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Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Kevin Lee and UFC Fight Night 128's other winning fighters?


The UFC made its return to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., for the first time in more than 13 years Saturday with UFC Fight Night 128, which had a six-fight main card that aired on FS1.

In the main event, Kevin Lee (17-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) continued to establish himself as threat in the lightweight division when he picked up a fifth-round TKO victory over Edson Barboza (19-6 MMA, 13-6 UFC).

Ex-champ Frankie Edgar (23-6-1 MMA, 17-6-1 UFC) added another memorable win to his lengthy UFC career in the co-headliner, while other winners included Justin Willis (7-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), David Branch (22-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC), Aljamain Sterling (15-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) and Dan Hooker (16-7 MMA, 6-3 UFC).

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 128’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Dan Hooker

Alexander Hernandez

Should fight: Alexander Hernandez
Why they should fight: Hooker’s decision to move up to the lightweight division continues to prove to be a good one. He improved to 3-0 since jumping to the weight class when he took out one of the organization’s most respected veterans in Jim Miller.

The striking talent of Hooker has always made him enjoyable to watch, but the first-round knockout win over Miller showed he can put more of a complete game together, and that makes him a wildcard in a stacked 155-pound weight class.

Miller joins Marc Diakiese and Ross Pearson on the list of names on Hooker’s recent winning streak. That’s a mix of veteran talent and a younger prospect, so Hooker’s next fight should come somewhere in between. Hernandez (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) might be unproven overall, but his 42-second starching of Beneil Dariush in his octagon debut at UFC 222 put him on the radar in the weight class. Hooker has been around long enough that he could help prove whether “The Great” is as good as his nickname states.

Aljamain Sterling

John Dodson

Should fight: John Dodson
Why they should fight: Following an ugly knockout loss in his previous fight, Sterling got himself back on track and made a statement in the process when he put the first blemish on the record of unbeaten bantamweight prospect Brett Johns.

Johns came into the fight with a 15-fight winning streak, but Sterling shut that down with a unanimous decision win. The type of knockout Sterling suffered against Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Night 123 in December would be hard for some athletes to come back from, but Sterling showed to be an improved version of his previous self, and that puts him back line with name fight in the 135-pound weight class.

Many of the notable names in the division are tied up with injuries or fight bookings, but Dodson (20-9 MMA, 9-4 UFC) is someone who is available. Unfortunately, there’s a bit of a catch.

Dodson became a free agent following his split-decision victory over Pedro Munhoz at UFC 222 in March. He said he’d like to remain with the UFC, but whether or not that happens remains to be seen. If he does stick around, though, a showdown with Sterling would be a compelling clash of styles.

David Branch

Derek Brunson

Should fight: Derek Brunson
Why they should fight: Branch got his best win since returning to the UFC for a second stint this past year when he shut down the winning streak of Thiago “Marreta” Santos with a wild first-round knockout.

The former two-division WSOF champ may have fallen short in his big main-event spot against Luke Rockhold in September, but taking out Santos is an impressive way to get some momentum back on his side and put his name in the running for key middleweight fights.

Branch will be looking to fight up in the divisional rankings, and Brunson (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) is someone willing and able to fight. “The One” is coming off a loss to Ronaldo Souza at UFC on FOX 27 in January, but is looking to get a fight in soon. Branch would be a logical foe.

Justin Willis

Adam Wieczorek

Should fight: Adam Wieczorek
Why they should fight: Willis continues to show promise in his young UFC career when he scored his third-straight win to kick off his octagon tenure with a unanimous decision victory over a tough fighter in Chase Sherman.

“Big Pretty” is one of the primary training partners of UFC light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier at American Kickboxing Academy, and he’s certainly shown traits of a fighter who could come out of that camp. Willis is someone who could have a future in the heavyweight division, but as is said so many times with a newer fighter: He should be groomed carefully.

Wieczorek (10-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) is coming off a huge win of his own against Arjan Bhullar at UFC on FOX 29 this past weekend. He scored just the second omoplata finish in UFC history, and against a credentialed wrestler at that. Willis comes from a similar background, and you can be certain he doesn’t think Wieczorek can do the same thing to him.

Frankie Edgar

Chan Sung Jung

Should fight: Chan Sung Jung
Why they should fight: Edgar put himself back near the top of the queue in the UFC featherweight title picture when he defeated fellow contender Cub Swanson for the second time.

Although there were critics about the turnaround time from his first career knockout loss against Brian Ortega at UFC 222 just six weeks ago, Edgar once again displayed his resilience when he scored a unanimous decision victory over Swanson.

Edgar managed to beat Swanson by fifth-round submission in their first meeting at UFC Fight Night 57 in November 2014, and his second win proved without a doubt that he’s the superior competitor. “The Answer” may have lost out on his title shot against with his loss to Ortega, but as has been the case so many times in his career, he’s managed to rebuild himself.

He may not get a title shot for the win off Swanson, but he’s right in position. He can prove worthy with another win, and Jung (14-4 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is someone who could help him get there. “The Korean Zombie” is looking to come back from injury later this year, and although he’s been inactive in recent years, he’s still one of the best at 145 pounds and in all likelihood would give Edgar a thrilling fight. In fact, he even called for the fight himself.

Kevin Lee

Should fight: Eddie Alvarez
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Lee should fight Alvarez (29-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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