Chris Weidman defended his middleweight crown for the second time. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Chris Weidman did the heavy lifting that often accompanies life as an Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder.
The “All-American” retained his middleweight championship with a competitive but convincing unanimous decision over Lyoto Machida in the UFC 175 main event on Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Weidman swept the scorecards with 49-45, 48-47 and 49-46 marks, strengthening his position as the world’s top fighter at 185 pounds.
Weidman did his best to answer the holdout skeptics who called his back-to-back victories over Anderson Silva “flukes,” as he held off a late surge from the determined Machida in the championship rounds and improved to 8-0 inside the Octagon.
In wake of UFC 175 “Weidman vs. Machida,” here are six matchups that ought to be considered:
Related: UFC 175: By the Numbers
Chris Weidman vs. Ronaldo Souza or Luke Rockhold: Even after taking care of business against Machida, Weidman still does not have much breathing room in the middleweight division. The shadow of Vitor Belfort looms, but “The Phenom” needs to prove he can perform at a championship level without being in a chemically altered state before he can lay claim as the No. 1 contender. In the meantime, Weidman still has plenty of potential dangers through which to navigate. Souza is in line to emerge as the next challenger, provided he can get past former Strikeforce and Dream champion Gegard Mousasi in their UFC 176 rematch on Aug. 2. Should “Jacare” fall, Rockhold becomes the next logical choice.
Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano: Rousey could not have been more impressive in maintaining her stranglehold on the UFC women’s bantamweight championship, knocking out Alexis Davis 16 seconds into their co-main event. The “Rowdy” judoka did not walk away unscathed, however, as she suffered a hand laceration that required stitches and could delay her return to the cage. Rousey has now finished all 10 of her professional opponents, nine of them inside one round, and appears to have no equal at 135 pounds. Zingano was scheduled to coach opposite Rousey during Season 18 of “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2013 before challenging her for the title, but a knee injury scrapped those plans. Among those currently under UFC contract, Zingano remains the most viable contender to Rousey’s throne, assuming she is healthy.
Lyoto Machida vs. Tim Kennedy: Machida pushed Weidman like no one else had but fell short in his quest to become the third man in UFC history to win titles in two weight classes. Even so, “The Dragon” did nothing to diminish his place as one of the sport’s premier middleweights and shows no signs of slowing down at the age of 36. Kennedy finds himself in the midst of a four-fight winning streak. He recorded the most significant victory of his MMA career in April, when he took a five-round unanimous decision over Michael Bisping at “The Ultimate Fighter Nations” Finale.
Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz: Faber and Cruz were made for each other. With their head-to-head series tied at 1-1, there can be no better time than now to make the rubber match. Faber submitted “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 12 quarterfinalist Alex Caceres with a third-round rear-naked choke as part of the UFC 175 prelims, rebounding from his February defeat to Renan Barao. Cruz was the consensus No. 1 bantamweight in the world when injuries derailed him two years ago and ultimately led to his vacating the 135-pound championship. Reportedly nearing a return, the Alliance MMA standout has won his last 10 bouts, including a July 2011 decision victory over Faber.
Alexis Davis vs. Sara McMann-Lauren Murphy loser: Davis now has a clearer understanding of the gulf that exists between Rousey and the rest of the women’s bantamweight division. The Canadian never had a chance against the champion, as she succumbed to punches 16 seconds into the first round. It brought an end to her five-fight winning streak and marked the first time Davis had been stopped by strikes in more than five years. McMann, who has also been victimized by Rousey, will welcome the undefeated Murphy to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night “Bader vs. St. Preux” on Aug. 16 at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor, Maine.
Uriah Hall vs. Lorenz Larkin-Derek Brunson winner: No one can ever question Hall’s toughness. The former Ring of Combat champion fought through a badly broken toe to capture a unanimous verdict over Thiago Santos. Hall suffered the injury in the first round and somehow trudged onward against the Brazilian capoeira stylist. A finalist on Season 17 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” the Team Tiger Schulmann standout has rattled off back-to-back wins since losing consecutive split decisions to Kelvin Gastelum and John Howard during a four-month span in 2013. Larkin and Brunson will duke it out at UFC 176 in August.