UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3 put a lot of fighters to the test. It was a carefully booked card full of close, meaningful fights between fighters looking to make statements in their divisions. Very little in the way of promotional newcomers, almost everyone was coming off a win, lots of potential going forward for fighters to jump into bigger, more meaningful fights. So, on that note, I'm going to try and figure out just what those more (or in the case of losers, less) meaningful fights should be.
If I do an extra good job here, I expect that I'll get a lovely postcard from the Shelby+Silva crew thanking me for essentially doing their job for them, leaving them free to vacation in the Bahamas. I'm pretty sure that's how this whole thing works.
Vitor Belfort: In it's own weird way, this fairly meaningless win keeps Vitor Belfort ultra-relevant in the division. His only losses since 2007 are to the UFC's cream of the crop and there have generally been a lot of wins in-between. There's a sense that Belfort has lost a step (he certainly looks a bit deflated), but until he actually gets beat out of the top 10 by his competition, there's no way to be totally sure. Unfortunately for him, he's either going to have to wait a while for a big fight, or take a bout with someone coming off a loss. Bisping is honestly probably the best option at the moment as his injury was reportedly minor and Rockhold is fighting for the title.
Dan Henderson: I don't really want to think about Henderson fighting more, but assuming he wants to and the UFC is still interested I'd give him Nate Marquardt, if "The Great" loses to Dollaway, or Nick Diaz if he's willing to wait around for Nick's suspension to end. A catchweight with Lil' Nog would also be workable.
Glover Teixeira: Like Belfort, Teixeira is also really short on options if he wants to fight a ranked opponent off a win. If Anthony Johnson beats Bader that would be an excellent fight, but it's hard not to think that AJ is lined up for Jones if Jones beats DC in his return. The only other option that really makes any solid sense right now is for Teixeira to fight Gustafsson coming off his loss to DC. It's either that, or wait for a few fights to happen.
Patrick Cummins: He needs to take a step back in competition. The UFC needs new talent at the top of 205 and they've tried to rush Cummins up the ladder to get there. It's not happening. He's more on the Bader/OSP track than that of an elite prospect. He could face the loser of Boetsch vs. Herman if he wants to wait a bit and they stay at 205, otherwise I think Jan Blachowicz is the fight to make for him.
Thomas Almeida: The world is Thomas Almeida's oyster right now. I'm hearing a few things about potential match-ups. I know Aljamain Sterling has said he'd be game and a lot of fans want to see him fight John Lineker, which would be bananas. And unless I've totally missed the mark, it sounds like John Dodson may have dialed up Shelby after the fight and asked for Almeida straight away. Sterling's booked and Dodson's coming off a loss, which would put Lineker in the best spot for that fight, but I'd also be really happy to see Almeida get in there with the new and improved boxing of Bryan Caraway.
Anthony Birchak: Since I know Matt Hobar is still injured, Russell Doane or Hugo Viana are probably the best fights to make for Birchak right now. He's still good enough to take on more established fighters, even coming off this loss and those would both be fun action fights.
Alex Oliveira: The Brazilan Cowboy is in a bit of a weird place. He's got that great combo of toughness, power, and aggression that makes him a successful fighter without necessarily being a skilled one. A fight between him and James Vick would pit two stylistically similar dudes against each other. I'd also be cool with seeing him fight Jon Tuck.
Rashid Magomedov: It sounds like Bobby "King" Green is ready to make his return to the UFC after going through a lot of personal tragedy and some injury woes. Rashid Magomedov would be the perfect welcoming party.
Gilbert Burns: His roll may be officially slowed, but I don't see any reason to give Burns softball match-ups. I think his best idea would be to fight a lesser version of the guy that just beat him, to which I'd present Chad Laprise as his ideal matchup right now.
Corey Anderson: Keeping Anderson on the slow path to success is going to be nearly impossible going forward. I don't expect the UFC would book him against Shogun, even though I think that's his most logical "next step" fight. Assuming that can't happen, I'd go with either Nikita Krylov or the winner of Latifi vs. O'Connell.
Fabio Maldonado: I kinda doubt that Maldonado would ever fight Lil' Nog and Cavalcante has been a Team Noguiera guy too, so I'm not sure if that's a bout that'd happen, even though it makes sense. Unless you really want to see Maldonado get sacrificed as part of the Jimi Manuwa comeback tour, I'd just go with the loser of Villante vs. Perosh.