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Fortunes changed for five at UFC Fight Night 74

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Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
There's a familiar exchange on most UFC interviews with winners after the fight.

The interviewer asks the winner who he wants to fight next, and the vast majority of the time, the fighter will say he'll fight anyone the UFC decides to put him against next, which also usually includes references to names like Lorenzo Fertitta, Dana White, as well as matchmakers Joe Silva and Sean Shelby.

That's also the last thing the interviewer is looking for, but given that it's the response most of the time, it is what they are expecting.

Max Holloway on Sunday night, after his bittersweet win over Charles Oliveira in the main event of UFC Fight Night 74 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was more than prepared for the question. He not only mentioning Frankie Edgar as who he wanted to face next, but also brought up Aloha Stadium in Honolulu as a venue. He pushed both later that night at the press conference. While the venue would seem unlikely, Edgar would be the best next opponent he could ask for to make his name. And by asking directly, he increased the chances of him getting it.

"I'm serious, everyone here hashtag 'UFC Hawaii,' tell Dana White you all want to go to Hawaii," Holloway said. "It'll be a great trip. It'll be super fun. Let's get UFC to Hawaii. Let's get Frankie Edgar versus Max Holloway in the stadium. It'll be huge."

Holloway also talked about facing Conor McGregor in a rematch, which, if UFC were to come to Hawaii, given McGregor's ability to promote a fight, it on the surface would be more likely for the big stadium risk. But given the weather concerns about doing an outdoor show in Hawaii, the stadium sounds great on paper but it's a long shot at best.

"I'd fight him any day of the week," said Holloway, who has now won seven in a row, with six stoppages, since his August 17, 2013, loss via decision to McGregor.

Holloway said if the UFC had given him the call instead of Chad Mendes, for the July 11 fight, he'd have taken it. But Holloway realistically needed one win among the guys in the division's big four - champion Jose Aldo, interim king McGregor, Edgar and Mendes - before he could have been considered when the spot opened up. His name isn't quite strong enough for that position, but a win over any of the big four would change that.

"Holloway vs. McGregor, you got money with the No. 2 (underdog, which he would be) in that fight."

Holloway's mentioning Hawaii is notable because when UFC first started getting popular, Hawaii seemed on its radar. Even now, but particularly during the heyday of B.J. Penn, there may have been nowhere in the U.S. outside of Las Vegas with the level of UFC popularity as the 50th state. On a per capita basis, it's pay-per-view numbers were some of the strongest anywhere. With the SuperBrawl promotion, as well as other groups, Honolulu was one of first hotbeds of live MMA in the U.S. in the late 90s, with regular shows that often packed the 8,800-seat Neil Blaisdell Center. Ten years ago, K-1 ran a show at Aloha Stadium headlined by Penn vs. Renzo Gracie, although doing 11,500 fans in a 50,000-seat football stadium was probably not a success.

But UFC has never run there. At first, when Penn was lightweight champion, the feeling was the arena was too small and the stadium was too large. Now, with the likely pent up demand for a live UFC event, the stadium being so large wouldn't be an issue, but the weather always would be. UFC has run outdoors in Abu Dhabi, but the weather there is far more predicable than in Hawaii. There was also the expense at the time of running in Hawaii. But now, with UFC having run all over the world and Fight Nights are often held in venues the size of the Blaisdell Center, it would seem like such an event is overdue.

At 23 years old, Holloway just became the youngest fighter to have ten UFC wins. The Oliveira win was a mixed blessing. Along with his prior fight where he took apart Cub Swanson on the April 18 FOX show, Oliveira was easily the biggest name victory of Holloway's career. A fight with Edgar was the right fight for him to ask for, but would also be a huge step up in competition.

But it's really as if the Oliveira fight never took place. Oliveira, who had suffered a neck injury in training, went numb when he fell into the cage and the fight had to be stopped in just 1:39. Really, there wasn't even a glimpse of what a Holloway vs. Oliveira fight would be before it was already over.

"It sucked," said Holloway, even though he had just his hand raised in the main event. "I trained super hard. It (injuries) comes with the territory. My prayers to Charles. At the end of the day, he's ranked No. 7 in the world. He gets money from fighting. An injury sets you back. If you can't fight, you can't pay your bills."

Let's look at how Fortunes Changed for five stars of Sunday's show.

MAX HOLLOWAY - Holloway (14-3), along with Ricardo Lamas, are the top two featherweights right now ranked just below the big four. Lamas is already booked with Diego Sanchez in November, so he's out of the picture as a next opponent.

