What’s Next: UFC 269 Winners

Charles Oliveira, UFC 269
Charles Oliveira, UFC 269 post-fight Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

Charles Oliveira successfully defended his lightweight title against Dustin Poirier atop UFC 269. After enduring a shellacking in the opening round, Oliveira took control of the fight, using his superior grappling to submit Poirier in the third. On any other night, that might have been the biggest story of the evening — but Julianna Pena toppled Amanda Nunes, shocking everyone and their dog in the process. Here’s what’s next for Saturday’s main card winners.

Charles Oliveira

Charles Oliviera is a shining example of how perseverance and staying the course can lead to greatness, much like Glover Teixeira and Michael Bisping before him. After over a decade with the UFC, Oliveira is unquestionably the best lightweight in the promotion. If you thought he got lucky against Michael Chandler to win the title, those doubts should have been put to rest when he dispatched Dustin Poirier atop UFC 269.

What’s next is easy in this case. While Islam Makhachev has a solid claim to the title shot, he’s fighting Beneil Dariush next. Justin Gaethje has been given the green light to another shot at gold. Has he developed more than Poirier in recent years, to the point of being able to usurp “Do Bronx?” We’ll find out soon enough.

Oliveira’s next fight: Justin Gaethje

Julianna Pena

Bravo, Julianna Pena. Next to no one picked her to topple Amanda Nunes, but slay “The Lioness” she did. What’s next in this case is also easy: unless Nunes chooses to defend her featherweight title next instead (and a Kayla Harrison fight is still possible, though less likely now than it had been), a rematch is in order. As decisive as Pena’s win was, Nunes is considered by most as the greatest female fighter of all time.

If it’s not Nunes? It’s a whole new ball game at bantamweight if that’s the case.

Pena’s next fight: Amanda Nunes

Geoff Neal

Welterweight Geoff Neal snapped a two-fight skid at UFC 269. The win gives him some breathing room, but it did come via a close split decision against Santiago Ponzinibbio, so Neal isn’t out of the woods just yet. Ahead of Neal, and coming off wins, are names like Khamzat Chimaev and Sean Brady, but both of them seem destined for bigger things. In this case, it might be best to break from the “winner vs. winner” mindset and book Neal against recent Khamzat Chimaev victim Li Jingliang, who is better than that outing showed.

Neal’s next fight: Li Jingliang

Dominick Cruz

Although he overshadowed his own win by throwing broadcast colleague Daniel Cormier under the bus earlier this week, and despite nearly being finished in the opening round, Dominick Cruz came away from UFC 269 looking solid. He got the decision win over Pedro Munhoz, and now has won two straight. Jose Aldo threw his name in the hat for a fight with Cruz, and that match-up makes all kinds of sense. Legend vs. Legend, and the winner could be in play for a title shot later in 2022.

Cruz’s next fight: Jose Aldo

Sean O’Malley

Sean O’Malley put on exactly the sort of performance he needed to at UFC 269: a spectacular one. Now, the “unranked champion” needs a ranked opponent. O’Malley also needs to face a solid wrestler, and have his takedown defense tested. If Frankie Edgar is sticking around, that might make for an interesting pairing.

O’Malley’s next fight: Frankie Edgar