Brock Lesnar already has a date with Cain Velasquez — potentially at UFC 119 in September — but the fates of all the other winners and losers from Saturday night are still up in the air. So let’s run down a few of the notables and try to determine who they should take on next. You’re really gonna have to start paying us, Joe.
Shane Carwin: Word on the street is that the winner of Junior Dos Santos vs. Roy Nelson at UFC 117 will receive the next heavyweight title shot after Velasquez, which means the loser could be a good opponent for Carwin’s return fight. Cigano and Big Country are both skilled enough to drag Carwin into round 2, where he’ll either crumble again, or prove to everyone that cardio is not his achilles heel.
Chris Leben: He called out Wanderlei Silva following his unbelievable submission victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama, and the Axe Murderer is down with it. Seems like a no-brainer to us. Who wouldn’t want to see two of the UFC’s most beloved brawlers beat the stuffing out of each other? Dana White says he wants to have Leben fight again soon rather than have him sit out the rest of the year while Silva’s knee heals up. But after two fights in two weeks (and $100,000 in bonus money), we think Leben could use a nice vacation.
Yoshihiro Akiyama: He got a gift decision against Alan Belcher in his UFC debut last year, and was choked out — choked out! — by Chris Leben. We think the myth of Sexyama has been officially destroyed. Give him one more fight to show us that he belongs in the Octagon. A win-or-get-lost match against the tough-but-struggling Dan Miller (who has lost his last three fights by decision) seems to be in order. Akiyama will surely complain about the matchup, but if he wants to redeem his reputation he’ll play ball.
Stephan Bonnar: Scoring your first win in almost three years, thereby saving your job and getting the opportunity to make an incredibly creepy victory pose? Nice, player. The first name that comes to mind for Bonnar’s next dance partner is Jason Brilz, who should get another high-profile fight after nearly defeating Lil’ Nog on short notice at UFC 114. No matter how it turns out, one thing is for certain — Bonnar will leave the cage with a gruesomely torn-up face.
George Sotiropoulos: After six straight wins and decisive victories over Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino, George Sotiropoulos is officially a contender. He’ll need to upset a top-ten opponent before he gets a shot at the belt, and the most logical option is to have Georgie fight the loser of Kenny Florian vs. Gray Maynard at UFC 118 (which, for all intents and purposes, is a #1 lightweight contender match). Still, if Frankie Edgar loses his rematch to BJ Penn in UFC 118′s main event, Sotiropoulos vs. Edgar would make just as much sense.
Brendan Schaub: Since his loss to Roy Nelson in the TUF 10 finals, Schaub has scored lightning-fast TKOs over Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer. With Cheick Kongo and Travis Browne already booked, a fight against Pat Barry could be a good choice. It’s not really a step up for Schaub, but it’ll give the young 6-1 fighter a little more time to develop before he tangles with the top dogs in the division. However, if the UFC wants Schaub to dive into deep water, a fight against Ben Rothwell would quickly determine where his abilities lie.
Gerald Harris: During his current stint with the UFC, the TUF 7 vet has scored three-straight stoppage victories (and two Knockout of the Night bonuses), all in dramatic fashion. But all three of his opponents have been UFC first-timers with very little name value. It’s time to reward Hurricane Harris with a step up the ladder. Kendall Grove just kept himself in play by outpointing Goran Reljic on the UFC 116 prelims, and “Da Spyder” would be a perfect next test for Harris.
Got any other matchmaking ideas in the wake of UFC 116? Let us know in the comments section…