By Rick LaFitte @RickLaFitte on May 25, 2014
T.J. Dillashaw became an overnight star at UFC 173 by derailing the massive win streak of bantamweight champion Renan Barao. Dillashaw’s dominant performance in Las Vegas was punctuated by a fifth-round stoppage to secure the title in a huge upset. The event also saw strong performances from Daniel Cormier and Robbie Lawler. Here are, in my opinion, the top-five fights to make in the wake of UFC 173.
Mizugaki made it five-consecutive victories outlasting the tough Francisco Rivera to earn a unanimous decision. The 30-year-old Japanese contender is as tough as nails and always delivers action. A fight against the former title challenger McDonald seems a logical next step. The No. 3 ranked McDonald has been on the sidelines due to a hand injury since a loss to Urijah Faber. His power would be a solid test for Mizugaki’s sturdy chin.
Barao lost his bantamweight title and tasted defeat for the first time in over nine years at UFC 173. A bounce-back fight against the former champion Cruz would be a solid return option. The pair had been scheduled to meet in a unification clash at UFC 169 but Cruz was forced out because of his latest injury. He hasn’t fought since 2011 and a fight against Barao would be the type of clash he needs for his long overdue return.
Dillashaw shocked the MMA world with his emphatic victory over Barao to earn UFC bantamweight gold. He’s won six of his last seven fights with that lone setback coming against Assuncao in Brazil via a controversial split decision. This matchup would give the new champ a shot at revenge and would give Assuncao the title opportunity that is warranted. The Brazilian is currently riding an impressive six-fight win streak.
This matchup would have the potential for pure violence. Lawler showed why he remains a top contender by making a major statement against Jake Ellenberger. He clearly wants another shot at champion Johny Hendricks after losing a decision in their very close title clash at UFC 171. Brown is also gunning for “Bigg Rigg” and is on a seven-fight win streak. With both of these proven finishers in the title picture, a fight between the two makes sense.
D.C. proved he’s a legitimate title threat in the 205-pound division by manhandling Dan Henderson in the co-main event at UFC 173. Cormier cemented his case for a title shot by choking out “Hendo” in the third round to remain undefeated in 15 career fights. He looms as a formidable challenge for the winner of the Jones-Gustafsson rematch and is deserving of getting the next opportunity.
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