Joe Silva's shoes: Who should be next for the UFC on FX 8 main card winners?

Photo by Esther Lin via Showtime Sports

Playing fantasy matchmaker is one of the most enjoyable things to do for mixed martial arts (MMA) fans, and with UFC on FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" behind us, we put ourselves in Joe Silva's shoes to play matchmaker for both event's main card winners.

UFC on FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold" is in the books and in the organization's second event in Brazil of 2013, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) delivered a tremendous night of mixed martial arts (MMA) action that was filled with submissions and knockouts.

Vitor Belfort, Ronaldo Souza, Rafael dos Anjos and Rafael Natal were the big winners Saturday night (May 18, 2013) at Arena Jaragua in Santa Catarina, Brazil., as each picked up a victory over their respective opponents on the main card, which aired on FX.

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: Rafael Natal
Who He Should Fight Next: Brad Tavares
Why They Should Fight: Natal and Tavares are both hovering in the thick of the pack in the middleweight division and with only one defeat in each of their past six UFC bouts, they seem destined to fight each other.

Both men appear to be injury-free at this point, which means the timing would line up perfectly for them to face off in what would be an exciting middleweight contest between two fighters looking to emerge from the middle-tier of the weight class.

While "Sapo" has had more success on the ground in his career; the Brazilian, like Tavares, enjoys a good stand-up slugfest and there's a very good chance that's what the fans would get when you throw the two 185-pound competitors in the cage together.

Both men have a lot of momentum behind them with two and three-fight win-streaks inside the Octagon, respectively -- and only will continue to move forward while the loser goes back to the drawing board.

Winner: Rafael Dos Anjos
Who He Should Fight Next: Josh Thomson
Why They Should Fight: As mentioned in Joe Silva's Shoes for UFC on FOX 7 last month, dos Anjos vs. Thomson would be a doozy of a match up.

With a win over a top-five opponent in Nate Diaz in his UFC re-entry fight, Thomson, like dos Anjos, is looking to climb the ladder in the lightweight until he reaches the top.

Thomson showed in his UFC on FOX 7 victory over Diaz that his skills are as sharp as ever and facing dos Anjos next would make for a high-level 155-pound affair that would be a very exciting fight to watch.

Even though his victory over Evan Dunham was controversial, dos Anjos is on the second longest win-streak in the lightweight division and needs a true test for his next fight.

In Thomson's case, he needs to continue to defeat top-10 competition if he hopes to get a title shot.

Regardless of how the fight played out, dos Anjos vs. Thomson would be a great match up that has potential to be "Fight of the Night" no matter which card it ends up on.

Winner: Ronaldo Souza
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Tim Boetsch vs. Mark Munoz at UFC 162
Why They Should Fight: The man they call "Jacare" has been waiting an extremely long time to etch his name in the UFC win column and on Saturday he did just that with a first-round submission of Chris Camozzi.

While the win doesn't do as much for Souza as it would have if he were to defeat his originally scheduled opponent Constantinos Philippou, he did manage to bring an end to Camozzi's four-fight win-streak and proved he can hang with UFC level competition.

With the most significant win of his MMA career secured, Souza's path isn't going to get any easier if he hopes to become a UFC champion. He proved he can stop well rounded fighter in Camozzi, and now the Brazilian needs to beat a high-level wrestler before truly proving his legitimacy.

The perfect opponent to do that against would be the winner of Mark Munoz vs. Tim Boetsch, who are set to meet at UFC 162 this summer.

Either match up is appealing, as all three men are currently floating around the bottom half of the top-10 divisional rankings.

If Souza were to beat Munoz or Boetsch, he would be on a five-fight UFC/Strikeforce win-streak and would have to be included in the conversation of legitimate title contenders.

There's also the option of throwing Souza way into the deep end against Vitor Belfort as some, including this writer, have suggested. But it totally depends on if the UFC brass want to build Souza as a future title challenger of risk ruining his momentum with a risky match up.

Winner: Vitor Belfort
Who He Should Fight Next: Yushin Okami or Ronaldo Souza
Why They Should Fight: Under almost any other circumstances, Belfort would be the clear-cut No. 1 contender in the middleweight division by earning back-to-back knockout wins over opponents the caliber of Michael Bisping and Rockhold, but that appears to not be the case.

Due to his loss to 185-pound champion Anderson Silva just over two years ago, Belfort is still a floater in the division and may need a few more wins to earn a second crack at the belt.

That is unless Chris Weidman pulls of a monumental upset and dethrones "The Spider" at UFC 162.

If Silva holds on to the belt, though, then match ups with Yushin Okami or Ronaldo Souza --who was also victorious at UFC on FX 8-- are the most appealing out there.

For a lengthy explanation on the entire situation and what "The Phenom" should do next, read "Who Is Next For Vitor Belfort?"

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.

For more news and notes on UFC on FX 8: "Belfort vs. Rockhold," be sure to visit our complete event archive here.

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