Last night, an astounding seven out of ten fights at UFC 142 in Rio de Janeiro were finished by knockout or submission. All three decisions were on the undercard and six of the seven finished fights ended in the first round. The sole outlier was the Edson Barboza spinning wheel kick in the third round of the highly entertaining battle with Terry Etim.
Today, now that we've reveled in all that ultra-sweet competitive violence given to us, it is time to contemplate the future of the rising fighters on the card. We already know that Vitor Belfort will be fighting Wanderlei Silva at the conclusion of TUF Brazil and that Anthony Johnson is cut, but what about the others from UFC 142?
Jose Aldo vs. winner of Hatsu Hioki vs. Bart Palaszewski: Only fight left that makes sense right now. Erik Koch is still developing and could use another fight to showcase his skills before a larger audience. Chan Sung Jung is still a fight away - perhaps against Diego Nunes - and hasn't quite developed the game to pose the complete threat to Aldo that is worthy of a title fight. Maybe it's getting to be time the UFC puts together a super-fight once more...
Edson Barboza vs. Gleison Tibau: Barboza shoots up the backroom chart with the spectacular finish, but is he ready to face the elite of the lightweight division? Tibau will make sure Barboza's defensive wrestling is sternly tested and Tibau's chin has stood up to everyone he's fought in the UFC, outside of Nick Diaz way back at UFC 65. Tibau combines a huge physical presence in the cage with a top control game that has not featured many submissions lately. Sounds like a perfect fight to take the mettle of Barboza.
Rousimar Palhares vs. Alan Belcher: Both fighters are itching for the jump up to the next level, but the elite middleweights are all occupied. Next week, we have Chael Sonnen looking to springboard off Mark Munoz into a title shot and Michael Bisping fully occupied with Demian Maia. The TUF Brazil deal has already locked down Vitor and Wanderlei, so the options for Palhares are slim - unless the UFC wants to risk the winner of Bisping/Maia against those dangerous leglocks.
Erick Silva vs. Brian Ebersole: Give Erick the Jon Jones treatment and move him along to a veteran with surprising durability and high entertainment factor. Give Carlo Prater to Jon Fitch to see how both men bounce back from their fight stoppages.
Terry Etim vs. Cody Mackenzie: After that knockout, Etim is likely to take some time off to shake off the effects and that gives Cody the requisite time to heal up from his injuries. The match-up between the two rangy lightweights could be a contender for Blank of the Night bonus on most cards.
Darren Elkins vs. Yuri Alcantara: The way Alcantara beat up on Omigawa for two rounds makes me wonder what where his eventual ceiling is at. Too bad Erik Koch is waiting around for a title shot or another challenger of that magnitude. Thus, Elkins gets the spot, fresh off his win over Tiequan Zhang.
Gabriel Gonzaga will likely have to sit and wait for some heavyweights to free themselves up. On paper, he has terrific offensive skills and could probably beat most of the division right now, but he may need to be brought up slowly again to prevent another flame-out.
Thiago Tavares is probably another in the "take a number and stand in line" crowd. His decision victory over Sam Stout is meaningful for sure, but all the fighters ahead of him with a win in their last fight are occupied. This match-up tactic of doing win-win and loss-loss gets annoying sometimes. Just stick him in the cage with Donald Cerrone and let 'em rip.
I am not sure what to do with Felipe Arantes. He looked awesome at times against Antonio Carvalho, but where exactly does his next fight come from? Should he be brought along slowly - as befitting someone who opened a card - or thrown right into the fire against a higher level fighter looking to get back into the thick of things? I think this is a rare moment that demands a win-loss match-up and would put him against Pablo Garza, who just lost to Dustin Poirier. As for Pato, I would love to see him go against Tyson Griffin in the next bout, but am unsure if he'll survive the Zuffa pink slip carousel.