Another UFC card has passed us by and with it comes a host of possibilities moving forward for both the victors and the unfortunate fighters who were defeated.
The UFC's return to the Apex had a tough act to follow after fans enjoyed live action in Jacksonville a week earlier. With some entertaining fights and a memorable main event, UFC Vegas 25 did a pretty decent job of carrying the momentum from the UFC 261 pay-per-view.
In an unusually forgettable set of prelims, two featherweight bouts stole the show. Luke Sanders and Felipe Colares opened the card on the right foot with an entertaining first scrap. A few fights later Kai Kamaka and TJ Brown were unlucky to miss out on the Fight of the Night bonus after their fast-paced and memorable bout.
The main card was largely as advertised. Merab Dvalishvili secured a decision win over Cody Stamann in a technical first matchup. Sean Strickland established his name even further in the middleweight division with a dominant victory over Krzysztof Jotko. Ion Cutelaba and Dustin Jacoby set the stage for the light heavyweight main event with a grueling matchup; the pair left everything in the octagon as they fought to a draw.
The co-main event saw the return of the 'Giga Kick'. Giga Chikadze made it two wins from two for Georgia on the night with a vicious body kick in the opening round against Cub Swanson. In the main event, Jiri Prochazka rendered former title challenger Dominick Reyes unconscious with a spinning elbow.
So, what are the next steps we should see after some of those results? Here are three fights that should be booked following the events at UFC Vegas 25.
#3 Sean Strickland vs. Kevin Holland - UFC middleweight
This matchup makes sense for so many reasons. From the talk during the fight to the striking battle, we'd be guaranteed an entertaining fight if these two middleweights squared up.
At UFC Vegas 25, Sean Strickland looked as impressive as he ever has. Against a middleweight mainstay who'd been beaten just four times in 26 fights prior to Saturday's event, 'Tarzan' looked dominant.
Across his entire career, Strickland has only lost to the best. At welterweight, he lost to Santiago Ponzinibbio and the current welterweight king Kamaru Usman. Aside from that, a spinning wheel kick knockout against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is the only other blemish on an otherwise flawless record.
With impressive wins over Jack Marshman, highly regarded prospect Brendan Allen and now Jotko, it stands to reason Strickland will be stood opposite a bigger name when he next enters the octagon. And who should his next opponent be? None other than the 'Trailblazer' Kevin Holland.
Despite his recent results, Kevin Holland is just 28 years old. He has more than enough time to make the necessary adjustments to his skillset and make another run at becoming a middleweight contender. Perhaps a spell under the tutelage of Khabib Nurmagomedov will set him up nicely moving forward...
With recency bias as present as ever in MMA, many will be quick to forget Holland’s remarkable 2020. His 5-0 year was not the result of luck or a fluke, it was because Holland has immense ability. He now needs to face opposition lower in the division and work his way back.
With Holland sliding down the rankings after defeats to top contenders and Strickland rising up, the two have reached the same point in the division but on different trajectories. It only makes sense for them to be matched up to either ascend Strickland further up the rankings or take 'Big Mouth' out of reverse.
#2 Merab Dvalishvili vs. Dominick Cruz - UFC bantamweight
Talk of a matchup between Merab Dvalishvili and Dominick Cruz has risen after the Georgian called out the former bantamweight champion during his post-fight interview this past weekend. Having both had their hands raised in 2021 and both looking to break into the group of 135-pound contenders, now is the right time for the pair to meet inside the octagon.
At UFC Vegas 25, Dvalishvili continued his bantamweight charge. In a technical, back-and-forth fight against a tough Cody Stamann, Dvalishvili secured a unanimous decision victory. The win was his sixth in a row since a defeat to Ricky Simon in 2018.
Dominick Cruz returned after a three-and-a-half year layoff at UFC 249 last May. He fought Henry Cejudo for the UFC bantamweight championship, but was beaten after a controversial stoppage. At UFC 259 last month, Cruz impressed with a decision victory over the unranked Casey Kenney.
It's clear the former UFC bantamweight champion hasn't lost a step and a win over Dvalishvili will ascend him back into the group of elite bantamweights and into the title conversation. For Dvalishvili, the matchup would represent a chance to beat a massive name and a former champion in the division.
#1 Dominick Reyes vs. Thiago Santos - UFC light heavyweight
This time last year, Dominick Reyes and Thiago Santos' stocks were high. Both men had put in strong showings against Jon Jones in their previous fights and the consensus among fans and the media was that we'd be talking about this matchup in a title scenario by the end of 2020.
The reality is a lot dimmer. A brutal spinning elbow from Jiri Prochazka in the UFC Vegas 25 main event condemned Reyes to a third straight loss. Having previously been 12-0, defeat to Jones and two vicious KO losses to Jan Blachowicz and 'Denisa' has pushed 'The Devastator' away from light heavyweight gold.
It's a similar tale for Thiago Santos. Against Jones, 'Marreta' fought to a split decision loss after going toe-to-toe with 'Bones' for five rounds, despite tears to the ACL, MCL, PCL and meniscus in his left knee and ligament damage in his right.
His return after over a year out was highly anticipated. Most expected him to secure another title shot with a win over Glover Teixeira. After being submitted by his compatriot and then seeing his losing streak extended to three against Aleksandar Rakic at UFC 259 th, the Brazilian has found himself down the pecking order and in desperate need of a win.
Having both slid down the rankings, a matchup between Reyes and Santos would give both the opportunity to bounce back and enter the championship conversation once again. With victories needed for both men, this fight could be a great watch should it be booked.