Within the fast-paced world of MMA, there are dozens of questions surrounding any given occasion, however when the mud settles there’s normally just one: What’s subsequent?

Following the conclusion of each main card, MMA Combating’s Mike Heck and Alexander Ok. Lee will look again on the outcomes, learn the tea leaves, stir the cauldron, and make ideas for what ought to—or may—be subsequent for that card’s notable names.

On this version, we match-make for the celebrities of UFC 249, together with Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson, and Dominick Cruz, with Mike specializing in what the UFC is prone to do and Alex providing some appetizing options.

(Bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo is excluded from this dialogue as he introduced his retirement following his win over Cruz and can assuredly follow it, as each fighter has up to now.)

Justin Gaethje

MH: Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0)

That is about as straightforward because it will get when it will get to matchmaking, proper?

What Justin Gaethje did on Saturday night time was about as spectacular as you’ll ever see in a UFC title combat. “The Spotlight” placed on a showcase for practically 24 minutes in opposition to some of the sturdy and proficient fighters within the historical past of the light-weight division.

In fact, there’s all the time the looming issue that’s Conor McGregor, however I don’t suppose even the largest star within the sport can sway this one. It’s a title unification bout or one thing is critically fallacious, which would wish a way more in-depth dialog than this one ought to ever be.

AL: Conor McGregor (22-4)

Look, reserving something aside from Gaethje vs. Nurmagomedov could be a travesty, but when for no matter cause that combat can’t occur quickly, and Gaethje desires to remain busy, then give him McGregor.

It’s a combat that Gaethje has pursued up to now, earlier than he knew an interim title bout was within the playing cards. Now that he’s the undisputed high contender at 155 kilos, he’s calling the pictures and I doubt he’d say no if a McGregor combat was floated his method.

Gaethje deserves one other large combat subsequent, regardless of who it’s, and there are many followers on the market who would like to see McGregor added to “The Spotlight” reel.

Conor McGregor
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

Tony Ferguson

MH: No one for a short while

One thing tells me that Tony Ferguson’s largest problem popping out of UFC 249 might be Tony Ferguson himself. “El Cucuy” deserves a ton of credit score. Not solely did he stand up to an ungodly quantity of punishment till his physique couldn’t take any extra in opposition to Gaethje, however nobody would have blamed him if he as an alternative waited for that highly-anticipated title combat along with his largest rival in Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Extra importantly, no person made extra headlines over the past two months than Ferguson. As a lot as followers ought to pat Dana White and the UFC on the again for his or her position in bringing skilled sports activities again in our lives, Ferguson deserves kudos as effectively.

For his total efforts, the 36-year-old ought to be capable to take as a lot time as he wants to determine his subsequent transfer. There’s no have to rush him right into a combat with a McGregor, or a Dustin Poirier, or anyone till late 2020. With a lot uncertainty on the earth, and throughout the present panorama of the promotion, the loaded light-weight division ought to play itself out a little bit extra. When it does, Ferguson could have numerous fascinating choices.

AL: Dustin Poirier (25-6, 1 NC)

Right here’s a possible battle of fan favorites that followers may truly hate to see given their appreciation for each fighters.

Very similar to the buildup to Ferguson’s combat with Gaethje, there could be little trash speak between “El Cucuy” and “The Diamond,” simply the anticipation of one other traditional scrap for these males so as to add to their resumes. Ferguson will not be the sort to wish to take a step again within the rankings so if he desires to remain firmly entrenched in that contender’s circle, then Poirier is precisely the sort of title he must be paired up with.

It might appear merciless to throw Ferguson into the cage with a heavy-hitter like Poirier after what we simply witnessed, however he battled a litany of savages throughout his 12-fight win streak and there’s no cause for him to alter course now.

Dominick Cruz

MH: Frankie Edgar (23-8-1)

After an almost four-year layoff, Dominick Cruz returned for the hardest matchup potential in Henry Cejudo.

“The Dominator” proved he has some gasoline left within the tank following his prolonged time away, but it surely’s a totally completely different division than it was when he was defeated by Cody Garbrandt in December 2016. With Cejudo doubtlessly out of the image, Dana White mentioned that “Petr Yan and “anyone” would combat for the vacant bantamweight title, seemingly both Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen, or his present scheduled opponent, Marlon Moraes.

I could have “The Reply” for Cruz’s subsequent opponent.

