What’s Next: UFC 275 Winners

Jiri Prochazka UFC
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - APRIL 30: Jiri Prochazka of the Czech Republic poses on the scale during the UFC weigh-in at UFC APEX on April 30, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Singapore’s UFC 275 surpassed expectations, with the card having a little something for everyone. Knockouts? Check. Submissions? Check. Drawn-out wars? You got it. Quick finishes? Those too. For a card maligned by pundits unable to look past “name value” (or who find it only in stars raised within the UFC itself), UFC 275 was a reminder that it’s often the less heralded events that show out in the end.

What comes next for the night’s big winners? We take a stab at playing matchmaker once again.

Jiri Prochazka

In a testament to just how good a fight Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka was, it was almost immediately being compared to Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 1. That may be recency bias, and as someone who was in the arena for Jones-Gus 1 in Toronto, I still side with the Hall of Fame classic. But Teixeira vs. Prochazka might just be the best light heavyweight title fight since then.

A back-and-forth affair, Prochazka was on his way to losing on the scorecards before he caught Teixeira with a late-fifth round rear-naked choke. Glover, who had actually been winning on the feet by that point, tapped for the first time in his career.

At 42 years young, Teixeira proclaimed after the fight that he’s not done just yet. Good on him. He’s also already campaigning for a rematch — and that idea has some allure to it. Their first fight was that good. But while the UFC may wish to strike while the iron is hot, Teixeira wasn’t a dominant champion coming off a long reign. It seems only fair to let him pick up at least one win first. In the mean time, Jan Blachowicz was already being eyed for another title shot. Let him take on new champ Prochazka.

Prochazka’s next fight: Jan Blachowicz

Valentina Shevchenko

UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko looked ordinary at UFC 275, and that in itself is extraordinary.

Taila Santos had the answer for “Bullet” through the opening three rounds, only to eat an accidental head butt that resulted in a fractured orbital. Santos finished the fight, but was picked apart from that point onward, her vision clearly compromised. And still, the end result was a split decision.

An immediate rematch would be interesting, but Santos requires surgery and could be out until some time next year. Shevchenko just picked up title defense number seven, and the question becomes: fight again at flyweight, or take on the winner of Pena-Nunes 2?

This question has a very different feel to it in the wake of UFC 275. While Shevchenko revealed following the fight that she had been dealing with a foot injury, anticipation for a third Nunes fight, or second Pena bout, may be lessened off her most recent performance. Then again, timing is everything in fighting— and it may be now or never when it comes to that bantamweight bid. Waiting in the wings at flyweight are the likes of Manon Fiorot and Casey O’Neill, two bonafide rising stars in the weight class.

What’s the play? Book the super-fight, and see if Shevchenko bounces back with a historic performance and becomes just the second UFC double champ among women.

Shevchenko’s next fight: Pena vs. Nunes 2 winner

Weili Zhang

UFC President Dana White made this one easy by confirming that the winner of Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2 would be next in line for the women’s strawweight title. While there was always a chance he could go back on his word, there’s virtually no chance the UFC changes their mind after Zhang’s spinning backfist KO of Jedrzejczyk. That’s all the highlight reel material you need to promote a fight with Carla Esparza. And Zhang’s newfound wrestling ability, care of Henry Cejudo at Fight Ready, makes her a real problem for Esparza.

Zhang’s next fight: Carla Esparza

Jake Matthews

After a year spent on the sidelines following a loss to Sean Brady, Australian welterweight Jake Matthews made his return at UFC 275. There, he took the fight to Andre Fialho, knocking out one of the UFC’s busiest fighters in the second round.

At 27, “The Celtic Kid” has just hit his prime, yet he’s been competing in the UFC for the better part of a decade. Eight years later this month, plus his time on The Ultimate Fighter. He has 16 fights under his belt, and is 3-1 in his last five.

Matthews may turn out to be one of those fighters, like Charles Oliveira, who takes the long road to the top of the division. Or, he may never get there — but his next few fights will be telling. Coming off arguably the best performance of his career, you want to test him, but not throw him to the wolves. So, how about Santiago Ponzinibbio? He recently dropped out of the top 15, but is a known quality in the 170 pound weight class. If Matthews gets past him, it’s time to work up the rankings.

We actually suggested Danny Roberts for Ponzi next, but this fight has a better ring to it.

Matthews’ next fight: Santiago Ponzinibbio

Jack Della Maddalena

Another Australian talent, Jack Della Maddalena, made a big impression at UFC 275. He’s now 2-0 in the promotion, after handing Ramazan Emeev his second straight loss. Maddalena hasn’t lost since 2016, when he dropped the first two fights of his professional career. Since then, he’s won twelve straight.

At 25, there’s no need to rush the former Eternal MMA champ. Mounir Lazzez is in a similar spot, with a 2-1 record in the UFC, but at 34 time is not on his side. If he plans to stay busy after beating Ange Loosa back in April, a match-up with Maddalena could produce fireworks.

Maddalena’s next fight: Mounir Lazzez