Nothing wrong with having a plan B.

Ryan Bader racked up his fifth straight win after defeating former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) light heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans, at last night’s (Sat. Oct. 3, 2015) UFC 192 pay-per-view (PPV) event in Houston, Texas.

See it again here.

In doing so, “Darth” put a stamp on his case for next shot at the division title, which is still in the grasp of Daniel Cormeir after his five-round war against Alexander Gustafsson, which also went down in “H-Town.”

But, should he get passed over for a championship fight — again — Bader declared during the post-fight press conference (video replay here) he’ll continue to fight to earn his shot.

Especially now that Jon Jones is (almost) back in the mix.

“Yeah, of course. I’m here to fight and if Jon Jones comes back and he’s fighting Cormier, I have some people on my mind that I’d like to fight. I would like to get my last loss back with Glover, if he gets through Pat. So, that’s one fight I’d like to get back. Other than that, Obviously I’d want a title shot and want to fight Cormier, we’ll see what happens with the whole Jon Jones situation.”

Indeed, once UFC completes it’s process of reading through all the legal paperwork, “Bones” could be gearing up to make his long-awaited return to the Octagon.

Assuming Jon wants to come back at all, of course.

Should that process take a while, Cormier vs. Bader seems like the next logical step. If not, well that’s okay, says Ryan, as he’s just here to fight whoever is in front of him, hopefully Glover.

Just don’t expect another situation like this to occur.

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There was a thrilling main event and there were great prelims, but also a mostly ho-hum batch of fights on the main card underneath the title fight. With that in mind, let’s do some matchmaking for the most straight up interesting fighters on the UFC 192 card instead of just the main card fighters….

Daniel Cormier and Ryan Bader: This one is pretty simple for Cormier. If Jon Jones is coming back at light heavyweight in time to be the next challenger, he gets the shot. If he isn’t, then Ryan Bader gets the next title shot. But if Bader doesn’t get the next shot, what do you do with him? Do you sit him out? Do you give him a stiff test lik Anthony Johnson? Or do you give him someone relatively beatable, like the aging Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, since they need contenders and can’t risk killing him ff?

Alexander Gustafsson and Rashad Evans: Well, for Gustafsson, Evans is a good bounceback fight. For Evans, it depends on how much longer he wants to fight. If he wants a top opponent, Gustafsson it is. If he wants to move outside of the very elite of the division, Shogun would make for a big name main event that could carry a UFC Fight Night in Brazil.

Julianna Pena: She didn’t blow Jessica Eye out, but she won pretty decisively. She’s still super raw, especially standing, but she’s now near the top of the division. Given the way they’re booking Ronda Rousey right now (challengers don’t need to go through top contenders) and Pena is clearly someone they want to be a Rousey opponent sooner or later, figuring out who’s next for her is a bit tricky. Of the fighters ranked above Eye, Alexis Davis makes the most sense, an experienced former challenger who Pena could conceivably out-athlete.

Yair Rodriguez: He had a really good showing against someone who’s a tougher opponent than he got credit for. He’s clearly coming along fast, but is it fast enough to match him up with someone in or just outside the top 15? Probably not. Brian Ortega feels like the default “exciting featherweight prospect” opponent right now so I feel slightly hesitant to suggest him as an opponent again, but he really does feel like a gopd choice. Otherwise, the winner of Sam Sicilia vs. Dooho Choi in Seoul would make for a solid incremental step up.

Albert Tumenov: He was expected to beat Alan Jouban, but maybe not quite as quickly and violently as he did. He asked for a top 15 contender next and definitely deserves a shot at one. Based on who’s ranked and who’s available, Neil Magny would be the best choice among fighters coming off a win and a really intriguing fight on paper. If they just want to build him up and are fine with an opponent coming off a loss, that seems like a job for Jake Ellenberger even though it would be an absolutely terrible fight for Ellenberger to take.

Adriano Martins: Thanks to getting a fight with Donald Cerrone before he was ready and losing via brutal knockout, he might be the most underrated fighter on the roster. If he’s not a top 15 lightweight, he’s close, and should get a ranked opponent next. The winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Joseph Duffy should fit the bill.

