Like any other major show, the results of UFC 97 are going to have a substantial effect on future matchmaking. Here’s how the immediate future of some of this weekend’s featured players should be dealt with.
Anderson Silva: This past Saturday, the middleweight champ once again showed off his unorthodox striking yet he lacked the attack dog aggressiveness we have become so accustomed to witnessing in his fights. At this point, declaring Silva’s last two performances as uninspiring is an understatement. On top of that, after finishing Franklin, Marquardt, and Henderson in a row, the pound-for-pound king has spent his last three fights battling mid level competition. That being said, his next opponent needs to be someone who will bring the fight to him and who has legitimate name value. If Georges St. Pierre gets past Thiago Alves in July, a fight between the 170 lb champ and the 185 lb champ is a no brainer. If Canada’s favorite son fails in his title defense, another jump for Silva to 205 to fight any of the top names has already been mentioned by Dana White. But before Silva heads back to the shark infested waters at light heavy, he needs to have some steam behind him to build hype for a superfight — something he lacks now more than ever before in his UFC tenure. A fight against the winner of July’s Henderson vs. Bisping match would put Silva against a name opponent who would surely bring the fight to him. If victorious — and not in a five round dance-off type of way — the stage would be set for a superfight against any one of 205’s top names.
Thales Leites: A bludgeoning at the hands of Nate Marquardt is in order. The former King of Pancrase physically dominated Leites for most of their bout last June, but the Brazilian was awarded the victory after Marquardt had a few points deducted for illegal blows. The winner of this rematch would remain a top contender while the loser will find himself lost in the shuffle. Something tells me the Jackson’s Submission Fighting team member comes out on top in emphatic fashion.
Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua: Love him or hate him, he looked more like the Shogun of old than the tired man we’ve seen as of late. If Tito Ortiz makes his way back into the UFC, a bout between the Pride Grand Prix winner and the Huntington Beach Bad Boy would be absolutely perfect for one of the organization’s late summer cards. If Ortiz instead signs with Strikeforce — his only viable option at this point — then a fight with the loser of the Machida vs. Evans title fight makes sense for Shogun as well.
Chuck Liddell: Retirement. The ‘Iceman’ has done everything there is to do in this sport — and then some — and money is not an issue for him either — as opposed to guys like Mark Coleman and Ken Shamrock (supposedly). His four losses in his past five fights have come against the very best the division has to offer. Liddell can look back on his career knowing that he was one of the greatest of all time and age simply started catching up with him slightly at a time when the younger competition was improving by leaps and bounds.
Cheick Kongo: A fight with Shane Carwin sometime in August to determine the number one contender to the soon-to-be Undisputed Heavyweight title needs to happen. No one else in the division has an argument for top contender status besides these two men and there’s only one way to decide who officially gets to hold on to that moniker.
Luis ‘Banha’ Cane: This man has officially arrived as a contender in the UFC’s marquee division. His next fight needs to be against someone with a name. Likely candidates would be Keith Jardine or Rich Franklin — so long as he gets past Wanderlei Silva. If ‘Banha’ gets past his next opponent, he could see himself fighting for a title shot sooner rather than later.
Krzysztof Soszynski: While K-Sos’s victory was impressive to say the least, it can be chalked up more to Stann’s inexperience than to Soszynski’s potential as a contender. Despite that, he did score a big win on a major show so a fight with somebody like Brandon Vera would make sense. Vera isn’t quite ready to step back in with a contender and Soszynski fits the bill.
Sam Stout: The Canadian’s fight with Matt Wiman was nothing short of exciting, but he’s too inconsistent to be considered a legitimate threat to the belt or any of the top guys at 155. Whether or not Spencer Fisher gets past Caol Uno at UFC 99 in Germany, it seems like the time is right for Stout vs. Fisher: the rubber match.
Nate Quarry: ‘Rock’ has absolutely dominated the mid-level competition he has been put up against. At the same time, he has been finished both times he stepped up in quality of opposition. A fight with fellow UFC 97 victor Denis Kang or the winner of UFC 100’s Belcher vs. Akiyama bout would tell us if Quarry can become a contender or instead achieve the status of permanent gatekeeper.