UFC 159: "Jones vs. Sonnen" is in the books and in one of the most anticipated pay-per-view (PPV) cards of the year; the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) produced one of the oddest shows in history as questionable fight tactics, eye pokes and broken appendages were a theme throughout the evening.
Jon Jones, Michael Bisping, Roy Nelson, Phil Davis and Pat Healy were the big winners Saturday (April 27, 2013) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., as each picked up a victory over their respective opponents on the main card.
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: Pat Healy
Who He Should Fight Next: Gilbert Melendez
Why They Should Fight: With 13 years of mixed martial arts (MMA) experience under his belt, Healy finally registered his first UFC victory and he did it in resounding fashion.
"Bam Bam" picked up right where he left at the end of his Strikeforce tenure and after choking the world's No. 4 ranked lightweight Jim Miller unconscious in the third round of his promotional debut, is well on his way to a title fight in the UFC.
To get there, though, Healy must defeat a fighter who has once challenged for or held the UFC championship. Who better fits that description than Gilbert Melendez? The man who is coming off a split decision loss to 155-pound titleholder Ben Henderson and in the eyes of many should be the divisional champion right now.
Regardless of the fact Melendez is coming off a loss, his status in the weight class has actually gone up since being defeated by "Smooth" at UFC on FOX 7 and a fight with Healy is the type of match up that would put him right back into title contention.
Another interesting dynamic to this potential match up would be the fact Healy and Melendez were supposed to fight for the Strikeforce lightweight title before the organization closed its doors, but "El Nino" got injured and Healy felt he was robbed of his chance to become a world champion, which did not go over well with him.
The UFC could easily peg Healy vs. Melendez as a No. 1 contenders fight and there are few who would complain about it.
Winner: Phil Davis
Who He Should Fight Next: Ryan Bader
Why They Should Fight: Davis and Bader are both coming off big wins at 205-pounds and considering each man's place in the light heavyweight rankings (Davis No. 8, Bader No. 10), they seem to be on a collision course with one another and have been for some time now.
More so than "Mr. Wonderful," Bader prefers to keep his fights standing and slug it out while Davis is more prone to utilizing his elite wrestling abilities to take his opponents down and work ground-and-pound and/or submissions.
Bader is a very accomplished wrestler in his own right, though, and it would be interesting to see how each man deals with the skillset of the other.
Davis was dominant against Vinny Magalhaes at UFC 159, and now that he's three-fights removed his one-sided loss to Rashad Evans, it's about time for him to get back in the cage with top-10 opposition.
The only roadblock in his match up is the fact Bader was forced to withdraw from his UFC 160 bout with Glover Teixeira due to injury, but he should be ready to go sooner than later and a match up with Davis makes all the sense in the world.
Winner: Roy Nelson
Who He Should Fight Next: Daniel Cormier, Mark Hunt or Travis Browne
Why They Should Fight: With his finish of Cheick Kongo at UFC 159, Nelson recorded his third-straight knockout win and is now on his longest win-streak since his IFL days in 2007-2008.
Sitting right in the thick of the heavyweight top-10 at the No. 6 spot, "Big Country" needs a stern test in his next fight, and it appears he's in for it.
In Joe Silva's Shoes for The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale earlier this month, it was suggested that Travis Browne, who knocked out Gabriel Gonzaga at the event, should face the winner of Nelson vs. Kongo.
That match up with Browne is still intriguing on the heels of Nelson's win over Kongo, but from the sounds of Dana White's comments at the event's post-fight press conference (watch it here), the UFC brass is looking to book Nelson against Daniel Cormier or Mark Hunt.
Hunt is currently scheduled to fight Junior dos Santos at UFC 160 next month, the most likely of the three options sounds like Cormier, who defeated Frank Mir seven days prior to UFC 159 and expressed interested in fighting Nelson on Twitter after hearing White's remarks.
But with that said, any of the three match ups would make for an exciting battle, as all the men involved are hungry to put in the work needed to reach the top of the division.
Winner: Michael Bisping
Who He Should Fight Next: Yushin Okami
Why They Should Fight: After a knockout loss to Vitor Belfort last January, Bisping backed up all his trash talk and defeated Alan Belcher to avoid a second consecutive loss for the first time in his career, putting him right back in the middleweight title hunt.
If Bisping ever hopes to get a title shot, he's going to have to cross paths with Yushin Okami at some point. It's quite astonishing to think the British fighter and the Japanese fighter have been near the top of the same weight class for over five years but haven't met up inside the cage.
At this point in time, "Thunder" is basically the gatekeeper to the title at 185-pounds. If you can't get past him, you have no business sharing the cage with the likes of the champion Anderson Silva.
From Bisping's perspective, facing Okami would be a difficult stylistic match up, but one that if he could overcome would be a signature win in his career and beef up his resume to the point where he could make a claim to the No. 1 contenders position.
For Okami, a win over Bisping would represent his third in a row against a top-10 fighter and his fourth in a row overall since his ill-fated back-to-back losses to Silva and Tim Boetsch in 2011-2012.
The 31-year-old has been denying fighters who are viewed as future title challengers left and right, and should he defeat Bisping it would put Okami in a situation where he could turn around and ask for a second title fight himself.
With Bisping earning the big win over Belcher and Okami coming off back-to-back wins over Belcher and Hector Lombard, this seems like a fight that could have big implications in the middleweight division.
Winner: Jon Jones
Who He Should Fight Next: Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson or Anderson Silva
Why They Should Fight: Jones won't be ready to compete again until his broken toe is healed -- a timeframe that is unknown as of now.
When Jones is ready to compete again, though, there are several viable options for his next bout, the most significant of which would be a "super fight "against 185-pound champion Anderson Silva later this year.
If the 25-year-old chooses to remain in his weight class and continue to defend his title, the most credible opponents at this point are No. 1 ranked contender Lyoto Machida and No. 2 ranked Alexander Gustafsson, both of which have valid claims for challenging Jones.
For a lengthy explanation on the entire situation and what "Bones" should do next, read, "Who is next for Jon Jones?"
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.