Rose Namajunas: After way too long of a layoff, she got the bounceback she needed with a great technical submission win over Angela Hill. Matchmaking for her is tricky because her ranking (#4 contender) is based largely on potential (and, to an extent, Ultimate Fighter success,  which is not a reliable predictor of actual UFC success). Of the ranked fighters coming off a win, only Juliana Lima really fits as an opponent for her. If they want to build her up with another unranked fighter, then maybe she could fight Alexandra Albu on a European card.

Sage Northcutt: He ran through Francisco Trevino like a buzzsaw.  Right now, the key is less his opponent and more getting him on the undercard of a Ronda Rousey fight to expose him to the female audience that comes only for Rousey fights. Last night, he expressed interest in fighting on the UFC 193 card in Australia next month,  which is is headlined by Rousey. Just throw him on the card against the most suitable possible opponent.

Sergio Pettis: He’s now a top 10(-ish) flyweight, though while he’s improved, he still needs to make a lot of adjustments. He needs to keep moving up slowly, and Ray Borg would be a nice incremental jump. If that’s too big a step (Chris Cariaso, while top 10, was a very favorable stylistic matchup), then Pettis vs. the winner of Patrick Holohan vs. Louis Smolka would be a fun fight .


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Daniel Cormier showed his grit and toughness like never before, overcoming an incredible challenge from Alexander Gustafsson in a five-round slugfest to retain the light heavyweight title at UFC 192 in Houston on Saturday night.

The fight was so close that the judges couldn’t even agree on the outcome, producing a split-decision result in which Cormier won with scores of 49-46 and 48-47. One judge ruled it 48-47 in favor of Gustafsson, which wasn’t quite enough to pull off the upset.

As UFC notes, Cormier and Gustafsson took part in a bout that will immediately go down as a classic:

Cuts all over Gustafsson’s face and serious bleeding made it apparent that Cormier laid a beating on his opponent, but the same could be said of the champion. The Swedish challenger succeeded in turning the 25-minute bout into a dirty brawl, standing and striking to land numerous crushing blows to Cormier’s face.

When the dust settled and Cormier stood with the belt, he couldn’t help but laud his opponent for giving him quite the beating, per

Based on Cormier’s comments after the fight, his title retention was far from easy.

Despite that, it seemed early on that Cormier was going to ground-and-pound his opponent into submission just as he’s done countless times to taller opponents. The 36-year-old notched an early takedown, ripping Gustafsson to the mat with force and making Round 1 a nasty affair on the ground.

As Motmaitre noted, keeping Gustafsson on the bottom was a big key to winning the fight:

Instead of keeping the fight on the mat where he had a decided advantage, however, Cormier proved unable to fight that way as the five rounds wore on. Gustafsson’s evasive abilities kept him standing, where he could punish Cormier with brutal punches and knees.

Along with some timely takedowns, Gustafsson fought his way back into it in the middle rounds. With the bout entering a fifth and final round that would decide the fight, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman chimed in:

Gustafsson seemed intent on avoiding the final-round takedown in Round 5, but Cormier obliged and chose to punish his opponent’s face even further. The bleeding from Gustafsson’s face was so severe that the referee could have stopped the fight.

But the Swede held on in the final round, as the fight went to the judges’ scorecards that left him oh so close to a career-changing victory.

Regardless, Cormier heaped praise upon his opponent after the fight, per Chamatkar Sandhu of

While Cormier’s status as the light heavyweight champion is still secure after Saturday night, reasons cropped up to believe it will be short-lived. His struggles in dealing with Gustafsson’s power leave many believing that when (or if) Jon Jones makes his likely return, he won’t have trouble getting back his belt.

Still, that didn’t produce any reason to discount what Cormier has done in the time since, as Luke Thomas of noted:

There’s no telling what’s next for Gustafsson, who will likely once again need some extra time to heal and recover after taking another beating. The loss gives him three losses in his last four fights, although two have been tight affairs for the title.

Given his performance Saturday, it won’t be long until Gustafsson gets another crack at the belt. As for Cormier, he can at least enjoy several more months at the top.

The shadow of Jones obviously appeared over this fight and will continue to be a footnote to Cormier’s title until he puts that talk to rest by facing off against Bones for the second time.

