After a UFC 268 card that saw non-stop action, we can’t help but think ahead to what might be next for some of the fighters. Some let their intentions be known, others left more to the imagination. Either way, we try to do Mick Maynard’s job for him and tell you what is up next for some of the biggest names on this past card.
On deck: Leon Edwards with a win
Kamaru Usman did what a lot of people thought he would this weekend at UFC 268. After beating Colby Covington by stoppage in their first meeting, he was able to fend off a late surge from the challenger and take the unanimous decision victory. While the win was not as one-sided as the odds may have suggested, the vastly improved striking of Usman made all the difference in helping him keep his title.
Next up for the champion is a little bit up in the air. On one hand, it feels like Leon Edwards has already earned a title shot (he did have one booked prior). He has a fight coming up with Jorge Masvidal, which you’d have to imagine would only help his stock with a win. However, the UFC doesn’t seem too keen on him and he’s been passed up more than once for a shot he should clearly get. I’m not confident the UFC will do the right, but I can hope. And that right thing is giving Leon Edwards the next shot – granted he gets by Masvidal.
On deck: Khamzat Chimaev
After getting beat yet again by the champ at UFC 268, Covington remained steadfast that he was the best welterweight and would “reclaim” his title. The former interim champion would seemingly have a long route to do so and could really use Usman to drop that belt to someone else to accelerate the process. What would really help this process is staying more active and facing some high-profile opponents.
There is perhaps no better chance to do that than with the most hyped fighter in the UFC – Khamzat Chimaev. Chimaev wants to stay active and the UFC is even trying to book him by year’s end. That timeline may not work for Covington. However, early 2022 may be the right general zone for him if he’s to increase the frequency of fights. A win over Chimaev would get people back up on Colby and make it so that he was not all that far from getting his third crack at the title. It would also provide the UFC with a can’t miss headliner.
On deck: Carla Esparza
In a fight that was much closer than their first meeting, Rose Namajunas retained her title at UFC 268 against Weili Zhang. Her striking held up against one of the best strikers any of the women’s divisions have ever seen. Namajunas perhaps didn’t look sharp out of the gate, but picked up momentum as she went. Despite it being a split decision, she seemed to never be in doubt that the belt was coming back home with her.
This fight was the third straight rematch that Namajunas has fought in. On one hand, it really feels like she could use some fresh blood to fight for the strawweight strap. On the other hand, we all know that the rightful challenger is sitting right there in a familiar face. While Dana seems to be non-commital (or perhaps even worse) on Carla Esparza getting the next shot, nobody is more deserving at the moment. She beat Marina Rodriguez, who seems like the only other person close, earlier this year. Here’s to hoping this is just mind games by the UFC brass and Esparza gets to run it back.
On deck: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
After UFC 268, Zhang finds herself in a similar position as Colby Covington. She now has two losses to the current champion and pretty much has to wait for them to drop the belt before getting another shot. The most important thing for her, like Covington, is to continue to beat top-level competition with big names. That way, if the shot does ever present itself again, her name is the obvious choice to get booked for the shot.
The fight that makes the most sense on this front is also the one that everyone wants to see. Weili’s first fight with Joanna Jedrzejczyk was called, by some, the best women’s fight in the history of MMA. It was bloody, wild, technical, and a whole lot of run to watch. With Joanna waiting until March or so for her next fight (as suggested by Dana White), that timeline should be perfect. Pair them both up and let them have a second run at the classic. Also, be sure to make this a five-round fight.
On deck: Charles Oliveira vs Dustin Poirier winner
There have been plenty of fights in history as hyped as Gaethje vs Chandler at UFC 268. Not only were people excited to see the former World Series of Fighting champion square off with the former Bellator champion, but they are both violence-monsters. However, of all of the fights that were hyped like this one, none of them delivered as this one did. Ultimately, Gaethje would come out with the unanimous decision victory in one of the craziest fights of the year (ever?).
Although Islam Makhachev has a real claim to the next title shot, Gaethje just made it a lot harder on him. Gaethje’s style is precisely what the boss-man loves. He throws with reckless abandon and has the wrestling to back it up. I think the magnitude of this fight combined with the action makes it a no-brainer that you go with Gaethje for the next title shot. Makhachev can fight another contender in the meantime.
On deck: Jack Hermansson
On a UFC 268 fight card stacked with household names, there was a lesser-known commodity that put a real stamp on his division. Nassourdine Imavov took his first opportunity against a ranked opponent and cashed in on it. Edmen Shahbazyan was the #11 ranked middleweight, but you’d hardly know it by the ease with which Imavov beat him. “The Russian Sniper” not only picked him apart from range, but he took him down and finished him in a crucifix as well.
The added well-rounded nature of the win has Imavov looking scary at middleweight. He asked for a top ten guy and I’d say he deserves it. Jack Hermansson provides a nice test for him. He is a tough grappler with solid submission skills. His striking has held up against top-flight competition as well. Giving Imavov a shot against him would help determine if Imavov is that top-tier middleweight that he appeared to be on Saturday.
Do you agree with these bookings? Did Gumby miss something obvious? Hit us up on Twitter (@TheAllStarSport) and give him the business.