After dominating Joseph Benavidez at UFC 259, what’s next for Askar Askarov?

This past Saturday at UFC 259, we saw a pivotal flyweight matchup on the prelims. Former title challenger, Joseph Benavidez (28-8), took on rising contender, Askar Askarov (14-0-1). The fight was supposed to be a key test for Askarov.

Saturday night was the fourth fight inside the octagon for Askarov. The native of Dagestan had already been in there with some of the division’s elites. He fought to a draw with Brandon Moreno before defeating Tim Elliot and Alexandre Pantoja.

Benavidez is looked at as one of the best fighters in the history of the UFC to have never captured a title. Despite never becoming champion, Benavidez has fought for the flyweight title four times and was the second ranked contender in the division.

Going into UFC 259, I was expecting a good back-and-forth battle. However, it was anything but. From the opening bell, the fight was all Askar Askarov. From the striking to the grappling, the native of Dagestan dominated Joseph Benavidez.

I was very impressed with Askarov’s ability to control the distance on Saturday. Askarov is long so when he was striking, he did a great job of working his straight punches and jabs. When he wanted to grapple, he closed the distance beautifully. Askarov won all three rounds on all three scorecards at UFC 259.

What’s next for Askarov after UFC 259?

When the updated UFC rankings come out tomorrow, the only men in front of Askarov will be the champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno. As mentioned, Askarov has already fought Moreno to a very close draw back in 2019.

Moreno and Figueiredo will be rematching in June after they fought to a draw in December at UFC 256. In reality, Askarov should be next for the title, but he might have to take a fight in between if he wants to say active.

The matchup I would look at is the upcoming matchup between Alex Perez and Matt Schnell. Both are ranked inside the top seven and Perez is coming off of a title shot. Whoever wins that matchup would be a great next fight for Askarov.

If you’re looking at the rankings, Alexandre Pantoja (23-5) could be an option. However, as mentioned above, Askarov just defeated Pantoja last year. Hard to imagine the UFC would book that again. So the options for Askarov are wait for a title shot or meet the winner of Perez and Schnell if you ask me.

Who’s next? The New York Jets’ potential cap cuts

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets

Henry Anderson was the first player let go in the New York Jets’ 2021 roster purge. Who might be next as free agency looms?

When the latest offering a playoff drought reaching double figures is a two-win campaign, changes are inevitable. The New York Jets officially got those changes, at least those made in 2021, underway last week with the release of three-year defensive lineman Henry Anderson. This process more or less began with an in-season fire sale that saw the New York careers of Le’Veon Bell, Avery Williamson, and Steve McLendon come to an end, but the future planning began in earnest with Anderson’s departure.

After a career-best seven sacks in 2018, his debut New York season after a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, Anderson failed to duplicate those numbers over two additional seasons. The $8.2 million added to the Jets’ cap space made him an essential candidate to open their transactions. New York now has over $77 million in cap space to work with, still second-best in the NFL behind Jacksonville. Even so, when you’re coming off a two-win season in a perpetual rebuild one can use all the resources they can get to crawl their way out…especially when you’re a team cursued with as many holes as the Jets. Thus, Anderson might not be the only to see his New York career cut short.

As the NFL’s pre-free agency period winds down, a tumultuous week potentially awaits with teams preparing to adjust their roster to drastically reduced salary cap. Who be next on the Jets’ free agency block? ESM investigates…

(all figures via Over the Cap)

WR Jamison Crowder 

(Cap Savings: $10.375 million; Dead Money: $1 million)

Save for the uncertainty around the quarterback situation, what the Jets do with Crowder will be one of their most intriguing sags of the offseason. Crowder has established himself as one of the most reliable slot receivers in the NFL during his time in New York. He has been the Jets most potent offensive weapon by far over the last two seasons with 1,532 yards on 137 receptions, a dozen of which went for touchdowns. Those numbers are even handicapped by the fact Crowder was listed as a starter in only 19 games, missing four entirely due to injury.

Crowder has been the Jets’ most potent offensive weapon over the last two seasons…but does that say more about the state of the New York offense than it does about Crowder? No matter who the quarterback is next season, he’s going to need weapons. Should the Jets start completely fresh or perhaps take care of a need by keeping Crowder? With the same saving stipulations involved, another avenue for Crowder could be a trade, as potential dealing partners (Houston/Seattle, anyone?) could use a veteran producer for their weaponry.

