Tomas Rios takes a stab at it and offers these suggestions:
- Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
- Takanori Gomi vs. George Sotiropoulos
As fans and media alike scramble to get the dirt off Gomi's premature grave, the big question has become who exactly the former Shooto and Pride Fighting Championships titleholder should fight next. Matching him against one of the lightweight division's lesser fighters would be a waste, but most of the division's top attractions are tied up.
However, Sotiropoulos, he of the 6-0 UFC record, is available. It would be the perfect sort of test for both fighters. The Australian grappler has the rangy boxing to give Gomi problems, and his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills ought not to be messed with. Then again, if Gomi has returned to T-800 mode, his right hand alone may be the ultimate trump card in the division.
- Jake Ellenberger vs. Dong Hyun Kim
Anyone trying to wrestle his way to the top of the welterweight division has to prove he can handle the army of top control artists waiting in the top 10. With that in mind, pitting Ellenberger against Kim seems like a fight to make if the UFC intends on moving either man ahead in the division.
Better yet, watching how Ellenberger's supersonic shot matches up with Kim's smothering clinch game would make for one of the most fascinating takedown battles in recent memory. Given the UFC's ongoing need for serious welterweight title contenders, this fight needs to happen before we get any closer to the universe collapsing in 2012.
- Matt Riddle vs. Matt Brown
I like Gomi vs Sotiropoulos, although in a just universe, Sean Sherk would get to face Gomi instead of being thrown to the young lion Evan Dunham like so much steak. Love Kim vs Ellenberger. Am indifferent about Riddle vs Brown, although with Brown coming off two losses that's not really fair to either fighter. Riddle has earned a contender and Brown deserves a fair shot to stay alive in a loser leaves town match.
Belcher vs Okami is a rematch of a fight that Okami totally dominated in really boring fashion. I'd much rather see Okami vs Belfort, but they won't waste Belfort's potentially lucrative title shot. That leaves the winner of Nate Marquardt/Rousimar Palhares as my choice for Okami's next bout. Either man presents some novel threats for Okami.
We'll talk Jon Jones in the full entry.
That leaves Jon Jones. Our own Jonathan Snowden stoked the fires by suggesting Chuck Liddell last night. That seems to have infuriated everyone except the cynics over at Cage Side Seats who actually understand fight promotion and how to build a star.
Mike Chiappetta breaks down Dana White's hints:
UFC President Dana White said afterward that Jones (11-1) would face a "top eight" fighter in his next bout. No matter whose rankings you follow, that Elite Eight group includes names like Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Forrest Griffin, Randy Couture and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Any of those names would be a major step up in competition.
A serious look at that list doesn't leave many options. According to the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings #1 Shogun Rua is out until early next year and #4 Rashad Evans is going to wait for that title shot; #2 Lyoto Machida and #3 Rampage Jackson will dance in the fall; #7 Antonio Rogerio "Little Nog" Nogueira will be facing #15 Ryan Bader at UFC 119, and #13 Randy Couture will get James Toney at UFC 118.
I like the winner of either Nog/Bader or Couture/Toney for Jones' next fight. The former is the more hard-nosed sporting decision although the UFC is usually reluctant to pit two surging contenders together unless they've already had title shots. And the winner of Nog/Bader will definitely be a top contender. The latter choice is the star making route. Beating either Couture or Toney will get the attention of casual fans and help Jon Jones make that next step in his career. Jones and Toney are already engaged in a war of words. The thought of Jones tossing Toney through the air and elbowing his face repeatedly is almost enough to make me root for Toney over Couture. Almost.
Then there's #6 Forrest Griffin who's recovering from an injury. He's a big, tough guy who's almost as famous as Chuck Liddell. Forrest is coming off a win over Tito Ortiz that didn't do much for me. Forrest might just be the perfect happy medium. Less freak show than Couture/Toney, less of a waste of a fresh title contender than Nog/Bader. Forrest Griffin vs Jon Jones might be just right Goldilocks.
UPDATE: Jake Rossen has some very different ideas:
Next for Jones: Rashad Evans and Mauricio "Shogun" Rua look to be tied up until spring or summer of next year, with Evans promised a title shot and Rua hobbled by knee problems; Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Lyoto Machida have a November date; unless Jones gets put in blister packaging and sits on a shelf for six or eight months, he's probably looking at Rich Franklin.
Next for Takanori Gomi: The Japanese fighter put on the most impressive show of the night by knocking out Tyson Griffin: a fight with Melvin Guillard would be fireworks.
I like both of these a lot!