See what I did there with the word “neXt” in the title? That’s called “stylizing” in the business, and doing it means that you’re totally cool no matter what your mother says about you, or how much you cry at your therapy sessions. For the record, I had something in my eyes. Both of them. A lot of something. You don’t care about that though; you want the goods, and UFC 131… happened. It was one of those typical non-title UFC cards that wasn’t great, but wasn’t terrible. It just was. And you can find out more about how it was, as well as our predictions of what could/should be neXt for each fighter, after the break.
Facebook Prelims (also streamed on YouTube)
Featherweight Bout (145 lb): Darren Elkins defeated Michihiro Omigawa via Unanimous Decision (29–28 x2, 30–27)
Darren Elkins probably won’t get a huge step-up in 145 lb. competition after his FW debut victory, considering the judges were quite generous in giving him the W. This is one of the rare cases where a rematch makes perfect sense.
Speaking of leaving town, OMG is 0-2 in his current UFC stint; combine that with the two losses he racked-up against Matt Wiman and Thiago Tavares in 2007-2008 run with the UFC, and you have the makings of a fighter whose services will no longer be required. Except for the fact that he got robbed by the judges and should have won the fight. Yep, neither of these guys are particularly exciting, so a rematch is in order for sure.
Heavyweight Bout (265 lb): Joey Beltran defeated Aaron Rosa via TKO (Punches) @ 1:26 R3
Beltran is finally back in the green after dropping back-to-back fights against Matt Mitrione and Pat Barry. (SIDE NOTE: If Mitrione and Barry both win at UFC Live: Marquardt vs. Story and don’t fight each other neXt, I am going to sit and pout about it.) Would be great as Mirko Cro-Cop’s neXt (and hopefully final) opponent; it would be a nice challenge for Beltran, and an opponent that would match-up well with Filipović and give him an exciting, winnable fight.
Aaron Rosa, on the other hand, may get another prelim against a weak challenger, but may just be cut after his performance. 0-1 in the UFC in a lackluster performance ain’t gonna cut it, son.
Featherweight Bout (145 lb): Dustin Poirier defeated Jason Young via Unanimous Decision (30–27, 30–27, 29–28)
Nice 3-fight win streak for Dustin Poirier, including solid wins over Zach Mickelwright and Josh Grispi. In a time where the Bantamweight and Featherweight divisions in the UFC are still in their infantile stages, Poirier stands to benefit well, as he has already fought in the UFC twice. How’s about Mark Hominick, eh? The Great Maple Leaf (my nickname, not his) would be a great test to see if Poirier is for reals.
As far as Jason “Shotgun” Young is concerned, please see Aaron Rosa above.
Middleweight Bout (185 lb): Nick Ring defeated James Head via Rear Naked Choke @ 3:33 R3
Nick Ring vs. Chris Weidman. Both are undefeated, both fought on this card, and both finished pretty solid opponents. Give ’em 3 months and let ’em loose. Easy-peasy.
For that matter, put James Head up against Jesse Bongfeldt, for the same reasons in reverse. Feels like a cop-out, but I really do like both match-ups. The loser of the Bongfeldt/Head matchup would be cut, of course.
Light Heavyweight Bout (205 lb): Krzysztof Soszynski defeated Mike Massenzio via Unanimous Decision (30–27 x2, 30–26)
I want so bad for Soszynski to be relevant, but like the other 2 members of the UFC LHW Trinity of Mediocrity (also including Stephan Bonnar and Brandon Vera – the replacement to the departed Keith Jardine), he will disappoint again. Give him someone with some skills, like Cyrille Diabate, and let’s see if “Not Enough Vowels” is able to string together some wins for a change.
Mike Massenzio is 1-4 in the UFC, including losing his last 3, but he took this fight on 3 days’ notice, and 20 lbs. over his usual fighting weight of 185. For that, and that alone, he’ll get another prelim shot. Maybe let someone from Strikeforce come in and cut their teeth on him (cough Ovince St. Preux cough).
Middleweight Bout (185 lb): Chris Weidman defeated Jesse Bongfeldt via Standing Guillotine @ 4:54 R1
Already covered in the Nick Ring/James Head bit above, kids. Take a glance and you’ll see what’s up, but if you don’t want to work out your scrollin’ hand unnecessarily, here’s the Cliffs’ Notes: Chris Weidman vs. Nick Ring; Jesse Bongfeldt vs. James Head. Gotta go down like that.