T George Fant

(Cap Savings: $7.85 million; Dead Money: $2 million) 

General manager Joe Douglas has made efforts to revamp the Jets’ blocking, an admirable cause after the previous regime took a neglectful approach that has proven costly. But another renovation could well underway, as Douglas’ first full-time free agency haul mostly underwhelmed, and that included the former Seahawk Fant.

Last season probably showed that Fant’s long-term future is probably better suited for the role of a reliable backup. While it’s great to have depth, as well as Fant’s veteran leadership, is this worth resisting the additional funds that can be used to plug holes on the offensive line and beyond?

G Alex Lewis

(Cap Savings: $5.1 million; Dead Money: $1.6 million)

Lewis is a bit symbolic of Douglas’ admirable yet fruitless efforts to improve the blocking. When he took the general manager position in the latter stages of the 2019 offseason, one of his first moves was a trading a late pick to Baltimore to obtain Lewis, who inked a three-year last March after taking on a larger role in the offense in the Kelechi Osemele aftermath.

But Lewis failed to build on his debut season and spent the latter portions of the season on the reserve/non-football injury list. The Jets have appeared committed to Lewis as a bit of a blocking project of sorts, but his tantalizing cap savings make him a prime option for release.

G Greg Van Roten

(Cap Savings: $3.4 million; Dead Money: $250,000)

Another yield from the 2020 free agency haul, the Long Island native Van Roten was at least passable, earning a decent pass blocking grade (71.5) on Pro Football Focus and partaking in every offensive snap over the Jets’ first 11 games. It’s possible he could survive another season of the Jets’ rebuild, if only to erase a box on the offseason checklist. There’s also no dead money left on his deal if the Jets were to cut him loose this time next year.

TE Ryan Griffin

(Cap Savings: $1.8 million; Dead Money: $1.4 million)

Time will tell how the Jets’ tight end situation works out, but the top two options, Griffin and Chris Herndon (over $2 million in savings) would provide extra offseason funds. With Herndon starting to show flashes of reverting to his rookie form in the late stages of the last season, not to mention his youth and and potential upside, the Jets would probably be more likely to end the Griffin experiment after he struggled to stay on the field after inking a three-year extension in 2019.

DE Foley Fatukasi

(Cap Savings: $2.1 million; Dead Money: $43,564) 

The Jets’ front four, which will take on greater importance in Robert Saleh’s new systems, is an area that, surprisingly, needs little refurbishment. Keeping Fatukasi, who rose to the occasion when granted an extended opportunity after injuries and moves, would be a nice show of faith to a day three draft pick that has made a home for himself in the New York area in more ways than one. Fatukasi was born in Far Rockaway and his brother each star on Rutgers’ football team in Piscataway. After the eldest Fatukasi posted career-best numbers with the Jets, no use in breaking this family reunion.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

After successful title defense at UFC 259, what’s next for Jan Blachowicz?

Corey Anderson

This past Saturday at UFC 259, light heavyweight champion, Jan Blachowicz (28-8), welcomed Israel Adesanya (20-1) to light heavyweight. Adesanya was looking to become a two-division champion on Saturday night.

While Blachowicz was the defending champion, the majority of the attention was falling on Adesanya. Stylebender is on his way to being the biggest star in the sport and he was trying to accomplish something that only four others have done in the UFC.

Blachowicz had just become the light heavyweight champion back in September. Despite being the defending champion, most were counting Blachowicz out on Saturday night. Blachowicz is known for his famous Polish Power, but there was a lot to be concerned about going into UFC 259.

For one, Adesanya is arguably the best pure striker in the promotion. Adesanya was also supposed to have a massive speed advantage so one would think if the fight was standing, Blachowicz’s only chance was to land a big knockout shot.

However, the knockout shot never came on Saturday night. Instead, Blachowicz actually got the better of the striking for two of the first three rounds. He then transitioned to his grappling to secure the fourth and the fifth. In the end, it was a clear decision win for Blachowicz at UFC 259.

What’s next after UFC 259?

With the win on Saturday night, Blachowicz showed the world that his title run was no fluke. He fought arguably the biggest star in the sport and he beat him at his own game which is distance striking.

After the fight was over, Blachowicz said that he wanted to take a little time off before his next UFC title defense. That said, the next fight for him is already lined up. The number one contender in the division is Glover Teixeira (32-7).

