UFC 254 delivered all of the action that was promised and then some. However, the main card didn’t produce a single underdog coming out on top (the closest being Robert Whittaker who came in at pick’em money). So while it isn’t the leap forward some of those dogs may have wanted, they also aren’t facing quite the step back losing often entails. In fact, one might be hardly any further from the ultimate goal than he was before Saturday.
With Khabib Nurmagomedov retiring immediately following this fight, Gaethje finds himself in a similar position to Dominick Reyes. After showing some success against a dominant champion, that champion then leaves the title vacant. As a result, you have to imagine that Gaethje is on a short list of guys to fight for that strap. The most likely scenario though, is that the rumored Conor McGregor/Dustin Poirier fight now becomes a title fight. If that is the way the UFC sells it, then Gaethje should move right into a number one contender’s fight with Michael Chandler. The fact that both said on Saturday’s broadcast that they were looking for a quick booking makes it even more clear it should go that way.
Justin Gaethje’s Next Fight: Michael Chandler
Jared Cannonier was actually called out by Israel Adesanya as his next opponent, but he failed to cash that check. With a impressive win over the number four ranked Jack Hermansson, he’s unlikely to slide much or be that far away from getting that crack after all. One fight that would help make that push more real is recent title challenger Paulo Costa. Both have losses to the top two guys in the division. Both have wins over the fighters right behind them in the rankings. Both need another big win to be nipping at that strap again. Give each of them a chance to get it sometime in early 2021.
Jared Cannonier’s Next Fight: Paulo Costa
After an impressive four-fight win streak, Harris has now dropped two in a row. The heavy hitters at the top of the division just seem to be a bit much for Harris at the moment. While he still has plenty to show the heavyweight division, a booking with someone who throws a little less hard and is a tad further down the rankings would help get him back on the right track. Blagoy Ivanov has similarly dropped two straight. He’s also a little bit less of a hard hitter, with all five of UFC bouts going to the judges’ scorecards. The technical striking and defense of Ivanov would far from make it a gimme fight for Harris, but it would be a much more favorable match-up.
Walt Harris’ Next Fight: Blagoy Ivanov
Cutelaba was absolutely flatlined in the rematch of a fight that was stopped too early. While that first bout had a referee with a quick trigger finger, this fight seemed like it never needed to be made again. Ankalaev appeared to have his number from early on in the first one and little was changed in the second bout. Cutelaba getting a shot against a ranked contender is unlikely being 1-2 in his last 3. This probably sends him back to fight against some of the guys with a similar recent resume as him. One potential opponent that fits the bill is Tyson Pedro. He also is 1-3 in his last 4, and has fought some stiff competition. His sub skills would also be interesting against a fighter in Cutelaba who isn’t easy to take down.
Ion Cutelaba’s Next Fight: Tyson Pedro