With UFC 123 in the books, several fighters have sent compelling messages to their respective divisions.
Quinton Jackson fought well against Lyoto Machida, yet received a surprising decision. B.J. Penn looked like his old self in dispatching rival Matt Hughes. George Sotiropoulos stuck to his model of turning around a slow start en route to submitting tough Joe Lauzon.
With all this in mind, here are fights we'd like to see in the wake of UFC 123.
Quinton Jackson versus Lyoto Machida II
Their bout tonight was a stark contrast in styles, with both men showing considerable respect for one another. While Jackson won a split decision by the narrowest of margins, he was also classy enough to admit that a rematch would be a good idea.
What did we learn from tonight? Jackson is still largely dependent on his punching prowess, while seemingly discarding his potent takedowns. Machida, meanwhile, showed a decent version of his standup game on the heels of his first defeat, although one with somewhat mitigated aggression. It was a very close bout, and one which many felt Machida won. Jackson deserves major props for offering up the rematch.
With top contender Rashad Evans and champ Mauricio Rua tentatively slated to clash for the 205-pound title at UFC 128 in March, now seems like an opportune time for the rematch. Unfinished business needs to be squared away, and with a long lead time to Rua-Evans, there's no reason not to make Rampage-Machida again.
Mark Munoz versus Rousimar Palhares
Munoz showed some good stuff Saturday, decisioning fellow wrestler and friend Aaron Simpson. That's why "The Filipino Wrecking Machine's" next step should be someone with a vastly different style -- someone like the leglock specialist "Toquinho."
Munoz's willingness to strike and mix it up would be a good battle against Palhares' submissions and hard-headed willingness to scrap. It would also be a nice sorting-out match for the 185-pound division. Munoz can wrestle and bang, and Palhares would be a great measuring stick for his progress. "Wrestler versus jiu-jitsu specialist" is a natural pairing. Munoz's ground-and-pound is exceptionally impressive, and Palhares is a game opponent that would bring out the best in Munoz.
George Sotiropoulos versus Donald Cerrone
Sotiropoulos overcame a tough first round against a free-swinging Lauzon and managed to impose his ground game. The Australian seemed a little overmatched in the standup department, but he used his size and grappling edge to wear Lauzon down, plying his advantages en route to a slam-bang kimura win in the second round.
While Cerrone is slated to face Chris Horodecki at the final WEC show on Dec. 16, that's a fight the "Cowboy" is likely to win. So we'll take a leap of faith and pit him against Sotiropoulos early next year. It would be an excellent matchup, since Cerrone's standup is outstanding, and his size and defensive guard are enough to present Sotiropoulos with some interesting tactical challenges.
As the WEC's 155-pound crowd integrates into the UFC, matchups like this will cater to our own curious natures. How well does the WEC posse mix in with the bigger organization's talent pool? The guess here is "very well." Cerrone, Jamie Varner, Ben Henderson and Kamal Shalorus will soon be in the mix in the UFC's lightweight division, and matches like this are a great way to celebrate the merger.
Phil Davis versus Matt Hamill
Davis looked a little uncomfortable tonight in the first round of his fight with Tim Boetsch -- that is, before he slammed home a unique submission in the form of a behind-the-back kimura straight out of a Farmer Burns wrestling video. That said, Davis' physical talent is impressive, as is the way he's embraced MMA. That's why Hamill would be the perfect fit for "Mr. Wonderful" at this point in his career.
Hamill's wrestling and standup are tough, and he has the kind of hard-nosed conditioning that would bring out Davis' A-game. While comparisons to Jon Jones are a natural inclination for those watching Davis, each fighter follows his own progression. Davis has a ton of ability and a great wrestling pedigree. With just eight fights under his belt, Hamill would be the kind of foe to bring out his best while countering his skills.
Jason Probst is a contributor to Sherdog.com.