UFC 124 delivered some rollicking finishes and settled the long-running feud between Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck. In the wake of the card, let's take a close look at five matches that make sense following Saturday night's action.
Thiago Alves versus Josh Koscheck
Alves' revamped conditioning yielded obvious results in his fight with John Howard. Not only did the Pitbull's typically blown-up frame look leaner, but he was beautifully effective in a decision win over the ultra-game Howard. Alves' muay Thai and pinpoint striking make him an appealing fighter, and his physical strength means he'll match up well against almost anyone, provided he's got the stamina and proper stylistic pairing to apply his potent wares.
While it's tempting to match Alves against another striker in hopes of repeating his meeting with Howard, the welterweight pecking order would benefit more from a rematch with Koscheck. In their first bout, Koscheck came in on short notice, and basically got kicked and stymied en route to a decision loss. However, Koscheck showed a ton of heart and a lot of grit in his one-sided loss to St. Pierre on Saturday.
With Jon Fitch-B.J. Penn slated for February and GSP likely to take on Jake Shields next, the top of the 170-pound division is largely booked up. A Koscheck-Alves rematch would answer pressing questions for both, especially with a fully prepped Kos. Alves' striking is great, but he's been beaten by imposing wrestlers in GSP and Fitch. Koscheck can wrestle beautifully -- notwithstanding the impossibility of outwrestling St. Pierre -- but needs to beat a gifted striker.
With the likelihood that St. Pierre will make only two or three more title defenses before exiting the welterweight division, someone will eventually have to step in to fill the void. Alves and Koscheck are among the best 170 pounds has to offer once St. Pierre leaves.
Stefan Struve versus Brendan Schaub
Struve had another impressive win Saturday night, taking out Sean McCorkle via first-round technical knockout, though I'll be the first to say the stoppage was a tad quick.
At 6-foot-11 and 253 pounds, the 22-year-old Struve is still filling out his frame, but the guy can fight. Finding himself in a tough spot early with the larger McCorkle on top, the Dutchman executed a nice kimura sweep en route to the ground-and-pound finish.
Struve-Schaub would pit two talented, up-and-coming heavyweights against one another in a compelling match. You're not quite sure where it would go, or who would do what, but there's no doubt it would be fun to watch.
With a surplus of top-tier heavyweight talent, this is the kind of sort-'em-out match that makes sense. Schaub is athletic and has shown improving hands, which is a nice complement to Struve's size and grappling prowess.
Mac Danzig versus Nik Lentz
Danzig needed a rousing performance tonight against Joe Stevenson, and he got it, delivering a perfect check-hook knockout. The winner of the sixth season of "The Ultimate Fighter," Danzig had fallen on hard times lately, losing four of five before his huge win in Montreal.
Danzig was probably going to be released if he hadn't won against Stevenson. Now, suddenly, he's back in the thick of things. A fight with Lentz makes a lot of sense for his next match. The hard-charging Lentz is coming off a disputed split-decision win over Tyson Griffin at UFC 123, and has gone 4-0-1 in the organization.
Danzig may not be Peter Aerts in terms of his newly evolved stand-up, but he's always fun to watch in any kind of battle, including one on the ground. Lentz would press him and force his hand, and in today's UFC lightweight division, you need to represent big-time to move up the ladder. This match would give both the opportunity to do just that.
Jim Miller versus Edson Mendes Barboza Jr.
Miller is the kind of guy anyone can appreciate, and he was masterful in submitting the previously unbeaten Charles Oliveira on Saturday, using a slick kneebar to force the tap in the opening round. That makes six straight wins for Miller, a hard-nosed type of fighter who just keeps beating people. With a 19-2 record, Miller's only losses have come to Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, who just happen to be the two best lightweights in the UFC right now.
Barboza has only a single win in the UFC, having scored a knockout win over Mike Lullo last month at UFC 123. But what makes Barboza the pick here is that he's part of the new breed of MMA fighters, blessed with destructive striking power and a ton of experience in another discipline. With a large, lightweight frame of 5-foot-11, Barboza has a listed record of 25-3 in kickboxing, with 22 knockouts.
Barboza is a dangerous fighter, and right now, Miller is streaking. Put them together and let the combination detonate.
Dan Miller versus Court McGee
In taking a close decision over veteran Joe Doerksen on Saturday, Miller upped his UFC record to 5-3, and 13-4 overall. Like his brother, Dan is shoe-heel tough, with all four of his losses coming by way of decision. That's why Court McGee would be a great match for him.
McGee, the winner of "TUF 11," is as well-rounded and complete a fighter as most of the "TUF" prospects have been at this point in their careers. His imposing wrestling and high-paced style would be a great match against Miller's veteran savvy. Like most other UFC divisions, middleweight is logjammed toward the top, at least if you aren't already one of the elite contenders.
Miller has faltered against the top-shelf 185-pounders, dropping decisions to Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping. He's the perfect next guy for McGee to face, because you know it's no gimme for McGee, and Miller represents a good litmus test at this stage in McGee's development.
Jason Probst is a contributor to Sherdog.com.