What’s Next: UFC Vegas 35 Losers

Edson Barboza and Giga Chikadze, UFC Vegas 35
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 28: (L-R) Edson Barboza of Brazil punches Giga Chikadze of Georgia in a featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 28, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

UFC Vegas 35 is in the books, and so are The Ultimate Fighter 29 finals.

At the Fight Night event over the weekend, Ricky Turcios was crowned TUF champ at bantamweight, while Bryan Battle claimed the prize at middleweight. What of the losers? And what’s next for main event featherweight Edson Barboza, who fell victim to surging Georgian Giga Chikadze? Read on as we play a little matchmaker.

Edson Barboza

It’s rare to see Edson Barboza look like the less impressive striker in a fight, but here we are. In a sense, Giga Chikadze beat him at his own game. Barboza was always the bridesmaid during his lightweight days, and that could be the case at 145lbs as well. He’s also 0-3 in fights he’s headlined. Still, there are plenty of interesting fights out there for him. Let’s start with Movsar Evloev. The Russian former M-1 double champ is an undefeated 15-0, and ranked #13 in the weight class. He’s not booked currently, and needs someone with a name to boost him to the next level. Barboza could very well be that name.

Barboza’s next fight: Movsar Evloev

Gilbert Urbina

This is a tough one. It’s easy to say “well, he shouldn’t be fighting in the UFC yet” right here after Urbina came up short in the finale. But he also stepped up when Tresean Gore fell to injury. So if the promotion wants to throw Urbina a bone and give him a fight, then no harm, no foul. It might break the winner vs. winner, loser vs. loser trend, but a fight against Andre Petroski could work. The pair never faced each other on the show after all.

Urbina’s next fight: Andre Petroski, or outside the UFC

Brady Hiestand

You absolutely give Hiestand another fight after that performance. One of the most memorable TUF finales in recent years, Hiestand gave it his all against Ricky Turcios in the TUF 29 bantamweight finale but came out on the wrong end of a split decision. Following the bout, UFC President Dana White declined to award the pair Fight of the Night, but promised some extra cash would be forthcoming. I’m going to borrow from our own Alex Behunin and suggest that a fight with Drako Rodriguez should also be in the offing. “The Great Drakolini” is 0-2 since appearing on the Contender Series, so it works as a loser leaves town sort of match-up.

Hiestand’s next fight: Drako Rodriguez

Kevin Lee

Maybe a bigger question than who Kevin Lee should fight next is where Lee should fight next. Welterweight? Lightweight? The non-existent 160lb division? To hear Dana White tell it, Lee’s next fight might not even be in the UFC, but that feels premature. Lee might be 1-4 in his last five, but the man he lost to prior to Saturday now wears UFC lightweight gold, and the win in that stretch was a highlight reel head kick KO of Gregor Gillespie. Still, if Lee is going to stick around welterweight, as seems necessary at this point in his career, he needs a step back. TUF veteran Court McGee is coming off a win, and is less physically imposing than Daniel Rodriguez. Let’s give Lee some time to acclimate to the division, and if he can’t, he’s got some big decisions to make.

Lee’s next fight: Court McGee

Michael Gillmore

Credit to Gillmore for stepping up, but after losing on TUF and at UFC Vegas 35, he’ll need to win some fights outside the promotion, then perhaps make his way back on the Contender Series down the line.

Gillmore’s next fight: outside the UFC

Makhmud Muradov

Gerald Meerschaert has been used as an entry level gatekeeper in the middleweight division in recent years. Prospects like Deron Winn and Khamzat Chimaev have passed the test. Makhmud Muradov did not, suffering the first loss of his UFC run. Up next? Trevin Giles had a three-fight win streak snapped in July. He also has a loss to Meerschaert. He’s a decent rebound fight for The Money Team fighter.

Muradov’s next fight: Trevin Giles