The MMA world watched UFC 159 with the outcome already decided in their minds. After a season of buildup on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ reality show, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones dispatched Chael Sonnen in the first round of their title fight, but Jones was practically a 10 to 1 favorite, so everyone knew that was going to happen. The open question is where both men go from here. In the immediate aftermath, Jon Jones revealed an injury to his big toe that is going to see him sitting out for several months. Though it was truly ugly, the injury did not slow him in his match as he overpowered Sonnen even after suffering it. It will be an interesting anecdote for his legacy, as years from now fans are likely to ask ‘Remember the time that Jones beat that guy with his toe falling off?’, and Jones is young and will recover quickly. Jones, because of his position as Light Heavyweight Champion, is down to two fights a year at this point, so you can look for him to headline one of the November or December PPVs. This should leave Lyoto Machida at the top of the list in the 205lb division. Now, Machida has lost to Jones handily before, he has turned down a short notice rematch already and he talked about one more fight before a title match after his last win in February. Some people might say Lyoto is avoiding the fight, but now on Jones’ recovery timetable, Lyoto would have the time he needs to prepare by going off to a hilltop with Steven Segal to download the knowledge he carries. Lyoto is the fallback plan for Jones, as while fans have said they will watch the rematch, no one is particularly clamoring to see it. Daniel Cormier is the other potential Jon Jones opponent everyone talks about, but he has a lot of if’s around his potential challenge. The weight cutting is a real issue with Cormier, who sat out the 2008 Olympics after making the team, when he was pulled for kidney failure after cutting to 96kg (211lbs). Cormier wants a fight at 205lbs before facing Jones, to test the waters. Cormier was never in any danger against Frank Mir, but he did ‘lay a bit of an egg’ in his own words, so the number of people who want to see the fight is small. There has been renewed talk of an Anderson Silva match, and people would want to see that. This is provided, of course, that Silva beats Chris Weidman in their upcoming title bout this July, as Weidman is still quite capable of playing spoiler to the fight people want to see. Finally, Jones himself has mentioned that he still has interest in fighting Alexander Gustafsson, but whether the Swede has earned a title shot at this point is up in the air. Had he competed a few weeks ago and beaten Gegard Mousasi his case would be much stronger, but unfortunately that fight was scratched. Sonnen is an even more interesting case for the UFC than Jones. Where do you go from here with MMA’s biggest trash talker? Sonnen remains one of the UFC’s most polarizing draws, but what does he have left as a fighter and at what weight? He is on the higher end of the payscale, and he has gone 2-3 in his last 5 outings, so it is difficult to give him easy fights with the size of his checks. Could Sonnen serve as a doorman or gatekeeper at 205 lbs? There has been talk of grudge matches against Brazilians Wanderlei Silva and Vitor Belfort, but Sonnen is likely to look for the biggest paycheck available, and it may not lie against those fighters. The UFC should match Sonnen with newcomer Gegard Mousasi next. Mousasi is a highly skilled fighter who some consider a threat to Jon Jones, however he has a tendency to fight to his opponent’s level like he did in his UFC debut and he needs a memorable fight or two to earn a title shot. Sonnen would provide that. Sonnen would come in and take the fight to Mousasi, forcing Mousasi to dig deeper than he did against Ilir Latifi. Do it in July and Mousasi could be ready for a showdown with Jones after a big win. Best of all, the fights with Brazilians Silva and Belfort will be there if Sonnen takes another loss.
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