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What’s next for the 10 winners of UFC 172?

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andstillUFC 172 showed us a lot of things. It showed us that the light heavyweight division is alive and well; it hasn’t looked this good since the days of Chuck and Tito. It also showed us that 10 is the perfect number for the amount of fights on a UFC card. Almost every division was represented (except for HW and WW) and the pace was steady.

Beal got things started with one of the two performances of the night and Jones ended it with a masterpiece. So what’s next for the 10 winners of UFC 172? As always, I’ve got a couple of ideas. Check them out and feel free to agree or disagree in the comments section below.

Jon Jones: He is truly a pleasure to watch. He gives you something new every single fight and in his fight against Texiera, his swagger was at an all-time high. It had to feel fantastic for him doing his thing in front of his brothers,  and NFL legend Ray Lewis under the bright lights in B-More.

This run he’s been on since, well, the beginning of his career has been something to behold. And it’s certainly not going to get any easier from here on out. So what’s next for the champ? Gustafsson wants his rematch.  You could certainly make a case for the winner of Cormier vs. Hendo in Vegas next month to get in there next. And now there’s this guy the kids like to call ‘Rumble’ who just leapfrogged nearly everyone with his dominating win over top ranked Phil Davis. The answer is simple. Gustafsson deserves next, and it’s been announced that he officially will get that rematch that he and all of Sweden crave.

Jones versus Gustafsson in Toronto last year was the greatest light heavyweight match of all-time. Gus actually humanized Jones at moments and likely would’ve won the fight if he didn’t completely gas out in the final round. There is no reason (well, except for the beautiful new arena in Sweden) not to schedule the sequel for UFC 178 in Toronto this September at the Air Canada Centre – the location of their first meeting. By then, both men will have had more than enough time to make the proper adjustments from the instant classic last September. Expect a completely different look, and completely different fight this time around.

Anthony Johnson: From welterweight to middleweight to light heavyweight to heavyweight and now back down to light heavyweight; Anthony Johnson has found his home. Whatever hopes of a future as a UFC light heavyweight title contender Phil Davis once had were just shattered by a man who had never competed in the UFC 205 lbs division prior to Saturday night. The UFC needed a breath for fresh air like ‘Rumble’ inserted into this division. And now that he’s here, look out world. Is he the biggest threat to Jon Jones’ title? I’m not exactly ready to say that just yet.

Since a fight with his Blackzilian training partner Rashad Evans is out of the question (the UFC doesn’t need to kill another one of Suga’s friendships) a fight against the winner of DC vs. Hendo seems to the best option for a man who now finds himself right in the thick of things overnight. Not gonna happen. Neither Hendo or Cormier are willing to risk getting blasted by Johnson, both men will hold out for the title shot they’ve been promised with a win over one another. And you really can’t blame them.

So Jones vs. Gus II next, and the winner of ‘Rumble’ vs. DC/Hendo victor gets the next title shot. Of course throw in the possibility of untimely injuries and the potential of someone coaching a future season of TUF and you could see all sorts of things happen. Let’s hope neither of those things happen for the sake of the great momentum this division has at this moment. It’s been a while since 205 was this exciting. We still need a fight from Rumble though, and I just can’t find anyone in the top 10 for him to tango with right of the bat. How about a quick turnaround against the red-hot Ovince St. Preux? OSP’s won 12 of his last 13 and is a perfect 3-0 in the UFC at 205 lbs. This fight makes the most sense for Johnson next after a dazzling performance against Davis.

Luke Rockhold: Rockhold proved this past weekend in Baltimore that he can beat you anywhere. This is a guy who’s 11-1 during his time with Strikeforce and the UFC with 9 finishes; 6 via submission and 3 via KO. He’s still relatively young , he hasn’t taken much damage in his career and he has the look of an American major motion picture star. Luke Rockhold is Superman with 8 oz. gloves.

Rockhold deserves to be headlining cards from here on out. As much as a he wants a rematch with Belfort right away it just doesn’t make sense for Vitor. Belfort may have been all blown up on TRT when he wrecked Rockhold last year but he didn’t break any rules at the time so it was a fair win. Putting him back in there against Rockhold this soon after such a dominant performance is silly. Belfort deserves the winner of Weidman versus Machida next. Rockhold should be in line right after that. That is, if he can get past Yoel Romero in a #1 contenders five round main event on FOX first. There you go fight fans. You’re welcome.

