UFC 173 was going along just fine before the main event. Most of the favorites were winning, and the future matchmaking looked pretty easy to figure out. Then a huge underdog stepped into the cage for the headliner and completely blew up a division. That's part of what makes articles like this fun to write, so I'm just going to get right to it. Who should the UFC 173 main card fighters meet in their next bout? Keep going to see what I think.
T.J. Dillashaw - Right from the second round of the fight where Dillashaw was showing off some amazing footwork, only one name kept crossing my mind - Dominick Cruz. Dillashaw was fighting his type of fight and when he went on to win, I couldn't help but think that the former champ is the absolute best option for Dillashaw's first title defense. Not a rematch with Barao. Not Raphael Assuncao. Dominick Cruz. There's the Faber/Cruz storyline, the champ getting back in there to reclaim the title lost storyline, and it can be built into a much bigger fight than an Assuncao bout. It obviously relies on Cruz's health, but from what I understand he should potentially be ready to fight around the same time as Assuncao would be. So, let's do this.
Renan Barao - If Cruz is going straight into a title shot (which he should), Assuncao can come back and take on Barao in his comeback fight. I've never liked the idea of "saving" contenders - if they can't beat the top guys, they never deserved the title shot in the first place. So while Assuncao's six straight wins (including a close one over the current champ) are probably enough for a title shot on their own, I'd love to see him face off with Barao first. The winner can meet the winner of Cruz/Dillashaw, and you have a bunch more potentially compelling matchups coming out of those fights.
Daniel Cormier - He's going to wait for a title shot. That could blow up in his face, but it's what he says he's going to do. Besides, what else are you going to do with him? Rashad Evans is out for another eight months or something. Glover Teixeira could be an interesting bout but I don't think that's a direction they'd go in. And there's no one else that would really give Cormier a good fight. So he better hope that the Jones vs. Gustafsson bout has a decisive ending in August so he can fight the champ near the end of the year.
Dan Henderson - Hendo talked of a drop to 185 and that'd be interesting. He doesn't like to cut weight though and has historically had cardio issues in the middleweight division. Let's just say he did that though - who could he fight? I'd personally love to see him fight Tim Kennedy and I think it's a solid matchup in a lot of ways. It'd probably be better for Hendo as a three-rounder though.
Robbie Lawler - Does he deserve another immediate title shot after defeating Ellenberger? My vote is no. While the first fight was very good, I don't think there was enough controversy in the Hendricks fight to warrant a rematch so quickly and other contenders deserve their shots. So what do you do with Lawler then? The answer is obvious - Matt Brown. The knock on Brown is that he hasn't knocked off a top contender yet, so match him up with Lawler and the winner is probably in line for a title shot. It'd probably be an awesome fight and would get a lot of eyes on it, so why not?
Jake Ellenberger - That's back-to-back performances that didn't do much for his stock now, and it's tough to see him getting a high-profile bout in his return to the octagon. They could continue to try to put together a fight with Tarec Saffiedine but I'm not sure that makes a ton of sense right now. Personally, I'd slot Ellenberger in against Mike Pierce next. It's a good style clash and gives Pierce a chance to get back into the rankings picture.
Takeya Mizugaki - Who would have guessed that Mizugaki would be on a five-fight win streak in the UFC? It's pretty amazing considering how long he has has been under the Zuffa banner and was never even able to string two wins together before this. If Assuncao doesn't get Dillashaw or Barao, this is the bout that makes the most sense for him. Other than that, Mizugaki could meet Iuri Alcantara next in a bout that could decide a future contender.
Francisco Rivera - Mizugaki exposed a few of his flaws and while he's a super entertaining fighter, I don't think he's going to be competing for a title. He is a good guy for crowd-pleasing fights though, and there is one potential bout that I really like. That would be Rivera against Eddie Wineland.
James Krause - It's not the best way to get a win, but Krause will take the injury TKO and move on. He's an exciting young-ish fighter that could be a player in the division one day. It might be a case of too-much-too-soon, but I'd really like to see Krause meet Joe Lauzon next. It's a perfect sink-or-swim fight in the division for him at this point.
Jamie Varner - Well he's probably going to be out for a while with that broken ankle, which is disappointing. I was very impressed with the way Varner handled the while situation but that was his third loss in a row now. When he does eventually return, I think a bout with Yancy Medeiros would be potentially exciting.