Usually after a big show, the follow-up questions, unless there is a big controversy, regard what happens next with the show's headliners, particularly when it's a show like UFC 183 that got almost entirely good reviews.
If you're a fan of action, the highlight of the show was the middle, as it's very rare to have four matches in a row that bring it like Miesha Tate vs. Sara McMann, Thiago Alves vs. Jordan Mein, Thales Leites vs. Tim Boetsch and Al Iaquinta vs. Joe Lauzon. All four would have gotten best fight bonuses on most UFC shows.
But the key stars of the show going in, the advertised headliners, Anderson Silva, Nick Diaz, Tyron Woodley and Kelvin Gastelum all came out filled with question marks.
For Silva and Diaz, the main questions are if or when will they fight again, as opposed to who. Silva spoke after the fight like a guy who is strongly considering retiring. It's a sport where it is far better to go out one fight early than one fight late. At 39, the holder of UFC's winning streak, title defense and title reign records was not the same fighter who ruled the middleweight division from 2006 to 2013.
When Silva was carried from the ring after breaking his leg at UFC 168, one of the most ghastly looking sports injuries of the last quarter-century, one had to figure it was the last time he'd be in the Octagon as a fighter. He'd been talking retirement even before the fight. It seemed the injury was a motivating factor, because shortly after breaking his leg, the talk of retirement ceased and the talk of his training for a comeback took its place.
If he goes out, it's with a big main event win, sweeping all five rounds on two of the three judges cards, over a name fighter on a major pay-per-view show that did one of the 15 biggest gates in the sport's history.
Silva and Diaz both talked a lot after the fight about their future, but in all their wording, neither made a commitment nor strongly hinted anything in one direction or another. Neither seemed to have a next goal. With Silva, due to his contract size, he has to be in big fights or it makes no sense on anyone's side for him to fight. Apart from the obvious Georges St-Pierre fight, which appears to be happening no time soon given St-Pierre has made no comments that even indicate he's ready to come back, there's not a long list of candidates. After Sunday's win, it's not like it left the audience strongly wanting a third Silva vs. Chris Weidman title match, although it's still the fight that would do the most business in the division.
But with Weidman injured, plenty of contenders waiting for their turn, and Silva turning 40 and clearly not the same fighter he was, the sands of time are running out quickly, which is probably why Dana White was talking in a way of hurrying the process in Saturday's fight buildup. Expecting a speed and reflex fighter whose kicking game was the set up to much of his offense to be the same after a broken leg at that age wasn't realistic. So there's the quandary. If he no longer can beat the top fighters, and he himself hasn't talked like a guy hungry for a championship fight, and it makes no sense for him to face anything but big name fighters, it makes it hard to program him. Aside from St-Pierre, who has the name power to make a Silva fight interesting? Rashad Evans? Lyoto Machida? I mean, those are fights, but he's never been interested in Machida, and Silva vs. Evans is a fight with well-known names, but it seems like it's a fight with no purpose.
The No. 2 fight with Woodley vs. Gastelum was anything but a crowd pleaser. Gastelum was climbing the ranks as a welterweight. It's very questionable, after he had to be rushed to the hospital the day before the fight due to collapsing from apparent dehydration, whether fighting on the show was a good idea for him. And for that matter, Woodley was giving up 9.5 pounds at weigh-ins, and admitted he had to question whether it was fair to him to fight, but after all that training it's hard to walk away.
Woodley won, but not in a way that makes people hungry to see his next test. But the win will keep him as a solid No. 3 contender at welterweight, behind Johny Hendricks and Rory MacDonald.
For Gastelum, it's starting from scratch as a middleweight. Gastelum had been the company's star young welterweight, coming in with an 11-0 record at the age of 23, and as an Ultimate Fighter champion and being of Mexican heritage. Every combat sport is looking for young fighters who can be top level fighters because the Hispanic demo is rapidly growing in the U.S., the UFC itself is looking at becoming a major franchise in Mexico, and because it's a demo that has historically supported combat sports far bigger than their numbers would indicate.