What a turnaround Glover Teixeira has experienced inside the octagon. Back in 2018, Glover lost a decision to Corey Anderson. He was 2-3 in his previous five fights and he was getting ready to turn 40. However, that’s when he turned things around.

Glover Teixeira has now won five consecutive fights and finished four of them. Three of those wins came against top ten contenders at 205. In a way, Blachowicz and Teixeira have had very similar stretches.

Both men looked like their UFC careers were going to be over just a few years ago. Blachowicz was 2-4 and Teixeira was struggling. However, both men drastically turned things around. One is now the champion and the other is the number one contender. These two should clash in the late summer this year.

New York Mets: Jerry Blevins is aiming for one of the last bullpen spots

Simeon Woods-Richardson

With the arrivals of right-hander Trevor May and lefty Aaron Loup, the New York Mets have one of the deepest bullpens in the National League, even if they won’t have stellar setup man Seth Lugo available for the start of the season.

Edwin Diaz is supposed the be the closer, and he is one of the best relievers in baseball. May is a fantastic addition, and Loup is a very good lefty to help retire batters of his hand. Dellin Betances and Jeurys Familia, as well as Robert Gsellman, are bounceback candidates, and there are lots of hopes put in Sam McWilliams, who the Mets gave a major league deal without ever pitching in the bigs.

For a guy like Jerry Blevins, who is 37 years old and didn’t pitch in MLB last year, making the roster will be a tough task. But the Mets don’t have too many left-handed relievers, and as long as that’s the case, he has hope.

He last pitched in the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 2019, and had a 3.90 ERA in 32.1 frames. He latched on with the San Francisco Giants but was let go in the early stages of the pandemic. He spent those months “chasing around two kids in diapers.”

The Mets came calling

But the Mets called, and he took the opportunity.

“I still have that want,” Blevins said to MLB.com. “I want to win a World Series. Literally the only team I would have come back for is the Mets. My body still feels great. I still have analytics that say my stuff is still the same, so I’m still there, I still have that drive. And then the perfect storm of having a chance to come to New York, where my family loved it, where my first son was born, and they’re a World Series competitor. So it’s going to be tough to make this team, but I still feel like I have an opportunity to do that.”

Trevor Hildenberger, Arodys Vizcaíno, Drew Smith, McWilliams and others are his main competitors for a spot with the New York Mets.

“Right now, my goal is to win a spot on this roster,” Blevins said. “When the time comes, we’ll deal with that as it is. There are a lot of variables that will shake themselves out.”

Blevins has a 3.54 career ERA. Lefties have batted .213 against him, so he has things working for him.

Is it time for Joseph Benavidez to retire after UFC 259?

Joseph Benavidez, UFC

On the prelims this past Saturday at UFC 259, we saw a big matchup in the flyweight division. Top three contenders went head-to-head as Joseph Benavidez (28-8) took on the unbeaten Askar Askarov (14-0-1).

For Benavidez, he was looking to turn things around after a very rough 2020. Benavidez had two shots at the UFC flyweight title in 2020, but he was destroyed by Deiveson Figueiredo in both fights. This fight was supposed to be a bounce back opportunity.

On the flip side, Askar Askarov was looking to show that he’s worth all the hype. The Russian is being looked at as a potential future UFC champion, and he’s been sensational since making his octagon debut a couple of years ago.

I was expecting this fight to be extremely close, however, it was anything but. It was clear from the opening bell at UFC 259 that Askarov was the better fighter in there. From the striking exchanges to the grappling exchanges, Askarov was in full control.

I thought Benavidez would have a big speed advantage in this one, but the speed wasn’t there. Benavidez was swinging wild and didn’t seem to have that same explosion. Ultimately he lost all three rounds on all three scorecards at UFC 259.

Benavidez’s UFC future

After UFC 259, Dana White was asked if he needs to have a conversation with Benavidez about hanging it up. White quickly said that there was no need for that conversation yet, but many in the industry have wondered about Benavidez’s future.

At the end of the day, Joseph Benavidez will go down in history as one of the greatest fighters of all time to never win a title. He’s had several opportunities, but he’s always come up shot. Benavidez is 0-4 in the UFC alone in title fights.

He does look like he’s lost a step or at least he looked that way on Saturday night. However, I think it’s important to take a step back and look at his competition. While Benavidez has lost three fights in a row, it’s important to remember who his losses are to.