Lightweight Bout (155 lb): Sam Stout defeated Yves Edwards via KO (Punch) @ 3:52 R1
Sam Stout has been in some great brawls, notably his pair with Spencer Fisher. (SIDE NOTE FROM ARMONDO: I still cite Stout/Fisher 2 as one of the two fights that really got me interested in MMA, with Thiago Tavares vs. Jason Black (on the same Fisher vs. Stout card) being the other.) But never has he made such a positive impact on his career as he did when he clipped Yves Edwards with that looping counter on Saturday. Gives Stout a good 2-fight streak, winning 4 of his last 5, and what should be a nice bump in competition. Expect him to be pitted against Donald Cerrone, or in a rematch against the only fighter to beat him since 2008, Jeremy Stephens.
Yves Edwards probably watched his last chance for UFC gold go down the drain, along with his consciousness. At 34, he’s likely too old to have a chance to make another legitimate run before he’s no longer able to keep up. Yves would match-up well with Mark Bocek, but by no means would Bocek be a tune-up. However, a victory against a very game and very dangerous Bocek would do wonders with giving Edwards an outside chance to get back to relevance.
Lightweight Bout (155 lb): Donald Cerrone defeated Vagner Rocha via Unanimous Decision (30–27 x2, 30–26)
Cerrone came into this bout mad overconfident and super-cocky, but thanks to a one-dimensional game plan employed by Vagner Rocha, he also snagged the W. You can’t throw him to Bendo Hendo again (can you?), so the more likely candidate would be the aforementioned Sam Stout. Anthony Pettis is an honorable mention.
Vagner Rocha… um… underwhelmed? Yeah lets go with that. He beat a Gracie in Bellator, for what that’s worth, but I don’t think he gets another shot at the big boys. He’s 0-1 with the UFC, but 0-2 in Zuffa organizations, with a loss on the Fedor vs. Werdum card. Just goes to show you: doing one thing really well is NOT enough to consistently win fights in the UFC. (Yes, Charles Oliveira, I’m talking to you too.)
Heavyweight Bout (265 lb): Dave Herman defeated Jon Olav Einemo via TKO (Punches) @ 3:19 R2
Herman’s only 26, but has 23 fights under his belt already, and only 2 losses. I wish Heath Herring was still fighting, because he would be perfect in this scenario, as Dave Herman needs a gatekeeper to determine if he’s for real or not. Herman would be another good candidate to retire Cro Cop, or an easier opponent to try and get Roy Nelson back in the mix.
Einemo lost his comeback bout after a 5-year layoff. What do you think will happen to him? (HINT: it rhymes with “mitt-hand”.)
Middleweight Bout (185 lb): Mark Muñoz defeated Demian Maia via Unanimous Decision (30–27, 29–28 x2)
Muñoz once again showed how far his game had come, beating up on one of the best BJJ practitioners walking this earth in Demian Maia. Muñoz has depth, Muñoz has versatility, and Muñoz is officially up in that mix, baby. I like Muñoz vs. Brian Stann as a 185 title eliminator.
Demian Maia will probably be in the UFC forever, but he really needs to replicate his 11-0 tear before getting turned inside-out by Nate Marquardt in 2009. Hooking up with Dan Miller should be a good stepping stone for the winner to get back to relevancy.
Featherweight Bout (145 lb): Kenny Florian defeated Diego Nunes via Unanimous Decision (30–27, 29–28 x2)
I wasn’t expecting Florian to get a title shot already, but it is what it is – sorry Chad Mendes. Hell, I’m sure Mendes will get his shot at the winner, assuming he beats Rani Yahya in August. Whether Sir-Chokes-A-Lot can actually win a big fight is still unknown.
As far as Nunes, he takes an obvious hit in competition, but he’s still talented, and will still get talented opposition. I like a tilt with Raphael Assunção (once Assunção recovers from a back injury) neXt for Nunes.
Heavyweight Bout (265 lb): Junior dos Santos defeated Carwin via Unanimous Decision (30–27 x2, 30–26)
JDS will be stepping in with Cain Velasquez, someone bigger, stronger and with enough striking power and skill to hold his own. Yet somehow JDS is favored in early betting. Times like this I wish I lived in Vegas. One day…
Shane Carwin is still a top threat, but with two straight losses he doesn’t have a lot of argument for another huge fight. Someone solid yet struggling makes more sense. Stefan Struve fits the bill perfectly.
There you have it, ladies and germs. One day we’ll go back through our previous what’s neXt predictions and see how well (AKA poorly) we did. Until then, we out of this bitch. Holla atcha bois for coverage of our neXt event: UFC Live: Marquardt vs. Story will be coming to you from Pittsburgh (where that rapist dude plays football) on June 26th. Have that shit on blast if you’ve got Versus, or just go over to a friend’s house that has Versus if you don’t, under the guise of “hanging out” and “being bros together”. But you should feel a bit guilty about it, because you’re a human being, dammit.