Out of the chaos, clarity emerges.

Well, sort of.

UFC 196 went down this past Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The card was headlined by a hastily cobbled-together welterweight fight, where the master of the Stockton slap, Nate Diaz, shocked the MMA world by submitting “The Notorious” Conor McGregor in the second round of a fight that Diaz took on just nine days’ notice.

In the co-headlining bout, Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm attempted to defend the 135lbs belt she took from Ronda Rousey last November. Unfortunately for Holm, Miesha “Cupcake” Tate had other plans. Tate scored a pivotal takedown, sunk-in a deep rear-naked choke, and held on until Holm, refusing to tap, lost consciousness.

The two upset wins put a tremendous finish on what was a relatively underwhelming main card and sent reverberations throughout several weight classes, as well as having an impact on the UFC’s plans leading into this summer’s UFC 200.

Now that Tate has dethroned Holm and Diaz slowed the pace of “Mystic Mac’s” welterweight plans, let’s take a look at who each fighter should fight next.

Diaz stuns the world, taps McGregor in the second
Potential opponents: “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler, Rafael Dos Anjos

“I’m not surprised, motherf—ers.”

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are the words of Nate Diaz, moments after the biggest win of his mixed martial arts career.

He offered up this insight following his submission win over Conor McGregor by rear-naked choke in the second round of their UFC 196-headlining fight. Diaz was getting lit up early during the first round, but found his rhythm in the second and stunned the Irishman with several heavy punches. When McGregor shot for a takedown, Diaz won the scramble and wasted no time locking in a rear-naked choke, forcing the featherweight champ and first-time welterweight to tap at 4:12 of the second round.

Diaz was issued a medical suspension after the fight, and is reportedly out until April 20 – a date has absolutely no cultural significance to him – but once he’s healed up, don’t expect him to sit on the shelf for too long.

According to Nate, this win puts him “at the top” of the game, and it’s somewhat difficult to argue with him.  The McGregor fight was the biggest of Diaz’s career, both financially and in terms of public exposure – in Dana White’s own words, UFC 196 was trending to “break every record” from a ratings perspective.

Expect Diaz to use this momentum to get another ‘big’ fight, which could mean one of two main options.

The first option comes from UFC President, Dana White, who hinted at a possible fight with welterweight champ “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler, in his appearance on ESPN’s post-fight panel. Diaz has fought several times at welterweight in the past, most notably losing to a young Canadian prospect by the name of Rory MacDonald at UFC 129.  

Going into UFC 196, it had been nearly five years since proud “209” representative had fought at 170lbs. Although the fight took place under unique circumstances, namely against a 145lbs champion who had never fought at welterweight, the win over McGregor is a big bargaining chip for Diaz.

Additionally, Nate’s older brother, the equally-notorious Nick Diaz, already KO’d Robbie Lawler back in 2004, so the welterweight champ might even look forward to exacting a little revenge on the younger Diaz brother.

If the Lawler fight goes bust, Nate’s back-up plan may be a drop back down to the 155lbs division where he will challenge current lightweight champion – and McGregor’s original UFC 196 opponent – Rafael Dos Anjos.

The champ already holds a convincing decision win over Diaz from December 2014. This would normally be too fresh for Diaz to rally for a rematch, but, again, he just beat McGregor, which changes everyone’s perspective.

With the knowledge and confidence of their first fight, RDA may be more than happy to take a rematch and maybe steal some of Diaz’s newfound shine.

McGregor humble in defeat, critical of own performance
Potential opponents: Jose Aldo, Frankie “The Answer” Edgar

Let’s get this out of the way from the start:
No, internet, the Conor McGregor hype train has not been derailed forever.
Has it been slowed to a more reasonable pace for the time being? Yes.
Derailed? Certainly not.

Okay, moving on.

McGregor was subdued and humble in defeat, giving full credit to Nate for his performance, and saying that Diaz’s punches put him in a “panic mode” which led to the failed takedown and subsequent rear-naked choke.