In his entire career, here are the losses for Benavidez: Dominick Cruz (Twice), Demetrious Johnson (Twice), Sergio Pettis, Deiveson Figueiredo (Twice), and Askar Askarov. All of those fighters have either been world champions or they’re at the top of the sport.

I don’t believe it’s time for Benavidez to retire from the UFC just yet. I think the promotion should give him someone lower in the rankings next to see if he can get back on the winning track. Maybe someone like a Tim Elliot. If he can’t win that kind of fight, it might be time for Joey B to hang it up for good.

Yankees’ Montgomery is happy with where he is at and is primed for a big season

New York Yankees, Jordan Montgomery

We have said many times on this website that the New York Yankees need some stability in their rotation, as there are some injury-prone members after Gerrit Cole. Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber have all the talent in the world, but the truth is that they haven’t pitched much, if at all, in the last two years.

That’s where a guy like Jordan Montgomery enters the equation. A Tommy John surgery survivor himself, ‘Gumby’ is a crucial part of the 2021 Yankees because he can provide a nice floor, a considerable ceiling, and some certainty. In 2020, he showed that the elbow procedure is well in the rearview mirror, and he will enter this campaign with no limitations.

Montgomery, and the Yankees, are very happy with his current state. On Sunday, he tossed 42 pitched against the Philadelphia Phillies, 28 of them in the strike zone, to lead the team to a 4-0 victory at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Monty was on the mound for three innings and didn’t concede any runs or walks, with two hits and one strikeout. He was in control.

“It was good to get some work in with guys on base,” Montgomery said to MLB.com. “That’s the best it could have worked out, to give up two soft singles and work out of it. I got to work on holding runners and just feel the pressure of having guys on base, so I’m pretty happy with where I am.”

The Yankees need Monty to flourish

Last season with the Yankees, Montgomery was a part of the rotation from start to finish, and while he did post a 5.11 ERA, his 3.87 FIP tells a different story. He was unlucky, and there is some positive regression to be expected in 2021.

Monty said that the peace that the fact he had a spot in the rotation locked up gave him allowed him to work on his mechanics. He looks better than ever, and with the opportunity to learn from Kluber, he should have a very good year.

“Kluber is a man of few words,” Montgomery said. “I’ve talked to him a little bit; we had breakfast a couple of days. You can just watch him and learn so much, the way he carries himself and gets after it in the weight room. He knows what he’s doing there; he’s got a plan. He’s attacking the hitters and he doesn’t really miss.”

Yankees’ Aaron Judge makes BOLD claim about Gary Sanchez

New York Yankees, NYY, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez

New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez might have hit .147 last year and recorded a negative WAR, but that didn’t scare slugger Aaron Judge away from making a bold comment about his teammate.

Sanchez has been on the decline for a few seasons now, seeing his defense drop off significantly and his offense remain volatile. While he’s capable of hitting 30+ homers in any given season, he scarcely makes contact and strikes out an exorbitant amount. Last season, he recorded a career-high 36% strike out right and career-low on-base percentage.

However, Sanchez has worked diligently to improve this off-season, and Judge has been there every step of the way.

“Gary’s a guy that can go out there and win AL MVP…”

Quite the bold projection so early in spring training.

“Seeing those improvements, those changes, has been huge,” Judge told reporters on Saturday.

“Seeing the changes he was trying to make with his swing to shorten up and make better contact, be more consistent,” Judge said. “From day one, the first day of the offseason, he was already trying to make changes. And it was pretty amazing to to see the improvement he made in just a short amount of time.”

The Yankees need both Judge and Sanchez to rid themselves of their demons:

Judge has his own issues to deal with, like remaining healthy for an entire season. When he’s on the field, though, he’s one of the best right fielders in baseball and one of the most dangerous hitters.

Sanchez is capable of having that offensive impact, as we saw in 2017 when he hit 33 homers and recorded a .278 average. His regression is primarily mental, but changing his fundamentals and tweaking things to perfect his swing is never a bad idea. Sanchez often gets down on himself as he hangs his head after each strikeout, but that’s part of baseball, and you have to return with a clear memory.

One thing that Sanchez hasn’t lost is his work ethic, as he continues to refine his abilities and become the best player possible. Judge gives him credit for that positive, but he just needs to put it all together and display it on the field moving forward.

