It’s that time again, fans and friends. At the close of every major MMA event, most fans have one question on their mind: “what’s next?” And following some of the fantastic performances and shocking surprises that went down at UFC 126 “Silva vs. Belfort”, there’s certainly a lot to think about. Here’s my take on the matter with the latest entry into my “What’s Next” series of articles, featuring all the big stars from UFC 126. Let’s get to it.
Next for Antonio Banuelos: Unemployment, or a fight where if he loses he gets fired. Banuelos had a chance to shine on the grand stage like he never had before, and to say he blew it would be a colossal understatement. The Banuelos we saw in the UFC was a far cry from the WEC version, who prided himself on taking two to give one and giving the fans a good show. Not even Antonio’s close friendship to Chuck Liddell will be able to save his job for long if he keeps fighting the way he did at UFC 126.
Next for Miguel Torres: Torres himself seemed pretty happy regarding his performance, but he also seems to be the only one. Torres’ timid and tepid performance was also a far cry from when he was tearing through the WEC, and I honestly hate to think that most UFC fans will now judge Torres by this fight and not his stellar WEC run. But Torres has nobody but himself to blame. Expect Torres to be put on prelims or on free TV until he starts fighting like he means it.
Next for Jake Ellenberger: Ellenberger will keep plodding along near the mid-level, since Carlos Eduardo Rocha exposed some problems that paint a pretty clear picture: Ellenberger isn’t ready for top-division competition. At least, not yet. Expect to see Ellenberger fight his way through the opening contest of Pay-Per-Views or on “Fight Night Live” events at least until 2011 comes to a close.
Next for Ryan Bader: Bader’s quest for top-division status was sidetracked but not derailed by his deflating loss to “Bones” Jones. Bader’s next opponent will be tough, but not as tough as Jones. Expect Bader to fully reassert himself in his next few fights and add a few highlight-reel KO’s to his name as he rebuilds and regroups.
Next for Jon Jones: I’ll likely talk a lot more about this in the days and weeks to come, but say it with me now: Jon Jones is your UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. Say it now, because you’ll be saying it for real before long. Jones is going to blast his way through Mauricio Rua and “Shogun” will have nothing to answer back with. It’s Jones’ time now, and “The Era of Bones” is only one fight away.
Next for Forrest Griffin: A win is a win is a win, and with this win Griffin kept his status as a top-division athlete. Expect Griffin to face either a tough veteran hoping to make a comeback or a hot prospect looking for top-division status in his next fight. Griffin fought Franklin to prove that he’s still a high-level star, his next fight will probably put him into the role of a high-level UFC gatekeeper. Even though I’m a fan of Forrest Griffin, he needs at least one more fight before anyone starts taking him seriously as a championship contender again.
Next for Anderson Silva: UFC President Dana White said during the post-fight press conference that we may finally get Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre if GSP beats Jake Shields. So my prediction is… we’re going to get Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva. It may or may not be in Cowboys Stadium, or an arena in Brazil, or the Rogers Centre. But when it happens, expect the UFC to pull out all the stops to make it the fight of the century and the best card in UFC history. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about it, and I think we’ll finally get this mega-match before the year is through.
So that’s my take, fans and friends. What about you? What do you think the future holds for the big winners and losers of UFC 126?