Last night, the UFC made it’s PPV return to the fight capital of the world, and the card did not disappoint. There was a leg-kick TKO, two walk-off knockouts, and a brilliant performance from the greatest female fighter of all time. With that being said, let’s talk through five matchups that should be booked following UFC 250.
Suga Sean O’Malley vs Top Ten Opponent
Before last night, I said that the UFC did a great job of booking Eddie Wineland as an opponent for Suga Sean. O’Malley (12-0) is an elite striker, and he does a fantastic job at fighting from range. I thought it was the perfect showcase fight for him, and he did not disappoint. About halfway through the first round, O’Malley uncorked a right straight that put Wineland to sleep. O’Malley’s star is only going to continue to shine brighter, but I think the UFC needs to bring him along gradually. They need to use a similar path that they used with Conor McGregor.
O’Malley needs to fight someone in the rankings for his next fight. If you ask me, I would give him someone like a Rob Font (17-4). Font is currently ranked as the tenth best bantamweight in the world according to the UFC rankings. Font is coming off back to back wins, and he would be a good test for O’Malley. Font has been in there with some of the best guys in the world, and has only lost three times since 2016 to John Lineker, Pedro Munhoz, and Ralphael Assuncao. This is another winnable fight for O’Malley, but it would be a fight that would give him some top ten experience. Another win would vault O’Malley closer to the top five and a potential title shot.
Cory Sandhagen vs Jimmie Rivera
Last night did not go as planned for Cory Sandhagen (12-2). Sandhagen entered the matchup riding high having been unbeaten in the UFC. Sandhagen was submitted early in the first round by Aljamain Sterling (19-3). The only positive for Sandhagen was that he didn’t take damage in this fight. Sterling was able to get his back very quickly, but didn’t land a ton of shots. Instead, Sterling used his diverse ground attack to lock up a rear naked choke. With the loss, it’s back to the drawing board for Sandhagen.
To me, Jimmie Rivera (22-4) would be a good next opponent for Sandhagen. Rivera is currently ranked eighth in the world, but he’s coming off of back to back losses to Petr Yan and Sterling. Rivera is a tough guy who has consistently been one of the best in the world at bantamweight. Rivera hasn’t fought since last June so you have to believe he’s looking for a fight. With the limited damage, I’m guessing Sandhagen would like to get back in there as soon as he can. This would be a solid matchup of two top ten bantamweights who are looking to get back on the right track.
Cody Garbrandt vs Marlon Moraes
Cody Garbrandt (12-3) might have landed the best clean walkoff knockout of all time last night. Garbrandt had his back against the wall and he was facing a very tough challenger in Ralphael Assuncao (27-8). Garbrandt showed massive improvements last night in terms of his fighting IQ. Garbrandt stayed on the outside and used his speed brilliantly in this fight. Just before the second round ended, Garbrandt unleashed a right hand that put Assuncao to sleep. After getting knocked out three times in a row, this is exactly the type of win that Garbrandt needed.
“Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-6-1) is in a very weird spot in the bantamweight division. Moraes is currently the number one ranked bantamweight and he’s coming off of a win against the man who is getting the next title shot, Jose Aldo. Moraes is 5-1 in his last six fights with his only loss being to former champion, Henry Cejudo. It’s very clear that Aljamain Sterling is getting the next title shot, but a Garbrandt/Moraes fight would be perfect to setup the next challenger. Yan and Aldo will fight this summer, but maybe the UFC looks to book Sterling against the winner with Garbrandt/Moraes on the under card. Either way, I think this is the fight that makes the most sense.
Aljamain Sterling vs Winner of Yan/Aldo
There is no one in the UFC right now that is probably more deserving of a title shot than Aljamain Sterling. Sterling has now won five straight fights since his last loss to Marlon Moraes. Sterling has looked sensational in his last three fights, but last night he went to the next level. He went through the fourth ranked bantamweight like he was nothing. Sterling made an emphatic statement that he is next for the title, and honestly, he should be fighting for the title now.
Petr Yan (14-1) and Jose Aldo (28-6) have their fight finalized for sometime in July. Dana White announced that the fight was done and would take place in July. Sterling will be watching this fight very closely to figure out who he’s going to be taking on for the title.
Amanda Nunes vs Megan Anderson
To be honest, I really don’t know what to do with Amanda Nunes (20-4). She looked better than ever last night completely out-classing poor Felicia Spencer (8-2) over the course of a five-round beat down. Nunes is so much better than her competition it’s not even funny. I don’t see anyone in either of her two divisions giving her a challenge. Her only realistic challenger would be the UFC’s flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. I previously said it’s a super fight the UFC needs to make, but last night, Dana White said that fight wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.
With that in mind, we look at her two divisions for some challengers. After previously defending her bantamweight title a couple of times in a row, I think Nunes will look to defend her featherweight title for the second time in a row. The logical choice for a challenger would be Megan Anderson (11-4). Anderson is 3-1 in her last four fights with her only loss being to Felicia Spencer. Anderson is a very tall woman and could pose some interesting challenges for the champion. However, I don’t think anyone would give Anderson much of a chance in this one. Nunes is just so much better than anyone which is why she is the greatest of all time.