10 YRS AGO – COLUMN: UFC 63 results set the stage for the fall with Lightweight Division, Swick, Hughes, Penn, Lauzon, more

B.J. Penn (photo credit Stephen R. Sylvanie © USAToday Sports)

Ten years ago this week, MMATorch columnist Randy Rowles wrote about how UFC 63’s results set the stage for the fall and winter with big match outcomes involving the Lightweight Division, Matt Hughes, B.J. Penn, Mike Swick, and more. Check out a take on the UFC scene ten years ago…

A new UFC Lightweight Champion will be crowned at UFC 64, where Kenny Florian and Sean Sherk will battle for the vacant title.

In anticipation of the reestablishment of this title, UFC 63 featured five matches from the Lightweight Division. Tyson Griffin, Roger Huerta, Jorge Gurgel, Joe Lauzon, and Melvin Guillard all captured victories in their respective matches. All of these winners are rising stars in MMA. Any combination of these fighters could be matched up against each other, to narrow down the field of contenders for the new champion. Add to this list Jens Pulver, Duane “Bang” Ludwig, Sam Stout, or the yet-to-debut Jason Reinhardt, and you’ve got one stacked UFC Lightweight Division.

Bang Ludwig would probably love a rematch against Tyson Griffin in the UFC, as Griffin holds a TKO victory over Ludwig outside of the UFC. Taking out Jens Pulver has made Joe Lauzon an overnight sensation, so too did Melvin Guillard’s amazing body punch TKO make him a star. These two could be pitted against each other, or matched up against Jorge Gurgel or Roger Huerta. It is rumored that The Ultimate Fighter 5 will feature 16 lightweight fighters, 8 UFC veterans grouped with 8 newcomers, with Jens Pulver as a coach. This could be why we are seeing an influx of lightweights.

Rashad Evans has to be considered one of the top UFC Light Heavyweights. With the recent announcement of Tito Ortiz vs. Chuck Liddell for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 66, Evans will have to wait on a title shot. Michael Bisping still needs an opponent for UFC 65. This would be a money match between the two Ultimate Fighter winners, but it is unlikely Evans would be ready to go again by mid-November. A number one contender match at UFC 66, against fellow TUF winner Forrest Griffin could be the answer here, or Evans could be put to the test against Renato “Babalu” Sobral. There don’t appear to be a whole lot more options in this weight class, unless Evans wants to move back up to the Heavyweight Division.

Mike Swick, with his victory over the dangerous David Loiseau, has positioned himself as one of the top UFC middleweights. Current UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin will defend his title against Anderson Silva at UFC 64. Swick could be next in line for a title shot. Swick only has one loss in MMA, and it was at the hands of Chris Leben, outside of the UFC. A rematch between these two former TUF contestants would be a great story. With Leben’s promos and Swick’s credibility, this match could gather great anticipation among UFC fans, and Swick has to be hungry to avenge his only loss. In another possibility, Swick could be matched up against Dean Lister in a number one contender match.

In the main event of UFC 63, Matt Hughes retained his title and got revenge for his loss to B.J. Penn. Assuming Matt Hughes is ready to go, he is tentatively scheduled to fight Georges St. Pierre at UFC 65. Penn came into UFC 63 as a replacement for the injured St. Pierre. As for B.J. Penn, there are three young welterweights in particular, who could greatly benefit from a match with Penn. Diego Sanchez, Karo Parisyan or Nick Diaz could be put to the test against Penn, to see if they are ready to step up into a UFC Middleweight Championship match.

At UFC 63, it was three former TUF fighters and a former TUF coach, Matt Hughes, who made the biggest impact, along with a couple of red-hot upstarts. Rashad Evans won The Ultimate Fighter and has been winning ever since. While Melvin Guillard and Mike Swick did not win in TUF, they have proven themselves worthy of their spots near the top of the UFC card. Fellow TUF fighter Jorge Gurgel did himself the least favor at UFC 63, even though he won, as he barely squeaked by the under-matched Danny Abbadi on the judges’ scorecards. Believe it or not, there are still fighters in the UFC who have not been on The Ultimate Fighter. One of them, Joe Lauzon, shocked the MMA world with his decisive victory over Jens Pulver, who is a true MMA legend. Tyson Griffin provided less shock with his quick victory over David Lee, but Griffin is definitely a fighter to look out for in the UFC.

All in all, the UFC has to be happy with the outcome of UFC 63. Matt Hughes has cemented his legacy, and B.J. Penn’s next match can be used to build towards a rubber match against Hughes, or to establish a contender for the Hughes/St. Pierre winner. Rashad Evans remains undefeated and is really a force to be reckoned with, now that he has proven he can finish a fight. Mike Swick has continued his winning ways, albeit in a disappointing fashion considering the expectations for his match. David Loiseau can be an exciting fighter, and should get another shot in the UFC. Next time, hopefully, he will be less cautious and go for the win, after having lost his last two UFC matches via unanimous decision.

The UFC, arguably, has more superstars now than ever. With The Ultimate Fighter going strong and MMA getting increased mainstream media exposure, I’d recommend getting some shades, because the future is looking very bright.

CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S 10 YRS AGO FLASHBACK: 10 YEARS AGO: Keller’s UFC 63 PPV Report including Matt Hughes vs. B.J. Penn, Jens Pulver vs. Joe Lauzon, Rashad Evans, Guillard, Griffin, Swick

(MMATorch regularly publishes throughout the week flashback articles from our rich history of coverage of the sport of MMA dating back to the very first UFC event. Check out our current library of flashbacks here and learn about this sport’s history.)

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