Until then, it’s Cormier’s world in the light heavyweight spectrum of the UFC, and everyone else is just living in it. 

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NORTHCUTT vs. TREVINOAs the youngest fighter currently on the UFC roster, 19-year-old Sage Northcutt was the recipient of plenty of hype leading into his Octagon debut Saturday. But the Texan was seemingly unbothered by it as he needed less than 1 minute to stop Francisco Trevino in their UFC 192 prelim bout at the Toyota Center in Houston.The victory was the unbeaten Northcutt’s sixth as a pro. And he made it look easy.After Northcutt attempted to find his range with a couple kicks, he and Trevino got tangled up and went to the mat. Seeing his opponent down … Read the Full Article Here

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After a thrilling UFC 192: “Cormier vs. Gustafsson” event, deliberates as to what is next for the main card winners who picked up victories last night (Sat., October 3, 2015) on pay-per-view (PPV) inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

Ultimate Fighting Championship brought an exciting five fight UFC 192 pay-per-view (PPV) main card to Houston, Texas and Toyota Center last night (Oct. 3, 2015) and it featured a light heavyweight title headliner pitting champion Daniel Cormier against No. 1 contender Alexander Gustafsson.

In the main event, “DC” and “The Mauler” left it all in the Octagon, battering each other with a plethora of uppercuts and hooks over 25 minutes until they were both busted up, with the former holding onto his strap via split decision.

Check out the highlights from the main event here.

Ryan Bader picked up the biggest win of his budding mixed martial arts (MMA) career when he cruised to a unanimous-decision victory over the returning former 205-pound champion Rashad Evans. In complete contrast of the evening’s main event, “Vader” had his hands and legs going all night as he routinely picked apart “Suga” in the striking game over three rounds (highlights here).

With UFC 192 in the books, and the night’s marquee bouts recapped, it’s now time to play matchmaker with our “Next Matches to Make.”

Winner: Daniel Cormier

Who he should fight next: Jon Jones

With “Bones” shadow seemingly looming over this past weekend’s event, it’s almost a forgone conclusion that these two will reconnect in the Octagon sometime in the near future. And if UFC president Dana White has any say in it, who was in attendance at Jones’ plea agreement hearing last week (video), it could be sooner rather than later.

Let’s face it, Bader is a fine candidate for the No. 1 contender spot, especially after blanking a dangerous foe like Evans in the co-main event. A winner of five straight fights now — all decision victories — Bader also has the selling point of a brewing rivalry with the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA).

Other light heavyweights, such as Anthony Johnson and Glover Teixeira, don’t possess the resumes just yet to warrant a shot at the crown after failing pretty abysmally in their first attempts.

In a mixed martial arts (MMA) world where wolf tickets are sold and feuds are manufactured, the bad blood between Cormier and Jones is very much real. A title rematch would be ideal.

Winner: Ryan Bader

Who he should fight next: Anthony Johnson

With his last win over Evans, Bader now boasts a superb 13-4 record competing in UFC’s light heavyweight division and you have to give credit where credit is due.

First known as just a standout collegiate wrestler, the Power MMA stud has transformed his offensive repertoire right before our very eyes. Similarly to his fellow Ultimate Fighter (TUF) alum Josh Koscheck, the 32-year-old is now a versatile kickboxer, with solid footwork and a sleek frame.

He looked very fresh and light on his feet for the entire duration of time he spent in the Octagon with Evans.

“Rumble” recently vanished Jimi Manuwa in a first-round TKO stoppage at the UFC 191 PPV last month and is still very much a viable contender in the 205-pound division. With Johnson, who is now 4-1 in his second UFC stint, cementing his place atop the division, it makes sense he challenge one of the very best as well to determine the next contender in-line following a future Cormier vs. Jones scrap.

Here’s another reason why Bader and Johnson need to face off.

Winner: Ruslan Magomedov

Who he should fight next: Stefan Struve

Magomedov utilized his range and technical boxing skills to take a unanimous-decision win (recap here) over former LSU fullback Shawn Jordan on UFC 192’s main card.

