Coming into UFC 155, no fighter had more pressure on them than Cain Velazquez. For the newly re-crowned UFC Heavyweight championship, his rematch with Brazilian Junior dos Santos was not only a chance to redeem his knockout loss to the now former champ, but also a chance to protect his legacy. A second loss to dos Santos would likely mean the end of Velazquez’s days of title contender at heavyweight. To make matters worse, Velazquez does not have the ability to drop down to a lightweight class or move up a la Frankie Edgar, Chael Sonnen, or BJ Penn did when they lost two title fights in their respective divisions.
Luckily for Velazquez, he dominated dos Santos from bell to bell, beating down the Brazilian with constant pressure, takedowns, and ground and pound. The 25-minute beat down leaves the door open for a trilogy fight between the consensus top-two heavyweights in the world, but it does not appear that that fight (which likely be held in a stadium) will be up next. Instead Velazquez, a bout with Dutch behemoth Alistair Overeem seems to be the best option available. Assuming Overeem is licensed in Nevada and can beat the formidable Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva on Super Bowl weekend, a bout between the two makes too much sense not to make sometime in 2013.
In the aftermath of UFC 155, here are seven other bouts that should be made.
Junior dos Santos versus Alistair Overeem – Antonio Silva loser
Even with the loss, dos Santos is not too far out of the title picture in the shallow heavyweight division. At worst, “Cigano” is two fights away from getting a chance to get his title back. A win over either Silva or Overeem would put him real close to getting a trilogy fight against Velazquez. He’s simply too good not to get another crack at the title in late 2013 or in early 2014.
Jim Miller versus Rafael dos Anjos
Miller beat Joe Lauzon in what I consider to be 2012’s “Fight of the Year”. The bloody, exhausting 15-minute bout saw Miller get back in the win column after a submission loss to Nate Diaz back in May. While he’s not quite ready to get back into the immediate title picture, he is ready to earn his place back in that discussion. A bout against the surging dos Anjos would be great scrap for both men in early 2013.
Alan Belcher versus Vitor Belfort – Michael Bisping loser
Yushin Okami simply out grappled Belcher on UFC 155’s main card. “The Talent” lost his big chance to become a real contender at 185, and is now back looking for a big win in order to regain his contender status. A bout with either Belfort or Bisping would be a big opportunity for Belcher to get back on the contender path at 185.
Joe Lauzon versus Mark Bocek
Never is Lauzon in a boring fight, and that streak continued at UFC in his bout with Miller. He may never become a real contender, but he’s always going to be in exciting scraps as long he continues fighting. A bout with the aforementioned Diaz has been mentioned, but once he heals from his wounds, I’d like to see him take on Bocek. If he wins there, he will have earned another crack at a Top 10 opponent in the stacked lightweight division.
Erik Perez versus Johnny Bedford
“Goyito” now stands 3-0 at 135 in the UFC, and has the potential to become a real player in the bantamweight division. Still relatively raw, he is not quite ready for the likes of Urijah Faber, Renan Barao, and the other top-level fighters just yet, but he is ready for a step up in completion. Bedford, a tough veteran, is a good step up for Perez, who at 23, is improving in each fight.
Jaime Varner versus Diego Sanchez – Takanori Gomi winner
Varner took home a spilt decision in his grudge match with Melvin Guillard, but he won the fight much clearer than the spilt decision indicates. He wants a rematch with Lauzon, but seeing as the UFC likes to match up fighters who have both won with each other, that bout doesn’t make too much sense. Sanchez and Gomi will throw down in Japan in February, and the winner would make an ideal opponent for the former WEC champ.
Chris Leben versus Alessio Sakara
Leben returned from a long layoff against Derek Brunson on the PPV opener of UFC 155, and he was out grappled en route to a pretty boring decision. Even with the loss, it would be a surprise to see Leben cut considering his long history with the UFC. Matching him up with a striker in his next fight would give him a good opportunity to get back in the win column, and keep his job. Sakara, most recently linked to a bout with Patrick Cote, would be a good opponent for Leben.