TUF 22 Finale: Matches To Make

John Locher|Associated Press

Frankie Edgar shocked Chad Mendes and the MMA world with his first round knockout of the Team Alpha Male stand out at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale. Edgar has a reputation as a cardio machine more likely to pick up a close decision win than anything else, but he changed that perception in a big way on Friday night. Most had pegged Mendes as the man with the power in his hands coming into this match up, but Edgar clipped the NCAA wrestler with a perfectly placed left hook just a few minutes into their highly anticipated bout. Mendes' legs buckled and he hit the canvas as Edgar attacked with several follow up shots, forcing referee 'Big' John McCarthy to stop the contest. This stunning result has big implications for the careers of both Edgar and Mendes. Let us now look to the future and at potential opponents for the top eight main card fighters. Frankie Edgar: Edgar's next fight will almost certainly be a title bout, but the opponent he meets will depend entirely on whether UFC featherweight champion Conor McGregor opts to stay at featherweight or moves up in an attempt to claim the lightweight title. If the Irish superstar stays at featherweight, a clash with Edgar is the obvious fight to make, but if McGregor moves up to 155-pounds I see the UFC booking Edgar in an interim title rematch against former champ Jose Aldo. Chad Mendes: This was an absolutely devastating defeat to Mendes as he has now suffered losses to all three of the top featherweights in the world. His next bout will likely be against a fringe top ten opponent; a fight with the heavy handed Jeremy Stephens would tell us a lot about whether Mendes' chin is the issue or if the Edgar loss was just a case of getting caught by a fighter at the top of his game. Ryan Hall: Hall put forth a dominant performance against Artem Lobov but one that was far from fan friendly. He should meet a fighter willing to scramble with him on the ground next time out. Hall has indicated previously that he will be dropping to featherweight or possibly even to bantamweight after the show, so I like him against the winner of the Alex Cacares vs. Masio Fullen fight, particularly if "Bruce Leeroy" wins that bout. Artem Lobov: Lobov lost a lackluster decision to Hall and could very easily be cut. His closeness to Conor McGregor leads me to believe he will get one more chance in the UFC, probably against a fellow banger in need of a win like Alex White. Tony Ferguson: Tony Ferguson looked sensational in his victory over Edson Barboza, showcasing a well rounded, unqiue and hyper-aggressive game before tapping the Brazilian with his signature D'Arce choke. It is safe to say that "El Cucuy" has established himself as one of the most exciting and most fearsome fighters in the UFC; he is currently on a seven fight winning streak and could easily be awarded the next title shot. If Conor McGregor moves up to lightweight, however, one would have to think that Ferguson is bumped from top contender status. The logical fight for Ferguson in that scenario is a title eliminator bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov in early 2016. Edson Barboza: Barboza looked as good as ever before being submitted by Ferguson so this loss does nothing to damage his stock. I have wanted to see him square off with Nate Diaz for some time now and if Diaz loses to Michael Johnson next weekend I believe that Barboza vs. Diaz is the fight to make. Evan Dunham: Evan Dunham looked excellent in his win over Joe Lauzon, showing off vastly improved striking en route to a clear unanimous decision victory. Michael Chiesa, who is also coming off a win over a veteran lightweight in Jim Miller, would be a natural next opponent for Dunham. Joe Lauzon: Lauzon just couldn't seem to find his rhythm on the feet at Friday night's event, struggling to have success anywhere against the well rounded Dunham. He has been and always will be a fan favourite so I think Lauzon's next booking should reflect that status. A match up with the loser of the Paul Felder vs. Daron Cruickshank bout would be very entertaining and a chance for Lauzon to pick up a much needed win.

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