Demetrious Johnson did Demetrious Johnson things, dominating Ali Bagautinov over five rounds to retain his UFC flyweight title at UFC 174 on Saturday in Vancouver. In the co-main event, Rory MacDonald wowed with a three-round complete effort over Tyron Woodley and Ryan Bader crushed Rafael Cavalcante in an eye-opening performance.
What should be next for the stars of UFC 174? We break it down here:
Leave it to Johnson to take a violent, powerful opponent and render him useless in the very part of the game where he’s best: the clinch. Johnson further solidified himself as the best flyweight and one of the best fighters overall in the world. Everyone else in the division is just riding his coattails at this point.
Who’s next: John Dodson
There’s really only one guy at flyweight who can match Johnson’s speed and athleticism and that’s Dodson. The two had a very interesting five-round battle in January 2013 and Dodson might have taken a pair of rounds from "Mighty Mouse." No one else looks even remotely ready to have a competitive fight with Johnson, so it has to be the ultra-explosive Dodson next.
Don’t judge Bagautinov based on his performance against Johnson. The guy is still one of the very best flyweights in the world. It was just clear he was not ready for the championship test against the uber-elite "Mighty Mouse." That’s OK, though. Not many fighters are.
Who’s next: Darren Uyenoyama
After losing so decisively, there’s no way that Bagautinov doesn’t slide down the championship ladder a little bit. Is he still a top-10 or even top-five flyweight? Sure. But he won’t be fighting Johnson again any time soon, if ever. So dial him back a little bit and give him Uyenoyama in a showcase fight. It might not be super competitive, but it is a good way to get Bagautinov back on track.
There’s no doubt MacDonald was the best he has ever been against Woodley on Saturday night. He made Woodley fight his fight and that is something he has struggled with against guys like Robbie Lawler and even Demian Maia. At 24, MacDonald still might be the future champ at welterweight like he said.
Who’s next: Tarec Saffiedine
There’s a total glut right now at the top of the division. MacDonald is not getting the next title shot against Johny unless either Robbie Lawler or Matt Brown get hurt. He needs one more fight to get a crack at the belt and wants to get back in there again soon. With Hector Lombard and Dong Hyun Kim booked against each other, Saffiedine is free and makes perfect sense. An impressive win gets MacDonald a chance at the belt.
Did Woodley choke like UFC president Dana White said? Hard to say. He certainly didn’t look like the guy who gave Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit all they wanted. Woodley was not aggressive and he let MacDonald pick him apart. Evidently, "The Chosen One" isn’t quite ready for a title shot yet.
Who’s next: Erick Silva
There’s a logjam at the top of the welterweight division. How far down should Woodley slide? Hard to say. Jake Ellenberger wouldn’t be a bad choice, but he has lost two in a row. He shouldn’t get a tough matchup like Woodley. Silva is someone Woodley should handle, but it would also be a quality win. This wouldn’t be quite starting Woodley back at square one. It’s just a necessary drop in competition.
Outside of maybe Rory MacDonald, there was no bigger winner at UFC 174 than Bader. He dispatched a very tough Rafael Cavalcante relatively easily. Bader’s game has come a long way. He’s not just a wrestler anymore and he has evolved into the stud light heavyweight that many people thought he could be.
Who’s next: Ovince St. Preux
In a division with so few true contenders remaining (because Jon Jones destroys them all), Bader is going to get a little push here. Yes, he has already lost to Jones and Glover Teixeira. But Bader is a different fighter now than he was then and, at 31, is still in his prime. St. Preux is more of an unknown commodity with upside. The winner of that fight would put himself right in the thick of things at 205.
Rafael Cavalcante (right) lands one of his few punches against Ryan Bader.
Did anyone else think Cavalcante didn’t want to be in there anymore starting about midway through the second round? Ryan Bader’s pace wilted "Feijao" and he looked very uncomfortable. It was an odd sight for a very tough, rugged former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ. Maybe there was something else at play we don’t know about.
Who’s next: Fabio Maldonado
There’s one solid way to snap Cavalcante out of it: give him someone who is willing to stand and trade with him. That guy is Maldonado, who is coming off a silly move up to heavyweight to fight (and get crushed by) Stipe Miocic. Before that, Maldonado had won three in a row. "Feijao" is still a marginal contender. Put the two together (in Brazil, preferably) and it has some meaning, plus some guaranteed fireworks.
Arlovski didn’t get blown out, but he didn’t look particularly good either in his return to the UFC after six years. Yet somehow two judges thought he beat Schaub. The decision wasn’t quite as bad as Diego Sanchez over Ross Pearson, but it was awful enough. Arlovski has to figure out how much he actually has left.
Who’s next: Ben Rothwell
Looking through a list of fringe heavyweight contenders, it’s hard to come up with someone Arlovski could beat if he looks the same way he did Saturday night. Rothwell destroyed Brandon Vera last year, but he was also on performance-enhancing drugs. Both guys’ best days are behind them. Arlovski will have a speed advantage vs. Rothwell, unlike against Schaub. It would be interesting, at least.
Brendan Schaub (left) and Andrei Arlovski fall into a sloppy exchange.
This was not Schaub’s best performance by any means, but he should have come away with the win. He believes he got robbed by the judges against Andrei Arlovski and he’s correct. The entire fight was a bad sign for the athletic heavyweight, though. If he can’t look strong against a 35-year-old Arlovski, that’s worrisome.
Who’s next: Josh Barnett
What do you do with Schaub now? He should have won, but technically he was hit with a loss. Barnett seems like an intriguing opponent. He’s also coming off a loss (to Travis Browne) and has attributes, like his wrestling and size, that could give Schaub trouble. On the other hand, a win over Barnett would be a nice feather in Schaub’s cap and maybe erase the bad taste from this whole Arlovski debacle.