With nine straight victories (3-0 UFC), the well-rounded Dagestani has proved he can defeat tough fighters and he deserves a crack at a veteran in the Top 15 of the heavyweight division. I can’t think of a better name and matchup than Dutch kickboxer Stefan Struve.

“The Skyscraper” is a longtime veteran of the 265-pound division, who holds notable victories over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Stipe Miocic and Pat Barry. Struve has went toe-to-toe with perennial contenders like Travis Browne and Roy Nelson; he would provide a good barometer as to how far Magomedov’s skills and training at AKA have come.

Stick him in there and see what he can do.

Winner: Joseph Benavidez

Who he should fight: John Dodson or Jussier Formiga/Henry Cejudo winner

There’s 125-pound champion and pound-for-pound star Demetrious Johnson … and then there’s everyone else.

“Joe-Jitsu” claimed a hard-fought, unanimous-decision victory over former title challenger Ali Bagautinov last night in which he displayed slick movement and boxing skills. The Team Alpha Male fighter routinely landed a beautiful right hand/uppercut all night, while sticking and moving.

However, Benavidez was taken down multiple downs — he’d spring back up moments later — so it was not a spotless win. Still, he is clearly the No. 2 guy in this division outside of “Mighty Mouse.”

He’s sent the message and was even close to fighting “The Messenger” at UFC 192, before the latter decided he was not ready.

Instead, Cejudo now faces the Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Formiga at UFC Fight Night 78 in Monterrey, Mexico next month, while the two-time title challenger Dodson remains opponent-less following his unanimous-decision loss to Johnson at UFC 191.

Handing Benavidez, Dodson, or the winner of the Formiga-Cejudo contest makes sense on multiple fronts and would be a surefire title eliminator tussle.

Winner: Julianna Pena

Who she should fight next: Miesha Tate

This is a tricky one. You have a few names that are all potential opponents for “The Venezuelan Vixen,” who bulldozed her way to a unanimous-decision win over perennial 135-pound contender Jessica Eye.

Amanda Nunes, who boasts a 4-1 UFC record, has finished all four of her victories in the first round and is coming off of a complete shellacking of former women’s bantamweight title challenger Sara McMann in August.

Then, there’s also the impending return of former No. 1 contender Cat Zingano, whose only career loss is to the champion Ronda Rousey. However, Tate is arguably the most durable woman of all in the 135-pound pecking order.

“Cupcake” is on a mission to face “Rowdy” for a third time (second in UFC) and is knocking off all who stand in her way. A winner of  four straight over the last two years, Tate is nearing that possibility and a chance to take out another fighter with a bulldog type of mentality such as the one she holds would be another feather in her cap.

Not to mention it would lend itself to a cool teacher versus student collision as Tate and Pena played those respective roles in season 18 of TUF in 2013.

For more on the fallout behind UFC 192: “Cormier vs. Gustafsson,” including post-fight recaps and analysis, click here.

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Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson did everything they could on Saturday to make us forget about Jon Jones.

Cormier and Gustafsson had a whale of a scrap at UFC 192—a five-round epic so close the outcome was in doubt until the moment the third cageside judge confirmed Cormier had retained his light heavyweight championship by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 49-46).

They scraped, clawed, bled and sweated through a back-and-forth battle that will wind up on numerous Fight of the Year ballots. Without exaggeration, we can safely say this was one of the best 205-pound title fights in company history.

“These are the ones that you dream about when you start doing this,” Cormier said at the post-fight press conference. “You don’t dream about them as you [just] want to be involved—you want to be involved and you want to win.”

Even the UFC’s notoriously critical and independent-minded president seemed duly impressed:

And you know what?

It still wasn’t good enough.

For all their heroics, neither Cormier nor Gustafsson came away looking like men capable of suddenly beating Jones. They’ve both already lost to the light heavyweight GOAT, and while both their performances over the weekend were stellar, they fell short of proving a rematch would go any differently.

It’s painful to write that less than 24 hours removed from the thrill of watching these men put their careers on the line in the Octagon. But it would be dishonest not to acknowledge the more uncomfortable feelings lurking behind all the awe and glory.

