UFC 278 is an exciting event full of endings, wars and unexpected drama. Most notably, ending the card was a Hail Mary header from Leon Edwards to end reigning champion Kamaru Usman in their welterweight belt rematch. Luke Rockhold hung up his glove after the defeat, but pushed Paulo Costa to the limit, and the legend’s final attempt for the bantamweight belt failed. Who should the winner of these and other major card battles face next?
On the surface, the next fight for the second British champion in UFC history is clearly a rubber fight with Kamaru Usman, but it may not be that simple. The “Nigerian Nightmare” had just suffered his first knockout defeat, was just 35 years old, and discussed his severe knee problems at length. Does the champion want to come back soon enough to align his schedule with that of the new champion, who says he wants to play in early 2022? Is it even possible for him to retire?
Three weeks later, Khamzat Chimaev took on Nate Diaz in the non-championship PPV Main Event. Khamzat may be the hottest prospect in the UFC right now, and if Usman is to be sidelined for an extended period, a win over Nate would all but guarantee him the coveted title. However, it would be nearly impossible to pick anyone other than Kamaru Usman for the next title. A trilogy match where both have won a previous fight is a scene that, time and time again, yields the highest stakes in combat sports. Still, life isn’t guaranteed, and battles are less so.
Edward’s Next Fight: Trilogy vs. Kamaru Usman
Paul Costa returned to victory on Saturday against middleweight legend Luke Rockhold. The night-fighting performance has him back in contention for the belt, so it must be time for him to battle the top-10 contenders again. Many 185-pound battles are coming, from Whittaker v Vettori, to Adesanya v Pereira’s title fight, to the recently announced October Main Event Sean Strickland v Jared Cannonier. With the last two games coming from losses, giants like Paulo Costa will be looking to re-establish their push for the belt, making the winner of this battle the perfect one to face ‘Boracina’ in the near future choose.
There is a conspiracy in any turn. Cannonier and Costa are the two toughest players in the division, and if the two meet, the fight could end at any time. However, fans also love the thrilling verbal competition. Both Costa and Strickland are known for athletes who have no filters and entertain on the mic and on social media. A press conference featuring the two is sure to generate a lot of interest, to say the least, as was the case last year when Costa and Marvin Vittori had a heated pre-match video interview.
Costa’s next fight: Canonnier vs Strickland winner
Merab Dvalishvili’s victory over legend Jose Aldo extended the Georgian wrestler’s winning streak to eight, but his title may not have played a role given some of Dana White’s disparaging comments after the fight. It probably doesn’t matter though, as he has discussed relegating to flyweight to avoid a fight with his close friend, champion Aljamain Sterling, although that decision may depend on the upcoming Sterling Results of the title fight with Dillashaw. For now, however, we’ll be operating under the assumption that Merab won’t make such a strenuous weight loss and stay in the division he’s been competing in.
With that in mind, there are quite a few upcoming games that will impact bookings for this game. In the near future, Petr Yan will take on Song Yadong with Sean O’Malley and Cory Sandhagen in a Fight Night Main Event. If O’Malley wins over Yan, the UFC will likely push him toward the title, but if Yan wins, a fight against Dvalishvili could make sense. Regardless of who wins, however, Sandhagen makes sense for the winner of Yadong as an opponent, and it will be an interesting clash of styles between wrestlers and strikers.
Dvalishvili’s next opponent: Sandhagen vs Yadong winner
Lucie Pudilova is spending some time outside the UFC after her first bout ended a four-game losing streak against a top-flight opponent. Still, many fans with fond memories will remember her nearly beating Alexa Grasso in an absolute war in 2018. Her return to a big spot on the main card at UFC 278 is something to remember for the Czech fighter as she dominated Wu Yanan before getting a brutal ground-and-rush finish in the second round. She still has to start at the low end of the division and work her way up. Given that, Polyana Botello is a logical battle for her as the Brazilian looks to reverse her luck and Pudilova looks to continue her momentum.
Pudilova’s next fight: Polana Botelho
SAMOA – Australian light heavyweight Tyson Pedro continued his comeback journey with a lightning-fast victory over Harry Hensuk, thanks to punches and then a vicious hit to the liver. After four years due to a serious injury, it is good to see the exciting prospect regain his momentum. It’s time to take the competition to the next level and take on the likes of former PFL HW champion Philipe Lins in the rankings. After a rough 0-2 start in the UFC’s heaviest division, Lyns recently stepped into LHW waters looking for a change. In April, he scored his first win in an upgrade over Marcin Prachnio. Both Pedro and Rins have well-rounded skill sets, finishing abilities and top-15 potential. This match can be thought of as a “ranked battle eliminator”, where the winner will receive a lower ranked opponent.
Pedro’s next fight: Philip Rings