(Seriously, who let that mouse into the Octagon? Props: UFC.com)
Here’s what we know: BJ Penn and George Sotiropoulos already have dates at UFC 127 in Australia. Karo Parisyan has been fired (again), and Matt Brown will surely be let go as well after suffering his third-consecutive submission loss. (Tyson Griffin also lost his third-straight on Saturday, but will remain in the promotion, as the judges’ decision in his fight against Nik Lentz was utter horseshit.) So where do UFC 123‘s other winners and losers go from here? As usual, we have a few suggestions…
Quinton Jackson: This one’s fairly obvious, assuming that nobody really wants to see an immediate rematch between Jackson and Machida. Rampage should get the winner of Jon Jones vs. Ryan Bader at UFC 126. The winner of that fight gets a title shot. Bada-bing, bada-boom.
Lyoto Machida: Once an unstoppable force in the light-heavyweight division, it’s now been a year and a half since the Dragon has put on a dominant performance against anybody. At this point, the UFC needs to re-build Machida against a mid-level contender. Give him Matt Hamill, who deserves a step up after handling Keith Jardine and Tito Ortiz. Alternately, you could throw Machida in against Randy Couture, and see if the Natural’s gift for game-planning can carry him through against the Dragon. Of course, that matchup might not be pointless enough for Randy, so don’t get your hopes up.
Matt Hughes: Joe Rogan did his best to induce Hughes’s retirement during the post-fight interview on Saturday, but the Country Boy didn’t bite. And you can’t really blame him — nobody wants to go out on a loss, especially when it’s your first loss in over two years. No, if you’re an MMA legend, you need to run up a solid string of losses before you consider hanging up the gloves. Hughes has previously said he’s not interested in a revenge match against old nemesis Dennis Hallman; if that’s still the case, why not match him up with former title challenger Dan Hardy, who’s coming off his brutal knockout loss against Carlos Condit. The young, brash, British punk striker vs. the aging, soft-spoken (though still assholish in his own way) God-fearing American patriot wrestler? Hughes would have his hands full, but it’s a fight that sells itself.
Maiquel Falcao: The Brazilian newcomer doesn’t deserve a big hop up the ladder after his "ultimate staring" performance in the third round against Gerald Harris — but he does deserve an opponent who can make an example out of him. I say, make Falcao fight a countryman who’s notorious for hurting motherfuckers. First name: Rousimar. Last name: Palhares. Middle name: Heel hook you until you cry.
Gerald Harris: Harris can still be an exciting fighter when he has a willing dance partner, and we don’t think Dana White will penalize him much for the Falcao fight. There’s a lot of names you could throw out here, but we’re going to suggest Tom Lawlor, who always comes to fight, and just saved his job by outpointing Patrick Cote at UFC 121.
Phil Davis: A fantastic wrestler with a knack for unconventional submissions, Mr. Wonderful is now 4-0 in the Octagon, and has established himself as a serious 205-pound prospect. But it seems that Dana White isn’t as high on him as we are. If Davis needs another build-up fight against an opponent who can test his striking skills, he should probably face the winner of Brandon Vera vs. Thiago Silva, who could be fighting for their jobs at UFC 125.
Joe Lauzon: After crumbling against George Sotiropoulos, and getting shelled for 15 minutes by Sam Stout earlier this year, Joe Lauzon may have secured his position as a permanent mid-packer in the UFC’s lightweight class. To shake that reputation, he’ll need to destroy somebody who has looked impressive recently. Luckily, UFC 123′s preliminary card offered two viable candidates: Paul Kelly, the British slugger who just smashed unreasonably-tall 155′er TJ O’Brien, or newcomer Edson Barboza, who turned Mike Lullo’s leg into dogmeat during his Octagon debut. Either man would prove if Lauzon’s a gatekeeper or a contender.
Got any suggestions for UFC 123′s other preliminary card fighters? Let us hear ‘em in the comments section…