In the hectic world of MMA, there are dozens of questions surrounding a given event, but when the dust settles, there is usually only one: what’s next?
After the conclusion of each main card, Mike Heck and Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting will come back to the results, read the tea leaves, stir the cauldron and make suggestions on what should – or could – be next for the names. notable of this card. .
In this edition, we match the stars of UFC 249, including Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, and Dominick Cruz, Mike focusing on what the UFC is likely to do and Alex offering mouthwatering alternatives.
((Bantam-weight champion Henry Cejudo is excluded from this discussion because he announced his retirement following his victory over Cruz and will certainly stick to it, as all the fighters have done in the past.)
MH: Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0)
It’s about as simple as it gets when it comes to matchmaking, right?
What Justin Gaethje did on Saturday night was as impressive as you will see in a UFC title fight. “The Highlight” displayed for almost 24 minutes against one of the most enduring and talented fighters in the history of the Lightweight Division.
Of course, there is always the imminent factor which is Conor McGregor, but I don’t think even the biggest star in the sport can influence this one. This is a title unification fight or something is really wrong, which would require a much deeper conversation than this should ever be.
AL: Conor McGregor (22-4)
Look, reserving something other than Gaethje against Nurmagomedov would be a travesty, but if for some reason this fight can’t happen soon, and Gaethje wants to stay busy, then give him McGregor.
It’s a fight that Gaethje has pursued in the past, before he knew that an interim title fight was in the cards. Now that he’s the undisputed best competitor at 155 pounds, he calls the shots and I doubt he would say no if a fight against McGregor was launched.
Gaethje deserves another massive fight, no matter who he is, and there are a lot of fans who would love to see McGregor added to the “The Highlight” reel.
MH: No one for a little while
Something tells me that Tony Ferguson’s biggest challenge after leaving UFC 249 will be Tony Ferguson himself. “El Cucuy” deserves a ton of credit. Not only did he endure an impious punishment until his body could no longer bear Gaethje, but no one would have blamed him if he had rather waited for this long-awaited title fight with his biggest rival Khabib Nurmagomedov.
More importantly, no one has made more headlines in the past two months than Ferguson. As much as fans should pat Dana White and the UFC on the back for their role in bringing professional sport back to our lives, Ferguson also deserves congratulations.
For all of his efforts, the 36-year-old should be able to take as long as it takes to determine his next move. There is no need to rush him into a fight with a McGregor, or a Dustin Poirier, or anyone until the end of 2020. With so much uncertainty in the world and in the current promotion landscape , the heavyweight division should play a little more. In this case, Ferguson will have many interesting options.
AL: Dustin Poirier (25-6, 1 NC)
Here’s a potential battle for fan favorites that fans might hate seeing their appreciation for the two fighters.
Much like Ferguson’s rise to the fight with Gaethje, there would be little chatter between “El Cucuy” and “The Diamond”, just the anticipation of another classic piece for these men to add to their resumes. Ferguson is not one to take a step back in the standings, so if he wants to stay firmly grounded in that competitor’s circle, then Poirier is exactly the kind of name he should be paired with.
It may seem cruel to throw Ferguson into the cage with a heavy hitter like Poirier after what we have just seen, but he has fought a litany of savages during his 12-game winning streak and there is no reason why ‘He’s changing course now.
MH: Frankie Edgar (23-8-1)
After a layoff of almost four years, Dominick Cruz returned to the toughest match possible at Henry Cejudo.
“The Dominator” has proven that there is gas left in the tank after its long stay, but it is a completely different division from what it was when it was defeated by Cody Garbrandt in December 2016. With Cejudo potentially out of the picture, Dana White said that “Petr Yan and” someone “would be fighting for the vacant bantamweight title, possibly either Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen, or his current opponent, Marlon Moraes.
I can just have “The answer” for Cruz’s next opponent.
Frankie Edgar is looking for a big fight when he debuts at 135 pounds. Although it looks like Cruz and Edgar’s best days are behind them with the naked eye, no one would complain about a battle between legends and former champions who are looking to bounce back from losing losses.
AL: Jose Aldo (28-6)
Cruz is probably looking for names of 135-pound marquees that he has not already met. Fortunately for him, a big fish has just swum in his pond.
It was Aldo who was supposed to challenge Cejudo for the bantamweight title before the coronavirus pandemic undermined the plans of every fighter not based in the United States. Cruz ended up receiving the call and although he fell to Cejudo in the second round, there was plenty of evidence that The Dominator still had a lot to offer at the twilight of his career.
Aldo is a living legend and the idea that Cruz went up to a division to challenge him during their respective championship reigns was not a pipe dream. Now that Aldo has proven he can achieve rooster weight, it’s closer than ever to becoming a reality.
