Tonight in Denver, UFC fans from all around the world gathered to see who would challenge Amanda Nunes for her title next, and they were not disappointed. The main card of UFC on Fox 23 was nothing less of spectacular, and each fight had its own dynamic finish. However, even the losers showed great heart tonight, so I will give what I believe to be the best possible matchups for all of the winners and losers of the main card, and I hope that you agree with my attempt at match making.
Alex Caceres vs. Artem Lobov
Tonight marks two straight losses for the Ultimate Fighter alum Alex Caceres, and one more loss could very well put him out of the UFC. Someone else who has been in that exact situation is Ultimate Fighter finalist Artem Lobov. Now, while Lobov has one his last two fights, he is still likely to be ranked somewhere below Alex Caceres. What Caceres needs is to fight someone lower in the rankings to get back into the win circle, and a win over a prospect like Lobov could put him right back up there with the best in his division.
Jason Knight vs. Renan Barao
After his submission of Alex Caceres, Knight called out Doo Ho Choi, who is ranked securely in the top ten of the Featherweight rankings. However, a win over Renan Barao who only has one win at Featherweight could ease him into the rankings, and give him another big name to add to his list of wins. Jason Knight isn't currently ranked, so if he could beat the current number fourteen Barao, he could be a name that everyone starts to throw around, and get a bigger fights such as Doo Ho Choi.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Retirement
After four straight losses, despite his ranking, it might be time for The Pitbull to hang up the gloves. He's held the belt, he's been the baddest man on the planet before, and now there's nothing else he can do in MMA. Before Dana White gets a chance to cut him, Andrei needs to decide that it's just time to do something else with his life. His career will always be revered by many, and even though he would be retiring on a four fight losing streak, a former champ will always be seen as one of the greatest of all time.
Francis Ngannou vs. Derek Lewis
When it comes to Heavyweight prospects, Derek Lewis and Francis Ngannou are the most promising in the division. After his stunning first round knockout of Andrei Arlovski, beating Derek Lewis could extend his winning streak, and give him more momentum before going after the UFC title. Someone like Junior dos Santos or Alistair Overeem could be at too high of a level for Ngannou just yet, but Lewis is perfect for him to gain more UFC experience.
Donald Cerrone vs. Carlos Condit
In tonight's loss, it looked like Cerrone's head just wasn't in it. Before his fight, he was duck hunting, going to concerts and didn't even watch any film on his opponent. He took Masvidal lightly, and because of that, he lost horribly. A step up in competition with Condit is exactly what he needs. Someone ranked higher than who he lost to, and someone he would spend his whole camp working on beating. Condit is coming off of back to back losses despite being ranked number four in the world, and matches up perfectly with Cerrone. They are both two of the best strikers in the Welterweight division with extremely good kicks, and I would guarantee that putting these two into the Octagon together would amount to nothing less than fight of the night.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Neil Magny
After the biggest win of his career over Donald Cerrone tonight, it goes without saying that Jorge Masvidal will get a step-up in competition. I doubt that he'll move into the top five, but will more than likely be ranked around the same area as Neil Magny, who just beat former champion Johny Hendricks. A win over Magny could secure Masvidal's status as a Welterweight contender, and open up many more fights for him in the future.
Julianna Pena vs. Raquel Pennington
Tonight marks who will face Amanda Nunes next for the Women's Bantamweight title, and it is not Julianna Pena. However, her next fight could be against the contender just below her in Raquel Pennington. Coming off of a win against former champ Miesha Tate and currently ranked number five, Pennington could prove to cause problems for Pena. However, with Holm searching for a belt in another weight class and Rousey inevitably rethinking her MMA career, the highest ranked opponent Pena would be able to get is "Rocky" Raquel, and that would put her right back into title contention.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Amanda Nunes
She was already the number one contender, but tonight just cemented her title shot. Not only did she beat Pena within two rounds, but she beat her at her own game. The only fight that makes sense for her is the UFC champion, and it looks like she's going to get it.