After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next.
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 248’s key winning fighters.
Those include Israel Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC), who defeated Yoel Romero (13-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) by unanimous decision to defend his middleweight belt in the main event at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Zhang Weili (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC), who edged Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) by split decision to retain the strawweight belt in the co-headliner, as well as Beneil Dariush (18-4-1 MMA, 12-4-1 UFC), Neil Magny (22-7 MMA, 15-6 UFC) and Sean O’Malley (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC).
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Should fight: Brian Kelleher
Why they should fight: O’Malley returned to the octagon in resounding fashion after two years away and showed that he’s still a top bantamweight prospect by putting away Jose Quinonez with an impressive – and fast – first-round finish.
Now undefeated, it’s time for “Suga” to take a step up in competition and see if the talent really matches the hype. He’s able to show out against fighters who aren’t in his league, but what about against someone who should be far more competitive against him?
Sure, Kelleher (20-10 MMA, 4-3 UFC) hasn’t proven himself to be a worldbeater, but he has more experience than O’Malley, has fought better opponents and has better wins. He called for the fight after O’Malley’s win, and the UFC should give it to him.
Should fight: Michael Chiesa
Why they should fight: After a 16-month layoff, Magny returned in fine form and picked up a solid unanimous decision win against Li Jingliang, who has been doing some good things in the welterweight division in recent years.
Immediately after the fight, Magny had a name ready to go for who he wanted next. That name was Chiesa, who is coming off a unanimous decision win over former champ Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on ESPN+ 25 in January that moved him to 3-0 as a welterweight.
Chiesa promptly took to social media and accepted to the callout, and with both sides invested, this one makes itself.
Should fight: Gregor Gillespie
Why they should fight: Dariush extended his winning streak to four fights with one of the best knockouts so far this year. He stopped Drakkar Klose with an absurd punch in the second round of their lightweight matchup, and now it seems Dariush is on the cusp of breaking back into the top 15 of the weight class.
Dariush has been in and out of the rankings over the years, but with three consecutive stoppage wins, he hasn’t seen this type of momentum before. It puts him in position to get a name opponent at 155 pounds, and Gillespie (13-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) is available.
Gillespie is coming off a heinous knockout loss to Kevin Lee at UFC 244 in November, but from all indications is looking to book his next fight sometime in the coming months. Dariush said he’ll be ready to get back to work after his upcoming honeymoon, and it certainly has the ingredients for a solid fight.
Should fight: Rose Namajunas or Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Weili should fight Rose Namajunas (if she wins at UFC 249) or rematch Jedrzejczyk next for her second title defense.
Should fight: Paulo Costa
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Adesanya should fight Costa (12-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) next for his second title defense.