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By Rich Hansen, MMA Torch Columnist
Nope. No way. You did not. I don't believe you, not even for a second do I believe you saw that coming. Sure, you might have picked Chris Weidman by decision over Mark Munoz. You might have even picked Weidman by a submission or a TKO in a competitive back and forth fight. But I flat out refuse to believe that anyone outside of Matt Serra's gym thought that Chris Weidman was going to give the best performance of 2012 and slaughter Mark Munoz.
In the most thorough destruction I've seen since BJ Penn ate, digested, and regurgitated Diego Sanchez's soul in December 2009, Chris Weidman's actions alone told the world of MMA that Chris Weidman, not Michael Bisping or Mark Munoz or Hector Lombard or Vitor Belfort or any other 185 pound fighter, is the only viable fighter to be put into the cage next to fight Anderson Silva.
If you would have asked me after Anderson Silva defeated Chael Sonnen on Saturday night, I wouldn't have been able to come up with one fighter who stuck out as the most deserving of the next shot at Anderson Silva's title. Well now I know. Chris Weidman has to be the next guy. If UFC 153 is going to be in Brazil, book it there. Otherwise, New Year's Eve weekend, Silva vs. Weidman.
As for the rest of the ever-changing division, I'd make the following fights:
Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping, with the winner getting the first title shot after Weidman. Belfort vs. Silva 2 would be beyond huge in Brazil. If Bisping beats Belfort, he'll finally have a top 25 win. Combine one win with his notoriety, and that fight could finally be justified.
Alan Belcher vs. Hector Lombard/Tim Boetsch winner - If Lombard goes through Boetsch and Belcher, that's a #1 contender right there.
Rich Franklin vs. Chael Sonnen - the view sucks from the back of the line, don't it?
Cung Le vs. Brian Stann - While I would like to see Franklin vs. Le in Macau, the UFC isn't going to punish the loyal soldier Franklin by sticking him on Fuel TV. Every Franklin fight in the UFC, barring his fight with Ken Shamrock on the Ultimate Fighter Season One finale, has been on PPV. He isn't going to go from consistent main eventer to Fuel TV. Just not happening. This will be a showcase fight for Stann, other than the fact that it'll be on Fuel and no one will see it.
Mark Munoz vs. Hector Lombard/Tim Boetsch loser - Munoz is good enough of a fighter where he should be getting fights against very good opponents. He could theoretically be three fights away from one last chance to fight for the title.
- James Te Huna is an underrated fighter. At least, he's underrated until you try to sell him as a top 10 fighter. At that point, he's an overrated fighter. There are a lot of guys who can go eight minutes, but not so many that can go hard for fifteen minutes.
Te Huna's first round performance against the granite-chinned Joey Beltran was fantastic. The last ten minutes, not so much. In the first round, Te Huna landed more significant strikes than any light heavyweight had ever landed in any given round of any given fight. Unfortunately, he landed 40% more strikes in the first than he managed to land in rounds two and three combined. Te Huna vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira would be fun.
- Aaron Simpson proved he is able to do at welterweight what he was able to do at middleweight. He makes good opponents look bad, and entertains no one. The prospects of Simpson finally getting his fight with Jon Fitch might not be nausea-inducing, but it would definitely be fatigue-inducing.
- Francis Carmont put on a show against Karlos Vemola. Mixing in some nice standup and some high level grappling, Carmont opened some eyes tonight. Middleweight isn't lacking for quality fighters, so it's not like he's in the mix or anything. Fights with Andrew Craig or Costa Philippou make sense, both from a level of competition standpoint, as well as an entertainment standpoint.
- T.J. Dillahsaw made a mockery out of Vaughan Lee. It's not that Lee couldn't hang with Dillashaw, but that wild head kick was just as stoopid of a decision as Chael Sonnen's ill-fated spinning back fist on Saturday night. Dillashaw capitalized, rode Lee's back, and cranked until Lee collapsed and submitted. A lot of people, myself included, sensed a Dillashaw decision victory, but certainly not with a vicious submission. Bantamweight is always in flux, so there could be room for someone like Dillashaw to claim some turf at the top of the division. A fight with Mike Easton makes all the sense in the world to me.
- In the first card of the Fuel TV broadcast, Rafael dos Anjos outclassed a game Anthony Njokuani. It's pretty clear that somewhere between 2009 and today, Njokuani went from 'exciting prospect' to 'he is what he is, meh.' dos Anjos has an ever improving skillset, and maybe, just maybe, he's finally put it all together. From a straight jiu-jitsu guy, dos Anjos has since flashed KO power (ask George Sotiropoulos) and against Njokuani he flashed solid wrestling. If dos Anjos can tie it all together, he could make waves at 155. Fights with T.J. Grant, Khabib Nurmagomedov, or Evan Dunham would pique my interest something fierce.
- Dana White announce on the Fuel TV postfight show that Ross Pearson and George Sotiropoulos will be opposing coaches on the next international season of The Ultimate fighter. At the conclusion of the season, they will fight, as is the standard practice for Ultimate Fighter coaches. White does not know in which country the final fight will take place.
- Also on the Fuel TV postfight show, White made it cleasr that Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin will not coach against each other in the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. As a result, Bonnar, who was an analyst on the postfight show, announced his retirement from competition. He did hedge, saying he would come back for a big fight against someone like Griffin or Rampage Jackson. Bonnar expressed his frustrations with being the guy who fights up and comers, and doesn't desire to fight guys like that any longer. Speaking for myself, I have nothing but fond memories of Bonnar, and sincerely wish him the best in his future endeavors. Oh crap, I just 'future endeavored' someone!
- Hey, Damacio Page! Alex Caceres tried to triangle you 42 times in the first round. Maybe, just maybe, you should've avoided the guard in the second round? After all, he only needs one tight triangle to submit you, as you learned the hard way. Playing in Caceres' guard is as sumb as giving Cody McKenzie your neck. Maybe you should talk strategy with Chad Mendes, not that your next fight will be in the UFC.
- Caceres versus Mitch Gagnon, please. Assuming of course he gets past Bryan Caraway.
- Yes, that last sentence was a joke.
- Chris Cariaso and Josh Ferguson put on a great fight for 365 people in attendance, and scores of people at home. That's how you build a flyweight division; make sure no one sees the fights, and don't sign any flyweights. Cariaso vs. Louis Gaudinot, please.
- Andrew Craig was getting pounded by a cocky Rafael Natal. Right up until the point where Natal, whose hands were so low they were dragging on the canvas, ate a head kick that put him on Queer Street. It's hard to get behind Craig, seeing as how he was getting rocked by Natal, but you can't doubt his toughness. How about Tom Lawlor or C.B. Dollaway vs. Andrew Craig? Works for me.
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