RYAN FREDERICK: FIVE FIGHTS TO MAKE FOLLOWING UFC ON FOX

By Ryan Frederick

The UFC returned to network television on Saturday night, delivering an action-packed show that produced thrilling fights, including a heavyweight knockout and a couple of submission wins. The show had a little bit of everything in the four main card fights, and the fans who tuned in had to have left pleased with the performances of all fighters. It was a huge night for the likes of Nate Diaz, Johny Hendricks, Alan Belcher and Lavar Johnson, all of whom scored huge wins. Now, it's time to look ahead to the future and play matchmaker as we determine five fights to make coming out of UFC On FOX: Diaz vs. Miller.

Nate Diaz vs. Benson Henderson-Frankie Edgar winner: Diaz continues to impress in his return to the lightweight division, as he scored his third straight win, this time becoming the first man to ever stop Jim Miller, as he submitted Miller with a guillotine choke in the second round of the main event of UFC On FOX: Diaz vs. Miller. Diaz has also scored a submission win over Takanori Gomi and a decision win over Donald Cerrone since dropping back down to 155 pounds, but his win over Miller in convincing fashion may be his biggest statement to date. Diaz has put himself in the top five of the division, and he has put himself on the doorstep to a title shot. There is a logjam there between him and Anthony Pettis, but the resume of Diaz has done more to earn him a shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship. UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson is currently scheduled to defend the title against Frankie Edgar in August, and the winner of that fight will find their next challenge in the form of Diaz.

Johny Hendricks vs. Rory MacDonald: Hendricks made himself into a bigger top-flight contender in the welterweight division with a split decision victory over Josh Koscheck at UFC On FOX. Hendricks has now scored four straight wins in the octagon, and after wins over two former title challengers in Koscheck and Jon Fitch (also becoming only the second fighter to ever beat both men), he has a strong case for a title shot. The welterweight title picture is a logjam right now due to the Georges St. Pierre vs. Carlos Condit fight not expected to take place until November, as you have Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger, Martin Kampmann, Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald all on the cusp of being in a title fight. With Diaz currently under suspension and Ellenberger and Kampmann scheduled to fight, that leaves the door open for Hendricks to take on rising contender MacDonald. It would be an important bout to determine if either man is ready for the title shot, and would go a long way in weeding out the logjam that is the welterweight contender list.

Alan Belcher vs. Vitor Belfort-Wanderlei Silva winner: Belcher nearly lost his eye, let alone his career, less than two years ago, and after having to endure a long road to recovery, he scored his career highlight in defeating Rousimar Palhares by first-round TKO at UFC On FOX. He was not afraid to go to the ground with Palhares, and he was able to reverse every submission attempt Palhares had before eventually stopping him with strikes. Belcher has now won his last four and six of seven overall, with the lone loss being a very close decision loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama. Belcher has talked for years about wanting to fight for the title, and now fans have noticed that he has what it takes to become a legitimate title contender. Yet another logjam is starting to fill up in the middleweight division, as you have Chael Sonnen getting a title shot at Anderson Silva, but you also have Mark Munoz, Michael Bisping, Brian Stann, Hector Lombard and Vitor Belfort in the hunt. Speaking of Belfort, he fights Wanderlei Silva in June at UFC 147. Belcher would be an excellent test for the winner of that fight. Just saying.

Lavar Johnson vs. Gabriel Gonzaga: Johnson has made it two in a row in the UFC heavyweight division since moving over from Strikeforce, as he battled back from having his back planted on the mat to finish Pat Barry with punches in the first round of the opening bout of the UFC On FOX main card. Johnson has beaten two of the toughest in the division, scoring knockout wins over Barry and Joey Beltran, and his power is dangerous, and he will be a tough fight for anyone who he challenges. Johnson may become an unsung challenger in the division, but for right now, he is still best known as a heavyweight who can go in and make for an exciting fight while it lasts. Later this month, the UFC will present an all heavyweight main card at UFC 146, so Johnson will have his eyes open to find his next potential victim. But, I'm looking at a heavyweight that will not be competing on that show (due to injury) for Johnson's next challenge, as Gonzaga would provide a formidable challenge. Gonzaga wants to prove that he can contend again, and matching him up with a dangerous puncher would make for a solid clash in styles fight, and some potential fireworks.

Michael Johnson vs. Matt Wiman: Johnson took a late-notice fight against Tony Ferguson in the main attraction of the preliminary portion of UFC On FOX: Diaz vs. Miller, and he continued to impress, as he scored his second straight impressive victory, this time ending the undefeated run that Ferguson had put together in the UFC. Johnson was the underdog in the fight, but he fought with a lot of confidence and was able to keep Ferguson off balance, and now Johnson has won three of his last four bouts since coming up short in his attempt to win season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter. Johnson continues to rise, and he will look to take on a veteran fighter for his next challenge, and Wiman fits the bill. Wiman has been around the UFC for a long time, and he has won four of his last five bouts himself. The streaks the two have put together means they could be on a potential collision course to meet inside the octagon, and with the recent impressive showings by both, it could turn into one hell of a good fight.

Follow or contact Ryan Frederick on Twitter at twitter.com/ryanjfrederick
 
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