While many individuals don’t put much stock into the pomp and circumstance that the Ultimate Fighting Championship uses to promote some of its events, the fact remains that UFC 148 was the most anticipated card that the organization has put together in some time. Carried mostly by the main event between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen, this may turn out to be one of the most watched events the organization has ever put on. As we all come down from the high of the night’s event, here is a look forward to matches that some of the night’s combatants may have to look towards.
Forrest Griffin vs. the winner of Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado
Forrest Griffin is a huge question mark in the light heavyweight division. It’s been four years since he’s defeated a legit contender, and over that same time his record is 3-3. That’s quite a telling statistic when Griffin has the well-rounded and diverse skill set to make him a threat to many different fighters. If he’s going to break out of the “gatekeeper” role that the former champion risks falling into, he would have to face and defeat the winner of Phil Davis vs. Wagner Prado, which is set for August.
Davis is a developing fighter who needs a strong win after being defeated by Rashad Evans earlier this year. While that loss took a lot of wind out of his sails, there’s still a lot of upside for the former Penn State wrestler. He has the strength and wrestling technique to get Griffin to the ground, but the question of whether he has the ability to control the fight once it gets there would be a vital point to watch for this matchup.
Wagner Prado is a big prospect who is finally making his debut for the UFC when he faces Davis at UFC on Fox 4. While his record is only 8-0, his name has come up in light heavyweight MMA conversations quite often over the last year. If he finds a way to defeat Davis, and does so by adding to his seven knockouts, then he will be an immediate talking point for the division. A fight against Griffin would help to build his name towards a strong run in 2013.
Chad Mendes placed a death grip on the number two spot at featherweight, and even though he just lost to Jose Aldo earlier this year, he continues to look like the man waiting in the wings to carry that title. On Saturday night, he dropped Cody McKenzie with a powerful right hand, and proceeded to pound him out. His next fight should be against Ricardo Lamas, who should be considered the only other viable opponent for Aldo once he defends his title against Erik Koch sometime this year.
Lamas shocked Hatsu Hioki this past June by outpointing the Japanese standout. He brings a very diverse skill set into the cage, possessing the ability to be very effective in multiple aspects of a fight. If he is matched against Mendes, the biggest concern would be how well his takedown defense can stop the best wrestler in the featherweight division. This is a necessary bout for crowning Aldo’s next challenger, and should be included on whatever card the Aldo–Koch matchup has been rescheduled for later this year.
Mike Easton has made a major push towards becoming a well-known name in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The win over Ivan Menjivar is the biggest victory he has attained in his career, and extends his win streak to eight, which includes three win -in the Octagon. The 135-pound weight class is in need of fighters to step up as contenders with champion Dominick Cruz on the shelf, and this win goes a long way towards placing his name on that short list.
29 year old Raphael Assuncao is an interesting figure in the UFC’s bantamweight division. While he has struggled as of late, with only 2 wins in his last 5 bouts, he’s put together an impressive MMA career, and if he can string together some victories, he will quickly reach the top of the contenders list. He has beaten such fighters as Joe Lauzon and Jorge Masvidal while competing in larger weight classes, so he’s proven that he can win against prime opponents.
Issei Tamura is coming off an impressive debut, where he knocked out Tiequan Zhang in the second round of their UFC 144 bout. With just nine fights during a four-year MMA career, he is surely in need of more fights before he’s truly considered a top contender within the UFC. If he can get past Assuncao at UFC on Fuel TV this Wednesday, and then be matched against and defeat Mike Easton, those two wins would quickly bolster his resume.
Philippou has made the most of his time in the UFC. While he was defeated by Nick Catone in a bout he took with less than two weeks notice, the Matt Serra-trained fighter has rebounded from that loss with a four-fight win streak. His recent victory over Riki Fukoda goes a long way towards putting him on main cards of free televised events on FX or Fox. His next bout should come against middleweight gatekeeper Tom Lawlor.
Lawlor is 4-3 during his UFC run, and the man who has been more known for his entrance and weigh-in tactics is on the cusp of losing his job. He did a fantastic job in knocking out Jason MacDonald on UFC on Fuel TV 3, which infused some new energy into his career. While he isn’t a big enough name to vault Philippou into title consideration, this is the type of fight that could be used to build his name and determine whether he’s ready for the tougher opponents that wait on the other side of the gate that Lawlor protects.
UFC 148 may not have been the total card that we were expecting, but we still got the main event we all wanted to see. Now all of the winners and losers of the event will have to look toward the next chapters of their careers, and the next opponents to stand across from them in the Octagon.