With UFC 121 behind us, here are the five matches we'd like to see made.
Cain Velasquez versus Junior dos Santos
With Velasquez's punishing performance against Brock Lesnar, the new champ takes considerable cachet into his first defense. With Dos Santos' pinpoint striking, it's also a double Latin attraction. You can't understate the marketing value of Velasquez's story and his ascension to the heavyweight title.
Given boxing's inexorable decline, Cain's championship is a huge marketing coup for the UFC and MMA. There is no Oscar De La Hoya, Julio Cesar Chavez, Carlos Zarate or Bobby Chacon for Mexican fans. But there is Cain Velasquez and Dos Santos is the perfect jump-off point to begin an action-packed title reign.
Namely, because it's going to be nasty, hard-hitting and intense.
Dos Santos, a Brazilian, showcased great striking and an understanding of range in his one-sided decision win over Roy Nelson. Going into Velasquez's title challenge of Brock Lesnar, your humble author wondered to himself if a Lesnar-Velasquez rematch wouldn't be inevitable even if Velasquez won; that is clearly not the case, as the American Kickboxing Academy fighter lived up to every bit of the hype on him by destroying the bigger Lesnar with a potent blend of intensity and heavy hands.
Dos Santos, like Velasquez, isn't a big heavyweight at about 240 pounds. He has crisp hands and what appears to be excellent takedown defense. Velasquez showed a great sense of composure against Lesnar's early assault, picking his spots and peeling the larger man like an onion. Dos Santos would likely be his equal on the feet, and it'd have a great Latin versus Latin marketing angle to further capture the demographic that used to exclusively be boxing's.
Brendan Schaub versus Jon Madsen
Both scored impressive wins at UFC 121, with Schaub taking a decision win over Gabriel Gonzaga, and Madsen taking out Gilbert Yvel inside of one round. This is a good test of two heavyweight prospects a win away from being legit contenders. Schaub's athleticism and striking were evident in his win over Gonzaga, while Madsen showed an improved game and intense ground-and-pound in destroying the veteran Yvel. Nothing spells excitement more than a showdown between up-and-coming heavyweights, and Schaub-Madsen would be a nice striker-wrestler match to produce a new face amidst the heavyweight division's elite.
Court McGee versus Tim Credeur
McGee was impressive in his third-round submission of tested veteran Ryan Jensen, so another go against a seasoned guy in Tim Credeur would be a logical succession. McGee's intensity and style against Credeur's jiu-jitsu would present some interesting riddles; ones that would be fan-friendly and revealing for both. McGee still has a good upside and Credeur is always dangerous from his back.
Daniel Roberts versus Mike Pierce
Both have good wrestling, intensity and conditioning. While the welterweight division seems top-heavy in terms of talent -- with Georges St. Pierre, Jon Fitch, Jake Shields and Thiago Alves -- there are plenty of good welters bucking to get a spot. This would be a good sort-em-out type of match, as each man has shown flashes of high-level talent.
Hamill showed good takedowns and composure in his decision win over Tito Ortiz, and Nogueira would be a stark departure in style for the steady Hamill. Little Nog's boxing and solid submission game would prove an interesting test, and Hamill has shown a comfort level on the feet that would make for some interesting exchanges.
The 205-pound division is stacked with talent, and this is the kind of crossroads match that helps sort out the lower tier of contenders, putting the victor a win or two from serious title contention.
Jason Probst is a contributor to Sherdog.com.