After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next.
And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC on ESPN+ 28’s most noteworthy winning fighters.
Those winners included Charles Oliveira (29-8 MMA, 17-8 UFC), who submitted Kevin Lee (19-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC) in the third round of the lightweight headliner at Ginasio Nilson Nelson in Brasilia, Brazil, as well as Gilbert Burns (18-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC), Renato Moicano (14-3-1 MMA, 6-3 UFC), Nikita Krylov (26-7 MMA, 8-5 UFC) and Amanda Ribas (9-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC).
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Should fight: Paige VanZant
Why they should fight: Ribas provided another example why she might be the most promising prospect in the strawweight division when she completely overwhelmed Randa Markos for three rounds for a lopsided unanimous decision win.
Originally, Ribas was supposed to fight VanZant (8-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) on the card, but “PVZ” had another setback with her recurring arm injury and had to pull out. It’s clear Ribas still wants that fight, though, because she repeatedly called VanZant’s name after the win.
Given the situation, it makes sense to give it to her. Ribas is a flourishing star, and VanZant is seemingly on her way out the door of the UFC as she has just one fight remaining on her current contract, and her husband Austin Vanderford has made his home with Bellator MMA. She could soon join him there, and using VanZant’s star power to give Ribas a boost on the way out the door is just smart business.
Should fight: Alexander Gustafsson
Why they should fight: Krylov’s second UFC run continues to be a reflection of his best work. It wasn’t the prettiest of fights, but Krylov managed to take the wind out of Johnny Walker and ride out a unanimous decision win.
The fight marked the first time Krylov has ever won a fight on the scorecards, and in that unfamiliar territory he showed he can shut down a dangerous opponent. Now, it’s time to see if he can use the momentum of this win to make moves in the light heavyweight division.
If the talk of Gustafsson (18-6 MMA, 10-6 UFC) returning from retirement turn out to be true, then Krylov would be an interesting welcome back. Gustafsson walked away from the sport last summer following a loss to Anthony Smith, but by all appearances he’s not done. Krylov is a fighter that Gustafsson “should” beat, but Krylov could also rise to the occasion. Either way, we’re learning something important about both men by booking this.
Should fight: Winner of Evan Dunham vs. Michael Johnson at UFC on ESPN+ 32
Why they should fight: It was an impressive lightweight debut for Moicano, who dispatched of Damir Hadzovic with a rear-naked choke less than a minute into the bout.
Moicano called out Paul Felder in his post-fight interview, but that doesn’t seem like a fight Felder would care to take at this point. The Brazilian had the right idea shooting for a big name, but it will take more work before he gets those type of fights in the deep 155-pound weight class.
Although neither man is ranked, the winner of April’s UFC on ESPN+ 31 matchup between veterans Johnson (19-15 MMA, 11-11 UFC) and Dunham (18-8-1 MMA, 11-8-1 UFC) would be a great deal of fun. Both men have a mountain of UFC experience and don’t roll over easily, and those are the type of fights Moicano needs to be taken seriously as a contender in his new division.
Should fight: Santiago Ponzinibbio
Why they should fight: Burns netted a signature win for his resume when he cracked Demian Maia with a massive punch in the first round of their welterweight co-main event, setting himself up for the TKO triumph.
The dangerous Brazilian is now 3-0 since he moved up to welterweight, and his performances are only getting better over time. Beating Maia in the fashion he did is rather unprecedented, so it should most definitely set him up for a big-fight opportunity.
Burns called out Colby Covington during his post-fight media rounds, but that one seems unlikely. A name who would make more sense is Ponzinibbio, who has won his past seven fights but has been out of action since November 2018 due to health issues. He recently told MMA Junkie he’d be back soon, though, and Burns would be a fitting matchup for him to come back to.
Should fight: Donald Cerrone
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Oliveira should rematch Cerrone (36-14 MMA, 23-11 UFC) next after his main event win.