The return of Jon Jones might have been the selling point of UFC 285, but the card’s gems ran much deeper than that. In the end, a war between Shavkat Rakhmonov and Geoff Neal, and the surprise upset of long-serving women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, were among the highlights.
Fighters like Neal, Shevchenko, and Ciryl Gane will now be looking to bounce back — here’s what could lie ahead for them.
Gane seemed clueless in defending the takedown and guillotine submission of Jon Jones as he lost in the first round of UFC 285’s main event. This puts him into a spot he has been in before, being a top contender with a loss to the champion.
The French heavyweight now goes back to the drawing board and perhaps even goes to train elsewhere, in search of wrestling coaches. In the meantime, one Tom Aspinall will be putting the finishing touches on his healing plan, giving these two highly talented heavyweight athletes — both have been touted as the ‘new breed of heavyweight’ — the perfect opportunity to fight each other next. With the rest of the top six at heavyweight either being booked, being set for a title fight, or having already fought Gane, this fight makes perfect sense. As a bonus, the bitter rivalry between France and England would be reignited for this fight, which would make a perfect main event for a UFC London Fight Night.
Gane’s Next Fight: Tom Aspinall
Long-reigning women’s flyweight champion Shevchenko was slightly ahead on the scorecards when Alexa Grasso submitted her in the fourth round of what would have been a record-setting eighth title defense. Valentina immediately called for the rematch while still in the octagon, and her achievements are such that it cannot be denied to her if she wants it in a fitting time frame. Can Valentina improve like her rival, Amanda Nunes, did after losing her belt in an upset? Can she improve and dominate a rematch with her new rival, Alexa Grasso, as Nunes did to Julianna Pena last year? It remains to be seen.
Shevchenko’s Next Fight: Rematch vs Alexa Grasso
At UFC 285, Geoff Neal shocked the world, despite losing, because of how great of an account he gave of himself against the monstrously talented Shavkat Rahkmonov. Neal defended all of the takedowns from the Kazakh fighter but still had all he could handle on the feet, eventually getting hurt and submitted in the final round. He lost, but won Fight of the Night — and despite missing weight, making him ineligible to win the $50,000 in bonus money, he impressed Dana White enough that he broke that rule.
Neal lost but his stock may never have been higher, similar to one Gilbert Burns. Burns is set to face Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287, which is a perfect timeline for Neal to step in and face the winner at the end of the year in what would be a high profile welterweight bout no matter who wins between Burns and Masvidal.
Neal’s Next Fight: Winner of Gilbert Burns vs Jorge Masvidal
Jalin Turner showed a mixed bag at UFC 285. He was able to avoid eating a lot of damage when taken down but he was still beaten there, though the decision is arguable. Wrestling still seems to be a weakness for Turner, but perhaps not as much as it was when he lost to Matt Frevola in 2019. Now, perhaps, more than ever is the time for Turner to fight the man he was originally meant to fight: Dan Hooker. Hooker has fallen on rough times but rebounded in his last fight, which is the exact opposite of Turner. Dan Hooker is a fan favorite who would have a chance to recapture his former glory if he could beat Turner. The opposite would mean a 5-0 record for Turner against fighters from Australia and New Zealand.
Turner’s Next Fight: Dan Hooker
Jamie “The Night Wolf” Pickett was thrown to the wolves on Saturday — it is certain in hindsight that he did not have the wrestling to withstand the onslaught of Bo Nickal. Although he did the promotion somewhat of a favor by even taking the fight, his UFC record was 2-4 going into the fight and it seems likely he will be cut after now having lost three in a row. His overall record has been brought to 13-9 and he will now likely test LFA or another organization as he tries to fight his way back to the top. If the UFC opts to give him one more go, an incoming DWCS fighter is probably the best bet.
Pickett’s Next Fight: Out of UFC or newcomer