What’s Next: UFC Mexico City Winners

    Rogerio Bontorin and Brandon Royval, UFC Vegas 46
    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 15: (R-L) Brandon Royval punches Rogerio Bontorin of Brazil in their flyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 15, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    A pair of fighters with Mexican heritage beat out the Mexican-born contingent at UFC Mexico City over the weekend, but overall it was still a great night for the country either way. The main card pretty much delivered despite one unfortunate last-minute cancellation. What’s next for the night’s big winners? Read on.

    Brandon Royval

    The situation at the top of the UFC flyweight division is complicated at the moment. Champion Alexandre Pantoja last fought when he beat Brandon Royval dominantly in December and it seems likely his next defense will be at the next UFC Brazil card, UFC 301, which still needs at least one title fight. If Moreno had won he would have been the logical choice, given his close last fight with Pantoja in 2023’s ‘Fight of the Year.’ However, Royval, who is 0-2 vs Pantoja in the last three years, won by split decision.

    Potential challengers include Amir Albazi, Kyoji Horiguchi, and the winner of Alex Perez vs Muhammad Mokaev. Another top contender, Manel Kape, was just rebooked with Matheus Nicolau for the week before UFC 301. Of the mentioned options, Perez or Mokaev are the most logical choices. Neither is quite deserving of a title shot with one more win, although one could argue that no flyweights are worthy at the moment, and one of them vs Royval is a logical way to determine the next top contender. The timelines match up, too.

    Royval’s Next Fight: Winner of Mokaev/Perez

    Brian Ortega

    Brian Ortega pulled off the improbable when he came back to avenge his injury loss to Yair Rodriguez in his last fight, a year and a half ago. The problem is that the next featherweight challenger is not clear either. Volkanovski, Holloway, Ortega, and Evloev are all options. Ortega’s recent record and inactivity leave a lot to be desired for a challenger, so he probably needs one more win against one of those fighters.

    Given that he has already fought Holloway and Volkanovski, Evloev makes the most sense, since Movsar also needs another win to earn a title shot. Evloev and Ortega contrast each other in an interesting way; Evloev has never finished a fight and is a methodical, well-rounded fighter while Ortega is a born finisher who relies on big, exciting moments to win fights. Evloev called out Brian right after UFC Mexico City, and that fight is truly what makes the most sense.

    Ortega’s Next Fight: Movsar Evloev

    Daniel Zellhuber

    There is a chance that we witnessed the birth of a star at UFC Mexico City when twenty-four year old prospect Daniel Zellhuber put a beating on Fransisco Prado in the final two rounds of his ‘Fight of the Night’ victory. The young Mexican lightweight was undefeated coming into the UFC and suffered an initial setback with a weird performance in a loss to Trey Ogden, but now is on a three-fight winning streak where he has displayed his penchant for action that he first revealed on the regional scene and Contender Series. With the support of Mexican fans, being bilingual, and having an exciting, action-packed striking style, Zellhuber can ride the wave to a high profile if he keeps winning in entertaining ways.

    For his next fight he should be matched up with a lightweight who is just outside of the top-15, to test and prepare him for potentially fighting ranked contenders. He has not really had to deal with a strong wrestling or grappling-based attack thus far in the UFC, so fighters like Thiago Moises, Carlos Diego Ferreira, and Grant Dawson would prepare him accordingly. Moises makes the most sense, as he has long been a gatekeeper whom the UFC tests rising talents against, such as Islam Makhachev, Joel Alvarez, and Benoit St. Denis.

    Zellhuber’s Next Fight: Thiago Moises

    Yazmin Jauregui

    Mexico’s brightest female talent, Yazmin Jauregui, bounced back from her first career defeat with a comprehensive beatdown of the ever-tough Sam Hughes in Mexico City. Jauregui lost to Denise Gomes last year when she was caught cold and knocked out, but her star shines again now. At 3-1 in the UFC, 11-1 overall, and with an exciting, high-level striking skillset, the promotion should play their cards right with this twenty-four year old athlete.

    The waters in the strawweight division are not the deepest, but there are some solid, unranked veterans who Jauregui can be tested against, like Gillian Robertson, Jessica Penne, and Polyana Viana. Penne makes the most sense for now; it is too soon to throw Yazmin into the rankings and Jessica’s veteran grappling skillset will present a new challenge for Jauregui to be tested by. A win against a former title challenger like Penne, even if that was long ago, would hold some weight on Jauregui’s resume.

    Jauregui’s Next Fight: Jessica Penne

    Manuel Torres

    ‘El Loco’ got a third first round finish to add to his highlight reel in his third UFC outing as he choked out Chris Duncan in front of the Mexican faithful. He is another one that has star potential, given his action-fighting ways and his ‘Knockout of the Year’ contender over Nikolas Motta in 2023. At 28, the time to make a run for the rankings is now, so matching him up against a barely-unranked veteran coming off a win is the logical choice. The two best options for that are Nasrat Haqparast and Jared Gordon.

    Both are well-rounded, though Nasrat is more aggressive while Jared is more calm and methodical. While Gordon would be a good test, Haqparast can be in wars and would create a car crash with a forward-moving fighter like Torres. Haqparast is on a three-fight winning streak, just like Manuel, so the winner would be sure of a shot at the top-15 next.

    Torres’ Next Fight: Nasrat Haqparast