UFC 262 was awesome. Sure there were three decisions on the main card, but none of them were bad fights. And the other two were all action. The undercard provided a ton of highlightx. Overall, it was a good Saturday. But where do all the fighters go from here?
I used to write this post after every single event for years, and always liked to do it. It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to, so let’s get to it. I’ll stick to the classic UFC booking - winners against fighters coming off wins, etc. Most of the time.
Charles Oliveira - This seems pretty obvious. While the specter of Justin Gaethje is always there, the winner of the huge Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor trilogy fight is the biggest money bout for Do Bronx. Either fighter presents a unique style challenge for the new champion, and it’ll be good no matter what. I would rather see Poirier personally, but who cares? Oliveira finally gets paid for all his hard work, but can he beat either man?
Michael Chandler - Tough loss for the former Bellator champ. The UFC used Embedded really effectively this time around to truly introduce Chandler to his new audience, and I personally became more emotionally invested in him due to that. So it was hard to see him come up short in the biggest moment of his life. There’s a silver lining here though - he’s so new to the UFC that there are a ton of money matchups out there for him. Ones that are winnable, that will earn him another shot at gold. He could fight the loser of Poirier-McGregor 3, but that’s lazy matchmaking. Personally I’d love to see him fight Paul Felder one day, that would be awesome. But right now, it seems like there’s only one man destined to stand across from him in the Octagon in the next outing. Gotta be Gaethje. Iron Mike vs. The Highlight is the way to go.
Beneil Dariush - After seven good years in the UFC, Benny finally has his statement win. If Ferguson wasn’t made of rubber and guts, he would have had a statement submission win. But here we are. Dariush is finally in the mix for a title shot and should be top five come rankings time. With the rest of the lightweight booking done here though, he’s unfortunately unlikely to get someone who was above El Cucuy in the rankings next time out. My guess is that Dariush will be looking at former champ Rafael dos Anjos next.
Tony Ferguson - Tony went from completely unbreakable (other than Michael Johnson breaking his arm eons ago) to losing three in a row in lopsided fashion. A new camp didn’t change much, and he looks like an old 37. His brutal training methods might have finally caught up with him. To be fair, he’s losing to some of the best guys in the world. But the UFC is a cold place, and I could actually see them releasing him off of this loss to cut costs. I’ll assume they don’t though, and I’ll go back to the well with a guy I want to see everyone fight - Paul Felder. Felder and Ferguson would be absolute fireworks, and I hope it’s a Fight Night main event so we can get five rounds of that goodness. El Cucuy vs. The Irish Dragon. Book it.
Rogerio Bontorin - Finally we’re moving out of the lightweight division. That was exhausting. Bontorin had his moments in his fight with Matt Schnell and deservedly won a decision, but it wasn’t an enthralling performance or anything. It wasn’t enough to launch him into title contention in my eyes. And he missed weight, a division up. And he’s coming off two losses. But whatever. He could be rewarded with winner of the Brandon Royval vs. Alexandre Pantoja fight in August as a next opponent at 125. But I’d give him Tim Elliott instead.
Matt Schnell - He has fluctuated between bantamweight and flyweight throughout his UFC career, and it seems pretty obvious that he’s much more competitive at 125. This was his first decision loss in the UFC, and he’s usually an action fighter, which the promotion likes. But he’s in a bad spot at the moment because everyone below him in the rankings is coming off a win. Manel Kape seems like a quality next opponent.
Katlyn Chookagian - The classic gatekeeper. Chookagian knocks all the contenders down and only loses to the best of the best (and Jessica Eye). But her technical, low-risk style doesn’t have many people pining to see her face Valentina Shevchenko. Is there anything else out there for Valentina right now? She might have to sit for a while to let a real contender emerge. So let’s do this - another number-one contender fight for Chookagain. A rematch with Lauren Murphy. Winner gets a world of Valentina hurt.
Viviane Araujo - If Araujo had won big, it probably would have earned her a title shot. She did not. Chookagain’s workrate and style slowed her down and brought her momentum to a grinding halt. So, back to the drawing board. Antonina Shevchenko lost last night, and that seems like a logical next matchup for both ladies.
Edson Barboza - Well, he’s an established featherweight now. After an amazing fight and win against Shane Burgos, it’s time for Edson to get in the mix in a stacked division. And I have just the man for him. Well, either man. You see, on June 19th you’re going to witness what I predict will be a fight of the year contender. And Barboza should fight the winner of that bout between The Korean Zombie and Dan Ige next.
Shane Burgos - Yes, Burgos lost. But as stated, it was an amazing fight. Chandler called Burgos his favorite fighter on the UFC roster, and it’s hard to argue with that. Action fights are the norm for Burgos, so that theme should stick. I’m going against the regular matchmaking practices here, but who wouldn’t want to see Burgos fight Bryce Mitchell?