However, when the subject of his next opponent came up at the post-fight press conference, McGregor immediately switched back to his championship swagger:

“At the end of the day, I am the featherweight world champion. I feel it is right to go back down and remind them of what I achieved and what I bring to that division. But, I am not forgetting about the 155lbs division. I am not simply forgetting about the 170lbs division…”

McGregor later went on to elaborate on taking a rematch with former featherweight champ Jose Aldo, or opting for a fight with Frankie “The Answer” Edgar. He said it’s “…hard not to give Aldo another shot… but, again, he pulls out a lot… Frankie at least gets in there and competes…”

Expect a heavy contingent of Brazilian fans to campaign in Aldo’s favor, especially after he tweeted a response to McGregor’s loss: a picture of himself wearing hand wraps, captioned, “See ya at #UFC200, @TheNotoriousMMA. Your fairy tale is over. You got nowhere to run now. Time to a rematch, pussy.”

However, with McGregor’s one-punch KO of Aldo still fresh in people’s minds, the UFC may lean towards Edgar as the next featherweight challenger. “The Answer” is on a five-fight win streak, which includes stoppage wins over BJ Penn, Cub Swanson, and a first-round KO of Chad Mendes back in December. Edgar even openly campaigned for a shot from Dana White on the FOX Sports 1 post-fight show

Despite the loss to Diaz, there are plenty of reasons to want to fight McGregor, but the cards are ultimately still held firmly in the featherweight champ’s hands.

Tate rallies in the fifth, chokes out Holm to become new bantamweight champ
Potential opponents: Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey

If McGregor vs Diaz was the UFC 196 hype, Holm vs Tate was the heart. And that’s exactly what Miesha Tate showed in her fifth round finish of Holly Holm. The former Strikeforce bantamweight champ may have come up short in her first bid for octagon gold – a 2013 submission loss to Ronda Rousey – but she showed up on Saturday night with a new resolve and a new opponent in Holm.

With her gritty, gutsy performance at 196, she now takes a seat at the top of the UFC women’s bantamweight division.

Unfortunately, there’s a growing list of fighters looking to dethrone “Cupcake”, chief among them the two former champs at 135lbs, Holly Holm and Ronda Rousey.

Rousey, who has been largely out of the MMA spotlight since she lost her title to Holm last November, apparently didn’t watch the fight on Saturday, but when UFC President Dana White texted her the results, her response was, “time to get back to work,”.

Prior to the fight, White had gone on record saying that Rousey would get the next shot at the Tate-Holm winner. Most believe that White and the UFC brass would have preferred a Holm win to set-up Holm-Rousey 2, but a trilogy fight between “Rowdy” and “Cupcake” could generate a lot of attention, especially with the champion-challenger roles being reversed.

However, with Tate’s win coming on the heels of such a close fight – and with Rousey’s schedule packed with movie and media obligations until as late as October – White may reconsider an immediate Holm-Tate rematch.

Holm admits to feeling “complacent”, wants Tate rematch “tomorrow”
Potential opponents: Miesha Tate, Amanda Nunes, Cat Zingano

Even in defeat, Holly Holm is still one of the most composed and down-to-earth fighters to ever grace the octagon.

Saturday’s loss may be a particularly hard one for several reasons: she was coming off of the biggest win of her professional career; she was defending her belt for the first time; and she was on one of the most highly publicized cards in the history of the UFC, due in large part to Conor McGregor’s sporting salesmanship.

However, Holm was undeterred by the loss. She admitted to feeling “complacent” in the fight and told reporters she’d fight Miesha again “tomorrow” if given the opportunity.

It may not happen tomorrow, but she may get her wish.

As mentioned above, prior to UFC 196, Ronda Rousey was widely considered the next logical challenger, however due to her schedule (discussed above), the UFC may not want to keep the women’s 135lbs title on ice for that long. If Rousey is unable to fight until late into the year, Holm should get an immediate rematch with Tate.

With the possibility of Tate-Rousey III on the horizon, Holm may have to prepare herself for a climb back to her next title shot. The quickest route to that shot will be a fight with any top five ranked fighters at 135lbs who aren’t named Ronda Rousey or Miesha Tate.

The two most feasible options are Amanda Nunes, who earned a decision win in her UFC 196 pay-per-view opening fight, or “Alpha” Cat Zingano, who hasn’t fought since her February 2015 loss to Rousey.

Either Nunes or Zingano would offer a stiff challenge for Holm, and a win would then set up a rematch with the winner of the proposed Tate-Rousey trilogy finale.

 

What do you think? Will Diaz get a shot at the 155lbs or 170lbs title? Will Aldo get his McGregor rematch, or will McGregor look to puzzle “The Answer”? And how do you breakdown the Tate-Holm-Rousey conundrum?