“Something that’s always impressed me is, he’s a hard worker,” Judge said. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for the amount of work and the amount of hours he puts in at his craft. So, it’s exciting to see the success he’s having so far in spring training.”

Can Knicks’ Obi Toppin live up to his lottery pick expectations?

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

It is early, really early to be having a conversation about New York Knicks’ power forward Obi Toppin. However, Toppin has quickly been surpassed by 25th overall pick Immanuel Quickley in terms of impact and production in their rookie seasons.

Obi was selected eighth overall and was expected to be a powerhouse in transition and offered the Knicks a dominant presence in the paint. Through 27 games, Toppin is averaging just 4.7 points and 2.5 rebounds over 12.7 minutes. Ultimately, his production hasn’t even been close to his lottery pick expectations.

The former Dayton stand-out participated in and slam dunk contest on Sunday evening in the All-Star game, just barely being edged out but posting a few impressive dunks in the process.

Toppin is a physical and exciting player in transition, and the Knicks likely felts with their elite defense, he would offer them a rangy player when traveling the length of the court and scoring in transition. Unfortunately, his adaptation to the NBA has been a bit troublesome. He has been buried on the depth chart as a last choice on the second team. His 12.7 minutes barely scratch the surface, especially when Quickley is averaging 18.8 per game.

Despite his deficiencies, specifically on defense and inability to dominate in the post, Toppin has an elite work ethic, and most aren’t worried that he will eventually grow into his role and begin impacting the team.

The question to ask is, why do the Knicks continue to ignore the point guard position in favor of power forwards? While he is a developing second piece behind Julius Randle, New York has desperately needed a PG for quite some time. They are currently rolling with a rotation of Derrick Rose, Elfrid Payton, and Quickley. In fact, I would be surprised if Toppin even cracks the starting team next year, given the presence of Randle and the amount of cap space the Knicks have to acquire a star player. That doesn’t devalue him as a second-team player, as he can make an impact in that role as well.

I see Obi making an impact as a productive pick-and-roll man, specifically when featuring in the frontcourt, using his speed and athleticism to tantalize defenses and force them to move out of shape.

Since Toppin was expected to be a ready-made player for the NBA at 22 years old, his production this year has been a bit disappointing. However, when the game finally starts to slow down, and he can find his role, I believe the Knicks will begin to rely on him more.

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez is under the microscope, can he be the real deal?

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankee catcher Gary Sanchez is under the microscope big time in spring training, which is not likely to go away any time soon. Before I get into the story and the hype, I’ve got to say that I want Gary Sanchez to succeed, both for himself and, to a greater extent, for the team’s success.

From the start, even in his All-Star years, Sanchez has been polarizing. Much of the scrutiny warranted, some not. If you try to analyze it, it’s because he is a guy with such potential, most of it unrealized. The hype surrounding him goes both ways. Some say he is the best catcher in baseball, but the fact is that he isn’t, at least from the backstop perspective. His big plus is that he has a rocket of an arm that few will try to challenge when they want to steal a base.

He also has the potential of hitting home runs at will. The question is why he hasn’t consistently risen to that plateau. That is a complicated question that I can’t begin to answer. But there are some clues. Last year anyone that follows Sanchez or the New York Yankees knows that Gary had a horrible season. There is no other way to color it. He failed behind the plate, and to put it simply, he couldn’t do his job hitting the baseball.

One has to believe that with such potential, Gary’s head gets in the way of his success. After the season, Gary said, “I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing,” a statement that puzzled many. It led many to wonder if he understood the game of baseball. When you don’t perform and hurt the team, you don’t play. When you play under immense pressure, some rise to new heights, some get shot down by the pressure. The bottom line is that Sanchez got into a bad place last season that he just couldn’t get out of.

Here are the facts: In 2016 and 2017, the Yankees thought they had a bonified catching star on their hands. Between those two years, he hit 53 home runs and batted .288. Specifically, in 2016 he hit 20 home runs in just 53 games, that one home run in every two and a half games. That’s insane; based on that, he could hit over 60 home runs a year. In the Rookie of the Year competition, he came in second. He was a Silver Slugger, an All-Star, and an MVP candidate.

But in 2018, that all fell apart, and for the most part, has stayed that way. He has also had problems with the injury bug. In 2019 he hit the most home runs of his career with 34, but his strikeouts soared, and his batting average dropped to .232. Unfortunately, 2020 was even worse; he hit .147 and even lost many of his catching opportunities to backup catcher Kyle Higashioka, even when Kyle wasn’t the personal catcher for ace Gerrit Cole. Gary caught in only two of the seven post-season games. That is what prompted the; no one told me why I was playing statement.

