Five Essential Matches To Make Following UFC 145

Following Saturday's UFC 145 event at the Philips Arena in Atlanta, Jon Jones further cemented his spot atop the 205-pound division, while future contenders emerged in their respective weight classes. In this week's "Five Essential Matches to Make", we'll attempt to make logical sense of possible future matches.

Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson: After essentially clearing out most of the top-ranked light-heavyweight contenders, Jon Jones has been eliminating title contenders faster than they can come up. In the past year alone Bones has defeated the likes of Ryan Bader, Mauricio Rua, Quinton Jackson and most recently, Rashad Evans. While young prospects like Alexander Gustafsson and veterans like Dan Henderson could provide for exciting matches, Jones' list of opponents is seemingly growing thin.

Henderson has been patiently waiting on the sidelines for a championship opponent to emerge and will now get one. UFC president Dana White announced on Saturday that Henderson is the next in line to challenge for Jones' 205-pound crown, and with recent wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Mauricio Rua, is deserving of the fight.

Rashad Evans vs. Lyoto Machida II: Though Evans tasted defeat for only the second time in his career, the loss shouldn't knock him too far down the ladder, considering he put up on a respectable performance. Aside from his loss to Jones over the weekend, Evans' only other defeat came at the hands of former champion Lyoto Machida in the form of a brutal knockout. 

Machida, meanwhile, will look to get back on the winning track after going 1-3 in his last four outings, including losses to Jones, Quinton Jackson and Mauricio Rua. Having both come off recent losses to Jones in light-heavyweight title bouts, a rematch between Evans and Machida would prove to be an interesting and sensible one at this point.

Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Shields: Simply put, Rory MacDonald appears to be more than ready for the task of facing a top-ranked welterweight. The lone loss of his career came by way of split decision to current interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit, having since bounced back with impressive wins over Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle and Che Mills. Not only has the 22-year-old been consistent in winning as of late, but has looked impressive in doing so.

Jake Shields would prove to be a legitimate opponent for the young up-and-comer at this point in his career. A recent decision win over Yoshihiro Akiyama snapped a two-fight losing skid for the former Strikeforce champ, so a fight with MacDonald would prove to be seemingly beneficial for both parties.

Michael McDonald vs. Brad Pickett: One of the most impressive victories from Saturday's UFC 145 was that of Michael McDonald knocking out former WEC champ Miguel Torres in the first round of their bantamweight encounter. Currently riding an eight-fight win streak, McDonald's knockout of Torres marked his first win over a top-ranked opponent, and he did so in dominant fashion.

Next up for the young knockout artist could very well be division standout Brad Pickett, who recently earned "Fight of the Night" honors for his second-round submission win over Damacio Page earlier this month. The victory marked his tenth in twelve outings, so a fight with McDonald seems to match up well timing-wise for all involved.

Travis Browne vs. Winner of Pat Barry and Lavar Johnson: Travis Browne remains undefeated as a professional after submitting former Strikeforce heavyweight Chad Griggs at Saturday's UFC 145. While Griggs may not be at the top of anyone's rankings, he's always a dangerous fighter nonetheless. Browne made the victory look easy, as he has in many previous outings thus far.

With consecutive wins over Stefan Struve, Rob Broughton and Griggs, the Team Greg Jackson representative is slowly making his way up the heavyweight ladder in impressive fashion. I expect his next opponent to be that of a "name" fighter.

With heavyweight sluggers Pat Barry and Lavar Johnson going to battle at next month's UFC on FOX 3 event, the victor of said fight — whether it be Barry or Johnson — would make for fireworks inside the Octagon.