As usual with a big pay-per-view event, the results of UFC 166 opened up a few new avenues in terms of matchmaking. It seems pretty obvious who the champ is getting next, but everything else is pretty wide open. The co-main event winner going to a new division also adds a wrinkle to things. While the whole card was full of talented fighters, I'm just going to stick to the main card as usual for my fights to make post. So without further ado, let's get to it.
Cain Velasquez - UFC president Dana White made it pretty clear that Cain's next defense will come against Fabricio Werdum. He's 3-0 since his return to the UFC, and has held himself out from fighting again because he knew he was in a good position for a title shot. Does he have what it takes to dethrone Velasquez? I can't really see it. But no one thought he'd submit Fedor Emelianenko back in the day either, so who knows.
Junior dos Santos - After another sustained beating at the hands of Cain, JDS might just want to take some time off. Even if he doesn't, it'll be very interesting to see who he gets thrown in there with. Alistair Overeem seems like the most obvious candidate if he can get by Frank Mir. The other option would be either Travis Browne or Josh Barnett. I'm not sure whether they'd give him the winner or loser though. Out of the three, Overeem is definitely the most likely in my eyes.
Daniel Cormier - He's not going to get an automatic title shot at light heavyweight, but you'd have to assume that he's going to fight a top five guy. There were some rumblings about him fighting Alexander Gustafsson first, and Cormier even made a reference to Sweden in the post-fight press conference. That seems like the most logical idea - the winner of Cormier/Gustafsson gets the winner of Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira.
Roy Nelson - He has now lost two in a row, and looked pretty ineffective in both. I don't believe he's a top 10 fighter anymore, but the UFC seems to see things differently with the way they book him. I think the most obvious matchup for him would be the loser of the upcoming bout between Antonio Silva and Mark Hunt. The guy that comes up short in that fight will be in a similar position to Roy in the rankings, and both would engage Big Country in an exciting fight.
Gilbert Melendez - Dana indicated that Gil was right back in the title hunt with the win, especially since there's a new champion. He also alluded to the fact that Melendez might have just pushed T.J. Grant out of his spot. I certainly don't think Melendez gets a straight title shot again if Anthony Pettis beats Josh Thomson, but he could be one more win away. A bout with Grant would make the most sense based on all of that, and this gives Grant more time to heal up. If they don't want to do that, it might be time to give Rafael dos Anjos a shot at some top competition.
Diego Sanchez - Sanchez is in a weird spot. He's not a highly-ranked lightweight, but he's generally treated like one by the organization. And his command performance last night will earn him more stripes even though he came up short again. So, it seems like they'd want to give him another exciting fight, right? The best solution for that would be a guy like Joe Lauzon or Jim Miller, but they're both booked. So I'd stick him in there with the loser of the Melvin Guillard vs. Ross Pearson bout at UFC Fight Night 30.
Gabriel Gonzaga - He's the only guy to step into the octagon four times in 2013 so far, which is impressive for a heavyweight. He has also won three of those bouts and finished all three of them. I think he's at least a win away from the top 10, and Stipe Miocic would seem like the best option for Napao's next fight.
Shawn Jordan - Jordan vs. Matt Mitrione sounds like a good fight. He could be an outside-the-box candidate to face Nelson as well if they both want to return to action quickly. But I think Mitrione is a better fit at the moment.
John Dodson - He barely lost to the champ and nuked a guy in his comeback fight. He's firmly entrenched as the number three guy in the division, but isn't likely to get another title shot anytime soon. A bout with John Lineker would be absolute fireworks, as long as he can get through Phil Harris at UFN 30. But Lineker needs to make weight.