Matthew Riddle vs. winner of Patrick Cote/Bobby Voelker
It was not pretty, but it was a win. Riddle used his wrestling to continually take Che Mills down. This honestly shows growth, because in the past Riddle was content to brawl on the feet even if he was getting beat up. Now, with three straight wins, it is time for Riddle to take a step up in competition. Whoever wins out of Cote and Voelker would be a logical step. Cote is a former title challenger at middleweight, and with a win over Cote, Voelker would be on a 5-1 streak.
James Te-Huna vs. Glover Teixeira
A lot of people are calling for Te-Huna to face Manuwa, but at 5-1 in the UFC, it is time for Te-Huna to face someone with a little more clout in the division. Yes, Teixeira only has three fights in the Octagon, but he is on a lot of people’s radars as the next big thing in the light-heavyweight division. Te-Huna proved in the fight with Jimmo that he can take a punch (or kick), and he can still come back to win a fight. That is something that would serve him well in a match with Teixeira.
Gunnar Nelson vs. winner of Dan Miller/Jordan Mien
Nelson looked good in the bout with Santiago, but for some reason the abilities of Santiago have never translated well into the Octagon. Nelson needs to face someone that would be able to survive on the ground with him, will not wilt in later rounds, and can challenge him on the feet. Miller has the black belt, has fought some of the best at 185, and is as tough as they come. Mien, at only 23-years old, has a record of 26-8, has 14 wins by knockout, and seven wins by submission. Either of these fighters would be a good test for Nelson as he continues to evolve in his MMA career.
Jim Manuwa vs. Ryan Bader
Manuwa does deserve a step up in competition, but he does not need to face someone on a streak like Te-Huna. Bader would be the perfect step up. Recent losses have dropped Bader from contention, but he is still a tough fight for anyone. Plus, it would be a chance to test Manuwa’s ground game. Yes, Manuwa took down and controlled Diabate, but Diabate is not a former Division 1 wrestler like Bader.
Cub Swanson vs. Chad Mendes
Yes, Mendes already has a fight lined up, but injury could always change that. If Swanson wants to face Jose Aldo, he needs to prove he is a changed fighter than the man who was knocked out in seven seconds. Given that Swanson is on an impressive four-fight win streak, and that all the people he beat are good but not on Mendes’ level, this rematch from August, 2010 would show if Swanson has changed and if he is ready for the champ.
Renan Barao vs. Dominick Cruz
This is the only bantamweight title fight that makes sense at this time. In between Barao and Cruz, they have taken out all of the UFC’s top ten bantamweights except for four. Out of those four, only Eddie Wineland and Rafael Assuncao have won two or more fights. As long as Cruz can stay healthy he should face off with Barao, and in the meantime Wineland and Assuncao can take each other on for number-one contendership.