UFC 164 is in the books, and there were plenty of impressive performances on display. A new lightweight champion was crowned in his hometown of Milwaukee, but not before Josh Barnett and others had stunning victories of their own. Read ahead to find out who we believe each winner should be matched up with in their next bout.
Anthony Pettis v. TJ Grant
I know that the Pettis-Aldo superfight is all the rage right now, but let’s take a step back and remember that TJ Grant was originally scheduled to be Henderson’s opponent on Saturday night. The injury bug bit at an inopportune time, but that doesn’t mean Grant should lose his title shot entirely (just because it’s happened to others in the past doesn’t make for good precedent). Aldo already has plenty of challenges awaiting him amongst the current crop of featherweight contenders, and a fight with Pettis isn’t worth putting both divisions on hold at this point in time. Depending on the timetable to return from his knee injury, I’d like to see Anthony Pettis in a grudge match of sorts against Henderson’s original opponent(he did ask to take Grant’s place before the injury after all). I don’t necessarily like Grant’s chances against Pettis, but at the very least he’s earned his shot at the title and deserves to cash in. While that’s being squared away, Aldo can have his pick of Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas, and Cub Swanson. More on those guys later.
Josh Barnett v. Travis Browne
Barnett made a thunderous return to the UFC this weekend, putting on a malicious pace against fellow veteran Frank Mir. He showed that even at 35-years old he clearly still belongs amongst the elite of the heavyweight division, and a stern test against a younger prospect is in order. Travis Browne is coming off a stunning knockout victory over Alistair Overeem, and he could use another big name on his resume in order to inch closer to the title. Both guys always put on exciting fights, and Barnett would make considerably more sense for him as an opponent than Ben Rothwell. We know that Browne has some solid submission skills of his own, having picked up a “submission of the night” bonus with his arm triangle choke victory over Chad Griggs, but Barnett’s skills are at a whole other level. Both guys are fringe top-5 in the division, and a showdown could determine who is truly a contender in the UFC.
Chad Mendes v. Cub Swanson
Chad Mendes may very well be the best featherweight on the planet who isn’t named Jose Aldo. He already defeated Swanson via unanimous decision under the WEC banner, but to me a rematch makes more sense than giving Mendes another shot at the title just yet. Both fighters have developed quite a bit over the last three years, and this would be a good way to determine which is truly elite. At this point, Ricardo Lamas has done plenty to establish himself as the top-contender at featherweight, and he is the only contender who has not yet lost to the current champion. I’d like to see him get the next nod sometime early next year, followed by the winner of Swanson and Mendes. Swanson has already lost to Aldo, Mendes, and Lamas, and he will need to beat one of the three if he ever wants to be ranked closer to the top of the division. Similarly, Mendes can finally stake his claim for the next shot by defeating a fellow contender in Swanson.
Ben Rothwell v. Stipe Miocic
You can’t blame him for requesting a fight with Travis Browne, but I don’t think a win over Brandon Vera is enough to skyrocket Rothwell into a bout against a top-5 heavyweight. He’s never been able to string together back-to-back wins inside the octagon, and a smaller step up in competition against another competent striker would make the most sense. Miocic is coming off an impressive win over Roy Nelson in which he dominated Big Country on the feet, and as of yet no future opponent has been named. It would be a fun fight between him and Rothwell, and would give each the opportunity to build more momentum behind their name. Rothwell hasn’t fared well against the elite of the heavyweight division, so incremental progress would be in his best interests.
Dustin Poirier v. Dennis Siver
Poirier put on a spectacular performance on Saturday night, escaping a tight triangle choke early in the first round before controlling all aspects of the fight moving forward. He’s been unable to win back-to-back contests as of late, and he’ll need to do so if he wants to inch closer toward contention. Siver featherweight run was brought to an end by Cub Swanson, but his arsenal of unorthodox spinning kicks and strikes still make him dangerous against any opponent in the division. Taking a small step down in competition to face Poirier makes the most sense for both fighters, and would prove to be an exciting and dynamic matchup.
SciFighters! Let us know if you agree with my picks, and if not, who would you like to see face off against the UFC 164 winners?