What’s Next: UFC Orlando Winners

Stephen Thompson, UFC 264
Stephen Thompson, UFC 264 media day Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

UFC Orlando has come and gone, leaving us with an extremely memorable, downright classic performance from Stephen Thompson in the main event. Kevin Holland certainly came to fight, but it was not his night, as his corner threw in the towel following round four with Holland beaten, bloodied, and left with a broken hand.

What’s next for “Wonderboy” and the rest of the main card winners? It’s matchmaker time!

Steven ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson

‘Wonderboy’ turned back the clock on Saturday with a vintage performance reminiscent of him at his electric best as he got his first stoppage win since 2016 against unranked up-and-comer Kevin Holland. Thompson had been on a two-fight losing streak against strong wrestlers and top contenders in Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad, but now with a win under his belt once again he can look forward to fighting ranked fighters once more.

One fighter that stands out as a perfect choice for an electric match-up is the ever-chaotic Michel Pereira. Pereira is coming off a win against Santiago Ponzinibbio which earned Fight of the Night honors. That win, his fifth in a row, got him into the top fifteen at welterweight. Pereira has become a fan favorite in his short time in the UFC and Wonderboy has been for years. As Michel looks to climb further towards the top of the division and Thompson’s career potentially comes to a close — he is 39 years old — it’s an added bonus if they can keep putting on an entertaining show. This one definitely qualifies as that.

Thompson’s Next Fight: Michel Pereira

Rafael Dos Anjos

Former lightweight Rafael Dos Anjos is also coming to the end of a storied career and as a result he moved back up to welterweight, citing a desire for fun fights in the time he has left. He rebounded from his loss to Rafael Fiziev with a submission win over Bryan Barbarena in the co-main event of UFC Orlando. There are no shortage of fun fighters at welterweight and one of the most exciting ones who is also a legend of the sport is Matt “The Immortal” Brown. Brown has been apart of some amazing fights from his fight with Erick Silva to Robbie Lawler to his most recent one against Bryan Barbarena. Having two legends of two different divisions match up near the tail end of their careers is one of the best ways the UFC can honor their aging greats.

Dos Anjos’ Next Fight: Matt Brown

Matheus Nicolau

Brazilian Matheus Nicolau knocked out Matt Schnell to get his sixth win in a row which was his fourth in the UFC, keeping him undefeated in the promotion. Nicolau is inching ever closer to a title shot as Brandon Moreno and Deiveison Figueiredo look to wrap up their unprecedented quadrilogy. Alejandre Pantoja is apparently next in line for a shot at the winner of that fight, but Nicolau is close behind. Fellow top contenders Alex Perez and Kai Kara France will fight in February at UFC 284 and the winner of that fight would be perfect for Nicolau. Either man would be a stiff challenge for Nicolau and beating one of them would likely be enough to earn a future title shot.

Nicolau’s Next Fight: Winner of Alex Perez vs Kai Kara France

Sergei Pavlovich

Sergei Pavlovich made a huge statement on Saturday as the Russian knocked out fan favorite Tai Tuivasa inside of a minute. Tuivasa was coming off the back of a Fight of the Night loss to former interim champion Ciryl Gane so this win, and his last one against Derrick Lewis, proves that Pavlovich can hang with the top of the division.

None of the other top fighters are currently booked to fight so any of Curtis Blaydes, Gane, or Stipe Miocic are theoretically available, with only Aspinall out of the question due to his injury. Blaydes is on a hot streak and seemingly nearing his first UFC title shot, as is Pavlovich. A fight between the two makes sense as a number one contender fight to determine who will face the winner of a rumored Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou title fight. Blaydes is widely seen as the best wrestler in the division and Pavlovich has not faced anyone who has seriously threatened him in that area since Alistair Overeem beat him on the ground in his UFC debut, so as a bonus this fight is a good test to determine if Sergei has fixed that hole in his game.

Pavlovich’s Next Fight: Curtis Blaydes

Roman Dolidze

Roman Dolidze made a spectacular entry into the top fifteen at middleweight by being the first to finish eighth ranked Jack Hermansson since former title challenger Jared Cannonier in 2019. Now on a four fight win streak including three finishes in a row, Dolidze will look to fight another top contender after accepting and winning the Hermansson fight on short notice. Before getting injured, Derek Brunson was supposed to be Hermansson’s opponent, so it makes sense that Brunson should face the man who took Jack’s place in the rankings next. Dolidze’s slick use of a leg entanglement to set up the TKO finish showed off a level of grappling that is rare at middleweight and would provide an interesting stylistic matchup for Brunson, a wrestler.

Dolidze’s Next Fight: Derek Brunson

Eryk Anders

Eryk Anders bounced back from a losing streak with a victory of Kyle Daukaus at UFC Orlando. Anders, a former University of Alabama football player, got his first finish since 2019 and will now look to make a run at the rankings. Bruno Silva was undefeated in the UFC with three straight finishes until facing now-champion Alex Pereira and Gerald Meerschaert in 2022. Silva and Anders both have hard-hitting striking styles and would make for a competitive and entertaining fight.

Anders’ Next Fight: Bruno ‘Blindado’ Silva

Phil Rowe

Phil Rowe got the biggest win of his career when he stopped Niko Price in round three of the main card opener at UFC Orlando. Rowe moved to 3-0 in the UFC with all three wins coming by KO or TKO. A record like that deserves a ranked or nearly ranked opponent next and a perfect opponent who is also a knockout artist is Khaos Williams. Williams and Rowe are two of the hardest hitters in the welterweight division and a fight between the two of them would be a shoe-in for some kind of performance bonus with the winner looking at a shot at the rankings next.

Rowe’s Next Fight: Kalinn ‘Khaos’ Williams