Joe Silva's shoes: Who should be next for The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 17 Finale main card winners?

USA TODAY Sports

Playing fantasy matchmaker is one of the most enjoyable things to do for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, and with The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale behind us, we put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play matchmaker for the event's main card winners.

The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale is in the books and the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) without question delivered the goods in arguably the best finale to a season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) reality show ever seen.

Urijah Faber, Kelvin Gastelum, Cat Zingano, Travis Browne and Bubba McDaniel were the big winners Saturday (April 13, 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 FX in the United States and Canada.

After every fight card, fans ponder about who the winners of each bout will be matched up with next. With another night of heart-racing fights in the rear-view mirror, it's time to climb into a pair Joe Silva's shoes, look forward and play UFC matchmaker.

Winner: Bubba McDaniel
Who He Should Fight Next: Another TUF 17 Fighter
Why They Should Fight: McDaniel earned a submission victory over Gilbert Smith that kept his UFC career alive in the TUF 17 Finale main card opener on FX.

Typically, the UFC brass will pair a non-TUF winner against someone from a similar situation and considering there were four other middleweight winners at TUF 17 Finale (Clint Hester, Dylan Andrews, Luke Barnatt and Josh Samman), there will be plenty of match ups available.

Even though the season has come to end, the "tournament" of TUF 17 goes on and the fighters who didn't win the show will weed each other out until only the best of the best remain.

Winner: Travis Browne
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo at UFC 159
Why They Should Fight: Browne showed he is still a legitimate contender in the heavyweight division with a first-round knockout victory over Gabriel Gonzaga at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale. With the win, Browne rebounded from his first career defeat at the hands of Antonio Silva and lined himself up for another meaningful fight in the weight class.

The most logical opponent for "Hapa" to face next would be the winner of Roy Nelson vs. Cheick Kongo, who face off on the main card of UFC 159 later this month in New Jersey.

Should Browne face Nelson, it would make for an exciting battle as both fighters hit extremely hard, would be coming off big wins and are hungry to put in the work needed to reach the top of the division.

If Kongo were to defeat Nelson at UFC 159, a match up between Browne and Kongo would be a rematch of an October 2010 bout between the two at UFC 120 that ended in a controversial unanimous draw after Kongo was deducted a point for repeatedly holding Browne's shorts. Three years and several fights after their initial meeting, now is as good a time as any for the two to settle the score.

Regardless of which man Browne faces next, there in another fascinating match up in the heavyweight division on the horizon.

Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
Who He Should Fight Next: UFC Newcomer
Why They Should Fight: Gastelum looked very strong in his split decision win over Uriah Hall to become the middleweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 17.

Typically, TUF winners receive a fairly winnable fight coming off the Finale, and there's no reason that would change now, especially considering how bright of a prospect the 21-year-old appears to be at this stage of his career.

With that said, the UFC should sign a fresh face to take on Gastelum for his first post-TUF bout. By no means should his next fight be squash match, but considering the UFC just invested 13 weeks of television into the American and there is a ton of talk surrounding him, it would only seem logical that the organization throws some favorable match ups his way and let him develop for at least a couple of fights.

Should the free agent market be barren of 185-pound fighters for Gastelum to face, there are a few men at the bottom of the division who could make for a solid scrap.

Winner: Cat Zingano
Who She Should Fight Next: Ronda Rousey
Why They Should Fight: This one is a no-brainer as it was set in stone prior to the event that the winner of Cat Zingano and Miesha Tate would coach The Ultimate Fighter 18 opposite UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and proceed to fight "Rowdy" for the title at the conclusion of the reality show.

Casting for TUF 18 takes place this month in Las Vegas and the show will film over the summer. It is expected to air in the fall and "Alpha" will attempt to dethrone Olympian when she challenges for the title at an event in the winter.

While Tate winning would have produced a "bad blood" edition of TUF due to her rivalry with the champion, Zingano winning doesn't have much of a downside as she presents a fresh challenge and Rousey has openly stated that is the fight she preferred.

It's unfortunate fans will have to wait so long to see these two elite female fighters finally face off; however, what happens between now and then on the historic season of TUF will only draw further interest for when the bout inevitably takes place.

Winner: Urijah Faber
Who He Should Fight Next: Brad Pickett
Why They Should Fight: Team Alpha Male's Urijah Faber has already defeated five of the eight fighters ranked below him in the official UFC rankings, while two of the remaining three are coming off a loss in their last fight.

The last man standing and one remaining top-10 fighter who Faber has never faced and is coming off a win is Brad Pickett.

Weight classes in the UFC are always fluctuating and it's possible that this fight could work out to be a legitimate No. 1 contenders fight at 135-pounds.

For a lengthy explanation on the entire situation and what "The California Kid" should do next, read "Who is next for Urijah Faber?"

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.

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