What’s Next: UFC 282

Paddy Pimblett, UFC 282
Paddy Pimblett, UFC 282 ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

UFC 282 started with a bang, only to fizzle out in the final two fights. No one won the main event, and as for the co-main event, the winner probably shouldn’t have won, and the fans lost out on both fights.

The card itself was a winner, with ten straight finishes, so it’s a shame the last two fights are what has resonated most. With no winner in the main event, we’ll play matchmaker for both Magomed Ankalaev and Jan Blachowicz here, but it’s Glover Teixeira and Jamahal Hill next for the light heavyweight title, at UFC 283 in January.

Magomed Ankalaev

Magomed Ankalaev was understandably disappointed with the draw result in his challenge for the vacant light heavyweight title at UFC 282, but the show will go on as Glover Teixeira is already booked to face Jamahal Hill next month at UFC 283 for the still-vacant belt.

Ankalaev remains in the title picture given he is ranked fourth in the division, he had won nine fights in a row before the draw with Błachowicz, and in the aftermath of that fight many thought he deserved the win including commentator Joe Rogan. Ankalaev also had the stronger claim to a title shot to begin with, given his winning streak and Jan’s recent loss to Teixeira, so it makes sense that Ankalaev would be next to fight for the belt once more against the winner of Teixeira and Hill, presuming that Jiří Procházka is not ready after his unfortunate injury which caused the belt to be vacated.

Ankalaev’s Next Fight: Winner of Glover Teixeira and Jamahal Hill

Jan Blachowicz

‘Legendary Polish Power’ fell just short of regaining the title he lost at UFC 282 and in the aftermath of his draw with the aforementioned Ankalaev, Blachowicz mentioned that he did not feel like he won the fight.

This is part of why this article does not have him fighting for the belt next, but also there is his loss to Teixeira and his last win, over Aleksander Rakic, having somewhat of an asterisk next to it given the freak injury that ended the fight. Still, Jan is a great fighter, beloved by many fans, and remains in the title picture with his ranking of third in the world. When Glover Teixeira vs Jamahal Hill was booked before the dust from UFC 282 had even settled, it left sixth ranked Anthony Smith without an opponent as he had been booked to fight Hill in a main event. It makes perfect sense for Jan to step in and take that spot.

Blachowicz could also fight the loser of Teixeira vs Hill but he has already lost to Teixiera and it was only last year, so that would only make sense if Hill is the loser of that title fight. Smith is a safer option and Błachowicz stepping in would save that main event, which is scheduled to take place in front of fans at The Theater at Virgin Hotels in Paradise, Nevada.

Błachowicz’s Next Fight: Anthony Smith

Paddy Pimblett

‘Paddy the Baddy’ won a controversial decision at UFC 282 over veteran Jared Gordon, Paddy’s biggest win to date. What happens next depends on whether the UFC want to keep building their star slowly or if they want to try to get him into the rankings now. In the case of the latter, Tony Ferguson would be a good opponent. The former interim champ is now on a five fight losing streak, to the dismay of fans, but is still ranked fifteenth at lightweight and would make for a competitive fight against the British star. If building him slowly is the play then Claudio Puelles is a good fight to make. The Peruvian leg-lock specialist is coming off of his first loss, a TKO loss to top fifteen lightweight Dan Hooker, since his UFC debut in 2016 and the fight is winnable for either fighter.

Pimblett’s Next Fight: Claudio Puelles

Santiago Ponzinibbio

The Argentine Ponzinibbio had a spectacular come-from-behind knockout over short notice replacement Alex Morono at UFC 282 in Las Vegas on Saturday. After being hurt and dropped in each of the first two rounds, Ponzinibbio was able to put Morono on wobbly legs before dropping him and finishing him with follow up shots. ‘The Argentine Dagger’ was once ranked as highly as sixth in the world before an injury and complications stemming from it stole three years of his career. Since then, Ponzi has been up and down as he is 2-3 since his 2021 return. It is clear that Ponzinibbio is past his prime, but he can still be competitive with most unranked welterweights.

One such welterweight is Rafael Dos Anjos, the former lightweight champion. Dos Anjos just moved up to welterweight once again, citing a desire to have fun fights as the end of his career approaches. Ponzinibbio definitely qualifies as a fun fight and the traditional rivalry between Ponzi’s country of Argentina and RDA’s Brazil adds a little spice to this booking to make things that much more interesting.

Ponzinibbio’s Next Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos

Dricus Du Plessis

Du Plessis improved to 4-0 in the octagon at UFC 282 and the streaking middleweight contender now finds himself perfectly poised to take on a top ten opponent after beating the tenth ranked Darren Till. This coming week two other top ten fighters face off as Jared Cannonier takes on Sean Strickland in a main event. The winner will be potentially close to a title shot but the loser will be likely ranked between fifth and tenth. Further, the timeline matches up perfectly as these fighters are fighting just one week after Dricus. The striking heavy style of both Strickland and Cannonier would make for an entertaining matchup with the former kickboxer Du Plessis.

Du Plessis’ Next Fight: Loser of Strickland vs Cannonier

Ilia Topuria

Topuria showed why he is such a highly touted prospect by demolishing fellow prospect Bryce Mitchell with a second round submission after dominating on the feet. The Georgian BJJ black belt has shown he is extremely well-rounded as he has three knockouts, a decision, and now a submission in the UFC after entering the promotion with all of his prior fights won by submission.

In his post-fight interview Topuria called for a main event fight against Brian Ortega, who suffered an unfortunate injury and lost to Yair Rodriguez over the summer. Ortega will hopefully be healthy enough to return to action in early to mid 2023 and that timeline would be perfect for Topuria. Both men are highly talented grapplers who also happen to possess sharp striking and knockout power, so a fight between them would be supremely entertaining no matter in what phase of MMA it takes place. Ortega has shown great cardio and durability throughout his career while the lone knock on Topuria so far in the UFC has been cardio, so this test would show the MMA world just where the 25 year old prospect is currently at.

Topuria’s Next Fight: Brian Ortega