UFC 290 went down last night (Sat., July 8, 2023) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, in what truly was an exciting night of fights. In the main event of the evening, Alexander Volkanovski passed his latest test, stopping Yair Rodriguez to unify the Featherweight belts (highlights). In UFC 290’s co-main event, Alexandre Pantoja picked up his third win over Brandon Moreno, defeating him via split decision to become the new Flyweight champion, while Dricus Du Plessis scored the biggest win of his career by stopping former Middleweight kingpin, Robert Whittaker (see it here).
Winner: Alexander Volkanovski
Who He Should Face Next: Ilia Topuria
After defeating Rodriguez, Volkanovski revealed that he would be going under the knife to repair a lingering injury, but he expected to compete at the end of the year. There is a possibility of a rematch against Lightweight champion, Islam Makhachev, but I’m not feeling that at the moment — it’s too soon. When he does return, Ilia Topuria will be waiting for “The Great” in the center of the Octagon because he punched his No. 1 contender ticket after defeating Josh Emmett a few weeks ago to improve to 14-0, 6-0 UFC. It’s a great matchup between two streaking Featherweights, one dominating the game for nearly four years now, and another trying to end that reign to begin his own.
Winner: Alexandre Pantoja
Who He Should Face Next: Amir Albazi ...?
If we are going by rankings, Albazi — who is ranked No. 3 — should be next. That’s because Deiveson Figueredo — who is ranked No. 1 — has decided to take his talents to the Bantamweight division. Albazi is on a six-fight win streak and is coming off a win over former title challenger, Kai Kara France. An instant rematch against Brandon Moreno isn't out of the question, but I don’t feel it’s warranted because Pantoja clearly won the fight — despite some awful judging — and already has three victories over the former Mexican-born champion.
Winner: Dricus Du Plessis
Who He Should Face Next: Israel Adesanya title fight
After Du Plessis knocked out Robert Whittaker, he had his first face-to-face confrontation with Middleweight champion, Adesanya, in the center of the cage. And things got ugly real quick because “The Last Stylebender” decided to go racial on “DDP,” who got under Adesanya’s skin previously by declaring that he was the only true African fighter on UFC’s roster. The build up is already intense between these two and they will likely settle their beef in the main event of UFC 293 on Sept. 9, 2023, in Sydney, Australia.
Winner: Dan Hooker
Who He Should Face Next: Rafael dos Anjos, maybe?
Hooker fought through a broken wrist against a tough Jalin Turner and managed to pull off a razor-thin split decision win to picked up his second straight victory (see scorecard). He also got 20 percent of Turner’s purse after he failed to make weight. The Lightweight landscape will look a bit different when he does return following his injury, but if Rafael dos Anjos decides to go back to 155 pounds — where he is currently ranked No. 9 — I wouldn’t mind that matchup for “Hangman.”
Winner: Bo Nickal
Who He Should Face Next: This one is tough ...
Nickal continued his rapid ascension, scoring his second straight win inside the Octagon (fifth first round finish overall) by knocking out late replacement, Val Woodburn, in just 38 seconds (watch highlights). There is not telling how Dana White and UFC matchmakers are going to pursue his next fight because the popular opinion is that they won’t pair him up with higher-caliber competition too soon. There is always the chance they re-book the Tresean Gore fight, but there may be no interest in that (if there ever was to begin with). He will be facing tougher opposition moving forward, but how fast UFC wants to push remains to be seen. That said, I leave it to you to let us know who you think Nickal should face next.
For complete UFC 290: “Volkanovski vs. Rodriguez” results and play-by-play, click HERE.