UFC 286 went down yesterday (Sat., March 18, 2023) inside The O2 in London, England, featuring several thrilling pay-per-view (PPV) main card of fights. In the headlining act, Leon Edwards retained his Welterweight title by edging out Kamaru Usman via majority decision (recap here). Co-headlining the event was a thrilling back-and-forth Lightweight battle that saw Justin Gaethje defeat Rafael Fiziev (also via majority decision).
Winner: Leon Edwards
Who He Should Face Next: Colby Covington
This one is a given seeing as how UFC President, Dana White, confirmed the booking during UFC 286’s post-fight presser (details here). But, “Rocky” isn’t convinced that Covington is the next man up. Whether he likes it or not, though, “Chaos” will indeed be on deck if that’s what Dana White and Co. think is best for business. Covington is ranked No. 3, so unless Edwards is looking to give Khamzat Chimaev a shot, that’s the title fight to make. The two have already started with the trash talk, so perhaps a collision at UFC 290 in July will be a good co-main event complement to the potential Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic Heavyweight title fight.
Winner: Justin Gaethje
Who He Should Fight Next: Dustin Poirier rematch
Current 155-pound champion, Islam Makhachev, may not return until late 2023, so there is no point in having the top contenders wait around to see who gets gifted the next title shot. Beneil Dariush and Charles Oliveira will tango in May, so I would like to see Gaethje and Poirier run it back to see who makes the better statement between all of those four top Lightweights to get Makhachev next. Poirier defeated Gaethje in an epic brawl in 2018 via fourth round technical knockout, so we are likely guaranteed another fight for the ages if this rematch is booked.
Winner: Gunnar Nelson
Who He Should Fight Next: Daniel Rodriguez
Nelson returned in a big way, submitting Bryan Barberena with a slick armbar in the first round of their Welterweight showdown. Nelson currently finds himself on the outside of the Top 15 looking in, so he has his work cut out for him if he wants to break back in. “Gunni” was initially slated to face Daniel Rodriguez at UFC 286 before he withdrew for personal reasons, so If all is well on Rodriguez’s side, I would like to see UFC matchmakers re-book this stellar match up.
Winner: Jennifer Maia
Who She Should Face Next: Jessica Andrade
Maia picked up her second straight win and handed Casey O’Neill her first-ever defeat. Maia is currently ranked No. 8, but should make a huge jump in the rankings later this week. Lauren Murphy, Katlyn Chookagian, Jessica Andrade and Talia Santos are ranked ahead of her and are all coming off losses. Erin Blanchfield and Manon Fiorot are likely to be paired up next, so if we had to choose a match up against Andrade seems like the best option. The two have actually faced off before, with Andrade defeating Maia under the Samurai FC banner more than one decade ago, so let’s match them up one more time on the big stage.
Winner: Marvin Vettori
Who He Should Face Next: Jared Cannonier
Vettori got back in the win column with an impressive win over Roman Dolidze six months removed from his loss to former champion, Robert Whittaker. Currently sitting in the No. 4 spot, Vettori could very well be paired up against Jared Cannonier next. “Killa Gorilla” is ranked No. 3 and is coming off a win over Sean Strickland. The winner of this potential fight would have a good case for a shot at the 185-pound division title.
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