On paper, UFC 200 was initially one of the best -- if not the best -- cards in UFC history. That arguably changed after Jon Jones was pulled from the card earlier this week, but UFC 200 nevertheless still featured a pair of title fights, the return of "The Beast," a very odd super-fight and a handful of former champions. But there was a slight disappointment among most mixed martial arts fans after the landmark event was all said and done on Saturday night. It didn't feel like Amanda Nunes' upset submission over Miesha Tate to capture the women's bantamweight title should have capped off UFC 200, which marked the debut UFC event in Las Vegas' new T-Mobile Arena. It was a very strange feeling, to say the least.
That said, it's time to pair most of the UFC 200 fighters up with future opponents. I'm filling in for
Zane Simon Joe Silva and Sean Shelby, who took a sick day, in the UFC matchmaking department. Let's get down to business.
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Amanda Nunes: Nunes' first title defense comes down to Ronda Rousey's next actions (who would've thought?). If Rousey returns before the end of the year, I can guarantee it's against the Brazilian for the championship. But if she doesn't, there are two clear contenders in the title mix: Julianna Pena and Holly Holm, if she defeats Valentina Shevchenko later this month. Pena deserves the title shot more than anybody but Holm is more marketable than her because of potential future rematches with Tate and Rousey, so I think she'll get the next title shot (unless she loses to Shevchenko).
Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano: Both fighters lost at UFC 200 and are looking to get back into the winning column. Zingano defeated Tate in 2013, but since then, "Cupcake" passed Zingano in the UFC rankings all the way to the title. Tate would have the chance to get revenge on "Alpha," while Zingano could look to get back into title contention.
Brock Lesnar: I never thought I'd say this, but Lesnar is a top 10 heavyweight in 2016. Although the fight against Mark Hunt was a "one-off," I do believe Lesnar fights in the Octagon again. He won't be rushed into a fight against a top contender, though, so I think a matchup with the winner of Andrei Arlovski vs. Josh Barnett works well.
Mark Hunt and Travis Browne: I've been calling for a fight between Hunt and Browne for quite some time. Both got brutalized in their respective UFC 200 fights (Browne more than Hunt), and neither guy will have the risk of getting taken down against each other. Hunt vs. Browne would be a very fun action fight in which someone would get knocked out.
Daniel Cormier: Despite the very odd circumstances leading up to the light heavyweight titleholder's non-title fight against Anderson Silva, "DC" got the job done. It's time for him to go back to defending his belt in five-round fights. The only matchup that make sense for him next is the winner of Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira.
Anderson Silva: Silva can't hang with the best anymore. He has nothing left to prove. It's time for "The Spider" to finally hang the gloves up. But if he chooses not to -- and there's a pretty good chance of that happening -- I'd like to see the rematch against Vitor Belfort (finally). That is actually a winnable fight for Silva at this point, and a great matchup.
Jose Aldo: Now the interim featherweight champion, Aldo is thought to be fighting Conor McGregor next in a rematch. But the Irishman is fighting Nate Diaz next month, and if he is successful in the rematch, who's to say the UFC won't try to capitalize on that and setup a trilogy fight? I'm not convinced McGregor will even be able to make 145-pounds, either. Depending on what happens in Diaz vs. McGregor II at UFC 202, Aldo should either fight McGregor or Max Holloway next.
Frankie Edgar: Edgar's impressive five-fight winning streak came to a crashing end on Saturday night. I think a classic wrestler vs. wrestler matchup against Ricardo Lamas makes sense for "The Answer" next.
Cain Velasquez: Sea-level Cain showed up this time around -- not the Cain that lost his belt to Fabricio Werdum last year. Velasquez looked really, really good against Browne and I believe with this win, he's next in line for a title shot. He wants the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem and it makes sense to me.
Julianna Pena: If "The Venezuelan Vixen" doesn't get the shot against Nunes next, a fight against Sara McMann would be another solid choice.
Kelvin Gastelum: Gastelum's win over Johny Hendricks was the biggest win of his career hands down. The victory will skyrocket him through the welterweight rankings and get him closer to title contention. If Matt Brown gets past Jake Ellenberger later this month, that's the fight to make.
Johny Hendricks: Hendricks' downfall has been really sad to see. From being the champion win a win over Robbie Lawler to being on a two-fight skid, he's clearly not the same fighter he once was. It's time for "Bigg Rigg" to move up to the middleweight division -- where he won't have weight-cutting troubles -- and fight ex-welterweight contender Hector Lombard, who's also on a two-fight skid.
T.J. Dillashaw: Dillashaw badly wants the rematch against bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and he deserves it. With the first fight earlier this year being very close and exciting, I say give it to him.
Raphael Assuncao: There are numerous options for Assuncao because the bantamweight division is so deep right now. I'd like to see him fight the loser of Michael McDonald vs. John Lineker or Aljamain Sterling.
Sage Northcutt: "Super" still showed some flaws in his game, especially on the ground, at UFC 200. He's not ready for a major step up in competition and the UFC sure won't give that to him. I'd like to see how he fares against Scott Holtzman if he defeats Cody Pfister later this week.
Enrique Marin: Marin didn't look half bad against Northcutt. He showed off some skill on the mat and even on the feet. But it's probably a UFC newcomer next in line for him.
Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller: We've seen it before, why not again? Lauzon and Miller are two tough dudes who got back into the winning column this past weekend. Neither guy is going to move much further in the lightweight rankings. They both like to scrap, so let's do it.
Diego Sanchez: Sanchez made some changes to his camp leading up to the fight against Lauzon but they didn't appear to work out too well. Mehdi Baghdad is another guy who needs a win -- throw the two fighters together and we have ourselves a fight, unless Sanchez steps away from the sport.
Gegard Mousasi: There are a ton of options for Mousasi at the top of the middleweight division. Now riding a two-fight winning streak after the shocking upset to Uriah Hall last year, it appears that Mousasi has finally found his groove. Robert Whittaker is another guy on the cusp of title contention. I think Mousasi vs. Whittaker makes the most sense right now in the middleweight division. Another great option is Derek Brunson, who he was supposed to fight before Brunson pulled out.
Thiago Santos: Santos was on a roll in the 185-pound division but got starched by the top 10 Mousasi. I still think Santos is dangerous against just about anybody and can do well in the division. Give him a fight against the loser of Thales Leites vs. Chris Camozzi or Rafael Natal next.
Takanori Gomi: It's time for "The Fireball Kid" to say goodbye to fighting. Or a triple tag-team matchup with Tatsuya Kawajiri and Tim Burke against Mookie Alexander and two other BloodyElbow.com staffers. Either work with me.