MH: Daniel Cormier (22-2, 1 NC)
The Francis Ngannou who made his way to a heavyweight title when he joined the UFC was a scary man. Francis Ngannou 2.0 is terrifying and it was exposed for the 20 seconds he needed to eliminate Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
It’s simple, but a little confusing. Ngannou’s next fight should be for a title. The question is, who will he fight? Stipe Miocic is the reigning heavyweight champion, but he is also a firefighter during a global pandemic and has nowhere to prepare for his title defense, at least from a legal perspective. Miocic may be out of action until the end of 2020, removing it from the title would be blasphemous.
Daniel Cormier said he has one fight left, and as much as he would like to settle with Miocic once and for all, a potential fight with Ngannou should make him excited. Count on me for “DC” versus “The Predator” for temporary gold.
AL: Stipe Miocic (19-3)
No need to think about it too much. If it’s not an interim fight with Cormier, then Ngannou should get shot at Miocic every time the man who broke Cleveland’s curse is ready to fight again.
Yes, Cormier is a new confrontation, but there is a sense of unfinished business between Ngannou and Miocic since they fought at UFC 220. The Predator could very well be the future of the heavyweight division and he would do wonders for his reputation if he could take revenge on this loss. We really do not know how much Ngannou has improved since his first opportunity for the title, because he transported his opponents before the opening bell even finished ringing, so a victory in revenge on Miocic would answer a lot of questions.
Anyway, Ngannou’s next fight is better for a gold belt and a big check.
MH: Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC)
Let me say that if I had an additional $ 50,000 in income, I would give it to Calvin Kattar following his vicious knockout victory over Jeremy Stephens. Unfortunately for Kattar, he will have to make do with a hundred words.
“The Boston Finisher” not only won, it sent a message to the best players in an intriguing featherweight division. Kattar deserves an opponent in the top five and seated in this No. 5 position is none other than Yair Rodriguez.
Coincidentally, Rodriguez’s most recent victory was also won against Stephens. No need for a pencil with this one. Take the powerful pen and save it.
AL: Chan Sung Jung (16-5)
You can add Kattar to the growing list of featherweights that every fight has to see. Eliminating Stephens is no small feat, and the very fact that Kattar was ready to stand up to him indicates that he will become a matchmaker’s dream for the next few years.
The same could be said of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Without the fact that Jung was bitten by injuries, his list of classic fights would be twice as long. We are currently recovering from eye surgery, hope the 33-year-old will be luckier in the future and see him paired with guys like Kattar, Brian Ortega and Zabit Magomedsharipov.
Kattar is able to launch explosive combinations and TKZ specializes in walking through anything his opponent throws at him. Match them up and see if Kattar can find a way to kill the zombie.
MH: Al Iaquinta (14-6-1)
As we discussed in the UFC 249 post-show, there is a new flight review in your future with revenge between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. Despite the way everyone at home scored, Pettis went 2-0 against “Cowboy” after winning a unanimous decision.
So what’s next for Pettis? As he stated in his post-fight media fray, “Showtime” would like to spend a little more time at 155 pounds before deciding on a permanent move to 170. As much as Pettis would like to fulfill his wish and land a rematch with Tony Ferguson, it doesn’t happen.
Participating in the promotion return event in less than ideal conditions will be favorable to Dana White and the UFC brass. If we’re going to reward Pettis and give him a top 10 opponent, how about a fight with Al Iaquinta?
“Raging Al” has lost consecutive fights and three of its last four games. Having a guy like Pettis on his resume should, at least, intrigue the outspoken Iaquinta and we would have a fun match between two recognizable names in the lightweight standings.
AL: Vicente Luque (18-7-1)
I think anyone can guess where Pettis is fighting next as he bounces between two weight classes more frequently than any other fighter in the past two years.
Selfishly, I want him to stay at 170 because I think it’s a perfect match for Vicente Luque, who was also victorious in a rematch against Niko Price on Saturday. Luque is on the verge of becoming tall and even if Stephen Thompson was a bridge too far for him at this point, “Showtime” is exactly who he should be against at this point in his career.
On the Pettis side, it would be unusual for him to fight with a promising player like Luque, but he and his team must respect what “The Silent Assassin” has done in his 14 UFC appearances so far. and recognize that it would be an almost guaranteed overnight combat bonus, especially if given a main event of five rounds to work with.
MH: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-1)
Aleksei Oleinik was a 2-1 outsider before fighting with Fabricio Werdum and, as he had done three times before, he proved that the odds were wrong, winning a split decision win over the former champion heavy weights.
“The Boa Constrictor” now has 59 wins in 73 professional fights and has no intention of slowing down. In fact, in his post-fight media fray, Oleinik said he had “seven to ten years left”. If we want to give Oleinik a step ahead of the competition, Jairzinho Rozenstruik makes sense.
It was a difficult evening for “Bigi Boy” because he was eliminated by Francis Ngannou in just 20 seconds. Rozenstruik will likely drop a few places in the standings and a clash with Oleinik, although he has his share of danger, is the one he would likely be preferred to win.
