, Yushin Okami proved why you should never match him up against a potential title challenger as he decisively dashed away any championship aspirations Hector Lombard may have had with a split decision win over "Lightning" at UFC on FUEL TV 8.
In typical fashion, Okami completely neutralized his opponent's game with his superior wrestling abilities en route to a decision win. It wasn't pretty, but Okami got the job done for his 13th career UFC middleweight record, the second most all-time.
Matchmaking for Okami is a difficult thing to do going forward. No one wants to see the Japanese fighter take on 185-pound champion Anderson Silva again, but if he continues to rack up wins over quality opposition such as Lombard, he will be hard to deny.
With a lot of top-10 ranked fighters either booked or injured, the best option would be to put Okami on the shelf for a few months and have him fight the winner of Constantinos Philippou vs. Ronaldo Souza, who are scheduled to scrap at UFC on FX 8 in May.
Okami would either take on an extremely talented boxer or a dangerous ground fighter, both of which would test his skills. Philippou or Souza would make the perfect opponent for the 31-year-old because if Okami wins it doesn't set the division back in a meaningful way, while if "Thunder" loses, whoever defeats him will have the name of a fighter who formerly challenged for the title on his resume.
Winner: Diego Sanchez
Who He Should Fight Next: Jamie Varner
Why They Should Fight: While many believe it wasn't justified, Diego Sanchez came out on the winning end at UFC on FUEL TV 8, defeated Japanese superstar Takanori Gomi in his home country in a hotly contested split decision.
Sanchez has been inactive of late, fighting only twice in the past two years due to injuries. Now that he is healthy and looks to be in prime form, it's time to see if Sanchez can make another run toward the title at 155-pounds.
Instead of throwing "The Dream" in the cage against one of the top-five lightweight fighters in the world, why not give him the chance to put a win-streak together against another fighter on the rise in the weight class, but sits just outside the top-10.
Enter Jamie Varner.
"The Worm" is coming off a big win over Melvin Guillard and has looked outstanding since his return to the UFC in 2012, seemingly competing in a ‘Fight of the Night' candidate every time he steps in that cage. That matches up perfectly with Sanchez, who has won ‘Fight of the Night' in three of his last four UFC bouts.
Both fighters are quick, explosive and versatile lightweights that like to throw strikes until their opponents are beat red or knocked unconscious.
If this match up becomes a reality, the fans are in for a treat.
Winner: Mark Hunt
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Travis Browne vs. Gabriel Gonzaga at TUF 17 Finale
Why They Should Fight: Mark Hunt disposed of towering Dutchman Stefan Struve by third-round technical knockout in the UFC on FUEL TV 8 co-main event to push his current UFC heavyweight-best win-streak to four fights in a row.
Over the course of his current run, Hunt has proven he can beat all the lower to mid-tier guys the UFC throws his way, now it's time to give the 37-year-old a serious challenge. With most of the heavyweight division currently tied up, the best option for Hunt would be to take on the winner of Travis Browne vs. Gabriel Gonzaga, who meet at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale on April 13, 2013.
Hunt vs. Browne would be a fight where viewers couldn't blink for a second in risk of missing someone getting brutally knocked out. "Hapa" is the more well rounded of the two fighters, but as Hunt has shown in his miraculous UFC run, he is capable of beating opponents who out skill him in a certain area.
Gonzaga would present a look very different that what Hunt has seen as of late. The heavyweight division is full of knockout artists and heavy hitters, and while Gonzaga can do that, his forte is on the ground. Struve was an utter failure when it came to executing against Hunt to the ground, but Gonzaga has a far better takedown game than "Skyscraper" and would be more than capable of putting "The Super Samoan" on his back and in other dangerous positions.
While Hunt isn't quite ready for the Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Frank Mir and Daniel Cormier's of the world, he is quickly building traction in the heavyweight division and he will be in the cage with those big names sooner than later if he continues to win.
Winner: Wanderlei Silva
Who He Should Fight Next: Retirement or Chael Sonnen/Dan Henderson
Why They Should Fight: It's no secret this writer wants to see "The Axe Murderer" hang up his gloves following his spectacular knockout victory over Brian Stann in Japan, but with the vibe the Brazilian is giving out post-fight, it doesn't seem likely his Hall-of-Fame career is ready to come to a close just yet.
If retirement is out of the question for Silva at this point and he plans to compete at 205-pounds; fights against Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson --two men Silva has history with-sound like worthwhile options.
For a lengthy explanation on the entire situation and what the former Pride champion should do next, read"Who Is Next For Wanderlei Silva?"
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.