Last night, the Ultimate Fighting Championship returned to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada for UFC 183: Silva vs. Diaz. Tonight’s event had some fantastic finishes, fights to shape up the title picture for multiple divisions, and the highly anticipated returns of controversial fan favorite, Nick Diaz, and former middleweight title holder and #1 P4P fighter in the world, Anderson Silva.

Thiago Santos: Thiago “Maretta” Santos (10-3)  earned his second UFC victory tonight via 1st round TKO with yet another brutal body kick and follow up punches, against Andy Enz (7-3). Santos has put together a 2-2 record with the promotion with his two losses and first win coming against very stiff competition. Santos has incredible power on the feet and needs an opponent who will match well with his style, as well as challenge him. My pick for his next opponent is TUF 17 alum, Josh Samman. Samman (11-2) is coming off of a highlight reel head kick knockout against TUF 19 winner Eddie Gordon. Samman has crisp stand up skills and a great top game on the mat. I feel this is a match that will test both fighters and see how far they can go further into the Middleweight rankings.

Ildemar Alcantara: Alcantara (21-7) made his 6th appearance in the Octagon on Saturday night. After a 1-0 stint at 205 and a 2-2 stint at 170, “Marajo” found a middle ground at 185 and picked up a split decision victory over TUF Brazil 3 finalist Richardson “Monstro” Moreira. Alcantara is 28 fight veteran of the sport and its time he is matched with a UFC main stay. My pick for his next opponent is “Filthy” Tom Lawlor (9-5, 1 NC) has been on the UFC roster since 2008 and is a seasoned veteran of the fight game, despite only having a 15 fight resume.

Rafael Natal: Renzo Gracie fighter Rafael “Sapo” Natal (19-6-1) picked up an impressive unanimous decision verdict over British striker Tom “Kong” Watson (17-8) Saturday night, picking up his 7th win in the Octagon. Natal has made 12 appearance in the UFC since joining the roster in September 2010. Natal came into the UFC with an excellent ground game and has evolved tremendously as a fighter and is now quite skilled on the feet as well. It’s time for Natal to be matched with an opponent inside the top 15 and I see Brad Tavares as the perfect candidate. Tavares (13-3) came onto the UFC scene while competing on the 11th season of the Ultimate Fighter. The Hawaiian native has put together an incredibly impressive (8-3) record. Tavares got back on track defeating seasoned vet, Nate Marquardt, by unanimous decision at UFC 182 in January.

John Lineker: The man with the heaviest hands at 125 picked up a unanimous decision win against  #3 ranked Ian “Uncle Creepy” McCall (13-5) on Saturday night. Lineker (25-7), an OCS Jiu Jitsu and American Top Team product, grabbed his 6th Octagon victory, now holding an impressive promotional record of 6-2. There is a damper on the picture of this fight. Lineker missed weight yet again and is being forced to move up to Bantamweight by UFC Dana White. Ultimately, this fight completely shattered the title picture for the Flyweight division. With Lineker being such a high ranking fighter before moving up I feel as if they aren’t going to do him any favors. Lineker enjoys a good slug fest and needs to be tested at 135 right out of the gate so my pick is Mexican fighter Erik “Goyito” Perez. Team Jackson-Wink brawler Perez (14-6), has been exciting UFC fans since his debut at the TUF 15 Finale in June 2012, where he submitted John Albert in the 1st round by armbar. A 17 second knockout of Ken Stone and another 1st round TKO finish of Byron Bloodworth quickly led to “Goyito” being a fan favorite with his love and willingness to brawl spawned from his Mexican fighting spirit. Perez has since went 1-2.

Derek Brunson: Brunson (13-3) picked up his 4th win Saturday night with a 36 second TKO of a nearly 12 year veteran of the fight game, in Ed “Short Fuse” Herman (22-11, 1 NC) Jackson-Winklejohn’s Brunson has fought a majority of his MMA career dominating his opponents with his wrestling, but lately Brunson has found huge success in his striking game. Derek Brunson could easily be on his way to the top 10 of the division if he continues to perform like he did Saturday night. Brunson is ready for another Top 15 opponent and my candidate is Costa Philippou. Cyprus native, Philippou (13-4), is a 9 fight Octagon veteran known for his boxing skills.  Philippou is recently coming off a 1st round KO of highly talented Lorenz Larkin. I feel Brunson poses a lot of threats for Philippou on the mat, but Brunson has had issues with heavy handed fighters with excellent takedown defense in the past, so I feel this is a test Brunson needs to take.

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By: Cody Kennedy

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