Cub Swanson outpointed Jeremy Stephens in a fun San Antonio main event. Nate Marquardt looked revitalized in a submission victory over James Te Huna in the New Zealand main event.
A whole lot happened over the weekend in the UFC universe. Here’s what should be next for the stars from the two cards.
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There really isn’t much else Swanson can do to prove himself worthy of a title shot rather than actually asking for one when given the opportunity. He failed to do that after beating Jeremy Stephens on Saturday night in San Antonio. But after six straight wins, what do you do with Swanson? He’s earned the opportunity.
Who’s next: Jose Aldo-Chad Mendes winner
Mendes was knocked out by an Aldo knee two years ago and he has worked his way back up to a rematch. Swanson, too, provided Aldo beats Mendes at UFC 176 on Aug. 2. Swanson came back against Stephens, proving himself the quicker, more technical striker with the better cardio. Aldo is a different animal and Swanson has also lost to Mendes. But both of those fights happened in WEC more than four years ago.
If there were any doubts that Stephens was a top guy at featherweight, he eliminated them in a five-round war with Swanson in San Antonio. "Lil’ Heathen" was actually winning early in the fight, connecting with those big right hands. At 28, Stephens remains in his prime and he should continue to get important fights.
Who’s next: Manny Gamburyan
While Stephens remains a contender (he probably won’t fall much from No. 11, if at all), he does have to take a step back in competition after losing to Swanson. You don’t want to match him up with any rising names like Dustin Poirier, Dennis Bermudez or Conor McGregor. He’s no gatekeeper. So stick him in a showcase fight against Gamburyan, hope for fireworks and then get him a top-10 bout.
Could Nate Marquardt be a middleweight contender again?
Is Marquardt back? What does that even mean anyway? He’s definitely back in the middleweight division, which he should have never left in the first place. Marquardt looked pretty darn good in a first-round submission (armbar) win over James Te Huna in the New Zealand main event. He also might have saved his job.
Who’s next: Costas Philippou
Marquardt was a middleweight contender in the UFC for the better part of a decade and he should get the opportunity to prove he is that again. Philippou is ranked No. 10, but he is limited and no one really figures his someone who’ll be able to earn a title shot any time soon. At 35, Marquardt’s time is running out. But if he can beat someone like Philippou, he could have another significant fight or two in him.
If Gastelum can put his weight-cutting issues behind him, he can be a force in the welterweight division. It’s hard to believe he’s only 22. In San Antonio, he shook off a sluggish start (bad cut?) to dominate Nico Musoke with some pretty sharp striking over the final two rounds. He’s ranked No. 11 at 170 already. Time to get serious.
Who’s next: Mike Pyle
OK, OK. Gastelum is already ranked ahead of No. 12 Pyle. That is true. But Pyle is the welterweight division’s designated gatekeeper-to-the-stars. Just ask Matt Brown, Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger. They broke into title contention by beating Pyle and Gastelum should be given the chance to do the same. And if Gastelum cannot beat Pyle, he’s not ready anyway. It’s a pretty simple formula.
Lamas won a somewhat controversial decision over Hacran Dias in San Antonio. It really could have gone either way. Nearly losing to an unranked fighter won’t do much for Lamas’ stock, but he was already coming in ranked No. 3 in the featherweight division. The only thing to give him next is a contender.
Who’s next: Nik Lentz
This is the perfect matchup. Lamas has already lost to champion Jose Aldo and won’t be getting a rematch any time soon. Lentz has won three of four and it would be gruel to give his grinding style one of the surging fighters like Dustin Poirier or Conor McGregor. Those two need to be built up. Lamas has already gotten the title shot. Lentz is ranked No. 9, so a victory would be meaningful for either of them.
Charles Oliveira has won two in a row with Performance of the Night bonuses to boot.
It feels like Oliveira has been around forever, doesn’t it? But he’s only 24. The Brazilian has already been in the UFC since 2010, but isn’t in his prime. Maybe we saw a flash of future brilliance in a submission victory over Hatsu Hioki in New Zealand. It would be fun to see such a slick grappler come into his own.
Who’s next: Robbie Peralta
Oliveira has won two straight and he’s won a fight-night bonus in his last three bouts. Peralta also has a penchant for exciting fights. This is the old grappler vs. striker matchup, but Peralta is not easy to take down, which would make for some really interesting exchanges. Peralta is also just 28 and still somewhat of a fringe prospect. The winner could be considered for a top-15 spot.