Frankie Edgar is on the lookout for a giant combat when he makes his debut at 135 kilos. Whereas plainly Cruz and Edgar’s finest days could also be behind them to the bare eye, no person would complain a few battle between legends and former champions who wish to bounce again from stoppage losses.

AL: Jose Aldo (28-6)

Cruz is probably going looking for marquee names at 135 kilos that he hasn’t already confronted. Fortunate for him, a giant fish simply swam into his pond.

It was Aldo who was alleged to problem Cejudo for the bantamweight title earlier than the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench within the plans of each fighter not primarily based in america. Cruz ended up getting the decision and although he fell to Cejudo within the second spherical, there was loads of proof that The Dominator nonetheless has lots to supply within the twilight of his profession.

Aldo is a residing legend and the considered Cruz going up a division to problem him throughout their respective championship reigns wasn’t a pipe dream. Now that Aldo has confirmed he can efficiently hit the bantamweight mark, it’s nearer to turning into a actuality than ever.

Francis Ngannou

MH: Daniel Cormier (22-2, 1 NC)

The Francis Ngannou that surged his method to a heavyweight title shot upon his entry to the UFC was a scary man. Francis Ngannou 2.Zero is flat out terrifying and that was on show for the 20 seconds he wanted to knock out Jairzinho Rozenstruik.

That is easy, but a little bit complicated. Ngannou’s subsequent combat needs to be for a title. The query is, who will he combat? Stipe Miocic is the reigning heavyweight champion, however he’s additionally a firefighter throughout a worldwide pandemic with nowhere to organize himself for a title protection—not less than from a authorized perspective. With Miocic presumably out of motion till late 2020, stripping him of the title could be blasphemous.

Daniel Cormier has acknowledged he has one combat left, and as a lot as he would like to settle the rating with Miocic as soon as and for all, a possible combat with Ngannou has to get him excited. Depend me in for “DC” vs. “The Predator” for interim gold.

Daniel Cormier
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

AL: Stipe Miocic (19-3)

No have to overthink this one. If it’s not an interim combat with Cormier, then Ngannou ought to get his shot at Miocic each time the person who broke the Cleveland curse is able to combat once more.

Sure, Cormier is a recent matchup, however there’s a way of unfinished enterprise between Ngannou and Miocic since they fought at UFC 220. The Predator may very effectively be the way forward for the heavyweight division and it might do wonders for his repute if he may avenge that loss. We actually don’t understand how a lot Ngannou has improved since his first title alternative as a result of he’s been trucking his opponents earlier than the opening bell has even completed ringing, so a revenge win over Miocic would reply numerous questions.

Both method, Ngannou’s subsequent combat higher be for a gold belt and a fats verify.

Calvin Kattar

MH: Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC)

Let me simply say that if I had $50,000 of supplemental revenue, I might give it to Calvin Kattar following his vicious standing elbow knockout win of Jeremy Stephens. Sadly for Kattar, he’ll need to accept round 100 phrases.

“The Boston Finisher” didn’t simply decide up a win, he despatched a message to the highest guys in an intriguing featherweight division. Kattar deserves a top-five opponent subsequent and sitting in that No. 5 place is none aside from Yair Rodriguez.

Coincidentally sufficient, Rodriguez’s most up-to-date victory was additionally in opposition to Stephens. No want for a pencil with this one. Seize the mighty pen and ebook it.

AL: Chan Sung Jung (16-5)

You may add Kattar to the rising checklist of featherweights whose each combat is must-see TV. Knocking out Stephens isn’t any small feat and simply the truth that Kattar was prepared to face toe-to-toe with him signifies that he’s going to be a matchmaker’s dream for the following few years.

The identical could possibly be mentioned of “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung. Have been it not for the truth that Jung has been snakebitten with accidents his checklist of traditional fights could be twice as lengthy. At present recovering from eye surgical procedure, let’s hope the 33-year-old has higher luck sooner or later and that we get to see him paired up with guys like Kattar, Brian Ortega, and Zabit Magomedsharipov.

Kattar is able to throwing out some explosive mixtures and TKZ focuses on strolling by means of the whole lot his opponent launches at him. Match ‘em up and let’s see if Kattar can discover a method to put the Zombie down.

