Wow. That's the best word I can come up with to describe yesterday's UFC Fight Night. The debut show on Fox Sports 1 was one of the more surprising cards I've ever watched, and it was the epitome of why this is one of my favorite sports - you just never know what's going to happen in MMA. If there's a single person out there that picked Sonnen via guillotine, I'd be surprised. Or Browne front-kicking Overeem into dust. Or Johnson schooling Lauzon the way that he did. One thing it did do is make articles like this so much more interesting to assess and write. So without further ado, let's see who the main card fighters should face in their respective next bouts.
Chael Sonnen - There are so many options for Chael right now. He's a legitimate top-10 guy at LHW now. I don't see how he couldn't be with that win. And clearly he's a top-10 guy at MW too. He wants to fight Wanderlei Silva, and that fight would sell. So would fights with Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida. Of those three options, Belfort is the one I'd personally like to see the most, but any of them would be great. At any weight.
Mauricio Rua - He just never got into the fight at all. Many are writing him off and calling for retirement, but I think that's very premature. It's tough to re-book Shogun vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira now since they're in very different positions after that loss, but they could easily coach TUF Brazil 3 (if they actually go forward with it) and face off afterward. If not, maybe a bout with Rafael Cavalcante would make some sense.
Travis Browne - Did he break through the glass ceiling at heavyweight by beating Overeem? I'm not sure, and booking his next fight is a difficult task. Fabricio Werdum would seem to be a good fit, but apparently he's waiting to fight the winner of Velasquez/Dos Santos 3 or something. The winner of Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson might work depending on the outcome. But to me, the best fit would be the winner of the Frank Mir vs. Josh Barnett fight at the end of the month. Browne vs. either of those guys doesn't scream "buy the PPV" and they might have bigger plans for Barnett if he wins, but it's logical matchmaking in my eyes.
Alistair Overeem - Oh, how the mighty have fallen. There's a real chance that the UFC could just give up on him and send him packing. Despite his salary though, I think that he can still be a draw for at least one more fight if he's used correctly. And by "used correctly", I mean putting him in the cage with Mark Hunt. I know they fought in Dream a few years ago and Overeem won in just over a minute. But at this stage in each man's career, it's a really interesting fight that just makes sense.
Urijah Faber - He's beaten pretty much everyone that isn't the champ. The obvious outlier there is fellow UFC Fight Night winner Michael McDonald, and that's a hell of a matchup. But it might not make sense from a matchmaking perspective. There aren't a lot of challengers at 135, and Faber potentially knocking off Mayday would be bad for business. Yes, McDonald had a title shot already and lost. But he's 22 and probably the hottest property in the division at the moment. Fellow BE writer Mookie Alexander believes that Faber vs Mayday is the fight to make. And it might be the only logical fight right now. I'd rather see something else though. And that would be Frankie Edgar vs. Urijah Faber at 145 lbs.
Iuri Alcantara - He put up a good fight early, but Faber quickly got the better of him. The matchmaking was a little odd to begin with - I figured they'd build Alcantara at 135 before throwing him to the wolves. But what's done is done, and it's going to be a long road back up for him. A solid opponent for his next bout might be Mike Easton.
Matt Brown - Six in a row. Crazy. I understand that fighters who win six UFC fights in a row are prone to calling out the champion and all that, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Brown hasn't beaten any top-10 opponents (though Pyle was close). Giving him the Martin Kampmann/Carlos Condit winner is absolutely insane to me. You know who makes a lot more sense? Tarec Saffiedine. Robbie Lawler. Even Jake Ellenberger if you want. But not GSP, or Johny Hendricks, or Rory MacDonald. Come on now.
Mike Pyle - Pyle's almost 38, and a 29-second KO is a major, major setback for him. But he can still be an effective welterweight and could consistently beat guys in the bottom part of the top 25. If he's willing to keep going and do that, more power to him. He'd be a pretty good gatekeeper. I say go back to Pyle's original matchup for UFC 160 - Gunnar Nelson. Pyle's coming off a loss so it might not make as much sense now, but I still like the matchup.
John Howard - He's back in the UFC and he's got a middleweight win. I don't exactly see him lighting up the division, but he could be a solid challenge for some guys. He beat Hall, so how about another TUF guy? Josh Samman next maybe?
Uriah Hall - He could very well be fighting back in Ring of Combat in his next bout. All the hype has fizzled away and he has now lost to two natural welterweights in a row. If they do indeed decide to keep him, he's not going to be on main cards anymore. I don't think the fight with Samman makes much sense anymore. How about Tom Watson? At least it'd be entertaining.
Michael Johnson - That was easily the best performance of Johnson's UFC career, and he totally outclassed Lauzon. He's notoriously inconsistent though, so I'm not sure what to make of it. Does he deserve another ranked fighter after that? He came into the bout with two straight losses, after all. If they want to keep Jorge Masvidal busy, I love the idea of Johnson fighting him. Or let's see him put that impressive standup to the test against Edson Barboza.
Joe Lauzon - Man, Lauzon is so hard to figure out. Has all the damage from his career finally caught up with him? I don't think so. I think he just had a really off night, or he was injured or something. He's popular and generally entertaining, so he's going to continue to get good fights despite losing three of four. I think the perfect matchup for Lauzon right now is Evan Dunham. They're both action fighters (usually) with entertaining styles, and they seem perfectly suited to offer up one of the better fights of the year.