AL: Derrick Lewis (23-7, 1 NC)
Let’s go weird!
The only thing fans could hate more than a Derrick Lewis look competition is a Derrick Lewis grappling exhibit, but a confrontation with Oleinik would be intriguing. Oleinik proved against Werdum that he was not shy in taking Werdum down while throwing his hands with unbridled enthusiasm. It was almost a Russian tribute to the swangin ‘and the bangin’ when it came to Lewis’s innovative style.
This is a grappler vs attacking confrontation with a touch. Oleinik is a game on its feet and he had made a fiery effort while doing everything in his power to bring Lewis to the mat. “The Black Beast” has only been submitted once in his career, so why not test this ground defense against Oleinik’s 1,001?
MH: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4)
Carla Esparza found herself on the right end of consecutive controversial split decisions after her victory over Michelle Waterson.
My initial thought was to look at the post-fight legend of Esparza by Claudia Gadelha, who won a very controversial victory over “The Cookie Monster” at UFC 225. Gadelha should face Angela Hill in Jacksonville on May 16. Everything is aligned, right? Timing, controversy, scenario: he ticks all the boxes.
I changed my mind.
If we’re going to do a rematch, let’s go back with the woman who beat Esparza for the straw title over five years ago: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. At UFC 185, Jedrzejczyk not only won the Esparza title, but also regained confidence after a brutal TKO victory in the second round.
If timing is everything, what better time to take revenge for the most devastating loss of his career than facing Jedrzejczyk, coming out of his most difficult and damaging loss.
AL: Yan Xiaonan (12-1)
I also really like Jedrzejczyk’s rematch because Esparza did enough to deserve another chance for the woman who ended her title of straw champion before she could even start.
However, Esparza has also proven to be an excellent goalkeeper and there is no shame in accepting this role for promotion. She has already stifled the likes of top prospects Alexa Grasso and Cynthia Calvillo, so it’s not like she’s strictly a talent for improvement. If you want to prove that you deserve a place in the top 5, Esparza is one of the fighters you have to cross.
Yan Xiaonan is on an absolute tear and she made a mess of Karolina Kowalkiewicz, sole challenger for the UFC title during her previous outing. She seems to be locked in a future meeting with her friend and country woman Zhang Weili, but Esparza could rush in and seize this opportunity for herself with upset.
MH: Geoff Neal (13-2)
My immediate thought after Vicente Luque’s relentless victory over Niko’s incredibly enduring prize is that a fight with Geoff Neal must be next.
Neal is ranked one place above Luque, and it would be the first time that the “Handz of Steel” outbreak has faced an opponent in the top 15. There is no more play than Luque. This one has fireworks and bonus money written all over it.
AL: Anthony Pettis (23-10)
See the Pettis section above. I would add that for Luque, this confrontation makes sense both from the point of view of CV building and as a litmus test to know where he really stands as a candidate. Is he just the best in the middle of the pack, destined to achieve nothing more than viral finishes and post-fight bonuses? Or does he have this extra championship gear? Was “Wonderboy” just the worst possible confrontation for him?
Thompson has made many fighters stupid and although a rematch between him and Luque is probably not on the cards, Luque can use MMA math to advance the rankings by defeating Pettis, the man who knocked out Thompson l ‘last year.
MH: Andre Fili (20-7)
Bryce Mitchell passed his litmus test against Charles Rosa with flying colors. It was an incredible night for “Thug Nasty” because he made a dominant decision and it looks like he will finally get his Reebok camouflage shorts.
I get it. When you see a performance like Mitchell’s at UFC 249, the natural tendency is to push him into the top 15 games. I’m not saying he’s not ready for this kind of competitive progression, there is simply no need to rush.
Andre “Touchy” Fili from a stylistic, experience and meritocratic point of view makes a lot of sense. Not only would you have a battle between two of the sport’s best nicknames, but Fili would provide the kind of opposition to Mitchell that is needed. If Mitchell got a win over a guy like Fili – who some say did enough to beat compatriot Sodiq Yusuff at UFC 246 – it would undoubtedly place him in the top 15.
AL: Ryan Hall (8-1)
Full disclosure: Ryan Hall will be mentioned at least once per edition of On the next, even if no one near his weight has fought on the card in question. It’s a rule for the future. Accept it.
I cannot be blamed this time however. Against Rosa, a legitimate black belt of jiu-jitsu, Mitchell showed that he was a force to be reckoned with on the field. His tenacity and technique will be a problem for anyone who weighs 145 pounds and who dares to ride with him … well everyone except “The Wizard”.
Nobody, I mean PERSON, wants to spend a single second with Hall on the carpet for fear of eventually working against Hall in position 50-50 – which in Hall’s case is more like position 100-0 – and having legs wiped out. That said, young Bryce Mitchell is probably crazy enough to try it.
Two featherweight grapplers with spotless UFC records that stand by for 15 minutes? Sign me up.