Jim Miller: What do you do with a 155’er who holds the most wins in his divisions history with 13 but has never gotten a title shot? Just keep him busy. Jim Miller is as entertaining as anyone in the UFC today, and there are still plenty of fantastic match ups for him even though he’s already seemingly faced everyone in the division. The great thing about Miller is that he isn’t trying to duck anyone. Right after he put Yancy Mederios to sleep with a guillotine, he announced that he wants the guys that are ranked above him; Nurmagomedov, Dos Anjos, Grant, Thomson – Miller is ready for whomever.

Nurmagomedov is that guy. No one else wants to fight the 22-0 undefeated Sambo master. Even after beating Dos Anjos, Miller would be Nurmagomedov’s biggest fight to date. Just the thought of it gives me goosepimples as I type this.

Max Holloway: Young Max Holloway is maturing as a fighter right before our eyes. The kid won’t even be turning 23 until December and I honestly don’t feel strange calling him a UFC veteran after the way he handled a tough as nails opponent in Andre ‘Touchy’ Fili on PPV Saturday night. Holloway looked cool, calm, collective, and dangerous against Fili. His performance culminated in a late guillotine finish (the second latest submission finish in featherweight history). It not only showed us that Holloway belongs, it showed us that he may just end up being a top contender after all.

Though he may be coming off a loss, I like Tatsuya Kawajiri next for Holloway. ‘The Crusher’ is coming off a fight of the night performance in Abu Dhabi against Clay Guida and would be a fantastic test for young Holloway at this point in his promising career.

Joseph Benavidez: As far as opponents go, rankings don’t matter anymore for Benavidez. Like his Team Alpha-Male counterpart, Benavidez beats anyone who doesn’t make the walk to the cage with a belt around their waist. There is one flyweight out there though who is on quite the roll and could provide a problem or three for Benavidez. His name is Zach Makovsky. He’s held titles in other respected organizations and he’s looked incredible in the UFC thus far with wins over Joshua Sampo and Scott Jorgensen.

Takanori Gomi: First off, if you haven’t already, give Dwayne Wolff’s ‘Gomi vs. Vallie-Flagg‘ piece a read. You won’t be sorry.

Takanori Gomi is a living legend. For the fans that follow the UFC religiously, Joe Lauzon is one too. This is a fight that has to happen before either man calls it a career. What better time than now?

Bethe Correia: Forget Chael vs. Wanderlei, Correia vs. The Four Horsewomen is the best pro-wrestlingesque rivalry in the UFC right now. Shayna Baszler must attempt to defend the honor of the Horsewomen in her highly anticipated UFC debut.

Danny Castillo: On any other night, Castillo’s beautifully well-time one-punch KO of Charlie Brenneman would’ve earned him a performance of the night bonus. UFC 172 wasn’t a normal card though. It was arguably the best card of the year thus far. Rockhold, Miller, Holloway and Castillo all could’ve earned bonuses on any other night. The UFC did get it right though by giving Beal and Benavidez their $50K. As far as future opponents go for Castillo, there are plenty. One name that sticks out though is The Pit’s Ramsey Nijem. I love this matchup. It’s one that gets both guys back on the main card of a big show. Plus, the timetable is right, Nijem just competed recently in Abu Dhabi where he earned a performance bonus of his own.

Chris Beal: Whenever you have a card that’s as good as UFC 172 from start to finish you have to credit the opening fight just as much as you credit the final fight. Beal started things off with a bang by finishing Patrick Williams with one of the most picture perfect flying-knee KO’s you’ll ever see. He proved to us that he’s indeed ‘The Real Deal’ in his UFC debut and you can bet he won’t be opening up any more cards in the near future. There’s no need to give him a top guy at 135 lbs just yet. I’d imagine that Johny Bedford is chomping at the bit to get back into action after a disappointing NC against Rani Yahya. Bedford knocked Yahya out with a headbutt of the accidental variety that left him with a bad taste in his mouth. A battle of fast paced multi-faceted bantamweights in Beal and Bedford would be something for the two aforementioned men, and all of us as fans to get excited about.

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