In the wake of Saturday night’s UFC 188 event in Mexico we take a look at who the stars of the show may be fighting next in the Octagon.
What a great performance from the upset king Werdum to become the next heavyweight champion of the world. The thing that’s most impressive to me is how the Brazilian star has managed to continue showing tangible improvements in his skill set – particularly with his striking and cardio – at a relatively late stage in his career (he’ll be 38 next month) and it’s really paid off for him.
There’s plenty of options out there for his first title defense, though it’s unclear how the UFC will look to proceed. Junior dos Santos is the current No.2 contender and already holds an 80 second KO win over Werdum in the UFC back dating back to 2008 which will probably put him in the driving seat here. While it would be a marketable fight, the downside is that if JDS won the rematch then we’d potentially be staring down the barrel of a fourth fight between JDS and Cain Velasquez which wouldn’t be too appealing at this stage.
The other options are current No.2 ranked Stipe Miocic who’d make a lot of sense, but a lack of hype for that fight may put the UFC off, while one place below him is Andrei Arlovski who’s definitely in with a chance of getting the fight due to his marketability, but really could use another win first to justify a title shot.
I do belive that having had the best part of two years out due to injury combined with struggling to cope with the altitude in Mexico City did have an affect on Velasquez on Saturday night as that’s by far the worse he’s looked in his career to date.
I think the UFC still like the idea of Velasquez as champion, particularly since he’s been the key to the Mexican market for them, and so I’d imagine they’ll want to get him back to a title shot ASAP.
With that in mind I think they’ll look to avoid a potentially tougher match-up against Stipe Miocic in favor of putting Velasquez up against Andrei Arlovski, with the winner fighting for the title.
Alvarez showed real grit and determination to bounce back after losing the first round and suffering a bad eye injury to get the better of Melendez in the two rounds that followed and emerge victorious. That’s saved him from slipping out of the lightweight top 10 and sends a message that he’s still very much a threat to the rest of the division’s top fighters.
A lot of the other fighters in the divisions top 10 already have fights scheduled, so Alvarez might have to wait about for a month or two for things to settle down a bit, but I like the idea of a fight with current No.7 Edson Barboza (if he gets past Paul Felder next month),
It’s very rare that you see Melendez gassing in a fight, so like Velasquez I do actually subscribe to the theory that altitude may have had a part to play in how he performed at the weekend. Melendez only has one win in four UFC fights to date though, so whoever he faces next he has to step up his game if he still wants to be in the mix with the division’s elite.
Melendez still has enough of a name that he should get a significant fight next time out, so let’s put him in with Myles Jury who’s also coming off a loss, but still holds down the No.9 spot in the rankings.
Gastelum took care of business nicely against Nate Marquardt, but he’s made it be known that he’s very keen to head back down to the welterweight division next. Unfortunately for him, Dana White stated post-fight that he still has doubts the former TUF winner can make that weight cut, so it looks like his future remains at 185lbs for now.
With that in mind, I think Gastelum has earned the right to fight a ranked opponent in his new division. TUF Smashes winner Robert Whittaker also recently moved up to middleweight and is currently ranked at No.14 after stringing together back-to-back wins there, so that’s a logical next step for him while he tries to prove to Dana that his weight is under control.
Honestly I feel like it’s time for Marquardt to hang up his gloves. He’s been fighting for a very long time and he looks a shadow of his former self at this stage.
Rodriguez was one of the stand-out performers on the night and showed that the TUF format can still unearth genuine prospects.
The UFC would be wise not to throw Rodriguez to the wolves yet, but there’s still fun fights out there for him, with TUF Brazil winner Rony ‘Jason’ sure to make for an entertaining match-up.
Torres is in amongst the top strawweight contenders, but her performance at the weekend wasn’t the best, so I don’t see the UFC making a match-up for her next that would propel her into title contention.
Maybe that’s not such a bad thing as she’s still young and developing as a fighter. So, how about a rematch with the woman who produced an upset win over her during TUF and is currently just one rank behind her in the division, Randa Markos.