Usually when the UFC has a card as heavily stacked as UFC 117 it doesn’t live up to its heavy expectations. UFC 117 looked as good or better on paper as any card you’ll see this year, and will be hard to top after some seriously exciting matches. A win or loss can send a fighter’s career in a different direction. Let’s take a look at what I think is next for UFC 117′s main players.
Anderson Silva – For the majority of the Spider’s 23 minute war with Chael Sonnen, he didn’t exactly look like MMA’s top pound for pound fighter. The only thing that matters is that he’s still the middleweight champ, and the suddenly very competitive division has lots of potential challengers. However, it doesn’t look like we’ll see a middleweight title fight until next year, as Silva will be sidelined with a rib injury. It looks like the UFC will set up a number one contenders fight while they wait for Silva to heal, which brings us to…
Chael Sonnen – Usually a fighter won’t get two title shots in a row, and this won’t be the case for Sonnen, mostly because of Silva’s injury. The other middleweight contender at the top of the heap is Vitor Belfort, who was scheduled to fight Silva for the title at UFC 112, but was injured and couldn’t compete. I think it’s fairly obvious that the UFC should set-up number one contender match between Sonnen and Belfort. Expect to see it later this year.
Jon Fitch – It might not be pretty, but Fitch got it done again against Thiago Alves. He grinded out another victory, and there’s no where to go but up. Since his loss to GSP, he’s rattled off five wins in a row. I think Fitchd eserves another shot at the title, and we’ll see him take on the winner of GSP and Josh Koscheck sometime in 2011.
Thiago Alves – After a 13 month layoff due to various injuries, Alves showed some major ring rust against Fitch. The fact that he couldn’t make weight probably didn’t help either. He lacked explosiveness and couldn’t defend the takedown. Alves would have been better off taking a warm-up fight as he looked nothing like top five welterweight contender. I think the UFC should throw him in there with another elite striker, Dan Hardy. Hardy has a fight in October against Carlos Condit, so we’ll have to wait to see what happens there, but you’d have to be out of your mind to not want to see Alves vs. Hardy. I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
Junior Dos Santos – No need to make any type of prediction here. JDS will take on the winner of Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez probably in the spring. In the meantime, JDS will probably be training big time on his takedown defense.
Roy Nelson – Nelason took a serious beating the hands of Dos Santos, but earned a lot of respect. The loss knocks him down a notch in the heavyweight rankings, but he still makes an interesting and tough fight for anyone in the division. The perfect dance partner – Mirko Cro Cop. Cro Cop’s not done yet, but he doesn’t belong in there with the divisions elite. I think this would be a fun fight for fans.
Matt Hughes – The old man’s not done yet. The soon to be 37 year-old made quick work of Ricardo Almeida, and should probably see a step up in competition after three straight wins. Hughes has gone on record to say that he’ll be taking some time off, so who do you throw him in there with? His next opponent will be based on the outcome of some of the bigger welterweight fights remaining this year. If Koscheck loses, pair him up with Hughes, otherwise, a fight against Martin Kampmann would be good too.
Clay Guida – Is there another fighter in the UFC who’s more balls-out than Guida? I don’t think so. Any fight he’s in is exciting. If he wants to continue to make his way of the ladder, he’s due for some stiffer competition. A fight with Takanori Gomi has fireworks written all over it. Let’s hope it happens.
Now we play the waiting game and let the UFC get down to business and give the fans the fights they want to see. The outcomes of Martin Kampmann vs. Jake Shields, and of course GSP vs. Koscheck will shed some major light on the future of that division. As fans, it’s fun to play fantasy match maker and watch the fights unfold, so let me know your predictions for who the above fighters should take on next. We might not be right, but the one thing that’s for certain is the quality of competition in the UFC is increasing with every event.