UFC 286 definitely delivered, and now I'm here to play matchmaker to piece together what should happen next.
This past weekend saw the UFC make a trip back to London. With plenty of big names on the card, the crowd electrified to 02 Arena while the fighters put on some incredible performances. The dust has settled a bit, and the MMA community is wondering what might be next for the athletes. Let's delve into that a bit and see what may be next!
Leon Edwards vs Colby Covington
Yeah, I'm a bit on the fence about this one, too. Colby Covington is 0-2 in title fights and has only fought once since his 2021 loss to Kamaru Usman. ‘Chaos' picked up a win over friend-turned-foe, Jorge Masvidal, but hasn't done anything since. He did, however, weigh in as the backup fighter for the Edwards vs Usman rematch.
Dana White, at the UFC 286 post-fight press conference, said that it will be Covington that will be getting a crack at the title next. Edwards isn't a huge fan of this, but hey, the boss man usually gets what he wants.
Whether ‘Chaos' deserves this fight or not, it's a very, very interesting match. Covington is one of the best in the world at weaponizing his cardio. His wrestling and pace have melted most of his opponents. However, Leon defended 11 of Kamaru's 15 takedown attempts over the weekend, showing that he knows how to force a kickboxing match out of a wrestler.
I do want to say something that may be a little bit out there, but is worth mentioning. But, the lightweight division has no clear challengers at the moment. Dariush vs Oliveira is set and Gaethje vs Poirier will most likely happen — if Islam Makhachev wants to stay busy while his division materializes a bit more, a fight against Edwards could be an option.
Justin Gaethje vs Dustin Poirier II
Nobody, and I mean nobody, is going to complain about this rematch. Justin Gaethje put on another highly entertaining fight and secured the win as an underdog. He made note that this will probably be his last run at the title, so he'll only be taking the fights that'll push him closer to the belt.
Dustin Poirier, you busy?
Poirier is in the same boat. He's 0-2 in title fights and he'd like another crack at the belt. Though it will be sad to see one fall short at what's more than likely their last grab at champion-status, it'll be hard to be upset while watching this fight. The two scrapped back in 2018 and ‘The Diamond' won via fourth round TKO.
Justin Gaethje has made some changes to his fighting style since then, he even secured a takedown over the weekend! A more patient Gaethje taking on Poirier still sounds like fireworks to me. Let's book this one, please.
Gunnar Nelson vs Daniel Rodriguez
Let's give this match another shot? This was the fight that was originally supposed to happen at UFC 286. However, Rodriguez was forced to pull out and Bryan Barberena, ever the gangster, stepped in on short notice. Gunnar Nelson was just too much, though. He made it look a bit easy and was able to beat the clock, securing the submission win with just nine-seconds left in the first round.
Should D-Rod be able to fight soon, I have a good feeling that Nelson will once again be willing to take the challenge. Rodriguez is 4-1 in his last 5, only losing to veteran, Neil Magny. If Nelson can rebook this fight, it'll be a great match to propel him up the ranks.
Jennifer Maia vs Lauren Murphy
I'm 110% into this fight. Jennifer Maia took the 0 from Casey O'Neill and served her a defeat for the first time. Granted, Casey was coming back from an injury that left her sidelined. But, in my opinion, the real focal point of this fight was Maia's boxing. She was out there hanging in the pocket like she's been boxing since birth.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) March 18, 2023
Lauren Murphy is 2-2 in her last four. Losses to Valentina Shevchenko and Jessica Andrade aren't ones to beat herself up over, but a loss is still a loss at the end of the day. While Maia looks to continue her winning ways, Murphy could try and bounce back at the expense of the Brazilian and steal her momentum.
Marvin Vettori vs Dricus Du Plessis
A battle between two of the most durable dudes in the division? Both Vettori and Du Plessis seem like they can get hit by a train and be able to saunter away from the collision. Vettori was able to secure the unanimous decision win against a surging Roman Dolidze at UFC 286.
I'm not sure if you read my scoring for that fight, but when the judges read their scorecards, I felt like I didn't know anything about how to score a fight.
Regardless, it was a close fight and ‘The Italian Dream' walked away with the win, and he'll move forward as he tries to earn another title shot. A fight against Dricus Du Plessis makes more than enough sense to me. Plus, this potential clash is very, very interesting. Both fighters can take a shot and deliver it right back, and both are so close to the title.