Now that last night’s festivites are now in the books, it’s time for the “what’s next?” speculation to begin.
Dan Henderson: With the limited depth of the Strikeforce light heavyweight division, ol’ Hendo needs to fight Feijao for the strap. A win for the Brazilian would finally vault him into the top 10, as well as putting him on the radar of more casual fans. A win for Hendo would be yet another accomplishment on an already stellar career and would arguably make him Strikeforce’s top star.
Babalu Sobral: Despite a resume filled with impressive victories over names like Shogun Rua, Chael Sonnen, and Robbie Lawler, Babalu can’t seem to win when it really matters. He was stopped by Chuck Liddell when he fought for the UFC light heavyweight title, knocked out by Gegard Mousasi in a Strikeforce title fight, and now finished by Dan Henderson in the main event of one of the top non-UFC fight cards of the year. The BJJ black belt now needs to take a step down in competition if he wants to continue fighting at a high level. A quick rebound fight against Ovince St. Preux, who picked up a win over Benji Radach last night, makes sense, or even Mike Kyle.
Stephan Bonnar: At 33 years old and with six years of UFC fight experience, Bonnar should take a step up in competition after his victory over Igor Pokrajac. I would match him with someone like Matt Hamill or the winner of Brandon Vera vs. Thiago Silva.
More post-fight speculation after the jump.
Igor Pokrajac: With his impressive striking skills, a fight with the Jones-Bader winner works. Just kidding. It’s time for this guy to re-visit the regional circuit.
Robbie Lawler: Even keeping in mind Matt Lindland’s steady decline over the past few years, there’s no denying that Lawler’s knockout finish was spectacular. The 28-year-old might not ever wind up on anyone pound-for-pound list, but he’s a capable and exciting fighter that Strikeforce is lucky to have under contract. If Cung Le is available, a Lawler-Le fight could easily headline a Showtime event and determine a future middleweight title challenger. If not, a top contender match-up with someone like Mayhem Miller or Luke Rockhold makes sense. At the same time, I think it would be unwise for Scott Coker to put Lawler in an immediate title match, as placing a fighter on a one-fight win streak in a title fight would undermine the legitimacy of the championship.
Matt Lindland: It’s been an impressive career, but it’s time Lindland calls it quits. I can’t think of anyone in the top 20 that I would consider to be an underdog in a fight with Lindland. He should hang up the gloves before he tarnishes his reputation any further.
Demian Maia: There’s a variety of ways that Joe Silva can deal with Maia going forward. I still like the idea of the previously booked Belcher-Maia fight. A re-match with Nate Marquardt also makes sense at this point.
Kendall Grove: Some people are calling for Grove’s release after his latest loss. I don’t think that is necessary at all. Grove is still 2-2 in his last four, has name value amongst casual fans, and just went the distance in a fight where many observers thought he would be submitted. Someone like Tom Lawlor or Aaron Simpson would be a logical next step for the 6’6″ middleweight.
Paul Daley: Daley called out KJ Noons after his fight, and I don’t see any reason why that fight shouldn’t be booked, especially if Strikeforce decides to finally match Nick Diaz up with Mayhem Miller. If Coker instead decides to have Diaz defend his 170-pound strap next, then I don’t think giving Daley an immediate title shot would be unreasonable.
Scott Smith: Some people out there are also calling for Smith’s retirement. Again, this is unwarranted. Sure, he’s one dimensional and isn’t going to be developing much any further, but he’s still exciting as hell and has recent relevant wins over Cung Le and Benji Radach. Throw Smith in the cage with Melvin Manhoef and wait for one of them to hit the mat.
Jonathan Brookins: This kid is going to get the standard post-TUF opponent for the tournament winner: a middle-of-the-pack UFC vet with little chance for victory. Doesn’t matter much who it is as long as they fit that description.
Rick Story: With a five-fight win streak in the UFC, it’s time for Story to start taking on the guys at the top of the welterweight heap so we can find out how good he really is. That means someone like Thiago Alves, should he get past John Howard, or a returning Dan Hardy.
Johnny Hendricks: His debut stoppage win against Amir Sadollah was always a bit questionable to me. I think now is the time to pair those two up again to see what happens if Hendricks doesn’t get awarded a slightly early stoppage victory from the ref.
Bigfoot Silva: The man has fought some tough competition on his way to become one of the top heavyweights in the world. With an Overeem-Werdum title fight on the horizon, Bigfoot should step into the cage against somebody like Fedor or Barnett to determine a future title challenger.