UFC 165: "Jones vs. Gustafsson" is in the books.
The return trip to Toronto, Canada, for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) proved to have positives and negatives on the pay-per-view (PPV) portion; however, it will most likely be remembered as a smashing success thank in large part to the Light Heavyweight main event of the evening.
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson was nothing short of epic.
That being said, main card competitors Jon Jones, Renan Barao, Brendan Schaub, Francis Carmont and Khabib Nurmagomedov all picked up victories on Saturday night (Sept. 21, 2013) at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which means 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 thinking about what the future holds for the stars of the show. With another night of action-packed fights, let's peer into our crystal ball and predict possible matchmaking scenarios.
Here we go, from bottom to top:
Winner: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Who He Should Fight Next: Rafael dos Anjos
Why They Should Fight: If Josh Thomson is stepping in for T.J. Grant to face Anthony Pettis for the next Lightweight title shot, why not give Nurmagomedov another powerhouse in dos Anjos?
Fresh off his win over Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 27, dos Anjos was supposed to be an option for Josh Thomson, according to our Matches to Make: UFC Fight Night 27 Edition, and now it makes a lot more sense that Nurmagomedov, who dominated the much bigger Pat Healy could face dos Anjos, who brings forth a similar gameplan inside the Octagon. "The Eagle" is a black-belt in Judo, and that would make a very interesting grappling war with the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black-belt, who is on a five-fight winning streak and needs one more victory over a respectful opponent so that he can be considering amongst the elite at 155 pounds.
This also benefits Nurmagomedov, who is undefeated (21-0) with seven knockouts and seven submissions, who can put the division on watch and be considered a legitimate title threat if he gets past dos Anjos.
Winner: Francis Carmont
Who He Should Fight Next: Luke Rockhold
Why They Should Fight: Luke Rockhold is currently out of action for the time being, nursing an injury which forced him to drop out of his upcoming bout with Tim Boetsch at UFC 166. When the former Strikeforce Middleweight champion is ready to come back, he should face the rising Francis Carmont, who was able to maul Constantinos Philippou on the ground for the entire duration of three rounds, with the Cyprus-born fighter not being able to come close to having an answer for the takedowns and ground work.
It would be interesting to see if Carmont can do that to American Kickboxing Academy's Luke Rockhold, who prefers to keep the fight standing and is no slouch in the grappling and wrestling departments, too. Carmont had some questionable victories over Lorenz Larkin and Tom Lawlor before his win over Philippou, yet he is still riding an 11-fight win streak and is undefeated in the UFC. For him to break into the Top 10 at Middleweight, he needs to beat an opponent who is already there.
Rockhold is the perfect man to see if Carmont's hype is justified or if he cannot hack it against the six-year veteran. It would be as equally tough for Rockhold, since fighters could be a little rusty and not quite themselves after an injury.
Winner: Brendan Schaub
Who He Should Fight Next: Todd Duffee
Why They Should Fight: Schaub recorded the biggest win of his career by submitting Matt Mitrione in the first round, scoring a big takedown and looking sharper in the stand up department, too. Schaub has had an inconsistent Octagon run and it has not been terrible yet he has troubled adjusting to more experienced opponents (minus Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic). At 30 years old, Schaub is no longer a prospect and he should be able to crack into the top ten with this victory although if he cannot, a win over a fighter like Todd Duffee, can certainly take him there.
We have not seen much of Duffee as of late, with his last fight taking place in late Dec. 2012, which was a return to the Octagon after going even (1-1) elsewhere in other promotions. Duffee is currently injured right now although when he comes back, Schaub would be a perfect opponent for him to get back into the mix.
Both competitors are around the same age (Schaub is three years older) and both their frames bare a striking resemblance (with Duffee being a little more stockier). A good fight for both if they look to continue the rise.
Winner: Renan Barao
Who He Should Fight Next: Dominick Cruz
Why They Should Fight: We are cheating with this one a little bit. Dominick Cruz should be coming back from injury in Feb. 2014, and this will finally unify the interim bantamweight championship that Barao possesses with Cruz's title.
Barao absolutely smoked Eddie Wineland with a spinning-sidekick right in the face as the challenger dipped down and after a tough first round, Barao looked like he could be one of the best fighters in the world.
This is a fight almost two years in the making, and if Cruz cannot compete in that time frame, it will be a shame for him not only to be stripped but for this fight not to materialize. Barao could always get the winner of Urijah Faber and Michael McDonald at UFC on Fox 9, yet Cruz and Barao need to bring closure on this bantamweight title issue that has been going on for too long.
Plus, this fight would be an epic encounter, almost impossible to predict from now until the fight finally happens. Both men have excellent, lightning-fast stand up and the ground game would probably go to Barao; however, it would be fair to say Cruz's combinations could be problematic for the Brazilian standout. It would truly be one of the best fights to look forward to going into the new year.
Gustafsson proved that an immediate rematch should be on the cards with Jones based on his inspiring main event performance where he came up short, yet resembled anything but a loser. We may have to wait a while, since both athletes looked banged up (see hospital pic here) and could not even attend the post-fight press conference (watch full video reply here).
The controversial scorers and boo-birds were out in full force, and many thought that Gustafsson had done enough to win. No matter how you look at it, the main event was a close fight. Jones did enough to get the nod, retain his title and break Tito Ortiz's title defense record at six even though he went through hell to do so.
With Teixeira now being the next man in line, UFC may want to consider booking Gustafsson in an immediate rematch with Jones since it was such a close fight and they have an insanely good amount of opportunities to do so -- a Superbowl card in February is a good option or even a soccer stadium in Sweden would be a golden opportunity. Whatever the case may be, Gustafsson pushed Jones to the limit, into the deep waters and tested the champion like nobody has ever done before. He thoroughly deserves a second shot.
And we deserve to see it, too.
For our complete UFC 165: "Jones vs. Gustafsson" live stream results click here.