Next matches to make for winners and losers of UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos
International Fight Week has come and gone. The general consensus is that overall, UFC 239 delivered. We had a couple of 21-year-old prospects in Edmen Shahbazyan and Song Yadong run through their opposition on the prelims. Though he eventually lost, Nohelin Hernandez proved he belonged in the big show and gave Marlon Vera quite the fight on just a few days notice. Arnold Allen showed some new looks while dismantling MMA veteran Gilbert Melendez.
On the main card, Jon Jones and Amanda Nunes retained their titles. Jones in a close bout and Nunes in dominant fashion. Jorge Masvidal backed up every ounce of trash talk he had spewed in the lead-up and left Ben Askren stiffened up inside the Octagon in an astounding five seconds. Jan Blochowicz shattered not only Luke Rockhold’s jaw, but also his dreams of being a contender at light heavyweight. And Michael Chiesa out-grappled the workhorse that is Diego Sanchez en route to a decision.
Most of the fights on the main card had big implications. Where do the participants go from here? Well, that’s what we’re going to attempt to sort out.
Jon Jones vs Daniel Cormier 3:
All paths lead to the same destination. The only fighters on a decent streak at the top of the 205 division are Corey Anderson, Dominick Reyes, and Johnny Walker. Anderson has won three in a row against the best competition, but Jones stated after UFC 239 that he won’t fight again until December. This would put Anderson at a year on the shelf if he waited around for Jones. This is a viable option, but people just aren’t excited about this one. It would also be quite the layoff to step back in against one of the most dominant fighters of all time. Reyes’ last outing was lackluster and with only 11 fights, he should take time to develop his game and get some more experience. Walker needs another win or two against top-ten competition before he’s in the conversation.
This just leaves UFC Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Cormier. Despite the fact that Jones bested Cormier twice (one of those was turned to a “No Contest” due to Jones failing a drug test), the fans want to see this one again. Cormier’s only loss in more than 20 professional fights is to Jones. D.C. has stated more than once that he wants to wipe that lone blemish off his record. Should he come out of the rematch against Stipe Miocic generally unscathed, there’s a good chance we could see this one at either light heavyweight or heavyweight at the end of the year. While media and fans have been clamoring for Jones to move up a division, “Bones” doesn’t seem interested in doing so anytime soon. Cormier has said more than once that he wants vengeance at the same weight he lost to Jones at. So if we see Cormier retain the title at heavyweight, that makes sense. If not—or even if he does, but decides he wants that Jones smoke again at 205—let’s do that.
Amanda Nunes vs Cris Cyborg 2 or the winner of Aspen Ladd vs Germaine de Randamie:
Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, Cris Cyborg, Meisha Tate, Holly Holm are just some of the names that Amanda Nunes has beaten during her current nine-fight winning streak. There’s no argument she’s the best female fighter the promotion has ever seen. This is an amazing accomplishment but also leaves her without much work going forward. Cyborg will be a free agent after her UFC 240 fight with Felicia Spencer. Should Cyborg win that one and re-sign with the promotion, that’s the fight to make. If not, I suppose the winner of Germaine de Randamie vs Aspen Ladd makes the most sense.
Jorge Masvidal vs Kamaru Usman for the welterweight title:
Talk about your career resurgences. “Gamebred” has starched former title challenger Darren Till and the undefeated, two-promotional champion Ben Askren back-to-back. Masvidal’s friend and training partner, Colby Covington, is definitely in the conversation, but he has to get through Robbie Lawler now to again solidify his spot.
Those two performances have boosted Masvidal to sights unseen before in his career. To waste Till in front of his home crowd and Askren, who has a huge following, in five seconds, is exactly what the promotion needs to get people excited. UFC brass needs to strike while the iron is hot and book this as soon as Kamaru Usman is healthy.
Jan Blachowicz vs Anthony Smith:
Jan Blachowicz is 5-1 in his last six but has only won one in a row. It’s true that Luke Rockhold would’ve likely got a shot at Jones if he had won impressively, but he’s a former champion and a big name. The win is a nice one for Blachowicz, but not enough to earn him his own number one contender’s spot.
Anthony Smith, against all odds, keeps taking out the top of the division. It’s hard to argue that Smith isn’t a top five light heavyweight at this point. It’s a good fight to keep both guys busy and see where they’re at while the rest of the division sorts itself out.
Michael Chiesa vs Damien Maia:
Michael Chiesa is now 2-0 in the welterweight division but both those wins are against guys in the twilight of their careers. He deserves a step up, but he shouldn’t be thrust into the shark tank just yet. A fight against Damien Maia, who is also winding down but still winning, would tell us where Chiesa stands in the division.
Matches to make for the losers:
Thiago Santos: He gave a spirited try against Jones but fell just short. Santos apparently had his knee destroyed last Saturday and will be out at least the rest of the year. It’s impossible to know where everyone will be ranked by the time he comes back, but a fight against Dominick Reyes down the road would be good.
Holly Holm: At 37 years old and being 2-5 in her last seven, it makes sense that Dana White was calling for Holm to hang up the gloves. If she decides to stick around, give her the loser of Ladd and de Randamie. Holm was booked against Ladd earlier this year and lost a controversial fight to de Randamie in the past.
Ben Askren: Let’s give Askren another brash individual with whom he has had words with in the past. Maybe someone who is also coming off a KO loss to Jorge Masvidal? Darren Till fits the bill.
Luke Rockhold: As White stated after UFC 239, the former Middleweight Champion has a modeling career and has just been brutally KO’d too many times. Should Rockhold decide to continue, match him against the loser of Nikita Krylov and Glover Texeira to see if he has anything for the 205ers.
Diego Sanchez: It’s unlikely that Sanchez does the smart thing and call it a career. I guess he could fight Clay Guida again. Sure, why not?
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Brandon is a long-time combat sports fan who has covered fights since 2017. His work can be found at The Scrap News, The Body Lock, and Fansided MMA. Follow Brandon on Twitter (@B_S_Sibcy).