What's next for Lesnar, St. Pierre, Henderson and Jones? - Sports Illustrated

What's next for Lesnar, St. Pierre, Henderson and Jones?

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With the historic show now a part of history, it is time to take stock.

Four fighters emerged from the fight card as clear-cut winners going forward. Two current champions, a former two-time champion, and one young phenom will look to take their momentum from UFC 100 and use it to move onward and upward in their respective careers. Let's look at where they are headed.

Forget the hoopla surrounding Brock Lesnar and his post-fight speech. Lesnar cemented his status as a legitimate mixed martial artist, and with each subsequent win, the doubters can remove from their minds the fact that he is just five fights removed from a pro wrestling career. Well, sort of.

The treacherous trifecta of Lesnar's physical tools, lofty learning curve, and dogmatic desire to be the best are brewing the belief of an insurmountable predicament -- that Brock Lesnar can't be beaten.

Suspending the Fedor Emelianenko talk for a moment, Lesnar has four potential opponents who will look to prove that notion premature. The list will be divided in half when two winners emerge respectively from the RandyCouture-Antonio Nogueira and Shane Carwin-Cain Velasquez fights.

From a marketing standpoint, Couture would appear the obvious choice. Their fight at UFC 91 was one of the most anticipated and watched fights in UFC history. A win over Nogueira would be just enough for Couture to get a rematch title shot, but would anyone give Couture a chance to surface a winner?

While purists would love for Couture to remove the immovable object from the heavyweight throne, they may be more inclined to put their faith in larger, stronger, and younger men in Carwin or Velasquez.

Both fighters have certified the resilience of their respective chins by absorbing punishing punches from their previous hard-hitting opponents. Add to that their great wrestling base and ability to deliver their own heavy punches, and you have the needed ingredients for a potential stand-up war with Lesnar.

UFC matchmaker Joe Silva will ultimately determine who Lesnar's next antagonist is, but signs point to the Couture-Nogueira winner getting the next title shot. If things go according to plan, that fight would serve as the main event of the year, ending the Ultimate 2009 show.

Anyone who thought that George St. Pierre would dominate Thiago Alves to the extent he did was the exception, not the rule. The UFC brass never considered St. Pierre would walk through his Brazilian "counterpart" with such ease. The lopsided loss by Alves creates a vacuum in the division.

The Mike Swick-Martin Kampmann winner at UFC 103 would have been the next No. 1 contender, but the UFC can no longer build a credible case for putting together that title fight. No lack of respect intended; there's just no need to shuffle guys in there who carry little perception of winning the fight.

It would be analogous to when Anderson Silva was put into title with Patrick Cote and Thales Leites. It is not fair to the champion or the challenger in question. What would be much more reasonable to put together is the buzzed-about superfight between two imposing champions.

Talk of a fight between St. Pierre and Silva started prior to UFC 100, and the topic should reach a fever pitch over the coming months. One could argue that St. Pierre has surpassed even Silva in terms of divisional dominance, and the UFC will be forced to take a hard look at a "meeting of the minds."

St. Pierre has been vocal that he fights for the biggest challenges and for his legacy. Silva would without question offer St. Pierre the biggest challenge of his career, and a win over another Brazilian would catapult his legacy into the stratosphere.

With St. Pierre injuring his groin, the UFC will have time to consider all their options. Silva has to do his part and beat Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 to keep momentum going for the superfight. But don't be surprised if a St. Pierre-Silva fight serves a co-main event to another Lesnar main event at the Ultimate 2009 show.

While legends of the sport like Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes are on the decline, Dan Henderson appears better then ever. Henderson can now move past the distraction of Michael Bisping and concentrate on convincing Dana White to give him a rematch with Anderson Silva.

It will be a tall order, though. Dana offered little indication for a rematch in the post-fight press conference. Henderson wavered by saying that a trip back to the light heavyweight division was an option. It is the option Dana will likely concur with for now. Despite that, Dan's stock remains high.

Henderson's next fight should come against a fighter in the top 10 of the light heavyweight division. If White isn't going to give Henderson another crack at Silva's title, he will certainly acquiesce to letting the future Hall of Famer make a run at the 205-pound title.

If Silva beats Forrest Griffin at UFC 101 in four weeks, Griffin would be the most marketable fight at light heavyweight for Henderson. Perhaps a more viable option would be the winner of the UFC 102 fight between Keith Jardine and Thiago Silva.

Circling back to the middleweight division, Henderson's best bet would be a fight with Nate Marquardt if Marquardt beats Demian Maia at UFC 102. Marquardt, like Henderson, has a loss to Silva and has been pining for a rematch. The winner of that fight would get his rematch by attrition.

Jon "Bones" Jones cut through right Jake O'Brien en route to this third octagon win, all before the ripe old age of 22. Jones has been touted as the future of the light heavyweight division, and it will be interesting to see what the UFC does with one of their hottest new commodities.

They can continue to bring Jones along by putting him up against tier two fighters -- Jones has said he is "learning to fight as he goes" inside the octagon -- or they can give him a shot against a top 10 fighter. Jones is fine with either option and has no desire to call out a specific opponent.

There are a slew of possibilities for the young phenom, so speculating on a future opponent would be just that. Just for fun, some possible opponents are the Matt Hamill-Brandon Vera loser, the Keith Jardine-Thiago Silva loser, or someone like Krzysztof Soszynski (who Jones shares an opponent with).

Regardless of who Jones fights next, fans will continue to speculate on whether or not he is the real deal and why he has the confidence to proclaim that one day he will beat guys like Lyoto Machida.