While the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) debut in Mexico did not exactly go as planned, thanks in large part to the injury bug, the fighters on the card made the most of their opportunities, providing one of the more exciting pay-per-view (PPV) events of the year.
UFC 180 went down this past Saturday (Nov. 15, 2014) from inside Arena Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico. Featuring the interim heavyweight title fight, and a plethora of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF): "Latin America" prospects, the fans in Mexico were granted a night full of excitement and finishes.
In the main event, Fabricio Werdum became the interim champion by knocking out Mark Hunt with a picturesque flying knee in the second round (see it here). After being dominated in the first and much of the second, "Vai Cavalo" pulled off a flying knee literally out of nowhere, surprising everyone (including Dana White) in the process.
The co-main event featured the coming out party for TUF season 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum. The son of Mexican immigrants put on a show for the local fans in attendance as he rebounded from a poor start to choke out Jake Ellenberger late in the first round (replay here).
With that quick recap of the night's marquee bouts, it is now time to play matchmaker with our "Next Matches To Make."
Winner: Hector Urbina
Who Should He Fight Next: Augusto "Dodger" Montano
The TUF 19 product looked good in his UFC debut last evening, but at 27 years old, Urbina does not have much time to wait around as he makes his ascent up the welterweight division rankings.
Considering he is still at least one or two fights away from being ranked in arguably the most stacked division in UFC, Urbina should find himself fighting against another mid-tier martial artist, and Augusto Montano fits the bill perfectly.
Both men earned first-round finishes in their UFC debuts on the PPV portion of the card, so why not match them up for an exciting fight?
Winner: Augusto Montano
Who Should He Fight Next: Hector Urbina
I have said this before, and I will say it again: picking a mid-tier welterweight fighter's next bout is near impossible considering the depth of UFC's roster at 170 pounds.
Since both Montano and Urbina fought on the same card, pulled off first-round finishes, and won their UFC debuts respectively, it seems a match up between the two would have fight fans interested in watching.
Not to mention the fight would essentially serve as an elimination bout for both men making their way into UFC rankings, thus creating more buzz in the process.
Winner: Ricardo Lamas
Who Should He Fight Next: Chad Mendes
This is an easy decision for UFC, and I would be utterly shocked if they opted to go any other way with the division.
Even with Lamas' incredible finish over Dennis Bermudez at UFC 180 (video), "The Bully" will not be getting another crack at Jose Aldo any time in the near future. With top contenders Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar set to battle next weekend in Austin, and Conor McGregor all but assured a shot at Aldo barring a shocking loss to Dennis Siver in January, Lamas will need to wait patiently in order to get his second chance at UFC gold.
In order to find out who is third in line, UFC should match up the most recent title challenger in Chad Mendes with Lamas. While we all know UFC is not too keen on matching up winners with fighters that recently lost, Mendes' loss to Aldo was arguably the year's best fight, and was not a blowout by any means.
Expect to see "Money" take on "The Bully" sometime early in 2015 as the main event of a "Fight Night" card.
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
Who Should He Fight Next: Tyron Woodley
Kelvin Gastelum is the real deal, ladies and gents.
The TUF 17 winner sent a message to the rest of the welterweight division on Saturday night that he is a force to be reckoned with. The question is, will UFC opt to take it slow and build a star, or allow his rapid ascent up the division continue by feeding him a top contender?
With the victory, you have to believe Gastelum will move near the No. 7 spot that Ellenberger held prior to being submitted at UFC 180. That does not leave many options for Gastelum near the top of the pecking order as the rest of the contenders are either mending injuries or have fights planned.
If UFC wants to push Gastelum up the ladder, a fight with Tyron Woodley could determine the next title challenger after both Robbie Lawler and Rory MacDonald get their well deserved shots in 2015.
If Gastelum and UFC want the TUF winner to stay busy, a fight against undefeated No. 15 ranked Ryan LaFlare sounds enticing enough to me.
Winner: Fabricio Werdum
Who Should He Fight Next: Cain Velasquez
Well this one is obvious.
Werdum's sensational knockout victory over Mark Hunt proved "Vai Cavalo" is clearly the No. 1 heavyweight contender in UFC, and he deserves his crack at UFC champion Cain Velasquez.
With Velasquez hoping to return in March, expect to see the titles unified in the main event of either UFC 185 or 186 next year. As White noted, however, if Velasquez is unable to make that date or incurs another injury, he will be stripped and Werdum will be nominated to undisputed champion.
If that occurs, expect to see Werdum take on the winner of Junior Dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic, which goes down this coming December.
That's a wrap.
For more results and fallout from UFC 180 including play-by-play, videos, reactions, recaps, and more, check out our "Werdum vs. Hunt" live story stream right here.