So now that the dust has settled – both from UFC 150’s raucous main card, and Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s nude fire extinguisher assault on a Mission Hills church – it’s time to look ahead to the future, and see what (possibly) lies in store for UFC 150’s winners and losers.
I’ve often said Joe Silva has the most unforgiving job on the planet. He has to deal with managers, agents, injuries galore, last-minute substitutions, and the minute demands for timing, location, and opponent a fighter will often have in mind – multiplied by a roster of hundreds. Talk about a headache, right? If I were Silva, I’d have a pipeline of Advil extra strength running right into my office, and a fountain of Jack Daniels to help wash it down.
But if I WERE Silva, that would also mean I get to choose what’s next for UFC 150’s main card fighters. I’d relish this chance because (at least to me) there’s rarely a UFC event like 150 where this many “makes too much sense not to happen” fights are so obvious. Let’s take a look at some of those fights, why I feel they are obvious, and why they will get made – or at least, should get made.
Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz (on Fox)
Ok, so if you’ve got to start somewhere, start with the most blindingly obvious choice. Yes, folks, I realize you don’t have to be a genius to predict Nate Diaz will be challenging next for the UFC lightweight championship. Dana White confirmed it even before UFC 150 got underway. So I’m not blowing anybody’s mind by suggesting the UFC book the fight they were going to make anyways.
If I can, I’d like to focus on another aspect of this fight – namely, where it should be shown. This fight is being targeted for late December, which leaves two possibilities: the next “UFC on Fox” card, or the UFC’s traditional year-end PPV. To go by most folks, a title fight by default should be placed on the PPV, likely in a supporting role to the Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez II main event.
To heck with that. I say put the Bendo/Diaz title fight as the main event on Fox, and win back all those casual fans who still haven’t returned after the disappointment of the first two Fox cards. They’ve already featured Nate on a Fox card, so there’s (some) interest and recognition of him among Fox’s audience. That fight won’t move the needle much as co-main event of a PPV – but as headliner of a network card, it could provide the sort of war you could anchor your whole promotional efforts around.
Frankie Edgar vs. Chad Mendes
After Frankie’s controversial loss to Benson Henderson, the question immediately became “will he drop to featherweight”? He’s still the number two guy at 155 pounds, after all. His most recent two losses to the reigning champ have also both been close decision losses where an argument could be made for Frankie in either fight. Really, it’s not like he’s being “kicked out” of the division. He could still compete quite successfully at lightweight, I’m sure.
But if he wants to wear UFC gold again – and soon – his best bet is to drop to the land of the 145’ers. Staying at lightweight, he becomes the 155 equivalent of Rich Franklin: good enough to beat the division, but not quite enough to unseat the champ. All he could do is pick off potential title challengers for Bendo, hoping that “Smooth” eventually drops his title to someone else and thus the door opens for Frankie once again.
Why wait? If he dropped, he could be contending for a title within a year’s time. Team Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes would be a perfect opponent to welcome Frankie to featherweight. He’s coming off a win, and before that a devastating loss to the champ – meaning he’s the perfect yardstick to test Frankie’s value at 145. His wrestling, speed, and athleticism would make for an interesting match-up for Edgar as well.
Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis
Coming into his UFC 150 bout with former teammate Melvin Guillard, Cerrone was openly campaigning for a fight with Anthony “Showtime” Pettis. It got to the point where some started to wonder if Cerrone was looking past his UFC 150 opponent. Of course, when you completely flatten your opponent in the first round it tends to take some of the force out of the “looking past your opponent” argument.
This is one of those fights that gets fans up and excited at the mere mention of it. Both these guys are exciting, bring-it fighters who have proven in their recent fights to be very well rounded. Both guys have strong name recognition with fans (could you believe the cheer Cerrone got during his introduction?) and are in similar positions within the lightweight rankings. A victory could very well send either man into a lightweight title fight.
But the best and really, the only true reason to make this fight is because it’s as close to guaranteed fireworks without Leonard Garcia or late-era Don Frye being there. Of all the fights on this list, this is the one I’d pay to see above all the others – hell, I’d pay to see the last 30 seconds, since I can almost guarantee this one doesn’t go to decision.
Yushin Okami vs. Jake Shields
The best part of having two guys, with history, fighting on the same card is that the timing is perfect for them to meet up again in a few months time. In the case of Jake Shields and Yushin Okami, we have two middleweights with title aspirations, coming off conclusive – yet flawed – victories at UFC 150. And both men just happen to have history with one another.
Ok, so there’s a chance you read “Yushin Okami vs. Jake Shields” and shuddered. Both men have something of a history of unexciting fights, and there’s a fair chance this fight turns into a 15 minute hugging contest. But Yushin Okami has mostly shrugged off the title of “boring,” and Jake Shields… well, what can I say? At least we know this fight won’t be any more boring that his last one, am I right?
No, I predict this fight ends up being pretty fun (though Lord knows I’ve been wrong about Jake’s fights before), with their wrestling cancelling each other’s out, forcing a fun (or extremely awkward) stand up battle. These men first met in the finals of the Rumble on the Rock tournament in 2006, with Shields edging Okami by majority decision that night. This time, this fight could determine who moves into the middleweight title picture and who gets sent back to the drawing board.
Nik Lentz vs. Mike Thomas Brown
Did anybody else realize that UFC 150 was Nik Lentz’s tenth fight in the UFC? That’s a shockingly hughe number for someone who has flown under the radar as much as Lentz has, but it looks like that’s all about to change. UFC 150 marked Lentz’s debut in the featherweight division, and he picked up an exciting victory over Eiji Mitsuoka in the opening bout of the night.
I say match him up with Mike Thomas Brown next. We’re not quite sure where Brown’s head is at at the moment – he has something of a history of instability, which led to his tumble down the 145-pound rankings a couple years ago – or who his next opponent will be. Still, he’s a former champion at featherweight, and exactly the name Nik could use to springboard himself into the top of the division.