UFC 150: What’s next for champ, challenger and rest
At the end of the day, no matter what you, me, or Bobby McGee thought the decision should be, Benson Henderson remains the UFC lightweight champion, while Frankie Edgar has been dealt back-to-back losses for the first time in his career.
The decision will be debated for the next week (at least), but at the end of the day, both fighters move forward based on the result that is listed on their resume.
Even though the vast majority of people – myself included – though Edgar won, the scores didn’t go his way, and you have to react accordingly from here on out. Just as Edgar said in the post-fight press conference, you can’t change the result after the fact, so why continue to complain about it?
As controversial and questionable as it may be, Henderson won, Edgar lost, and now it’s time to forecast who each man – and the other winners from Sunday’s main card – will face the next time they step into the cage.
Next Opponent: Nathan Diaz
This one was pre-determined heading into UFC 150, as Diaz earned his first shot at UFC gold with a dominant victory over Jim Miller back in May, his third consecutive win since returning to lightweight at UFC 135 last September.
The younger Diaz has looked even more like his older brother Nick in recent fights, exuding confidence wherever his fights have gone and earning impressive wins over three quality opponents over the last year.
That being said, Henderson is a step up in competition, and a stylistic red flag for Diaz, who has struggled against bigger, stronger opponents who are capable of wrestling him into the ground.
From a promotional standpoint, this is a fight the UFC really needs to come together, preferably before the end of the year. Henderson isn’t at the level of stardom you’d normally equate with a UFC champion (yet), but Diaz certainly has the marketability to help carry this fight should it land on the top of a pay-per-view card.
My guess is that we see this one as the main event of the last FOX card of the year, as Diaz’s title eliminator took place on the network, and it satisfies the calls for bigger fights taking place on free television.
Next Opponent: Dennis Siver/Eddie Yagin Winner
Note: I expect Edgar to make the move to featherweight now that he’s lost two in a row at lightweight, and won’t be fighting for the title again as long as Henderson is champion.
I know that doesn’t sound like a very sexy match-up for the former lightweight champion’s debut in the featherweight division, but that’s kind of the point to be honest. Edgar’s opportunity to drop down and be awarded an immediate title shot was up the minute he lobbied for and received his rematch with Henderson.
As such, he’ll need to get a solid win under his belt in the 145-pound weight class before being considered a title contender, and this is the right kind of match-up to facilitate that.
You don’t want to roll Edgar out there against a Chad Mendes or Dustin Poirier at this point, as both still have championship potential of their own and don’t need to incur a loss – and neither does Edgar.
While the Siver/Yagin winner is certainly capable of pulling the upset – and Edgar would have to be favoured in a pairing with either man – it’s a less risky proposition with a greater upside than matching “The Answer” with one of the more recognizable up-and-comers in the division.
Edgar can certainly find success at featherweight if he does, in fact, make the move. All the things that helped make him lightweight champion – movement, great hands, heart, conditioning – are all still in play should he shed ten pounds, and he no longer is fighting guys who step into the cage 15, 20, 25 pounds heavier than him on fight night.
Next Opponent: Anthony Pettis
“Cowboy” was lobbying for this one even before he blistered Melvin Guillard at UFC 150, and following his double-bonus-winning performance against his former teammate, UFC President Dana White pretty much confirmed that Cerrone-Pettis is the fight the organization will make next. He also confirmed that it will be a title eliminator bout as well.
Cerrone survived some tense early moments in the cage, eating a big shot from Guillard right off the bat that put him on shaky legs, but managed to compose himself and connect with a glancing headkick before launching a right hand that put Guillard to sleep.
Outside of his one-sided loss to Nathan Diaz back in December, Cerrone has looked very good since moving to the UFC, showing off the mean streak and aggressive nature that made him a fan favourite in the WEC.
Pettis is a great match-up and opportunity for him, from both a style and career perspective. It’s the kind of high profile fight Cerrone needs to win to take the next step in his career, and should be a co-main event somewhere before the year is out.
In terms of how they match-up, this one should produce fireworks as both men like to come forward, mix up their strikes well, and press for finishes rather than trying to accumulate points.
Next Opponent: Yushin Okami
I’m killing two birds with one stone here, as I think the most logical choice for UFC 150 winners Shields and Okami is a rematch of their April 2006 clash during the Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Tournament. Shields won that fight by majority decision, and took the tournament by beating Carlos Condit in the finals in case you were wondering.
Both men scored solid victories in Denver over the weekend, but neither did anything to change way fans feel about them as fighters. Shields was able to grind out a good performance against a game Ed Herman in his return to middleweight, but will always be considered a “boring fighter” by fans who have little patience for the ground game.
As for Okami, he struggled on the feet against late replacement Buddy Roberts, but quickly turned to his grappling, and earned a second-round stoppage to get back into the win column after dropping two straight.
To me, this is the kind of fight you book as the main event of a smaller show – or position as the co-main event of the upcoming debut event in Macau.
Unfortunately for both Shields and Okami, they’re going to be relegated to lower profile events and placement until they find a way to excite fans with their efforts in the cage.
Next Opponent: Darren Elkins
As you’ve hopefully learned from reading UFC 150: The Aftermath earlier this week, I was really, really impressed with Holloway’s performance against Justin Lawrence. I think the future is very bright for the talented, young Hawaiian, but there is no need to rush him at this point.
Featherweight continues to get deeper and deeper as more lightweights realize dropping down a division makes sense, and the UFC signs more quality free agents to the ranks as well. As such, a moderate step up against someone like Elkins makes sense to me.
With three consecutive victories since moving to featherweight – including a dominant performance against TUF winner Diego Brandao last time out – Elkins is deserving of a step up in competition.
Coming off a pay-per-view win that is drawing rave reviews, Holloway fits the bill. It’s a good match-up that should test both fighters, as Elkins would be the strongest wrestler Holloway has faced to date, while the Hawaiian’s striking and length would be obstacles for “The Damage” to try and overcome.
Holloway has far more upside, and I can see Elkins getting the “Jacob Volkmann Treatment” going forward: because he’s a grappler who wins underwhelming decisions, he’s not going to get any kind of legitimate push until he (1) earns a stoppage or (2) forces the UFC’s hand by continuing to pile up wins as he keeps moving up the ladder. This is the kind of match-up he needs right about now.
Follow The Roar‘s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).
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