UFC 198: Where do we go from here?

A legion of Brazil’s best-known fighters competed at UFC 198 last night, and it was a good night for some of them. Others? Not so much. That includes former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, who was knocked out in the first round by Stipe Miocic. The card also saw dominant performances by Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, who made her UFC debut. So what comes next for some of UFC 198’s competitors?

Demian Maia def. Matt Brown by third-round submission (rear-naked choke)

The featured preliminary bout could have been on the main card as well, and Maia continued his surge up the welterweight ladder by once again smothering an opponent with his elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu and locking in a rear-naked choke on Brown for the late submission victory.

Maia should be on the short list of title contenders after another dominant performance. The UFC reportedly tabbed Tyron Woodley to face welterweight champion Robbie Lawler next, though I think former contender Carlos Condit should get a rematch after his epic fight with Lawler earlier this year. If I’m Maia, I wait to get my title shot.

For Brown, he’s fully settled into the role of gatekeeper in the welterweight division. He can still be counted on to deliver entertaining performances, but his days as an official contender are over.

Bryan Barberena def. Warlley Alves by unanimous decision

Barberena is beginning to carve out quite a niche for himself as a guy who derails hype trains in the UFC. First, he choked out highly-touted prospect Sage Northcutt earlier this year. Then last night, he ended another undefeated streak with the dangerous Alves. Barberena used his striking to keep Alves at bay and should be making it known that he’s someone to take seriously at 170 pounds.

I’d like to see Barberena enter the top 15 in the welterweight division after another impressive performance, and fights against the likes of Thiago Alves, Gunnar Nelson or Rick Story would be guaranteed to be entertaining, as Barberena’s style meshes very well with all of them.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua def. Corey Anderson by split decision

Rua was facing an uncertain future if he came up short against Anderson. But even though it wasn’t pretty, Rua eked out a close victory against a game fighter in Anderson to win his second in a row and momentarily keep the retirement buzzards at bay. “Shogun” is still a popular fighter the UFC can use to draw in fans, and his next fight is likely to come against a fellow big name. A fight against Ovince St. Preux or Ryan Bader could present an interesting mix of styles.

Anderson should feel no shame about coming up short against Rua, as he gave the legendary fighter all he could handle. Anderson showed he can hang with some of the best in the light heavyweight division, and should find himself with another notable matchup sooner rather than later.

Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino def. Leslie Smith by first-round TKO

“Cyborg” lived up to her reputation in her UFC debut, swarming Smith from the onset and putting her away quickly with devastating strikes. Although this bout was fought at a 140-pound catchweight, Cyborg’s biggest fights in the UFC will come from opponents in the women’s bantamweight division.

Whether it’s her longtime rival Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Cat Zingano or women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, there is no shortage of big, exciting fights for “Cyborg.” If Holm or Zingano agree to fight her at 140 pounds again, I’d love to see either of them face “Cyborg” after making expectedly short work of their next opponents, Valentina Shevchenko and Juliana Peña, respectively.

But of course, the money fight is obviously “Cyborg” against Rousey. Can it finally happen?

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza def. Vitor Belfort by first-round TKO

Souza overwhelmed Belfort from the very beginning of this fight and left no doubt that he should be the next title contender at middleweight. Souza is just a dangerous fighter, period, and matches up extremely well with current middleweight champion Luke Rockhold or Chris Weidman, who gets his rematch with Rockhold for the belt at UFC 199 next month. Either Rockhold or Weidman will have to be aware of Souza elite jiu-jitsu, or else Souza will take the belt home to Brazil when he finally gets his shot.

For Belfort, it was another lackluster showing after he looked rejuvenated in knocking out Dan Henderson late last year. It might be fair to wonder if Belfort’s best days are finally behind him, and he’s just not the fighter he once was when matched against someone younger or with superior skills.

Stipe Miocic def. Fabricio Werdum by first-round knockout (UFC Heavyweight Title)

Miocic is finally bringing a championship to his native Cleveland, Ohio, after a devastating knockout over Werdum. Miocic has just looked better with each fight leading up to his title victory, and even though the UFC heavyweight title seems to change hands frequently, Miocic looks poised to hold on to it for the forseeable future.

Although, his first title defense will likely be an extremely tough one in Alistair Overeem. After a knockout victory of his own against Andrei Arlovski earlier this month, “The Reem” has the striking to match up well with Miocic. If you enjoy the stand-up game, watching Miocic and Overeem go at it will be a treat, probably sometime later this year.

Werdum should find himself back in the title picture sooner rather than later, given the relatively shallow pool of talent in the heavyweight division. Rumors continue to swirl that Fedor Emelianenko will sign with the UFC. If that actually happens, making sure “The Last Emperor” doesn’t avenge his loss to Werdum might be a good way for Werdum to find himself back in the mix. If Fedor decides to decline the UFC once again, a fight against the always-tough Ben Rothwell would be a good way to go.

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Chris Huntemann
Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also opines on all things UFC, Bellator, World Series of Fighting and any other MMA topics he cares to bloviate about. You should check out his blog, or his Twitter. Or both. When he's not watching MMA, he's an avid fan of other sports, such as football, baseball and college basketball. He may or may not do other, non-sports-related things as well.

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