On a night born of heavy criticism, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones came to the Octagon in the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, and not only made an emphatic statement, but answered longstanding questions about the man behind the fighter. While Vitor Belfort was woefully outmatched by the champion, “The Phenom” became to first man to actually put some resistance down on “Jonny Bones” with a near-textbook armbar in the first stanza. Jones’ elbow popped, but the man continued to not only fight, but use the injured elbow to maul the Brazilian en route to a submission victory.
Now in the wake of the event, the time has come to think about what’s next for the evening’s headlining fighters.
Jon Jones: The world finally saw Jon Jones in trouble, and his “are you man enough?” moment was met with a resounding yes. Other than that fact, nothing new came of Jones’ win over Belfort. Jones is still very much entrenched as the light heavyweight kingpin. There are cries for “Bones” to move to heavyweight, which will inevitably happen, but the time is not yet here.
Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida both lost their number-one contender status and are now ostensibly scheduled to meet. Realistically, the winner of that match-up should get the first crack at the title. Meanwhile, Alexander Gustaffson is still surging and if he does beat “Shogun” as he is favored to, he will likely be “in the mix” as well.
Next: Winner of Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson
Vitor Belfort: Although Belfort had his moment in the sun against Jones, the offensive force that is the world champion was simply too much to overcome. Before the UFC 151 debacle, “The Phenom” was slated to face Alan Belcher at 185 lb. Belfort is going to return to middleweight, and as he stepped up on short notice to face Jones, it is unlikely that he will fall down the middleweight rankings behind this loss. Belcher will now face Yushin Okami, It is likely that Vitor will meet with the winner of that bout, given his usual timeline.
If the promotion does choose to match Belfort with the loser of a bout, the simplest answer that won’t move him down the rankings would be a clash with the loser of Chris Weidman vs Tim Boetsch.
Likely: Winner of Alan Belcher vs. Yushin Okami
Demetrious Johnson: Demetrious Johnson has finally found a viable home in his true weight class and is now the unquestioned number-one flyweight on the planet. As per usual, the speed of “Mighty Mouse” was on full display as he upset Joseph Benavidez to become the first UFC flyweight champion. The only problem right now is that there really isn’t that much depth to the division at this juncture. There is realistically one fight to determine the Johnson’s next challenger and that is John Dodson vs Jussier “Formiga”da Silva. Dana White said as much at the UFC 152 post-fight press conference.
Next up: Winner of John Dodson vs Jussier “Formiga”da Silva
Joseph Benavidez: This is where it gets tricky, does the UFC rob Peter to pay Paul and risk losing a viable commodity by matching Joseph Benavidez and Ian McCall. There are three established fighters in the flyweight division, and the aforementioned two are coming off of losses to Johnson. While that match-up would seem ideal, it is an unfortunate situation for the promotion. The idea that losers are matched with losers remains prevalent at this point, but perhaps the best option would be to match Benavidez with someone a bit lower down the rankings. Ulysses Gomez faltered in his short-notice UFC debut, a match-up between he and Benavidez would be promising to say the very least.
Ideally: Ulysses Gomez
Michael Bisping: In the eyes of many, Michael Bisping has finally earned his UFC middleweight title shot, but given the established Anderson Silva timeline, it won’t be coming this year. Silva’s schedule is relatively full considering that he will face Stephan Bonnar on October 13 and, assuming all goes as the UFC would like, GSP on Super Bowl weekend. Thus, the middleweight division is thrown into stasis.
Michael Bisping will likely have to fight once more to get his shot and it will almost assuredly be against the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Time Boetsch.
Next up: Winner of Chris Weidman vs. Tim Boetsch
Brian Stann: Given the narrative of Stann’s career thus far, his next bout will likely be against a less established middleweight. A meeting with the loser of either Francis Carmont vs Tom Lawlor or Chris Leben vs Karlos Vemola seems prime for picking Stann’s next opponent. If the UFC wants to roll the dice on a promising match-up between Stann and Belfort, it would be preferable. The prospect of those two meeting at this point just seems unlikely for some reason.
Likely: Loser of Francis Carmont vs Tom Lawlor or Chris Leben vs Karlos Vemola