MMA Analysis: Where Do Stars of UFC 142 Go From Here?

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The UFC and Brazil is a magical combination, last September they hosted their first event following a thirteen year drought and it was one of the best events of the entire year, tonight they made their return and the tradition continued.

Top-to-bottom UFC 142 delivered a smorgasbord of action ranging from devastating hook-kick knockouts to disastrous heel-hook submissions to hard-fought battles, the UFC’s first trip to Brazil in the New Year has proven to be a successful one.

Following the completion of any UFC event there are always a million unanswered questions, more so this time out than usual unless you speak Portuguese so here are the matches to make for those in the winner’s circle at the top end of the card.

Jose Aldo:

Aldo showed why he is the number-one ranked featherweight in the world tonight when he faced the top-contender Chad Mendes in a battle to see who would rule the division for the foreseeable future – Mendes was unsuccessful in seven takedown attempts in the opening stanza before eating a knee that put his lights out at the 4:59 mark of the opening frame.

Most of the mixed martial arts media are claiming that he has cleaned out the featherweight ranks now that he has dispatched the Alpha Male protégé but that’s not quite true, if Hatsu Hioki is able to get past Bart Paleszewski at UFC 144 he would be the next rightful challenger to the throne of Aldo.

Hioki is the number-two ranked featherweight according to most sources after a highly successful run in the land of the rising sun. Since 2007 his lone defeat is a highly controversial decision to Michihiro Omigawa with defeats over Masanori Kanehara, Ronnie Mann, Mark Hominick and Aldo’s friend and training partner Marlon Sandro.

Hioki failed to pull out one of his infamous submission holds against George Roop in his UFC debut which put his title dreams on ice but with a good outing against Paleszewski who is no easy task he should be at the front of the queue.

Vitor Belfort:

Belfort grew his superstardom in Brazil even further tonight with his first-round submission victory of ex-welterweight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. The NCAA Division I wrestler looked to put the Brazilian on his back repeatedly and steal a decision on the judges’ score cards but Belfort didn’t let that happen stuffing a takedown and taking the back of the Blackzillian team member to sink in a rear-naked-choke and giving him his walking orders from the company.

Where he goes from here is obvious, he’s already signed on to coach alongside his fellow Countrymen Wanderlei Silva in the inaugural season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil’

Silva and Belfort first met many moons ago, ironically enough the last time Belfort fought in Brazil when Belfort obliterated a rookie Silva before he became in infamous “Axe Murderer” and Silva will be looking to get that victory back despite being in the twilight of his career.

Rousimar Palhares

Palhares might be more famous for his loose cannon, off-the-wall antics than anything but he has silently chipped away at a nice record inside the 185-pound weight class with his only defeats in the UFC to title challengers Nate Marquardt and Dan Henderson.

Tonight he pushed his winning streak to three-straight with a ‘submission of the night’ winning heel-hook. Once he got it to the floor the submission magician took over making a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt like Mike Massenzio look like a white belt, within seconds forcing him to call it an early night.

With this, his third straight victory and his 12th of 14 octagon appearances you can’t deny him a top-level challenger at this point, the winner of Michael Bisping vs. Demian Maia would be a perfect fit.

The only way the winner of Maia vs. Bisping would be slotted into title contention is if Mark Munoz pulls off a huge upset defeating the gangta from the streets of West Lynn, Oregon – Chael Sonnen.

If all goes ahead to plan, Palhares vs. the winner of Maia-Bisping would set up the perfect next challenger for the winner of the much anticipated rematch between Sonnen and Silva rumored to take place in a soccer stadium in Silva’s backyard.

Carlo Prater

Prater can thank the incompetence of senior referee Mario Yamasaki for being mentioned in the winner’s circle tonight, he was blasted by the Jungle Fights champ with a deadly knee before following up with hammer fists that were deemed to the back of the head by the referee thus disqualifying Silva.

Instant replay sparked the controversy flame and made Yamasaki public enemy number-one on my twitter feed.

Prater now finds himself returning to the octagon again in the near future to try his luck against another welterweight, someone like John Hathaway would be appropriate – Hathaway was a highly touted prospect before losing to Mike Pyle and due to injuries has only had one fight since then redeeming himself against Kris McCray.

Hathaway and Prater both have holes in their games that could be exploited by the other and would be an appropriate test moving forward, plus Hathaway doesn’t bring mind numbing power in his right hand.

Erick Silva

Technically, I said the winners only but Silva got the win according to most who viewed the event, including UFC President Dana White who awarded him a winner’s purse regardless of the outcome.

In the past the UFC executives have given fighters win bonuses after controversial decisions and treated that defeat as a victory moving forward. We saw this when Nam Phan was robbed by Leonard Garcia and when Darrel Elkins stole a controversial decision from Michihiro Omigawa for instance so I would expect the same for Silva moving forward.

We have seen the damage he can do to C-level welterweights but now it would be a good time to give him a tough test like Mike Pyle who scored an emphatic knockout victory in the first bout on FX tonight.

Neither man left the cage with a scratch on them and should be ready to go right away. Plus, Pyle is a tough-nosed wrestler with a well-rounded skill set that will tell us exactly where Silva stacks up in the 170-pound division and whether he can tangle with the big boys at the top of the ranks anytime soon.

Edson Barboza

Every fighter needs that one fight that puts them on the map, that fight that gets peoples attentions and makes them take notice – For Barboza that moment was tonight when he picked apart Terry Etim with devastating leg kicks and aggressive striking before executing a flawless spinning heel kick knockout in an early bid for ‘knockout of the year’.

Improving his perfect record to 10-0 Barboza is knocking on the door of being “in the mix” as the brash figurehead of the company would say but I don’t think everyone is suited for a meteoric rise to superstardom like Jon Jones.

Barboza should continue working his way up the ranks instead of facing top-ranked lightweights just yet, a fringe top-10 guy like Gleison Tibau would be perfect.

Tibau is a physically impossibly 155-pounder looking more like a welterweight than anything but he has used his impressive size to overwhelm fighters, most recently edging Rafael dos Anjos in November.

The American Top Team product has a wealth of experience, being a professional since 1999 and is on an impressive tear of his own and could be the perfect test for Barboza.

How stupid is the guy who wrote this huh? Does he know anything at all? Tell him how wrong he is @justinfauxmma on twitter.

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