Robert Staaf here to break down What’s Next after UFC on FOX 21. The UFC returned to Vancouver, B.C. Canada with a solid card headlined by top Welterweight contenders Demian Maia and Carlos Condit. We knew heading into the event that this was a pivotal matchup in one of the UFC’s densest divisions. Now that the event is in the books, I can’t help but feel we still have more questions than answers for what’s next at 170. We also witnessed Anthony “Showtime” Pettis make his Featherweight debut and halt his three-fight losing skid in the process, as well as a beautiful highlight reel finish by Paige VanZant upon her return from the world of dancing “stars” (although I’m still not sure who Nyle DiMarco is…) Before I go too far down the rabbit hole with that one, let’s get to what we’re all here for and discuss what’s next…
UFC on FOX 21’s Top Fighters
Demian Maia earned his sixth straight victory with his first round submission over Carlos Condit and one would be hard pressed to find a more impressive victory on the Brazilian’s record. Prior to this bout, despite having won five straight, Maia’s biggest win was over Matt Brown and, frankly, I was unsure of how deserving he was of a crack at the Welterweight Championship. All of that doubt is out the window now as it only took Maia 1:52 to choke out the former (Interim) Welterweight Champ.
What gives me pause, however, is the “Will he or won’t he” return speculation regarding former Welterweight king Georges St. Pierre. I am still of the belief that GSP would receive a title shot against Tyron Woodley upon his return and many believe we will see that at UFC 206 in Toronto. Keep in mind, that event takes place on Dec. 10, immediately after GSP’s four-month USADA drug testing period concludes. All the evidence points to GSP fighting at that event… until we run into Dana White.
The UFC President has seemed to have bitter feelings towards St. Pierre since he relinquished the Welterweight Title and began his hiatus from the sport in 2013, and you can see it in the way White presents himself anytime discussing the former champ. In fact, the UFC was very open throughout the UFC on FOX 21 broadcast in declaring Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson the next challenger to fight Tyron Woodley, which was an interesting development to my eye.
I am unsure of what other fight we could see St. Pierre in upon his return if it is not for the title. A long-awaited (although few years too late) dream match against Anderson Silva? A rematch against Nick Diaz (I’m not sure why that continues to be discussed, however) or perhaps taking advantage of the star power Nate Diaz has grown? I anticipate we will see another month or so of negotiations and rumors surrounding St. Pierre’s return before we truly know what is next for GSP, Woodley, and by proxy Maia and Thompson. That being said, if GSP gets the title shot, it’s all but a certainty we will see Maia and Thompson square off to determine the no. 1 Contender (despite Maia saying he’s waiting until he gets a title shot). If Thompson does, in fact, face Woodley in the coming months, I believe Maia will relax and enjoy his spot as next in line.
What’s Next: If Thompson receives next title shot: Demian Maia vs. winner of Woodley-Thompson… If GSP receives next title shot: Demian Maia vs. Stephen Thompson – #1 Contender bout
Carlos Condit has long been open and honest about his thoughts and feelings heading into and out of his last few fights. It has been refreshing and eye-opening, although it also makes the agony of defeat even more prominent when he suffers another setback as he did here against Demian Maia.
Condit is just 2-5 in his past seven fights and, while the losses have only been against elite competition or due to injury, it’s understandable why Condit feels the way he feels at the moment, especially when you consider his fears of the accumulation of damage he has endured throughout his 40 professional fights. While a thrilling and exciting fighter who has been a mainstay near the top of the division, the road to another title shot is now longer than ever for “The Natural Born Killer.” I’m not sure if that is a road Condit feels like taking another ride down, but if he does decide to make that journey, or even one more fight to attempt to end his career on a better note, a battle against fellow veteran and exciting welterweight Matt Brown would be hard to pass up. Rick Story and Neil Magny are coming off of recent losses who would fit here as well.
What’s Next: Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown (or retirement).
It was nice to see a return to form for Anthony Pettis in his debut in the Featherweight Division, as he surprised many by defeating the always dangerous Charles Oliveira, and by submission at that. “Showtime” has to be sleeping better now that he halted his three-fight losing skid and awaits his next challenge at 145 lbs. There are many intriguing scenarios for Pettis here, including a dream match of sorts against Frankie Edgar or no. 1 Contender Max Holloway. Frankie Edgar is coming off of a loss, though, and we may see him try his hand down at Bantamweight. Max Holloway makes sense if he needs another fight to stay busy while Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor do battle for the title, but I’m still skeptical we see McGregor-Aldo. That being said, Pettis vs. no. 5 ranked contender Cub Swanson would be fantastic. Swanson is a tremendously exciting fighter and has won two in a row. This would be a must-see fight with the winner propelled to the very top of the Featherweight division. Let’s get this signed as soon as possible.
What’s Next: Anthony Pettis vs. Cub Swanson
Paige VanZant’s knockout of Bec Rawlings at just 0:17 of the second round was absolutely spectacular and will assuredly aid in VanZant’s rise to becoming one of the UFC’s top future stars. VanZant is just one fight removed from the one-sided beating she took at the hands of top contender Rose Namajunas less than a year ago, a fight in which the UFC learned VanZant’s current ceiling, and they surely learned from it. The company would be wise to take it slow with “12 Gauge” and allow her to continue to grow as a fighter. Alliance MMA training partner Jessica Penne was in the corner of Bec Rawlings for this fight and, despite coming off of two losses, she would be a suitable opponent in VanZant’s next fight.
What’s Next: Paige VanZant vs. Jessica Penne
Jim Miller was lucky to be awarded the judges’ decision over Joe Lauzon, but he nonetheless moves forward. Despite winning two straight, there is not another Lightweight coming off of a win that I see making sense for Miller here. James Vick is 8-1, having suffered his sole loss at UFC 199 to Beneil Dariush, and is the right fit for where Miller should be in his next out. Bobby Green is another possibility.
What’s Next: Jim Miller vs. James Vick
The judges’ decision here was unfortunate but it’s nothing that should cause irreparable harm to Lauzon’s future considering his role and place in the company. Fellow veteran Ross Pearson is coming off two losses in one month this past July, but would provide a tough and worthy test for “J-Lau” as they both look to rebuild.
What’s Next: Joe Lauzon vs. Ross Pearson
That about does it, ladies and gentlemen. The Welterweight Division is still in a state of flux with Georges St. Pierre a looming presence for these past few months, with some answers likely coming soon. Anthony Pettis’s next move at Featherweight is another key story worth following. We’ll see you next time when we discuss what’s next for Stipe Miocic, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, C.M. Punk, and others from UFC 203!
(Robert Staaf writes “What’s Next?” for MMATorch after major UFC events, breaking down the biggest fights and discussing where the combatants should be heading next. Robert has followed MMA since the infancy of the UFC in 1993 and brings with him years of experience writing for various Mixed Martial Arts and Professional Wrestling sites.)