The run of underdogs winning across UFC main cards came to a screeching halt at UFC 258, as all five betting favorites took care of business. However, just because they were projected to win doesn’t mean this isn’t a big step for some of their careers. Today, we look at just what those next steps should look like.
After another impressive performance, Kamaru Usman called out Jorge Masvidal. He also went on to mention Georges St. Pierre in the post-fight press conference. The actual answer of who he should fight is probably not as simple as either of these two. Welterweight has a number of challengers, all of which seem to be one fight away. The right move would likely be to let the division shake itself out a bit with fights before selecting a new challenger. If Usman wants back in there quickly, a fresh match-up would do the most good for his growing legacy. Stephen Thompson would do just that and would also present a fresh style match-up. His prior win over Masvidal gives him all the credibility he’d need and he’s coming off of two fights in which he looked better than ever. Again, the right answer is to have some of these challengers set themselves apart by fighting one another, but this wouldn’t be bad either.
Kamaru Usman’s Next Fight: Stephen Thompson
At UFC 258 Alexa Grasso looked every bit the prospect people have been expecting her to become. Some of this seems to have come from maturity, but moving to a more natural weight class doesn’t seem to have hurt either. While some were worried she wouldn’t be strong enough for 125lbs, she out-worked Maycee Barber with relative ease against the cage and in grappling exchanges. The logical next step in proving that she is morphing into the contender we all thought she could be would be to continue to test her against another fighter who uses her physicality. Roxanne Modafferi may be coming off a loss, but she is exactly the type of test Grasso needs to jump into that next tier. She not only has the name recognition, but also brings a very physical clinch and ground game for Grasso to try to solve.
Alexa Grasso’s Next Fight: Roxanne Modafferi
Kelvin Gastelum said before his fight with Ian Heinisch that he might be fighting for his contract. With three straight losses (granted to the very best in the division), he may have been right. Regardless of his contract situation, he fought like it was on the line at UFC 258. Gastelum brought the fight right to Heinisch and made it clear that he still belongs, not just in the rankings, but in the conversation of the best middleweights. With his string of bad results, he’ll need to keep proving that and against somebody ranked higher than #15. Next up for him, I like Edmen Shahbazyan. Shahbazyan is looking to rebound from a rough setback to Derek Brunson. A bout between the two would further prove if Gastelum still can hang with guys around the top 10 and would also show how much more maturing Shahbazyan needs before he can ascend into that next level.
Kelvin Gastelum’s Next Fight: Edmen Shahbazyan
Since losing to Rob Font in December of 2019, Ricky Simon has looked vastly improved. With that loss looking better and better each day, it’s time to reevaluate where we see Simon. After rag-dolling his last three opponents, his wrestling looks to be able to hang with some of the very best at bantamweight. A good test for that wrestling would be former NCAA wrestler Cody Stamann. He also has a recent win over Brian Kelleher and it didn’t look much different. Letting those two go at it would not only be fun, but would answer a lot of questions.
Ricky Simon’s Next Fight: Cody Stamann
Julian Marquez may have locked up an anaconda choke, a Performance of the Night bonus, and an unofficial interview of the year award, but still his performance Saturday left a bit to be desired. He was controlled for the better part of the first two rounds by Maki Pitolo and was clearly on his way to losing a decision when he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Given the overall performance and it being his first win since December of 2017, he isn’t in line for a big step up. The same could be said of Dalcha Lungiambula, who made his middleweight debut in January. His win over Markus Perez wasn’t much to write home about. Pitting these two against one another would give both the opportunity to put together a win streak, but also to look a tad more impressive in doing so.
Julian Marquez’s Next Fight: Dalcha Lungiambula