UFC 288 is in the books, and a number of big names need to regroup. That includes Henry Cejudo, he came up just short against Aljamain Sterling, and an injured Gilbert Burns (who probably needs some time off). We take a look at what comes next for the losing side of Saturday’s main card. It’s matchmaker time!
‘Triple C’ lost in his return to competition after three years away against Aljamain Sterling at UFC 288. The match was hard fought and he had an argument for the decision, but ultimately two judges gave Aljo the nod.
‘The King of Cringe’ gave a heartfelt post-fight interview which was unlike his usually brash and silly style of speaking publicly. He said if he cannot be the best then it may be time to retire, this time for good. He did take his gloves off, but did not officially retire, citing a need to discuss with family and friends what to do next. If Henry does not hang it up then a bevy of interesting match-ups await him. A flyweight return would be interesting, especially given his tumultuous history with champion Brandon Moreno, but he ruled that out in his post-fight interview.
At the top of bantamweight the options are deep though, with fighters like Merab Dvalishvili, Cory Sandhagen, and ‘Chito’ Vera available at the top of the division. Merab is in a weird spot; he is the number one contender but he will not fight his best friend and teammate, Aljamain Sterling, which is why O’Malley is getting the next title shot.
He would be a good option, but a better one would be the interesting style match-up between Cejudo and Sandhagen. Cory is a striking specialist who has improved his wrestling by leaps and bounds since his loss to Sterling in 2020, making for an interesting stylistic clash against the former Olympian, Cejudo.
Cejudo’s Next Fight: Cory Sandhagen or Retirement
‘Durinho’ suffered an unfortunate arm and/or shoulder injury early in his fight with Belal Muhammad at UFC 288 which hindered him for the rest of the fight as Belal shut him out.
Burns had quickly grown a following for his ‘anytime, anyone, anywhere’ attitude which saw him compete three times in just five months since the beginning of 2023. Now, after his first loss since his fight with Khamzat Chimaev in 2022, Burns will likely fall from his fifth spot in the rankings. Gilbert will have to recover from his injury before stepping back in the octagon, probably against an opponent outside of immediate title contention.
Rising Australian star Jack Della Maddalena will take on grappling ace Sean Brady in July at UFC 290. Brady just lost to Belal Muhammad himself last year, the first defeat of his career. The winner of that fight between welterweights ranked thirteen and nine, respectively, would make a logical opponent for Burns and give him time to recover from his injury.
Burns’ Next Fight: Winner of Maddalena vs Brady
Jessica Andrade was once one of the most feared women in MMA but she has now lost her last two fights by finish to Erin Blanchfield and Yan Xiaonan. Prior to those bouts, Andrade had not lost to a non-champion since 2015 when she fought at bantamweight; this may be a sign that the Brazilian slugger is slowing down and nearing the end of her time at the elite end of her divisions.
Andrade is ranked at both strawweight and flyweight, so the options for her next fight are varied. Perhaps now that she is out of the immediate title picture she will prefer to cut less weight and fight at 125lbs, but strawweight is the division where she has wins over some true title contenders including Rose Namajunas and Amanda Lemos.
If she sticks around at strawweight, a good next opponent would be Marina Rodriguez, who also lost her second straight fight on the UFC 288 card on Saturday. Marina and Andrade are both exciting strikers; a fight between them would be exciting and give one of them a chance to reassert themselves at 115lbs.
Andrade’s Next Fight: Marina Rodriguez
Diego Lopes acquitted himself incredibly well after only accepting to fight top featherweight contender Movsar Evloev five days before their bout at UFC 288. He put Movsar in tight submission attempts and the pair won ‘Fight of the Night’ honors for their efforts. Diego will not immediately jump back into a ranked fight, but he is another example of the recent boom in Mexican talent (Lopes was born in Brazil but resides in Mexico) in mixed martial arts and has absolutely proved himself as more than ready for the UFC.
Julian Erosa is a talented fighter who always brings the action but has found himself on the wrong end of two first round knockouts recently. Still, he is always in the mix, just out of the reach of the rankings at 145lbs. Erosa vs Lopes would be a fight where either could prove themselves as ready to make another run at the rankings and would have ‘Fight of the Night’ potential, to boot.
Lopes’ Next Fight: Julian Erosa
Kron Gracie returned from a three-and-a-half year layoff to fight Charles Jourdain in the UFC 288 main card opener and the fight ended up being a bit of a dud as Kron simply tried to pull guard repeatedly. A son of the legendary Gracie family, Kron has quite a bit of name power in MMA. Still, his last two losses have been complete shutouts and his only win in the UFC was four years ago, so he needs a win to hold onto his job.
Another jiu-jitsu practitioner who has lost two in a row and might find himself in need of a win to keep his job is Herbert Burns, brother of Gilbert. Herbert has been finished twice in a row after starting his UFC run with two finishes of his own and the BJJ style match-up between two guys who are currently at the lower end of featherweight is interesting.
Gracie’s Next Fight: Herbert Burns