Anthony Pettis

MH: Al Iaquinta (14-6-1)

Like we mentioned throughout the UFC 249 post-show, there’s a brand new Theft Overview in your future with the rematch between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone. Regardless of how anyone at residence scored it, Pettis moved to 2-Zero in opposition to “Cowboy” after choosing up a unanimous choice win.

So what’s subsequent for Pettis? As he acknowledged in his post-fight media scrum, “Showtime” wish to spend a little bit extra time at 155-pounds earlier than deciding on a everlasting transfer to 170. As a lot as Pettis wish to get his want and land a rematch with Tony Ferguson, it’s not taking place.

Competing on the promotion’s return occasion below lower than excellent circumstances will look favorable to Dana White and the UFC brass. If we’re going to reward Pettis and provides him a top-10 opponent, how a few combat with Al Iaquinta?

“Raging Al” has misplaced back-to-back fights, and three out of his previous 4. Having a man like Pettis on his resume must, not less than, intrigue the outspoken Iaquinta and we’d get a enjoyable matchup between two recognizable names within the light-weight rankings.

Al Iaquinta
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

AL: Vicente Luque (18-7-1)

I believe it’s anybody’s guess the place Pettis fights subsequent as he’s bounced between two weight lessons extra continuously than every other fighter over the past couple of years.

Selfishly, I need him to remain at 170 as a result of I believe he’s an ideal matchup for Vicente Luque, who was additionally victorious in a rematch in opposition to Niko Worth on Saturday. Luque is true on the cusp of greatness and whereas Stephen Thompson was a bridge too far for him at this level, “Showtime” is precisely who he needs to be testing himself in opposition to at this level in his profession.

On the Pettis facet of issues, it might be uncharacteristic of him to take a combat with an up-and-comer like Luque, however he and his staff need to respect what “The Silent Murderer” has completed in his 14 UFC appearances to this point and acknowledge that it might be a near-guaranteed Struggle of the Night time bonus, particularly in the event that they’re given a five-round most important occasion to work with.

Aleksei Oleinik

MH: Jairzinho Rozenstruik (10-1)

Aleksei Oleinik was an over 2-1 underdog heading into his combat with Fabricio Werdum and, like he had completed thrice prior, he proved the oddsmakers fallacious, choosing up a cut up choice win over the previous heavyweight champion.

“The Boa Constrictor” now has 59 wins in his 73 combat skilled profession and has no intention of slowing down. In truth, throughout his post-fight media scrum, Oleinik mentioned he has “seven to 10 years” left in him. If we’re going to provide Oleinik a step up in competitors, Jairzinho Rozenstruik is smart.

It was a troublesome night time for “Bigi Boy” as he was knocked out by Francis Ngannou in simply 20 seconds. Rozenstruik will seemingly plummet a few spots within the rankings and a matchup with Oleinik, though it has its share of hazard, is one which he’d most likely be favored to win.

AL: Derrick Lewis (23-7, 1 NC)

Let’s get bizarre!

The one factor followers may presumably hate greater than a Derrick Lewis staring contest is a Derrick Lewis grappling exhibition, however a matchup with Oleinik could be intriguing. Oleinik proved in opposition to Werdum that he’s not timid as he walked Werdum down whereas throwing arms with unbridled enthusiasm. It was virtually a Russian homage to swangin’ and bangin’, with respect to Lewis’s modern fashion.

It is a grappler vs. striker matchup with a twist. Oleinik is recreation on the ft and he’d put in a spirited effort there whereas additionally doing the whole lot in his energy to convey Lewis right down to the mat. “The Black Beast” has solely been submitted as soon as in his profession, so why not take a look at that floor protection in opposition to Oleinik’s 1,001 holds?

Derrick Lewis
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

Carla Esparza

MH: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4)

Carla Esparza has now discovered herself on the appropriate finish of back-to-back controversial cut up selections following her victory over Michelle Waterson.

My preliminary thought was to lean in the direction of Esparza’s post-fight callout of Claudia Gadelha, who picked up a extremely debated cut up choice victory over “The Cookie Monster” at UFC 225. Gadelha is about to face the surging Angela Hill in Jacksonville on Could 16. All the pieces traces up, proper? Timing, controversy, storyline: it checks all of the packing containers.

I’ve modified my thoughts.

