If you didn’t think Kamaru Usman was legit before UFC 258, he left no doubt as he finished Gilbert Burns in the third round via TKO. On top of that, a main card that looked relatively top heavy delivered big with entertaining finishes. Looking ahead these are the fights that I think should be made next.
Julian Marquez vs Impa Kasanganay
Julian Marquez started out slow in his fight versus Maki Pitolo on Saturday night as he was taken down and couldn’t find his pace. Things took a turn in his favor; however, when he found himself in a grappling exchange with Pitolo and was able to sink in an Anaconda choke which made for a great comeback. Afterwards, Marquez made the best callout of the night when he asked Miley Cyrus to be his valentine to which she agreed to. In all seriousness, Marquez showed great resilience in this fight and the fact that he was able to come back with less than a minute left is very impressive. I think his next opponent should be Middleweight Impa Kasanganay, who also has a victory over Maki Pitolo. Kasanganay was recently medically cleared from his knockout loss back in October and I think these guys would provide an entertaining fight to determine who is ready for the next caliber of fighters.
Ricky Simon vs Andre Ewell
Ricky Simon gave the fans his second impressive performance in 2021 at UFC 258 against Brian Kelleher. Simon showed his superior wrestling ability landing six takedowns and controlling Kelleher on the ground for over eight minutes during the fight. With another great fight on his resumé I think Simon has earned a fight with a strong bantamweight. Who better to give him this challenge than someone else who was also on this card in Andre Ewell. While Ewell lost on Saturday he performed well against a strong opponent in Chris Gutierrez. Going against a high pace striker should be a good challenge for Simon and I think both of these fighters will be game for this fight in a short time.
Kelvin Gastelum vs. Loser of Holland & Brunson
Kelvin Gastelum returned to the win column against Ian Heinisch on Saturday night after a three fight skid. Gastelum looked like his old self mixing in takedowns with his striking and securing victory via unanimous decision. Gastelum has fought the best of the best for years now and even though he has only won 2 of his last 5, he is still a top ten middleweight and should continue to fight strong competition. As of right now, the top ten is relatively occupied with most fighters being booked to fight in the upcoming months so I think Kevin’s best option is to wait. In mid-March Kevin Holland and Derek Brunson will fight and the winner will be primed for a top five opponent and I think if Kelvin waits for this match to play out he will have a good top ten opponent waiting for him.
Alexa Grasso vs Viviane Araujo
In the Co-main event the Mexican Alex Grasso showed that she is a staple in the Women’s flyweight division. Lots of attention was taken away from Grasso in fight week and she reminded the world that she is no one to sleep on. She silenced the Maycee Barber hype with her stand up and winning 29-28 on all judges scorecards. Grasso is still very young and I think that she needs one more fight before going to against the top five women in the division. For that reason I think that her next opponent should be the Brazilian Viviane Araujo. Araujo is currently the seventh ranked flyweight and her mixed style would be a solid challenge for Grasso to determine who is ready for a top five fight.
Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington 2
Kamaru Usman proved himself as one of the greatest welterweights of all time at UFC 258 when he finished one of his biggest challenges in Gilbert Burns. Usman is easily one of the most dominant active fighters right now and even though he got clipped in the first round he was in control the rest of the fight. At this point, Usman has almost cleared out one of the most stacked divisions in the world. While it appears that Usman wants the rematch with Masvidal I think that the best fight right now would be the rematch with Colby Covington as these men put on one of my favorite fights of all time and the rematch would definitely be a hit. As of now it’s not looking like this will play out yet, but I still have hope that Covington and Usman will run it back eventually but until then I think the rematch with Masvidal is next for Usman, potentially on the Ultimate Fighter.