UFC on FOX 17 went down on Saturday, December 19th, putting a cap on an overwhelmingly successful 2015 for the biggest organization in MMA. The main card offered a mixed bag of results, including Rafael Dos Anjos’ crushing, one minute title defense over Donald Cerrone and Alistair Overeem’s second round TKO of Junior Dos Santos. It also treated fans to the long-overdue return of Nate Diaz, who wasted no time reminding everyone why we love him as a fighter and as one of the great characters of MMA.

With the fights in the books and the winners crowned, it’s time to take a look at what’s next for the big winners of the night.

Rafael Dos Anjos

Possible Fights: Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Winner of Anthony Pettis vs Eddie Alvarez.

A quick and dominating win over Donald Cerrone in the UFC on FOX 17 main event solidified Rafael Dos Anjos’ place at the top of the UFC’s Lightweight division. Where RDA goes next is a little unclear.  The usually soft-spoken and humble champion managed a partial call out of Conor McGregor in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, saying that if McGregor moves up to lightweight, it’ll be a big mistake. On paper, it’s hard to argue with that logic, as Dos Anjos possesses the strength, grappling prowess, and striking power to give “The Notorious” featherweight champ some serious problems.

If Conor opts to stay at featherweight for the time being, RDA might want to tune in to UFC Fight Night 81 on January 17th, when former UFC Lightweight champ Anthony Pettis takes on former Bellator Lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez. Although Pettis hasn’t fought since losing the title to Dos Anjos in March of 2015, an impressive win over Alvarez could easily justify a chance at redemption for “Showtime”. Similarly, if Alvarez can build on the momentum of his June 2015 win over Gilbert “Don’t Call Me Giblert” Melendez, the UFC may see fit to fast track him to a shot for UFC gold against RDA.

Another potential option for RDA is Dagestani Sambo standout Khabib Nurmagomedov. The undefeated lightweight hasn’t fought since April 2014 due to a series of injuries, but prior to that he had all but secured a spot as the number one contender in the Lightweight division. In fact, his last fight is a decision win over Dos Anjos, which RDA would no doubt love to avenge. Despite being out of competition for over a year and a half, some still consider Nurmagomedov the true number one contender. If he can stay healthy and provide a reasonable timeline to return to action, a rematch with the outspoken Dagestani would be a tough test for the Brazilian champ.

Alistair Overeem

Possible Fights: Winner of Josh Barnett vs Ben Rothwell, Winner of Andrei Arlovski vs Stipe Miocic, Winner of Fabricio Werdum vs Cain Velasquez, Dana White.

Admittedly, his fight with Junior Dos Santos got off to a slow start, but Alistair Overeem eventually found his striking rhythm and did what he does best, stopping Dos Santos by TKO in the second round. The win over “Cigano” makes it three in a row, and puts him in a good position among the division’s elite.   

Most of the UFC’s top heavyweights already have dance partners lined up, making the rankings somewhat murky.  “The Reem” has hinted that he wants an immediate title shot, but he may have to sit back and see where the cards fall over the next couple of months. The winner of either Andrei Arlovski vs Stipe Miocic, or Josh Barnett vs Ben Rothwell, both fights in January, would work nicely as a title eliminator for the Dutch kickboxer.  Overeem, however, seems most interested in tuning into Fabricio Werdum’s title defense against Cain Velasquez in February. 

One of the underlying story’s going into UFC on FOX was that Overeem was on the last fight of his UFC contract and had opted to roll the dice by not signing a new contract prior to the Dos Santos fight.  Saturday night’s win gives him some extra leverage in negotiating a new contract, as does the fact that “The Reem” is a name fighter and hot commodity in international markets. So, as the rest of the heavyweight division sorts itself out, Overeem’s next fight would appear to be with UFC President Dana White at their Las Vegas headquarters.

Nate Diaz

Possible Fights: ANY MOTHERF—ER! ANY MOTHERF—ING TIME! ANY MOTHERF—ING PLACE! (aka, Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson, Winner of Dustin Poirier vs Joe Duffy)

How can you not love Nate Diaz?

The younger half of the most notorious siblings in MMA (the other half being older brother Nick Diaz) used crisp boxing and strategic finger-wagging to absolutely clown Michael “The Menace” Johnson en route to a unanimous decision win on the main card. He kept Johnson at a distance, lit him up with combos, and showed improved defense by checking a number of Johnson’s leg kicks – something that had been his undoing in past fights, like those against Ben Henderson and Dos Anjos.

As impressive as Diaz looked during the fight, it was just an appetizer for the post-fight interview.  In a tirade laced with more f-bombs than a Tarantino script, Diaz called out Conor McGregor, saying that he’s the only real “money fight” for him at Lightweight. Joe Rogan was forced to cut the interview short when, according to a recent JRE podcast (skip to 12:40), the FOX censors began screaming in his earpiece to get the foul-mouthed Diaz off of the mic.

Luckily, the hype seed had already been planted.

This may have been Nate’s first fight in over a year, but the stellar performance against a top 10 opponent combined with that trademark 209 attitude on the mic was enough to get people buzzing about a potential McGregor-Diaz match up. Diaz is a big 155-er with excellent boxing and a top notch jiu jitsu game. McGregor’s creative striking would offer a new challenge and exciting stylistic pairing for the Stockon native. And, let’s be honest, the trash talking alone would be worth the price of admission.

However, if the UFC decides to keep Conor at Featherweight or give him his Christmas wish of an immediate title shot vs RDA at Lightweight, Diaz still has a number of very interesting and potentially explosive options in the tightly packed division.  

Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson recently beat Edson Barboza at the TUF 22 Finale for his seventh-straight win. While Ferguson, currently ranked number 5 at Lightweight, is talking about a title shot, his resume lacks the name value a fight with Diaz would provide.

Similarly, Diaz may want to check out the upcoming fight between Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier and “Irish Joe” Duffy at UFC 195. Although neither fighter is currently ranked in the UFC top 10, Diaz has peripherally been one to pay attention to that sort of thing. Both Poirier and Duffy are dangerous lightweight prospects with the same “I came here to fight” attitude that Diaz has championed his entire career.  The potential for striking fireworks and exciting grappling exchanges between Diaz and either fighter is enough to make the match worth booking.  

About The Author

Jonny Hodds

Jonny Hodds geeks out over MMA, RPGs, comic books, board games, documentaries, and all things horror/sci-fi/fantasy related. When he was 10 years old, he was shown a karate video of a “master sensei” getting kicked in the junk repeatedly without flinching. To this day, he still believes this is the only true form of mixed martial arts. He also spends far too much time online for his own good.