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The Forward Roll: UFC 156 edition

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jose Aldo had about 45 minutes of rest before UFC president Dana White informed him that the target on his back had widened yet again. For the third time in his last four fights, Aldo will have to fend back the challenge of a lightweight making the 10-pound drop to 145 pounds in search of gold.

For Aldo, the first two tries at it brought businesslike wins. Decisions over Kenny Florian and last Saturday night over Frankie Edgar solidified his stranglehold over the division, which Aldo has ruled for 1,176 days and counting.

Since then, he's begun to build quite the legacy for himself. Wins over Urijah Faber, Mike Brown, Florian and now Edgar.

Next up comes Anthony Pettis, the dynamic striker who boasts back-to-back knockouts over Joe Lauzon and Donald Cerrone. The latter was truly an eye-opener. Cerrone is a game banger who had 24 pro fights under his belt against top competition. He'd stepped into the cage with big hitters like Jamie Varner, Melvin Guillard and Jeremy Stephens. He faced ground-and-pounder Benson Henderson twice. He'd never been KO'd. Pettis did it in less than three minutes.

Who knows if he'll be able to keep up with Aldo's firepower. No one's been able to just yet. But with their diverse and flashy offensive repertoires, it should be something to see.

On to the predictions ...

Frankie Edgar
After a career spent fighting above his natural weight class, Edgar moved to 145 … where he was still outsized by Aldo. The loss was his third straight, though like his two recent losses to Henderson, it was still a competitive fight. Edgar brought his same fire and heart, but afterward, he seemed like a spent man, unsure of what to do next. Could Edgar possibly drop to bantamweight? He could, though it seems like he has no desire to do so. Could he return to lightweight? He could, though Dana White said he has no interest in that. So it looks like featherweight will remain home when he returns.
Prediction: He faces the loser of UFC on FUEL 7's Cub Swanson vs. Dustin Poirier match

Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
UFC 156's biggest underdog cashed in by flummoxing Evans' takedowns and hypnotizing him into a slower-paced striking match. The ability to stop opponents from taking him to the ground eluded him in the first part of his UFC career, as opponents Jason Brilz, Ryan Bader and Phil Davis combined to manage 12 takedowns against him. If that problem is truly rectified, Nogueira's hands can cause some problems in the division.
Prediction: He faces Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in a rematch of their 2005 PRIDE GP bout

Rashad Evans
Before his fight, Evans dropped a mini-bombshell by saying he'd considered retirement after losing to Jon Jones. Then he struggled to start his offense against Nogueira. This seems to be one of those times when the fighter has to take some time to look in the mirror and truly determine whether they can muster the passion to do this. Evans is still just 33 years old, and clearly he wasn't embarrassed by either Jones or Nogueira, so he hasn't reached the point of no return. From here it's just a decision that either can or can't do this at the same level he's always tried to reach. And that, my friends, is easier said than done.
Prediction: Evans fights again sometime around the late summer, and he faces the loser of UFC on FUEL 9's Alexander Gustafsson vs. Gegard Mousasi bout

Antonio Silva
It was hard not to feel good for the giant, who so badly wanted to prove to his opponent on Saturday night that he was the real deal. Message sent. The knockout sent a jolt of electricity through the Mandalay Bay Events Center and apparently catapulted Silva into title conversation. After the match, Dana White said he wouldn't be opposed to a Silva vs. Cain Velasquez rematch, an amazing possibility considering it was less than eight months ago when Velasquez gored him.
Prediction: Josh Barnett signs with the UFC and gets matched with "Bigfoot"

Alistair Overeem
Even before getting finished in the third round, Overeem wasn't overwhelming anyone in his bid to earn a title shot. In fact, Silva said that as Overeem was in the top position throwing strikes, he was taunting him, saying things like, "Let's go, man. Punch harder." At 32, Overeem is hardly done, but the luster of him as a monster heavyweight draw is dulled significantly for now.
Prediction: Overeem and Junior dos Santos have been in each other's sights for quite a while. It's time.

Demian Maia
Maia didn't exactly smash Jon Fitch, but his ability to take him down, control and threaten him on the ground was still fairly eye-opening. Fitch has been a consensus top five welterweight for years, and had only suffered this kind of grinding loss while fighting Georges St-Pierre. That doesn't mean Maia is ready to fight GSP just yet, but it does mean he's moving into the picture.
Prediction: He faces Josh Koscheck as long as Koscheck gets past Robbie Lawler at UFC 157

Joseph Benavidez
Benavidez seems to be the type that marches to the beat of his own drum, but it was still a bit surprising that he didn't take the post-fight mic opportunity to request a rematch with Demetrious Johnson. That seems like the obvious call after the two fought to a split-decision the first time around. In continuing to build the division, the UFC might have no other choice anyway.
Prediction: He gets the Johnson rematch

Tyron Woodley
That's how you make a UFC debut. Woodley's 36-second knockout finish recalls his early days as a pro when he closed out six of his first seven opponents. It will be interesting to see if this was just the right punch at the right time, or the beginning of a trend.
Prediction: He fights John Hathaway

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