In the aftermath of UFC 187, many fans and pundits were quick to label the card one of the best in years. It’s easy to see why: The May 23 event at MGM Grand Garden Arena featured controversy and injury; shocking results and career-defining performances; and served as a source of redemption and a showcase for both established and up-and-coming talent.
The most important takeaway, however, revolved around that latter quality: For many of the combatants involved, UFC 187 likely will be remembered as the window into the sport’s future. With divisions as deep as they’ve ever been and new contenders emerging regularly, the UFC is entering a period where the playing field figures to be as level as it’s ever been—which means the sport is about to become as unpredictable as it’s ever been.
Let’s take a look at where the most recent victors are headed from here:
Arlovski finishes Browne in heavyweight brawl: Andrei Arlovski and Travis Browne duked it out in a hard-hitting heavyweight bout that gave fans the best round of the year: a nonstop slugfest in the first, which sent the crowd into a frenzy and propelled this one to fight of the night honors.
Arlovski (24-10) made a statement by knocking off his good friend Browne (17-3), who was on the cusp of entering the title picture. Instead, with his impressive finish, it’s Arlovski—the UFC’s fourth-ranked heavyweight—who enters the title conversation. An undisputed champion will be crowned in June when Cain Velazquez and Fabricio Werdum square off in Mexico City, and Arlovski stands a chance at catching the winner down the road.
Certainly, things are looking up for “The Pitbull,” whom many had written off before his return to the company in April 2014 after competing around the world on the independent circuit. If nothing else, Arlovski is once again relevant in the always-intriguing heavyweight division.
Cerrone breaks Makdessi’s jaw, thrusts himself into title contention: Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone continued his winning ways and officially entered the lightweight title picture with his TKO victory over John Makdessi. In typical “Cowboy” fashion, the bout was a memorable one, with Cerrone (28-6-1) delivering a head kick that broke Makdessi’s (13-4) jaw in the second round and ended the fight.
Riding an eight-fight win streak, Cerrone’s victory should secure him a title shot against current champion Rafael Dos Anjos, who interestingly handed Cerrone his most recent loss. Dos Anjos is fresh off of a dominant upset victory over former lightweight champ Anthony Pettis. In one of the UFC’s deepest, most talented divisions, a title match between the two seems inevitable at this point.
Weidman continues impressive title reign with victory over Belfort: Chris Weidman, who has struggled to gain the respect of many MMA fans because of his association with UFC legend Anderson Silva, put together his most dominant performance yet, as he pummeled Vitor Belfort in a first-round TKO victory.
The undefeated middleweight champ, Weidman (13-0) has now taken apart three of Brazil’s greatest fighters in Silva (twice), Lyoto Machida and Belfort (24-11). Currently ranked as the No. 3 pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world, Weidman hopes to add to his legacy with a December title defense at Madison Square Garden in New York. His opponent has yet to be determined, but it could very likely be No. 1 contender Luke Rockhold, who recently dominated former Weidman opponent Lyoto Machida.
A Weidman/Rockhold title bout in New York would surely be one of the biggest UFC events of the year. “I’m not the matchmaker; all I want is an even fight,” Weidman said. “Hopefully at Madison Square Garden.”
Cormier submits Johnson to claim light heavyweight title, eyes rematch with Jones: In a battle of separate redemption stories, it was Daniel Cormier who made the most of his second chance to have his hand raised in the main event, beating red-hot contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson by way of submission to win the vacated UFC light heavyweight crown.
After being stunned by a huge right hand at the beginning of the fight, Cormier (16-1) used an effective strategy and relentless wrestling to wear down the knockout artist Johnson (19-5). “DC” finished things in the third round with a rear-naked choke, resulting in Johnson’s first defeat since returning to the UFC from the World Series of Fighting.
Immediately after the fight, Cormier made it clear whom he wants next, as he called out bitter rival Jon Jones, the former light heavyweight champ who was suspended and stripped of his title in April after repeated run-ins with the law. As the first new light heavyweight champ in more than four years, Cormier will have to establish himself as his own entity, as the thought of Jones being the rightful champion will loom large for the next couple of months.
Jones defeated Cormier in their title bout in January at UFC 182, and many anticipate a rematch if Jones gets reinstated. “We’re so tied together Jon and I,” Cormier said. “I don’t think that is going to change until we fight again. I still think I can beat him.”
Before any potential rematch with Jones however, Cormier will defend his new crown against Ryan Bader. Cormier was originally scheduled to face Bader in June, before Jones’ suspension thrust him into the main-event match against Johnson.
Bader and Cormier already seem ready to rumble, as the two got into a heated verbal confrontation at the post-fight press conference, with security being forced to quickly intervene. “You can come get your ass kicked like you were going to in June,” Cormier told Bader. “I want the easiest fighter in the division; I want Ryan Bader.”
Safe to say the new champ has no intentions of making friends during his reign.