Though most of us have put UFC 149 to bed, we can't truly turn the page until we start thinking about what is next for the winners and losers. Renan Barao might have a decision in front of him. After beating Urijah Faber for the interim UFC bantamweight championship, he may be faced with a choice of waiting around until linear champ Dominick Cruz is healthy or fighting another contender.
For now, it seems that Barao is likely to wait. His coach Andre Pederneiras has indicated that they prefer a unification bout, but that could change. Cruz, who had surgery in June to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, is still in a leg brace, and he's not likely to return until the spring of 2013. That's the best-case scenario. It could be longer, so will anyone ultimately want to keep the 25-year-old Barao on the sidelines until then? I'd bet against it.
On to the matchups…
Once the emotion of the moment wears off, I think that Barao will realize that it's best for his career to fight again in the short term. Sure, he has a chance to derail Cruz, but he'll have to wait months just to find out if Cruz's recovery is progressing at a normal rate. By that time, he could have begun training camp for another fight and made an extra payday. At 25, it's not like if he loses he'll never have the chance to earn the top contender spot again. Eventually, I think common sense will win out and Barao will fight one more time.
Prediction: He faces Michael McDonald later this year
Before the Barao fight I wrote that this should be Faber's last crack at the belt, and it should be, unless he puts together a marvelous win streak. Otherwise, you are essentially admitting that bantamweight is a weak division with no other worthy candidates. So what to do with him? For starters, set him up in a fight against another former WEC champ who's come upon some hard times lately. It's a fight that everyone wanted to see back in 2007 or so, so why not now?
Prediction: He faces Miguel Torres
The "Barbarian" was one of the biggest betting underdogs on the card but walked away with a win in the anticipated debut of Hector Lombard. Still, it wasn't necessarily a win that left fans clamoring to see more of him. While he's had some rugged fights in the past, this was more of a tactical fight that neutralized Lombard's counter-striking preferences. That said, back-to-back wins over Lombard and Yushin Okami is nothing to dismiss. He's definitely "in the mix."
Prediction: He faces Alan Belcher
Lombard promised to put on a show in his UFC debut, but if his performance was a Broadway opening, it would have been canceled by the end of the night. It was a flat-out dud, and there's no way to sugar-coat it. What a way to end such a long unbeaten streak, huh? Oh well, on the other hand, he claimed that even if he won and was offered a fight with champ Anderson Silva, he'd turn it down because he wanted to fight Mark Munoz after the Philippine characterized him as a "can crusher." Good news, Hector, he's available.
Prediction: Lombard vs. Munoz
I'm not quite sure what we watched in the Kongo vs. Shawn Jordan fight. Kongo had an eight-inch reach advantage and refused to even try to keep the fight at distance, punching himself directly into clinches repeatedly. Kongo has never been shy about wrestling and is probably underrated in the discipline, but it seemed that despite his kickboxing background, he had little confidence in his standup against Jordan. I'm not quite sure what you do with Kongo now, because his underwhelming performance against a fairly green fighter doesn't bode well for him against most of the division's best. I guess I'll send him back to the place he was originally supposed to go.
Prediction: He faces his original UFC 149 opponent, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
It's difficult to determine where exactly Riddle fits among the UFC's welterweights due to his inconsistency. At UFC 143, he barely scraped by late-replacement notice Henry Martinez, a fighter who in the past has fought as low as featherweight and who immediately dropped to 155 afterward. But then at UFC 149, he puts on a strong performance in a submission win over Chris Clements. Anyways, it adds up to a modest two-fight win streak, and should get him a small step up in competition level.
Prediction: He faces Seth Baczynski
Welcome to the UFC, Ryan Jimmo. A 7-second knockout over Anthony Perosh was clearly the night's most memorable highlight, an irony given Jimmo's reputation as a boring fighter. Now he'll be given the far tougher task of following it up with something meaningful.
Prediction: He faces Stanislav Nedkov