These double-event weekends are a killer. I didn't even have to do any event coverage and I still feel exhausted from so many fights. While the New Zealand event had some good action, the San Antonio show felt like it took three days and even a fun main event couldn't save it. Nonetheless, the results of both shows did open up some good matchmaking opportunities and that's what I'm going to look at here. Without further ado, here's how I would book the top four winners from each card in their next bout.
Nate Marquardt - Do I think he can be a force at middleweight again? No, not really. But the win was a huge one for him and he'll probably get a top-15 opponent next time out. Who that will be is pretty hard to nail down, but I think the best option would be C.B. Dollaway. His win over Carmont was impressive but I don't see him really being a top-10 fighter as of yet, and Marquardt would be a tough challenge for him.
Jared Rosholt - There aren't many heavyweights out there on three-fight winning streaks, even if they weren't the most exciting fights ever. He's clearly due for a step up in competition though and I think the best challenge would be Andrei Arlovski. Rosholt's wrestling is obviously a strength and Arlovski has always had great takedown defense. And AA's boring showing against Schaub probably hurt his stock a bit so he won't be getting a top-10 opponent next. If Rosholt can knock off a former UFC heavyweight champion, it'd be the biggest win of his career and a good stepping stone to top-level competition.
Charles Oliveira - His bout with Hioki was undoubtedly the best fight of the weekend. The standnbang fans probably wouldn't agree, but the grappling in that bout was insanely cool and the finish was just unbelievable to me. Oliveira has serious skills and he's only 24. He was thrown to the wolves (Swanson, Edgar) really early in his featherweight career and came up short, but he can easily still become a top ten fighter in the division. With that in mind, I think a perfect next matchup would be against Dennis Siver when he returns from his suspension.
Robert Whittaker - The win wasn't super impressive, though I'm sure he's happy with it. But where do you go with him from here? Well, I don't see him getting a top-level guy any time soon, so give him another winner from the NZ show - Neil Magny.
Cub Swanson - It's time to give Cub a title shot. From what Stephens had to say leading up to the fight, that is the plan anyway. But he's one of the most exciting fighters in the division and he has won six fights in a row. Jose Aldo has already faced and beaten a lot of the top guys and if he gets through Mendes again, it's time for a rematch with Swanson. I'm sure it'll last longer than the last time they stepped into a cage at the same time at least.
Kelvin Gastelum - First, he has to start making weight. This much is obvious. After a terrible first round, he came back and took the final two with relative ease. He's now 4-0 in the UFC and still only 22. So who is next? I personally think that they shouldn't rush him into bouts with ranked fighters yet. So I'd like to see him face off with the winner of the bout between Thiago Alves and Jordan Mein. Either man would be a solid test for him and they're both probably going to be entertaining opponents.
Cezar Ferreira - Meh. That's all I can say about Mutante right now. I was really high on him coming off of TUF Brazil and he just hasn't delivered. He's a middle-of-the-road middleweight and should be treated as such. Give him the winner of the Uriah Hall vs. Thiago Santos bout at UFC 175.
Ricardo Lamas - This one is pretty simple to me - while Chan Sung Jung called out Cub Swanson for a fight after the latter's main event win, it's not likely to happen. So the Korean Zombie should face off with Lamas next instead. They're the last two men to lose to Jose Aldo and it's a natural matchup to determine the pecking order of the 145-pound division. And it'd be pretty damn exciting. So do that, UFC. Please.
I'm ending this on a personal note. This will be my last post for Bloody Elbow. The last three-plus years writing for the site have been extremely fulfilling and one of the best professional experiences of my life. I'd just like to thank each and every one of you for reading my stuff and all the positive feedback you've given me over my time here. You made it all worthwhile. Thank you so much.