If Jones returns from his indefinite UFC-imposed suspension in the same shape and possessing the same abilities as when he left nine months ago, he’s probably going to do exactly what we all expect him to do. He’s probably going to get his title back.

All it took to remind us of the status quo’s impending reappearance was one Instagram video—posted and then immediately deleted (naturally) by the former champion.

Less than a week since the morning he stood in front of a district court judge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and somberly asked for a chance to redeem himself, here was Jones back to his old tricks. Still trolling. Still looking a little glassy-eyed as he delivered a message so brief and empty, the word “cryptic” doesn’t even apply.

Nonetheless, his meaning got through: He’s coming for these dudes—and during his brief absence, nobody in the 205-pound division has done anything impressive enough to make us believe they can stop him.

Don’t get it twisted, Cormier has been wonderful as the glorified interim champion. In some other, Jones-free universe, we’d likely be debating the former Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and maybe eventually one of the best ever.

Heck, we might end up doing that anyway.

Likewise on Saturday, Gustafsson proved his UFC 165 war against Jones in September 2013 was no fluke.

But the truth was, the air had mostly come out of this fight before it even happened.

When Jones received a wrist-slap sentence of up to 18 months probation for an April hit-and-run accident, the rest was academic. Had we believed he would be away from the UFC for an extended period—or that he was in jeopardy of never returning at all—then Cormier vs. Gustafsson might’ve truly shined.

It would have been a chance for the light heavyweight division to strike out in a bold new direction and to prove it could survive and even thrive without its greatest champion. Instead, it seemed like treading water.

Still, Cormier and Gustafsson were good enough to at least momentarily put thoughts of Jones on the backburner.

After Cormier turned the 6’5” Swede upside down and bodyslammed him to the canvas less than a minute into the first round, it appeared we would be looking at an easy victory for the champion. Instead, Gustafsson marshaled his forces and pushed Cormier to the limit on nearly every front for the final 20 minutes.

Gustafsson used his ballyhooed height and reach advantages well throughout the fight. He struck Cormier in the face with hard jabs, bloodying him under the right eye and effectively keeping him at distance. He battered the champion’s body with kicks and knees and used his deft footwork to steer himself out of Cormier’s clutches. He even landed a takedown, just as he did against Jones in their bout.

Gustafsson’s best moment came in the third, when he stunned Cormier with a knee to the face and then dropped him to the canvas with a punching combination along the fence.

Had he been able to follow with more punches, referee Herb Dean might have been forced to stop the fight. But Cormier still had his wits about him, was able to get his hands around one of Gustafsson’s legs and worked immediately to his feet.

That moment was emblematic of Cormier’s performance here. He was hurt but not out and managed to pull himself up and get back in the fight. All told, it was a gritty and hard-nosed victory from a man who has made a life for himself out of being gritty and hard-nosed.

“I just want to fight,” Cormier said. “I’m 36 years old [and] I don’t know how long my body is going to hold up. I’ve been doing this for a really long time. I left a lot of myself in there tonight with Alex. I’ve got to do it while I can and just love the competition. That’s what drives me.”

He kept the pressure on Gustafsson throughout the fight, battering him with uppercuts in the clinch and landing winging overhand shots as his lanky opponent tried to move away. After a tough second round and then getting dropped in a third stanza he appeared on the verge of winning, Cormier cemented his victory with a gutty performance in the championship rounds.

Perhaps it was Gustafsson’s evasive tactics that ultimately cost him the verdict on two of three scorecards. Often when it seemed danger was imminent, he just ducked out and literally jogged away. It was effective, but perhaps ignominious.

“You cannot turn around and run away,” Cormier said of the strategy. “That might hurt you with the judges.”

It did, and in the end, Cormier got his hand raised.

Cormier is the one who will now most likely face a second fight with Jones, after a hard-fought unanimous-decision loss to Bones at UFC 182 in January. Jones has not yet been reinstated by the UFC, but with his legal troubles in New Mexico on the verge of being history, it’s a good bet he’ll be back soon.

And so, the only relevant question of Cormier’s ongoing title reign may be whether he’s improved enough to change the outcome in a do-over.

It will be a gargantuan task—one in which merely being great probably isn’t going to cut it.

To win, he’ll have to be the greatest.

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