Taking Stock: Which fighters are reaping the benefits of TUF 9?
"Are you not entertained?"
Sanchez's question rang clear through the stadium after a split decision victory against Clay Guida in a blood-soaked brawl with Fight of the Year honors written all over it. This bout capped off a night filled with excitement for every fan.
Fighter stock rose and fell last night. With two new Ultimate Fighters crowned, lightweight contenders squaring off, and three fights given Fight of the Night honors, the UFC divisions are in for some changes.
Diego Sanchez's split decision victory over Clay Guida has undeniably launched him into a title fight sometime before the end of 2009. Whether it be Kenny Florian or B.J. Penn who owns the belt after UFC 101, it would be hard to find a better qualified contender to try to take that belt away.
However, if the UFC does not deem Sanchez yet worthy of a shot at UFC lightweight gold, a match with Gray "The Bully" Maynard would seem a good fixture. Maynard is undefeated in the UFC and also worthy of a title shot in the eyes of many.
The most likely situation still would be a title shot for Sanchez against Penn/Florian, possibly at UFC 106 or 107.
Joe "Daddy" Stevenson entered his fight against Nate Diaz on Saturday night with a lot on the line. If he was to exit the octagon with a loss, a release from the UFC seemed a likely outcome. Stevenson came away with the win, however, and is now looking forward in the lightweight division.
For his next opponent, Stevenson will most certainly be matched against Sean Sherk, Frank Edgar's most recent victim. This bout would take place at UFC 104 or UFC 105 in all likelihood. If he is not matched with Sherk, Frank Edgar would be a likely fix.
Stevenson will also find himself back in the top ten of the UFC lightweight division after his recent victory.
Ross Pearson was the first "Ultimate Fighter" winner to be crowned last night after a decision victory over Andre Winner, gaining the UFC contract. Pearson will dive head first into a stacked UFC lightweight division.
Though it is difficult to say who Pearson will fight next, a matchup with TUF 8 winner Efrain Escudero, or the TUF 8 star and house "bad boy" Junie Browning could very well come to pass.
Wilks entered his welterweight belt against the heavily favored DaMarques Johnson with a UFC contract on his mind, and he got it. After the clinic Wilks put on Johnson, he will look to his future in the UFC welterweight division.
The welterweight "Ultimate Fighter" winner will possibly be matched up with Ben Saunders or Kyle Bradley. If the UFC was impressed enough by his performance, perhaps Chris Lytle will wind up as his next match up.
Perhaps Wilks' biggest victory on the night was his exposure to the fans. Everyone watching was fortunate enough to witness such a dominant display of mixed martial arts.
Diaz's loss to Joe Stevenson gives him his second straight loss in the UFC, the other being a defeat at the hands of Clay Guida. While those two are excellent fighters, Diaz is proving that he simply cannot compete with the UFC lightweight elite.
Diaz now finds himself out of the UFC lightweight top 10. A probable opponent for Diaz would be Gleison Tibau, or perhaps Spencer Fisher. However, it is too early to tell how much damage this loss did to Diaz in the eyes of matchmaker, Joe Silva.
Johnson was the favored fighter in last night's bout. However, the lone American finalist was completely dominated by James Wilks, losing his six figure contract and the title most considered him certain to gain, the Ultimate Fighter.
Johnson's future went from clear to very hazy after this fight. A contract with the UFC is not at all out of the picture. However, a run with another organization is probably more likely.
After losing his once-in-a-lifetime chance to become an "Ultimate Fighter" winner, Johnson's stock is falling.
Neither Winner nor Pearson ran away with the lightweight division on season nine of "The Ultimate Fighter." However, Pearson ran away with the contract, leaving Winner in an unfortunate spot.
Winner did not really do enough during his time on "The Ultimate Fighter" to gain a contract with the UFC without a victory last evening. While a contract with the UFC seems unlikely, the WEC lightweight division may be a very good spot for Winner to expand on his potential.
Guida's loss to Diego Sanchez was hardly a loss for "The Carpenter." While he did lose his chance at possibly becoming the number one contender, Guida did put on an impressive performance.
While Guida does not move forward in the UFC lightweight division, he can expect to be matched up against a fighter who is also at the top of the division. Either Frank Edgar or Gray Maynard will be Guida's next opponent, and next step to a title shot, while Sean Sherk is not out of the picture for becoming Guida's next opponent.
With Guida's conditioning and heart, he would be willing to fight either Maynard, Sherk, or Edgar tomorrow. However, UFC 105, or UFC 106 will most likely be the next event in which Guida will fight.
Tibau's split decision loss to Melvin Guillard leaves him in a similar situation as he found himself in before last night's fight, somewhere in the middle of the pack in the UFC lightweight division.
Tibau will likely find himself against a mid-range UFC lightweight sometime before the end of 2009. While the list is extensive, possible opponents would be Mac Danzig, Matt Wiman, or a rubber-match with Jeremy Stephens.
Lytle may have won last night, but at 6-9 in the UFC, it is unlikely Lytle will be thrown in against much tougher competition, finding himself in similar territory as he was before his victory over Kevin Burns, which seemed like a tune-up fight.
There is obviously going to be much speculation over Lytle's next opponent. However, he will most likely have to prove he can string together some wins with a matchup against Ben Saunders, or perhaps a rematch with Kyle Bradley.
Guillard's split decision victory over Gleison Tibau does not gain him much ground in the UFC lightweight division. At this point, he is still in the stages of proving he is ready for anyone sitting in the division's top 10.
Guillard will have a similar opponent in his next bout as he did last night. A rematch with Josh Neer would definitely be a possibility, along with a match up against Kyle Bradley, or one of the many mid-range fighters of the UFC lightweight division.