Options for UFC 114 Fighters
On an event that seemingly featured nothing but upsets, Michael Bisping and Efrain Escudero must be happy to have live up to their betting line expectations. Both Bisping and Escudero fought well and left little doubt in the minds of either the judges or the fans as to whether or not they were victorious. As for the rest of the main card, the underdogs ruled the day, including the main event in which Rashad Evans moved well, earned his takedowns, and was able to beat Quinton "Rampage" Jackson to the punch more often than not.
Obviously, Evans will next fight Mauricio "Shogun" Rua for the UFC light heavyweight title. Less obvious are the futures for the rest of the winners from UFC 114. For those fighters, there are options.
Figuring out options for Bisping is tricky. He's nearly on the cusp of title contention, if only because he's one of the UFC's bigger stars, but there aren't a lot of options for fighters on that same level at the moment. Alan Belcher
would make a lot of sense as a Bisping opponent, but he will reportedly meet Demian Maia
at UFC Fight Night 22 on September 15. Instead, a guy who beat Belcher (well, kind of) might wind up as Bisping's next opponent.
The winner of Bisping v. Akiyama could conceivably receive a title shot, but Akiyama will need to get past Wanderlei Silva at UFC 116 on July 3 in order to make sense as an opponent for Bisping. If he can do that, he'll not only have beaten Silva, who Bisping feels he defeated and has expressed some interest in fighting once more, but will also be on a similar fight schedule to Bisping.
It may seem obvious to suggest Bisping v. Silva in a rematch, but when the topic was broached by Kenny Florian
on MMA Live following UFC 114, Bisping seemed only lukewarm on the idea. It doesn't sound like Silva v. Bisping will happen in the near future.
This would be another match where the winner could rightly earn a title shot. First, Marquardt will have to beat Rousimar Palhares when the two square off at UFC 118 on August 28. That's the biggest problem with the match; when it takes place. With Marquardt already scheduled to fight in August, he's on almost an entirely different fighting cycle than is Bisping. It's a situation that can be fixed, but not without putting Bisping on the shelf for about six months, and you'd have to think that the UFC wouldn't be particularly inclined to do with if other options were available to them.
Option 3: The winner of Mark Munoz v. Yushin Okami (UFC Live on Versus 2, 8/1)
Normally the options for each fighter only run two deep, but in this case, Bisping's options are so few that this possibility should be mentioned as well.
As with Nate Marquardt, Munoz and Okami will not fight until August 1, so their fighting cycle does not sync up well with Bisping's. However, the winner here might make the most sense as Bisping's next opponent. While Bisping versus either Munoz or Okami won't yield the next top Middleweight title contender (barring an injury to another contender), the winner will absolutely be in the contender's mix. One hesitation for this option: if Munoz wins, will the UFC want to eliminate either him or Bisping as a potential contender?
Option 1: The winner of Karlos Vemola v. Jon Madsen (UFC 116, 7/3)
Though his was not the greatest comeback of all time - that's Scott Smith v. Pete Sell - by surviving a two-and-a-half round onslaught from Todd Duffee, Russow proved that he is incredibly durable and not an opponent to be taken lightly. What Russow didn't prove is that he is ready to take a step up in competition. That makes the winner of newcomer Karlos Vemola versus TUF 10 cast member Jon Madsen about the perfect match for him.
Vemola is the latest Heavyweight to come into the UFC with tremendous hype, who with a 7-0 record with none of his matches getting out of the first round will be a fine stand-in for Duffee. Of course, he'll have to get past Madsen, who himself is undefeated at 5-0 and has shown tremendous wrestling, if nothing else. Then again, if the UFC is inclined to reward Russow's toughness and heart by bumping him up the ranks a bit, the next option makes a lot of sense.
Option 2: The winner of Ben Rothwell v. Gilbert Yvel (UFC 115, 6/12)
This may wind up being the easier fight compared to the winner of Vemola v. Madsen, but their veteran status will do more for Russow in victory than will either Vemola or Madsen, and in the case of Madsen, either Rothwell or Yvel will almost certainly put on a more crowd pleasing match against Russow.
- Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
Option 1: Forest Griffin
This one is obvious, and given that Griffin is expected to return to action this Fall, his timeline matches up well with Nogueira's. The winner of the match could realistically receive a title shot, although the likelihood of Nogueira facing the winner of Rua v. Evans had to have taken a hit following Nogueira's underwhelming performance against Jason Brilz. Then again, a big knockout of Griffin would go along way towards helping people to forget about his performance against Brilz.
Option 2: The winner of Rich Franklin v. Chuck Liddell (UFC 115, 6/12)
This is a match that just feels right. The timelines match up well with Franklin v. Liddell scheduled for Jun 12, and all three fighters are at relatively the same position in the UFC's Light Heavyweight division.
This is another match in which the winner can realistically receive a title shot, though again, a knockout victory for Nogueira would help to ensure a title shot in light of his match against Brilz. With Nogueira being the twin of former UFC interim Heavyweight champion and MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and both Franklin and Liddell being stars in their own right, this would be a fringe main event or a very strong semi-main.
The question here is Liddel's future, though if he can beat Franklin it seems reasonable to think that he'd keep fighting towards another title shot. The third match with Ortiz is looming, but with Ortiz's health concerns, it may not be realistic to count on that match happening anytime soon.