UFC Paris has come and gone. History was made at the Accor Arena in Paris, France on Saturday, with the octagon touching down in the country for the first time. Long a holdout, only legalizing MMA in 2020, the European nation was treated to a thrilling main event between a very game Tai Tuivasa, and an extremely dangerous Ciryl Gane.
What comes next for the UFC Paris winners? Read on.
With his thrilling stoppage of Tai Tuivasa on Saturday, Ciryl Gane defends his spot as the number one contender in the heavyweight rankings. Unfortunately for him, he will still get leapfrogged for a title shot by heavyweight newcomer Jon Jones, and perhaps Stipe Miocic as well if an interim belt is made. The logical choice to eliminate a contender would be a fight against Curtis ‘Razor’ Blaydes. Blaydes recently had an impressive finish of Chris Daukaus in March and although his third win in a row against a top ten contender was not due to anything he necessarily did himself, it still eliminated Tom Aspinall from immediate title contention when the Brit blew out his knee in the first round of their fight.
Blaydes and Gane both hold losses against champ Francis Ngannou so they will have to work extra hard to earn another chance. One fight on the rebound is not enough, and there are no other contenders near Gane in the rankings that are on such a streak at the moment unless you go all the way down to Sergei Pavlovich. It is true that Gane said he did not want to fight Curtis Blaydes, but at this point he may not have a choice.
Gane’s Next Fight: Curtis Blaydes
When Robert Whittaker authoritatively dismantled Marvin Vettori at UFC Paris, he became the only number one contender in the promotion to have a win over each of the next three contenders ranked below him in his division. Having lost to the champion twice he still has to fight another top contender though. With Alex Pereira tied up for his title shot against Rob’s rival, Israel Adesanya, one must move down to the sixth spot to find an appropriate opponent.
It was not all that long ago that Paulo Costa beat aging legend Luke Rockhold in an all-out war that earned him Fight of the Night. After coming off of two losses, the excitement of that fight, and perhaps Paulo’s compelling social media presence, catapulted the Brazilian slugger back into contention with other top middleweights. In a somewhat shallow division ruled by a long-term champion there are many men who said champ has beaten already, but if Alex Pereira is able to beat Adesanya for a third time in his combat sports career then the challengers who have lost to Izzy would be able to start fresh. Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa are the only top seven contenders who are coming off of wins. Matching them up just makes sense. Moreover, it would be a thrilling fight between two electric strikers.
Whittaker’s Next Fight: Paulo Costa
The Frenchman by way of Dagestan fought as a ranked fighter in the UFC for the first time this weekend in his hometown. Although he dominated Joaquin Buckley for ten minutes, he let his foot off the gas and dropped the third round. The opponent for Imavov is one that he prepared to face previously, Kelvin Gastelum. Fans were excited for that fight when it was booked for UFC 273 earlier in the year. Although Imavov had trouble getting a visa and had to pull out, the UFC surely will have kept that fight bookmarked for the future. This fight would be a classic case of the veteran who has fallen on hard times against the hot new thing in the division. Both men have well-rounded skillsets and a win here would establish Imavov as a legitimate threat for the top guys in the division, many of whom have had trouble with the challenge that Gastelum brings to the cage.
Imavov’s Next Fight: Kelvin Gastelum
After dropping his undefeated record and his first two fights in the UFC, Roman Kopylov was able to right the ship when he stopped Alessio di Chirico at UFC Paris. The Russian prospect fought through adversity as he likely lost the second, looked exhausted in his corner, and still somehow managed to fight through the haze of exhaustion to knock out his opponent in the early stages of round number three. Still, Kopylov has a lot to do to regain the highly touted prospect status he lost in his first two performances. Aliaskhab Khizriev is what Kopylov once was: an undefeated and highly touted prospect, but he also won his first (and only) fight in the UFC earlier in 2022. For Roman to earn back the hype, he must go through a challenge like his fellow Russian in Khizriev.
Kopylov’s Next Fight: Aliaskhab Khizriev
The French Native Gomis won in his hometown this past weekend and now has a win in the largest promotion in the world. Being a newcomer to the UFC, he still cannot yet expect a highly ranked opponent off of his decision win against a fellow newcomer, but someone more established in the promotion makes sense. Enter Herbert Burns. The brother of former title challenger Gilbert Burns has fallen on rough times with two back-to-back losses in his latest bouts, but has been around the block once or twice and racked up a 2-2 record in the UFC. This is exactly the type of test Gomis needs to pass on the long road to what is undoubtedly his goal as it is for all young fighters: becoming world champion.
Gomis’ Next Fight: Herbert Burns
Nate Wood impressed in his second fight after moving up a weight class, a fight that was highly anticipated by many fans, when he beat Charles ‘Air’ Jourdain through a slick combination of straight hitting, slick trips, and beating Charles at his own game with dirty boxing in the clinch. Although slightly undersized for featherweight, the Brit proved that he can hold his own against larger fighters due to his bantamweight speed and high-level technique. Now, a fight against a fellow fighter on the fringe of being ranked, like Alex ‘Bruce Leeroy’ Caceres, seems in order. Two fast strikers, who do have considerable ground skill, who once fought at bantamweight makes perfect sense and it would be a surefire banger with fight of the night potential. Fans would be sure to tune in for this one and the winner would absolutely deserve a shot at a top-fifteen opponent next.
Wood’s Next Fight: Alex ‘Bruce Leeroy’ Caceres