UFC 250 is in the books and despite a lack of fanfare going in, the show turned out to be one of the best of 2020. We were treated to a number of violent finishes and incredible performances, and while one champion re-affirmed her status as an all-time great, a rising star has probably cemented a title shot of his own.
So what's next for some of last night's big winners?
#1 Amanda Nunes
Amanda Nunes once again proved herself as the greatest female fighter in MMA history last night, as she shellacked Felicia Spencer over five rounds to retain her UFC Featherweight title. So what's next for 'The Lioness'?
The first question to answer is whether she defends her Featherweight title again next, or whether she drops back down to defend her Bantamweight crown. Despite her lofty status, there are at least viable challengers in both divisions.
At 135lbs, the most likely challenger would be Mexico's Irene Aldana. She's 5-3 in the UFC but has won 5 of her last six fights and most recently knocked out the formerly unbeaten Ketlen Vieira. That knockout was easily the most impressive of her career.
Aspen Ladd could also lay claim to a shot, but realistically she still needs to prove that she can make the 135lbs limit on a regular basis, and she's also 1-1 in her last two fights.
At 145lbs, only one woman makes sense as Nunes' next foe: Australian striker Megan Anderson. She's coming off two straight wins, and while it's worth noting that Spencer beat her in 2019, her size and striking power would at least ask some questions of Nunes.
Would 'The Lioness' be the betting favorite? Of course. But fighting Anderson would not only mean Nunes wouldn't need to cut back down to 135lbs, but it'd also give her the chance to equal the number of title defenses made by Cris Cyborg – essentially allowing the UFC to erase Cyborg from their history books.
For those reasons, the Australian striker makes the most sense as the next challenger for 'The Lioness'.
#2 Cody Garbrandt
Prior to last night, many fans felt that former UFC Bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt was a shot fighter. 'No Love' hadn't actually won a fight since December 2016, and his last three outings had seen him knocked out in violent fashion.
Garbrandt turned that slump around last night with a brutal knockout win over Raphael Assuncao. It was the best that he'd looked since his title reign, and his performance proved that he's still got plenty in the tank.
So who's next for him? I don't think he's ready for a title shot just yet, but in all honesty, with one or two more big wins, then he could reach that level again.
With that in mind, why not match Garbrandt against Marlon Moraes? The Brazilian is coming off a win – albeit a contentious one – over Jose Aldo and is currently ranked #1 in the division. He's also less than a year removed from an unsuccessful title shot of his own.
Moraes' speed would almost definitely provide Garbrandt with a stiffer test than Assuncao did, and he'd almost certainly test Cody's chin too. For me, this fight would make perfect sense as a Fight Night headliner later in 2020.
#3 Aljamain Sterling
Arguably the most impressive showing at UFC 250 came from Aljamain Sterling. The #2 ranked Bantamweight contender choked out the previously undefeated Cory Sandhagen in under two minutes, picking up the biggest win of his career in the process.
There's literally only one fight that makes sense for 'Funk Master' next, and that's a shot at the Bantamweight title. In truth, Sterling probably should've been fighting for the vacant title anyway, but after his win over Sandhagen, that shouldn't matter.
The current plan right now is for Petr Yan and Jose Aldo to face off for the title vacated by Henry Cejudo last month, perhaps in the main event of July's UFC 251. If that's the case, then the UFC needs to give Sterling his title shot before the end of 2020, injuries allowing.
Even if Yan or Aldo can't defend that quickly, there's no reason for Sterling to fight again before his shot at the crown. 'Funk Master' has gone on a run of 5 wins in a row, and he's clearly the top contender right now.
I'd even go out on a limb and say that he'll win the title once he gets his shot. For me, there's no better 135lber on the planet right now.
#4 Sean O'Malley
While he isn't ranked as highly as last night's other big Bantamweight winners Sterling and Garbrandt, Sean O'Malley still picked up the best victory of his young career last night with his knockout of former WEC champ Eddie Wineland.
The win puts O'Malley at 4-0 in the UFC and 12-0 overall, and while Wineland wasn't ranked in the top fifteen prior to last night's show, to see 'Sugar Sean' appear in the rankings next week wouldn't be a major shocker.
While O'Malley has suggested he wants more money from the UFC before he steps up to the next level when it comes to his opposition, there's nothing to suggest that the promotion won't want to continue to push him.
With that in mind, a good opponent for him to face next would be Ecuador's Marlon Vera. 'Chito' is coming off a controversial loss to Song Yadong, but before that he'd won 5 in a row.
More to the point, the 27-year old is incredibly aggressive, and has finished 8 of his nine wins inside the Octagon. More than most opponents, he'd be willing to push O'Malley to his limits – and we'd find out for sure if 'Sugar Sean' is for real, or simply a front-runner.
Overall, it'd be a fantastic fight to make.
#5 Neil Magny
It wasn't a hugely impressive win, but Neil Magny was able to grind out his 16th UFC win last night by taking a decision over Anthony Rocco Martin. Right now, 'The Haitian Sensation' isn't ranked in the top 15 due to only returning this year from a USADA suspension, but that could well change this week.
Assuming that's the case, then a good fight for him next would be the #8 ranked Michael Chiesa. 'Maverick' defeated Rafael Dos Anjos in January to enter into the top ten, but despite that, he's still miles away from a title shot, with the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Leon Edwards, and Gilbert Burns all ahead of him in the queue.
The reason why a fight with Magny would make so much sense is that it'd answer the question of whether Magny still struggles with specialists.
Chiesa is almost a pure grappler who's been able to dominate most of his foes on the mat, and while Magny's grappling is solid enough, he's always struggled against fighters who have a big advantage over him in one area.
If he could overcome 'Maverick', then it'd prove that he's over that hurdle – and it could well lead to a run into contention for 'The Haitian Sensation'. If Chiesa could win, meanwhile, it'd prove his own worth in one of the UFC's most packed divisions.Published 07 Jun 2020, 20:45 IST