LAS VEGAS -- Part spectacle and part celebration, the sport of mixed martial arts once again took center stage in the sporting world on Saturday with UFC 200.
After the biggest and arguably deepest card in UFC history, the logical question is simple: What's next?
Amanda Nunes: In the revolving door that is the UFC's title picture at women's bantamweight, Nunes made quite an emphatic statement by the ease with which she lifted Miesha Tate's title. With the 135-pound belt having now changed hands three times in the past nine months, the division is as wide open as ever. The good news for Nunes is that she's in a prime position for an immediate and marketable title defense. Former champion Holly Holm, who lost her title to Tate in their March thriller, likely makes the most sense, should she get past Valentina Shevchenko on July 23. But don't count out the return of Ronda Rousey. UFC president Dana White told SportsCenter late Saturday that he feels Rousey will be back "by the end of this year or early next year." If the UFC can convince Rousey to return by November, there wouldn't be a better venue for her than the promotion's long-awaited debut at Madison Square Garden.
Brock Lesnar: In his first appearance since 2011, the former UFC heavyweight champion looked fresh in his dominant decision win over Mark Hunt. Lesnar's return was deemed a "one-off" by current employer WWE and "The Beast" will quickly transition to promoting his Aug. 21 SummerSlam bout against Randy Orton. It's hard to imagine, however, this was the last time we see Lesnar, who turns 39 on Tuesday, inside the Octagon. Yes, no one outside of Lesnar and the McMahon family knows the specifics of his part-time WWE contract. It's also true that his victory over Hunt would be the perfect swan song after Lesnar's initial UFC run was compromised by diverticulitis. But take a gander at Lesnar's postfight comments and try to convince yourself his competitive nature won't bring him back.
"I had 12 inches of my colon removed [in 2011] and jumped back into the Octagon three months later. I mean, who does that? Come on," Lesnar said. "I've been gone five years and I stepped into the Octagon tonight with the guy ranked No. 8 in the world [at heavyweight]. You can write what you want to write but I think I'm the toughest son of a bitch around and this puts me right in the game. Granted, I've got some work to do but don't we all. If I want to make that decision and keep fighting, I will."
Daniel Cormier: The light heavyweight champion had quite an emotional week after chief rival Jon Jones was pulled from the UFC 200 main event for a doping violation. Cormier then endured three rounds of boos for using his size advantage and wrestling to maul crowd favorite Anderson Silva. With Jones facing a possible two-year suspension from the USADA, Cormier is left without an obvious next opponent. He plans on staying busy and will look to face whoever is next in line, mentioning former title challengers Anthony Johnson and Alexander Gustafsson. The problem is Cormier is fresh off of wins against both fighters in the immediate aftermath of Jones being stripped of the title in 2015.
Anderson Silva: As far as moral victories go, Silva seemed to take extra joy in his ability to go the distance with Cormier on two days' notice. At 41, the "Spider" was moving up in weight just two months removed from gall-bladder surgery. Silva showed incredible toughness and endeared himself even further to the adoring crowd by rallying to hurt Cormier with a kick to the body in the final minute of the fight. Considering the money he is still able to command, it doesn't appear Silva is going anywhere. A victory lap of fun fights against vulnerable or equally faded big names would seem most apropos. Silva, however, would prefer a rematch with 37-year-old Michael Bisping, who won a disputed decision over him in February before upsetting middleweight champion Luke Rockhold last month. While Silva is clearly a shadow of his once great self, that shadow can still excite a crowd and give most fighters a difficult challenge.
Jose Aldo: A convincing win over Frankie Edgar in their interim featherweight title rematch quieted any fears that Conor McGregor had stolen Aldo's aura of invincibility by taking his title in 13 seconds last December. Aldo, who previously went a full decade without losing, was back to being Aldo again on Saturday and spent the majority of his postfight interviews calling out McGregor, who was cageside. A title unification rematch will be a major event for the UFC later this year regardless of the outcome of McGregor's big-money rematch at welterweight against Nate Diaz in August.
Cain Velasquez: One year removed from losing his heavyweight title in the high elevation of Mexico City, the Velasquez of old made a triumphant return in a one-round dismantling of Travis Browne. Velasquez wants his belt back and his performance only helped fuel those who believe he's still the best heavyweight in the world. Velasquez said he expects to challenge the winner of new champion Stipe Miocic's first title defense on Sept. 10 against Alistair Overeem.
Julianna Pena: "The Venezuelan Vixen" took a considerable step forward with her convincing decision win over former title challenger Cat Zingano. Pena is 4-0 since making her UFC debut in 2013 and could become a dark-horse title challenger sooner than later should the unpredictability surrounding the title picture at women's bantamweight continue.
TJ Dillashaw: The former bantamweight champion avenged a dubious split-decision loss to Raphael Assuncao from 2013 with a dominant win on Saturday. Dillashaw deserves a second chance at Dominick Cruz, who took his title by debated decision in January, and he deserves it now.
Sage Northcutt: The 20-year-old lightweight prospect rebounded from his first defeat in January by outpointing Enrique Marin. But "Super Sage" was sloppy throughout and was forced to make a pair of dramatic escapes from submission attempts in Round 2. The once-great Northcutt hype train remains parked back in the station. More seasoning against opponents on the level of Marin is needed.
Diego Sanchez: Hopefully retirement is next for the all-action Sanchez, who went out on his shield once again in a first-round TKO loss to Joe Lauzon. He may be the most intense fighter the UFC has ever seen and is amazingly just 34 despite leaping onto the scene in the first season of "The Ultimate Fighter" in 2005. Though Sanchez has provided fans with so many memorable wars, it's time to say goodbye.