If Sanchez is indeed a “head case,” it isn’t because of the manager or New York Yankee front office; they had constantly stood by him, even when there was no reason to. At the end of last season, it started to look like that relationship might be cracking. But low and behold, in the offseason, the Yankees tendered him a contract and stated that he would be their starting catcher.

Now with a new season coming up and spring training in its second week, the hype is back for Sanchez to bounce back to his 2017 self. Things are looking pretty good for Sanchez. Manager Aaron Boone has basically (and confusingly) striped Higashioka of his personal catcher title, saying that Gary will be catching Cole. (Cole is twice as good when being caught by Higashioka). Also, in just a few games, Gary has hit two monster home runs. The pressure from a catching and hitting standpoint is back in full force. Will he respond as everyone wants him to, or will he continue to play as he did last season.

If, after a few less than expected outings catching Cole, you have to believe that after last year’s results, Boone will not stick to his decision to remove Higashioka. If that happens, it will be another hit on Gary’s ego and stature. Gary has done the work in the offseason to improve his game, and everyone is encouraging him as they should. Here is what his catching coach Tanner Swanson had to say about Gary, and some quotes from fellow players, draw your own conclusions:

“Gary’s a guy that can go out there and win AL MVP,” Aaron Judge said Sunday from George M. Steinbrenner Field after the Yankees beat the Phillies 4-0. “He’s that dynamic and that important of a player to this team.”

“He does seem very focused in his early work,” DJ LeMahieu added. “Out to prove that he’s Gary Sanchez and he’s one of the best catchers in the league.”

“He’s been really accountable for his performance in 2020 and hasn’t run from that and has faced some of those challenges head on,” Swanson said. “Personally, our dynamic has really improved as well. I think that’s been a positive thing as we continue to find areas where we can strengthen his game. It’s really evolved from a coach-to-player directive — a place where, in the past, especially early on, it was, ‘I’ll do whatever you tell me’ — to now it’s really developed into a partnership, which is much more effective in terms of the long-term sustainability of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

In the end, the pressure on Gary is justified. He must perform to expectations this season, if he doesn’t it may be his last year with the New York Yankees. He may or may not understand that, they say that ignorance is bliss or is it? Some say he could be this season’s MVP, how much pressure is that?

 

What’s next for Israel Adesanya after his loss at UFC 259?

This past Saturday at UFC 259, Israel Adesanya (20-1) moved up in attempt to become a two-division champion. Standing in his way was the man who became the king at 205 last year, Jan Blachowicz (28-8).

The fight didn’t go anything like I thought it would. For the first three rounds, it was a technical striking match. However, I figured Adesanya would have a much greater speed advantage than he had. I figured if they kickboxed at range, Adesanya would have the massive advantage.

He did not at UFC 259. Blachowicz held his own and in fact, all three judges gave the light heavyweight champion two of the first three rounds. The final two rounds were dominated by Blachowicz who switched to his wrestling.

Adesanya had no answer for the wrestling game of Blachowicz. Blachowicz successfully landed two takedowns in the fourth and fifth and the rest of both rounds found him on top of the UFC‘s middleweight champion.

In the end, all three judges gave four of the five rounds to Blachowicz. Israel Adesanya suffered his first career loss in the UFC and now will return to the middleweight division where he is still the champion.

What’s next after UFC 259?

As mentioned, following his failed attempt to become a two-division UFC champion, Adesanya will return to the division where he still holds the belt. Over the next two months, there are a lot of pivotal matchups in the middleweight division.

There are two fights in particular that I think will likely produce the next challenger for Adesanya. The first matchup is the fight between Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. Whittaker is the former UFC middleweight champion and has only lost to Adesanya at 185 pounds.

Costa is still one of the top contenders in the division and his only career loss is to Adesanya. The other fight I have my eyes on is the Marvin Vettori – Darren Till matchup. Adesanya has been vocal that he’s always wanted to fight Darren Till.

Meanwhile, Marvin Vettori is surging and fought the UFC middleweight champion to a split decision not too long ago. I believe Adesanya’s next fight will come from one of these four men. However, before the year’s over, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Kevin Holland enter that mix.