But welterweight to middleweight is a big jump, particularly when it comes to power, and it's also a division with far more roadblocks to getting into the championship picture.
Weight also turned into an issue in a fight that failed the UFC with John Lineker vs. Ian McCall. When it was made, it looked like a match to determine who would next face Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title. But Lineker missed weight by four pounds, and then won the fight. Dana White made it clear that Lineker has to move to bantamweight after failing to make weight a fourth time. That has its problems because even though Lineker is a heavy hitter at flyweight, he's very small for a bantamweight. But the loss takes McCall out of the title picture for now.
For fighters we know are active and will be looking for their paths up the cards and into future title matches, let's look at Fortunes Changes for Five and their next step.
TYRON WOODLEY - After going through a weird last two days before his fight, with the question of whether he'll have an opponent, and then the question of him fighting both looming large even the day of the fight, his next direction seems obvious, at least on paper.
There are two major fights in the division coming up over the next three months. On March 14 in Dallas, former champion Johny Hendricks (16-3) faces Matt Brown (19-12). On April 25 in Montreal, Rory MacDonald (18-2) faces Hector Lombard (35-4-1). One would think that the most impressive winner coming out of those fights will then face Robbie Lawler for the title. Woodley (15-3) looks like the logical opponent of the other winner, which in theory would determine a late 2015 title shot.
AL IAQUINTA - Iaquinta (11-3-1), scored his most impressive career win over Joe Lauzon, which should earn him a ranked fighter in his next test. He will get Jorge Masvidal next. Masvidal makes the most sense timing wise, since Masvidal vs. Benson Henderson was scheduled on April 4 in Fairfax, Va..
THALES LEITES - Leites (25-4), survived some rough waters with Boetsch, who had him rocked in both the first and second rounds before finishing with an arm triangle on the ground. Given the timing, with Gegard Mousasi (36-5-2) winning over Dan Henderson the week earlier, Mousasi seems like a logical next opponent. It's a tough fight for Leites, who has improved his stand-up game greatly over the years, going against a natural striker. But Mousasi has shown weaknesses on the ground, as shown in Mousasi's loss to Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza. If Yoel Romero and Souza aren't put back together since Souza was injured, Romero (9-1) may be a possibility, as is Uriah Hall (10-4). From a rankings standpoint, the most logical next opponent should be the winner of Michael Bisping and C.B. Dollaway on April 25, but that would require lengthy time off for Leites to wait. There's also the question if Tim Kennedy (18-5) wants to fight again, as he has nothing scheduled.
THIAGO ALVES - The welterweight title contender back at UFC 100, Alves (26-9) came from behind to finish Jordan Mein, the key blow being a paralyzing body kick, right after Mein did a somersault. Alves didn't come in ranked in the top 15, but the win got him there. From a timing standpoint, Lorenz Larkin (15-4), after having looked so impressive two weeks ago in Boston, looks to be a good opponent for an action fight. Rick Story (18-8) is coming off an impressive win over Gunner Nelson, but having not fought since October, he may be looking at fighting as soon as possible.
MIESHA TATE - On paper, Tate (16-6) went into her fight with Sara McMann in theory having the striking edge while McMann would have the wrestling edge. But very quickly, the improvement in McMann's hands told a very different story. Tate was hammered in the first round, including a punch that broke her orbital bone in two places. It looked like Tate was in for a long and bad night. But Tate used a guillotine attempt late in the second round to get her first advantage,and then dominated the third while on top to take a decision. That's three wins in a row since her second loss to Ronda Rousey.
For Tate, the most logical next opponent would be Cat Zingano (9-0). Zingano is facing Rousey next, but Tate has wanted a rematch since Zingano stopped her on April 13, 2013, in a fight Tate was winning up to that point and protested the stoppage. A Zingano title win would make it more difficult because one would think Rousey would get a rematch if she wanted one. But with a Zingano loss, the match makes sense. If the Zingano fight doesn't make sense, the next opponent could be either Jessica "Evil" Eye (11-2) or Sarah Kaufman (17-2), who beat Tate back in 2009.