UFC 163 "Aldo vs. Korean Zombie" is in the books and the ninth trip for Ultimate Fighting Championship to Brazil was not exactly the worst card ever, but it's safe to say everyone is eager to move on.
With that being said, pay-per-view (PPV) main card competitors Jose Aldo, Phil Davis, Cezar Ferreira, Thales Leites and John Lineker all picked up victories on Saturday (Aug. 3, 2013) at HSBC Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which means that it's time to anticipate their next moves in their respective weight classes.
Indeed, after every fight card, mixed martial arts (MMA) fans are already what the future holds for the stars of the show. With another night of action-packed fights, it's time to peer into our crystal ball and predict possible match-making scenarios.
Here we go, from bottom to top:
Winner: John Lineker
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Joseph Benavidez vs. Jussier Formiga at UFC Fight Night 28: Teixeira vs. Bader
Why They Should Fight: Maybe Lineker did enough to get himself into the title discussion and be considered as Demetrious Johnson's next opponent, but missing weight twice thus far and forcing his fight against Jose Maria Tome to take place at a catchweight of 129 pounds is not the best message to give the brass.
In a razor-thin Flyweight division, all three fighters have a chance to fight for the title with a win (even though Formiga would only have two straight wins if he beats Benavidez) and it makes sense for Lineker to fight the next best guy out there. Since John Dodson is coming off a losing effort to Johnson and Benavidez could have his No. 1 status taken away from Formiga with a loss, the winner of that fight would have to face the next top guy in line.
If we could cheat a little bit and assume Benavidez comes out on top ... that would be a salivating match up to say the least.
Winner: Thales Leites
Who He Should Fight Next: Wanderlei Silva
Why They Should Fight: Thales Leites returned to the Octagon after a four-year absence on Saturday night, getting the best of Tom Watson. And although he is notorious for that terrible performance against Anderson Silva at UFC 97, he showed vast improvements -- specifically in his striking -- against "Kong."
Why not match him up against a dangerous striker such as Wanderlei Silva?
There is a chance Silva may move up to Light Heavyweight and his future is uncertain with all these names being thrown at him lately, but there would be so many questions going into this fight. Could Leites trade with a deadly striker such as "The Axe Murderer?" Could Silva withstand Leites submission attempts and his ground game if the fight goes to the mat? Is it safe to say Silva would be favored?
Leites is enduring a second stint in the UFC, but he should not get an opponent to make him look good per se, as he is currently riding a four-fight win streak with wins over seasoned veterans like Matt Horwich and Jeremy Horn. Plus, this bout could take place on an upcoming card in Brazil, which would totally blow the roof off whichever venue the company chooses.
If the expression "styles makes fights" is a primary concern when booking possible clashes, this one would have that term painted all over it.
Winner: Cezar Ferreira
Who He Should Fight Next: Tim Kennedy
Why They Should Fight: Both fighters have two straight victories, coincidentally each of them comprising a decision and a submission win. It does not make much sense for Kennedy to fight Vitor Belfort, and since he has also ruled out the fight that was potentially slated to happen in Brazil, he still gets some South American flavor in Ferreira.
Also, don't forget that everyone loves a good training camp duel -- Ferreira's newly appointed team of the Blackzilians would go head-to-head with Rashad Evans' former coach, the incomparable Greg Jackson over at Jackson's Submission Fighting.
It would also be a good opportunity for each of them to crack into the UFC's official Middleweight rankings, no matter how meaningless the system appears.
Winner: Phil Davis
Who He Should Fight Next: Vitor Belfort
Why They Should Fight: This is a tough call because even though Phil Davis won -- and you cannot discredit him for a possible erroneous judging error -- he may not have the belief from many that he could challenge for the title. He does have a win over top-seeded Lyoto Machida, but that call was a bit of a sham on Saturday night.
Davis didn't exactly bring forth the most exciting fight so why not pit him against a name that has been juggled around as of late ... Vitor Belfort?
"Mr. Wonderful" could challenge the winner of Glover Texeira and Ryan Bader, but the UFC, as well as Jon Jones, seems all but convinced that Texeira would get the next shot if he outlasts Bader. If Davis can beat someone with the skills that Belfort holds on the feet, then he would really prove that he can hang with the best and deserves to be considered in the mix.
Since Belfort only wants title fights at Middleweight and is open to catchweight bouts from here on out, that would have to be Davis' call. Davis could show that his win was no fluke, bringing forth a similar gameplan against "The Phenom" in an unpredictable affair.
It really may not make any sense for Davis to fight anyone else at this point. He lost to Rashad Evans (which would be a little repetitive), Dan Henderson would have been considered had he not just lost to Machida and Gegard Mousasi sort of looms out of the picture in dire need of a strong performance after a satisfactory, but not exhilarating, win over Ilir Latifi.
He could wait for the winner of Mauricio Rua vs. Chael Sonnen but depending on how that fight turns out, either of those men would be a decent match up for Machida (the Machida-Rua trilogy would be somewhat enticing at this point). But why not make him prove his worth against a man who is on a similar tear right now? And hey, why not have it in Brazil to benefit both fighters?!
Winner: Jose Aldo
Who He Should Fight Next: Ricardo Lamas
Why They Should Fight: Let's just get it over with at this point. Regardless of Aldo's stance in the Featherweight division (mulling a possible move up in weight), Lamas has been on the champion's radar for quite some time now, whether he knows that or not.
Lamas bested Cub Swanson, who has now resurrected his career in hopes of a title shot and has impressively defeated two men who were previously considered as opponents for Aldo not too long ago in Hatsu Hioki and Erik Koch.
Indeed, Lamas suggests he could surprise a lot of people and that is not an overzealous statement. He matches up well against "Scarface" in the striking department and can truly give him a problem if he decides to take him down and wear him out the same way he blasted Koch (easier said than done when you have a talent like Aldo who shines in takedown defense).
If Lamas believes his skill set is good enough to challenge for the title, there is truth to that statement. Regardless, how many times can a man be poised to be Aldo's next challenge and be constantly overlooked in favor of more exciting and business-driven match ups?
Lamas is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing in what the brass expects you to do en route to the title -- win and win impressively. If Aldo moves up in weight, then it is understandable that the fight may not materialize, but Lamas could still get a shot at a vacant strap.
If Aldo decides to stay at 145 pounds, it would be ridiculous if his next challenge were anyone but "The Bully." That is if Aldo's potential foot injury (details here) does not keep him out of action for long.
That's a wrap for the UFC 163 edition of "Matches to Make." Got any better match-making fantasies? Share them in the comments section below.