The UFC kicked off 2013 with an interesting fight card that featured an array of stoppages as well as a solid main event between middleweights Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort. Several talented Brazilian fighters made emphatic statements in Sao Paulo whilst others have failed to live up to expectations. 

Here are the fights to make after UFC on FX 7:

1. Vitor Belfort vs. Chris Weidman

Yes, I am well aware that Weidman is currently injured. His return date is tentatively set for the summer and this could potentially be his first fight back. Belfort has proven that he is significantly better than most of the middleweights in the division and if Weidman could pick up a decisive victory over the Brazilian, then there is simply no way to deny him a title shot against the champ. A win over Belfort would certainly increase his stock and marketability–traits that Weidman sorely lacks. As for ‘The Phenom”, he is unlikely to get his sought after title rematch against Jon Jones so he should continue to look for big fights  and a win over Weidman could possibly earn him a second shot at Anderson Silva.

2. Michael Bisping vs. Lombard/Okami winner

Michael Bisping saw his title aspirations disappear on Saturday night with a definitive head-kick knockout delivered by Brazilian legend Vitor Belfort. Although this is now the Brit’s third failed attempt at no.1 contender status, he is still deserving of a top fight in his next outing. His salary is simply too high for him to be offered an opponent with no name value or marketability. With their recent issues taken into consideration, a bout with Hector Lombard does not seen out of the ordinary. The bout is marketable and is exactly the kind of win that Lombard needs to earn a title shot against Silva. The Cuban himself has expressed more interest in this match-up than in a title shot against the champ.

3. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Wiman/Grant winner

Khabib Nurmagomedov earned his third straight octagon win and extended his undefeated streak to 19-0 making him the top Russian prospect currently in the UFC. Whilst his striking style is unorthodox to say the least, it is still extremely effective, as was seen on Saturday night. The win over Tavares earns him yet another step up in competition, this time against the winner of next week’s Wiman vs. Grant match-up. Both competitors are a significant step up from Tavares and would be a great measuring stick in determining if Nurmagomedov is ready for a top 10 opponent.

4. Edson Barboza vs. Cruickshank/Makdessi winner

Barboza rebounded from his first octagon loss with a crushing victory over the debuting Lucas Martins. Whilst the loss to Varner did in fact lower his stock amongst fans, it is clear that he is one of the top prospects in the division. He trains with the likes of Frankie Edgar, which would undoubtedly help improve his overall game. Next for Barboza should be a match-up with the winner of Daron Cruickshank and John Makdessi at UFC 158. Both competitors are strikers and could potentially make for a great fight for the fans.

Follow Karim Zidan (@TheFlyingKneeTO) for all the latest MMA news and updates.

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