What’s Next: UFC 287 Losers

Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira, UFC 281
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 12: Alex Pereira of Brazil battles Israel Adesanya of Nigeria during the UFC 281 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

UFC 287 saw Israel Adesanya reclaim his middleweight title with an electrifying performance against Alex Pereira.

Where does this leave “Poatan” and some of the other big names who fell short Saturday? Read on.

Alex Pereira

Israel Adesanya finally got the revenge he had long sought at UFC 287 as he put Alex Pereira out cold in round two. The victory sets up a truly monumentally historic fight, if only the parties involved are willing. The official score of the series after four fights across two sports is 3-1 in favor of Pereira, but they each have one win against each other in MMA, the sport both fighters currently compete in. Further, most people believe Adesanya deserved the decision in their lone fight which went that far, their first bout seven years ago. The argument for a tie between the two in kickboxing, in MMA, and overall is strong.

Another fight between the rivals is a must. A fight which would conclude a trilogy just in MMA, but a pentalogy across multiple sports, is unheard of. One final bout would be for all the marbles, truly, between two of the best strikers on planet Earth. Some obstacles stand in the way however. Adesanya has declared he is done with Pereira, Pereira’s weight cut is massive and clearly difficult, and Dana White said he is not interested in one more. But how can such a massive fight be shunted aside? There are no other clear contenders at middleweight, even though Dricus du Plessis and Khamzat Chimaev are commonly brought up names, so there will never be a better time than now for this finale to a legendary rivalry.

Pereira’s Next Fight: Israel Adesanya

Jorge Masvidal

The once larger-than-life figure of Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal has dwindled in recent years with losses and age, but his career still of course deserves the utmost respect. Jorge main evented the first ever Bellator card – Bellator 1 – twenty years ago. It took him the better part of those twenty years to claw his way to the peak of the sport, but he did it, even if he never held gold (BMF title aside). Masvidal fought a laundry list of legends, put on a show every time out, and made a better life for himself and his family. Although he is now retired he will not be soon forgotten, and his career as a combat sports promoter is perhaps just beginning.

Masvidal’s Next Fight: Retirement

Adrian Yanez

Adrian Yanez shattered expectations with the meteoric rise to the top of the toughest division in the sport, a rise which saw him win his first five UFC fights in a row and earn a performance bonus for every single one. Often compared to a young version of his peer on UFC 287’s main card, Jorge Masvidal, Yanez’s star potential is still nearly limitless. His knockout loss is a tough pill to swallow but does not send him back to square one. Adrian gained fans across the world with his exciting fight style and affable personality, as well as his destruction of Tony Kelley.

Adrian will likely take time off after his first career knockout loss, but when he returns to the octagon there will no shortage of talented fighters wanting a crack at him and his ranking of 12th at bantamweight. Two such fighters are Pedro Munhoz and Chris Gutierrez, who face off next week at UFC Kansas City. Gutierrez sits one spot behind Yanez, at 13th, while Munhoz sits at 9th, having been a mainstay in the rankings for years. The winner of that surefire banger will be in pole position for a top opponent, but the loser will be in a similar position to Yanez, looking for a win to reassert their place in the division. A fight between Yanez and either of those gentlemen would be one of the most anticipated bouts on any UFC card, to boot. Bantamweight simply has no bad fights.

Yanez’s Next Fight: Loser of Gutierrez vs Munhoz

Santiago Ponzinibbio

Santiago Ponzinibbio was on the wrong side of a late third round knockout against rising star Kevin Holland at UFC 287. In his last bout, against Alex Morono, Ponzinibbio was hurt several times before managing to get a late knockout of his own. However, the chin and other physical gifts of the Argentinean former top contender have clearly decayed somewhat since his peak, which unfortunately was brought short by a devastating series of medical issues.

Ponzinibbio is still a tough out for anyone even at 36 years of age, but he’s no longer in position to make an immediate stretch for the rankings. A fellow veteran of the division who would make a great opponent for Santiago is future Hall of Famer Rafael Dos Anjos. RDA has stated several times his desire to have fun fights as he plays out the twilight of his career. A fight with Ponzinibbio certainly fits that description and is made even more interesting by the eternal rivalry, sometimes approaching enmity between their countries of Argentina and Brazil.

Ponzinibbio’s Next Fight: Rafael Dos Anjos

Raul Rosas Jr.

The hype train of Raul Rosas Jr. came crashing back to Earth quicker than expected. The youngest fighter in UFC history won his first bout by quick submission just last year, but this sophomore effort ended as he was unable to keep up with the cardio and striking of Christian Rodriguez in the last two rounds. It is a common path for a prospect; when they run into stiff competition they will often falter early in their careers. What matters is how Raul proceeds from here. He is only eighteen, of course, and has a decade or more to reach his goal of UFC gold, but he has to be careful to not take too much damage on the way there, especially at a young age.

Accordingly, Rosas Jr. should be booked lightly, against other fighters off of Dana White’s Contender Series perhaps. At the very least, not against gritty veterans who could really hurt him badly. One such fighter is Da’Mon Blackshear, a fellow grappling specialist. Blackshear was the CFFC bantamweight champion before coming over to the UFC, where he has drawn and lost by unanimous decision against tough opponents in Youssef Zalal and Farid Basharat. Blackshear is no walk in the park – no one is at bantamweight – but he is the type of fighter who Rosas will need to be able to beat if he is to live up to the name value he has accrued.

Rosas’ Next Fight: Da’Mon Blackshear