Edgar (19-4-1) and Mendes (17-3) are both viable. Edgar makes sense, provided he doesn't want to sit it out and wait for the Aldo vs. McGregor winner, since he would be the logical next contender. If he wants to fight, Holloway or Mendes would be the most viable opponent. Edgar vs. Mendes is an interesting fight that has never happened. The negative on it is Mendes has also lost three times challenging for the title. While Mendes did UFC a favor in taking the McGregor fight on short notice, it would seem quick for him to get another shot. So putting him against Edgar, where he could derail Edgar's chances at a title shot, may be the wrong fight for now.

If UFC goes with Edgar vs. Mendes, you could do Holloway vs. Oliveira, depending on Oliveira's condition. The fight looked exciting on paper and still looks that way. But Oliveira is a question mark due to injury. If that's the case, the other pick would be Clay Guida (32-15). Guida is a name fighter that Holloway would be favored against. A win in that fight should get him a fight with one of the big four after that.

CHARLES OLIVEIRA - Oliveira, with a win, would have been in the spot Holloway is now, a 25-year-old fighter knocking on the door of the big four in a featherweight division that has never been more in the spotlight.
What is next for him depends more on his recovery time. If the recovery time is short enough that he can fight in a few months, he should hope that Edgar vs. Mendes is booked, because that leaves him in a good position for the rematch with Holloway. If the injury takes more time, the face of the division will change, but he still should come back against a top-ten fighter and be a win away from top tier.

NEIL MAGNY - Magny (16-5) took Sunday's fight with Erick Silva on late notice, only having four days in camp, and being just 22 days removed from his loss to Demian Maia. He won a split decision. This gives him eight wins in his last nine fights. This streak took place over an 18-month period, making him the company's iron man, being the go-to guy in the division when a late replacement is needed.

"Every single opportunity to do what I love is a blessing, so I need to take full advantage of it," Magny said about his willingness to fight so frequently. "When I'm old and beat up and can't fight anymore, I'll wish I had the opportunity to do it again. If the opportunity comes up now, I'll take full advantage of it if I'm healthy and ready to go."

Magny lost some steam since he was dominated by Maia. He came into Sunday's fight at No. 15 in the division. With winning, a viable next fight would be No. 9 ranked Stephen Thompson (11-1). While unranked, another good opponent for him would be Lorenz Larkin (16-4).

ERICK SILVA - Silva (18-6, 1 no contest) exploded on the UFC scene three years ago and looked like a potential top tier welterweight with his five wins (and one disqualification loss where he had Carlo Prater all but beaten in less than 30 seconds when the fight was called for an illegal strike) ending in the first round. But he's now 5-4, and the Magny loss may be the toughest thus far in his career to come back from. He's now 31, and is falling into the position of being just another name on the card.

Now it's more about just matching him with guys and trying to make exciting undercard fights. So a good next opponent would be Jordan Mein (29-10). Silva's previous losses were such that he still felt like there was top-ten potential there. His loss to Matt Brown was one of last year's best fights, he was facing a top-ten opponent, and he nearly won early. His loss to Dong Hyun Kim was one where he was knocked out, but there were points in that bout that he also nearly won against another ranked contender. When he lost to Jon Fitch, he was early in his UFC career, and Fitch was still considered one of the best in the world, and they had an excellent fight.

PATRICK COTE - Cote (23-9) remains a journeyman welterweight who is 35 years old. He's valuable to have on shows in Canada because he's an established popular veteran. He was the most popular fighter to the Saskatoon crowd on Sunday.

While Josh Burkman came into the fight with 11 losses, all were via submission or decision. Cote not only won, but became the first fighter in 41 fights to finish Burkman via strikes.

Cote was very aggressive in talking about what he wanted next, both in the ring and after the fight. He asked for Hector Lombard. Lombard is currently on a suspension for testing positive for steroids in a win over Burkman on Jan. 3. His suspension ends in January and Cote said it's who he wanted and when he wanted to fight next.
Lombard, shortly after dropping from middleweight, called out Cote. Cote felt the timing wasn't right.

"I'm getting close to the top 15, maybe I'll be there after this fight," he said. "This fight makes sense now. He's gonna came back in January. I can say that tonight I'm ready to accept this challenge for sure."

Cote would be a heavy underdog. In talking up the fight heavily, he helps his odds in getting it. And at this stage of his career, a win there would benefit him far more than any other fight he's viably going to get. Even if he doesn't get that fight, it will at least be something UFC would talk about. And that's why, when that question is asked in the cage after a win, the best thing for a fighter to do is scout their division, and publicly aim for the fight that will do your career the most good.