(Worst ‘America’s Got Talent’ audition ever. Photo courtesy of UFC.com)
Cain Velasquez has a date with Junior Dos Santos, and Jake Shields — God help us — is still likely to face the winner of GSP vs. Koscheck. But the fates of UFC 121‘s other winners and losers are yet to be determined. As usual, we have some brilliant suggestions…
Brock Lesnar: Assuming that nobody really wants to see a Lesnar vs. Mir rubber match, there are a surprising lack of options for the new ex-champ. If Roy Nelson beats Shane Carwin at UFC 125, Lesnar vs. Big Country would make perfect sense. (Lesnar vs. Carwin II is also an option for down the road, considering Carwin never felt like Brock beat him fair and square.) But at the moment, the best available opponent for Lesnar is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who’s coming off his own nasty loss to Velasquez. The fading Big Nog would likely take a beating, but the UFC needs to re-build their most bankable star against a credible name, and letting Lesnar whale on a legend is an effective way to do it.
Martin Kampmann: The first name that comes to mind is Dan Hardy, though the UFC probably wants to avoid the possibility of one of their British stars dropping three straight. So how ’bout this: Nate Diaz. The TUF 5 winner and moneyweight contender is facing Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 125. If Diaz wins, Diaz vs. Kampmann is a great matchup between two guys who are on the same upper-middle region of the welterweight ladder. If Diaz gets outgrappled by DHK, then Kampmann gets a rebound against an "easier" opponent. Either way, it’s a scrap.
Diego Sanchez: Should Sanchez really drop back to lightweight after dominating one of the best fighters in the welterweight division? If he was serious about that plan, then only one opponent really makes sense: Kenny Florian, in the long-awaited rematch of their TUF 1 Finale fight. If Sanchez changes his mind and stays at 170, I’d suggest putting him against Matt Hughes, who’s enjoying an improbable third act in his career thanks to consecutive wins over Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie, and Ricardo Almeida. Strong country boy vs. energetic Mexican — does that sound familiar?
Matt Hamill: As long as the UFC stops making Hamill fight friends and coaches, we’ll be happy. Counting his DQ "win" over Jon Jones, Hamill has gone 5-0 over the last two years, and deserves a solid name for his next fight. Meanwhile, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Ryan Bader. Hamill vs. Lil’ Nog is a fight that Matt can win with his wrestling, and would make him a contender again.
Brendan Schaub: After his big win over Gabriel Gonzaga, Schaub named Frank Mir as the guy he wants next. Sounds good to us. Mir is a logical step up from Gonzaga both competitively and in terms of star-power. Of course, Mir wouldn’t have nearly as much to gain from facing a dangerous up-and-comer like Schaub, but after his last performance, the UFC probably wouldn’t mind punishing him a bit.
Garbiel Gonzaga: In eight fights over the last three years, Gonzaga has only been able to defeat Justin McCully, Josh Hendricks, and Chris Tuchscherer, solidifying his status as one of the biggest can-crushers in UFC history. But instead of firing Napao right now, the UFC should let one more prospect make their name off of him. Namely, Jon Madsen, who upped his UFC record to 4-0 on Saturday night by storming through Gilbert Yvel in the opening bout of the prelims. Madsen will put Gonzaga on his back, guaranteed. If Gonzaga can’t use his long-rumored BJJ skills to defend himself, he doesn’t belong in the big leagues.
Court McGee: Like most of the TUF winners before him, McGee passed his first post-TUF test, relying on the same attributes that got him through the reality show: Great conditioning, strong submission skills, and the ability to take abuse. His standup still needs work, to say the least, but the kid’s got potential. I think CB Dollaway would be a stiff, but necessary test for McGee. Dollaway is just as good with a choke-hold, and is a lot more comfortable in the Octagon. Dollaway isn’t is a top-shelf striker, which is good because McGee could use some more time to develop that side of his game.
Tom Lawlor: No high-production walkout routine + pre-fight colonic = victory. But coming after two losses, the Filthy Mauler isn’t out of the woods yet. I say give him the loser of the Chris Leben vs. Brian Stann match at UFC 125 to see if his win over Cote wasn’t a fluke. (If Leben beats Stann, the Crippler should get Wanderlei Silva next, obviously.) And please, Tom, no more blackface at the weigh-ins.