If we’re going to do a rematch, let’s run it again with the lady who defeated Esparza for the strawweight title over 5 years in the past: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. At UFC 185, Jedrzejczyk didn’t simply take Esparza’s title, she took her confidence as effectively following a brutal second-round TKO victory.

If timing is the truth is the whole lot, what higher time to hunt revenge for essentially the most devastating lack of her profession than going through Jedrzejczyk, coming off of the hardest, and most damaging lack of hers.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

AL: Yan Xiaonan (12-1)

I just like the Jedrzejczyk rematch lots too since Esparza has completed sufficient to earn one other crack on the girl who ended her strawweight title reign earlier than it may even get began.

Nevertheless, Esparza has additionally confirmed to be a superb gatekeeper and there’s no disgrace in accepting that position for a promotion. She’s already stifled the likes of high prospects Alexa Grasso and Cynthia Calvillo, so it’s not as if she’s strictly enhancement expertise. If you wish to show you deserve a top-5 spot, Esparza is without doubt one of the fighters you need to undergo.

Yan Xiaonan is on an absolute tear and she or he made a multitude of one-time UFC title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz in her earlier outing. She seems to be locked right into a future assembly with pal and countrywoman Zhang Weili, however Esparza may swoop in and take that chance for herself with an upset.

Vicente Luque

MH: Geoff Neal (13-2)

My rapid thought following Vicente Luque’s hard-fought win over the extremely sturdy Niko Worth is {that a} combat with Geoff Neal needs to be subsequent.

Neal is ranked one spot above Luque, and it might be the primary time the surging “Handz of Metal” has confronted a top-15 opponent. It doesn’t get extra recreation than Luque. This one has fireworks and bonus cash written throughout it.

AL: Anthony Pettis (23-10)

See Pettis part above. I’ll add that for Luque, this matchup is smart each from a resume-building standpoint and as a litmus take a look at for the place he actually stands as a contender. Is he simply the very best of the center of the pack, destined to attain nothing greater than viral finishes and post-fight bonuses? Or does he have that further championship gear? Was “Wonderboy” simply the worst potential matchup for him?

Thompson has made many fighters look silly and whereas a rematch between him and Luque most likely isn’t within the playing cards, Luque can use MMA math to advance up the rankings by beating Pettis, the person who KO’d Thompson final yr.

Bryce Mitchell

MH: Andre Fili (20-7)

Bryce Mitchell handed his litmus take a look at in opposition to Charles Rosa with flying colours. It was an unimaginable night time for “Thug Nasty” as he picked up a dominant choice and it seems like he’s lastly going to get his Reebok camo shorts.

I get it. Once you see a efficiency like Mitchell’s at UFC 249, the pure inclination is to push him into top-15 matchups. I’m not saying that he’s not prepared for that sort of step up in competitors, there’s simply no have to rush it.

Andre “Sensitive” Fili from a stylistic, expertise, and meritocracy perspective makes numerous sense. Not solely would you may have a battle between two of the very best nicknames within the sport, however Fili would offer the kind of opposition for Mitchell that’s wanted. Ought to Mitchell get a win over a man like Fili—who some imagine did sufficient to beat fellow featherweight prospect Sodiq Yusuff at UFC 246—that might set him up for a top-15 opponent with out query.

AL: Ryan Corridor (8-1)

Full disclosure: Ryan Corridor might be talked about not less than as soon as per version of On to the Subsequent One, even when nobody close to his weight fought on the cardboard in query. It is a rule going ahead. Settle for it.

I can’t be blamed this time although. In opposition to Rosa, a reputable jiu-jitsu black belt, Mitchell confirmed that he’s a power to be reckoned with on the bottom. His tenacity and method are going to be an issue for anybody at 145 kilos who dares to roll with him… effectively, anybody besides “The Wizard.”

No one, I imply NOBODY, desires to spend a single second with Corridor on the mat lest they find yourself working in opposition to Corridor within the 50-50 place—which in Corridor’s case is extra just like the 100-Zero place—and having their legs annihilated. That mentioned, younger Bryce Mitchell might be loopy sufficient to provide it a shot.

Two featherweight grapplers with unblemished UFC data going hold-for-hold for 15 minutes? Signal me up.

B.J. Penn and Ryan Corridor
Esther Lin, MMA Combating

Agree? Disagree? Depart your reactions and matchup ideas within the feedback under or attain out to us on Twitter at @MikeHeck_JR and @AlexanderKLee.