In the aftermath of UFC on Fox 3, looking at the USA TODAY/MMA Nation Consensus Rankings gives us some very clear possibilities for the future of the winners and losers of last night's event. The Izod Center of East Rutherford, New Jersey hosted an event that will leave its fingerprints on the futures of several UFC divisions.
First up the headliners. The Lightweight division remains in its usual rematch-related muddle with new champ Ben Henderson booked up with an expected rematch against former champ Frankie Edgar at UFC 150 in August. That leaves Nate Diaz in position to hurry up and wait for his title shot. He seems to be fine with taking a longer break and waiting on the champion.
Same goes for Welterweight winner Johny Hendricks who squeezed past Josh Koscheck with a split decision win. Hendricks claims he's willing to wait but the 170lb class is even more gummed up than the 155lbers. Champion Georges St. Pierre is rehabbing a torn and surgically reconstructed ACL and interim champ Carlos Condit is waiting on GSP. That means Hendricks will possibly be waiting until early next year for his shot. That's no fun.
Here's the fights I would rather see in the interim:
Nate Diaz vs. Anthony Pettis
With the division's #3 fighter Gilbert Melendez stuck in the limbo that is Strikeforce (and Diaz would likely refuse to face teammate Melendez anyway), the #4 and #6 fighters Gray Maynard and Clay Guida set to face off in June at UFC on FX 4, #8 Pettis is Diaz' best option. For his part Pettis, who's nursing some injuries, wants to face Diaz. Let's not keep the fans waiting forever, book Diaz vs. Pettis in a #1 contender's bout in the Fall.
- Johny Hendricks vs. Jake Ellenberger/Martin Kampmann winner
Hendricks shouldn't get the luxury of hibernating until the title picture clears up. Especially when the #3 Ellenberger and the #9 Kampmann are meeting at The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale on June 1. That match up naturally creates a loser as well as a winner which leads us to...
- Josh Koscheck vs. Ellenberger/Kampmann loser
Koscheck is still a very dangerous man as his near-win over Hendricks attests. He deserves a chance to remain in the top 10 with a bout against the loser of Ellenberger/Kampmann. The winner of that fight would be back in the mix (to the extent that Koscheck isn't exiled from the mix as long as GSP holds the title).
Jim Miller vs. Donald Cerrone/Jeremy Stephens loser
The #12 Cerrone faces the unranked but formidable Stephens at UFC on Fuel TV 3 on May 15. A bout with the loser of that fight gives Miller a good chance at landing on his feet.
Alan Belcher vs. Mark Munoz or Vitor Belfort
Belcher is ready for a chance to prove himself amongst the elite of the UFC Middleweight division. Munoz is set to face Chris Weidman at UFC on Fuel TV 4 and if he wins a #1 contenders bout against Belcher would be just the ticket. Alternatively, if Vitor beats Wanderlei Silva at UFC 147, Belcher vs Belfort would also be an attractive scrap, possibly in Brazil.
Lavar Johnson vs. Mark Hunt/Stefan Struve
2 million plus people just saw Johnson put a brutal beating on Pat Barry. In a few weeks nearly a million people will see Hunt vs. Struve. Presumably brutality will be involved. Let's make more brutality happen with Johnson vs the Hunt/Struve winner. A title shot wouldn't be too far down the road from there for somebody.
Louis Gaudinot vs. John Dodson
They seemed to be headed in different directions after The Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale but now that they've both moved down to the Flyweight division and picked up a win, I think these two should face off with a shot against the winner of the Flyweight tournament in the winner's future.