With countless ranking implications and two successful title defenses following the UFCs success in Las Vegas at UFC 276, many are speculating on what fights should be made when all things are considered.
The current UFC 185-pound king Israel Adesanya has already switched his focus to the next challenger, and he recently shared that he has a date for his next title defense.
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
Adesanya and Pereira – the man who owns two kickboxing victories over the current champ, including the only knockout loss of Izzy’s combat sports career – both fought at UFC 276. “The Last Stylebender” headlined the event and defeated Jared Cannonier in his fifth middleweight title defense under the UFC banner.
Pereira was matched with the difficult challenge of Sean Strickland one fight before the evening’s co-main event, and it took the Brazilian a few minutes before he knocked out the No.4 ranked Strickland with a vicious left hook. It was the most significant success of Pereira’s MMA career, propelling the former foe of Adesanya into the No.6 ranking position.
Discussing a date for his sixth title defense on his YouTube channel, Adesanya alluded to the confirmation that he and his team are already looking at dates. Although the champ made it evident that Pereira is next-in-line, he didn’t reveal an exact date or location.
“Yes. When do I want it? We’ve got a date,” Adesanya commented. “We’ve already sussed it out; we’re already planning; we’re sussed with it.”
Despite having competed in just two UFC bouts before the 276 pay-per-view and only seven professional MMA bouts overall, the UFC has the perfect marketing tool by pushing Pereira to the front of the line. On his third appearance for the company, he’s receiving a title opportunity.
Why? Because the storyline promotion the UFC can create with the only man to knockout Adesanya will unquestionably draw numbers.
While I believe Pereira could be the most difficult challenge for Adesanya, it’s also confusing why they’d almost support the defeat of their middleweight champion. The Nigerian 185lb is the biggest star on the UFC roster. I believe they’re doing themselves an injustice should he lose the championship to a non-English, relatively unknown Pereira.
Sean O’Malley No Contest: What’s Next?
Although UFC 276 presented two title fights as a double-header main event, Sean O’Malley versus Pedro Munhoz was one of the most anticipated fights on the card.
However, fans of the “Sugar Show” were left disappointed inside the T-Mobile arena and around the world. The fight was ended via a no-contest due to an eye-poke, and despite being offered a significant amount of time to recover, Munhoz opted to quit.
Where does this leave the ultra-talented 135-pounder from Arizona? – who is one of the promotion’s biggest draws.
The obvious choice is to run it back with Pedro Munhoz, as no serious injuries occurred, and this fight could be put back together within a matter of weeks and rebooked. Given the fact that Munhoz didn’t land a single strike above the waist of O’Malley, Caesars Arizona would likely position him as an even bigger favorite than he was during the first bout.
Live odds-on O’Malley favored him from the start until the stoppage, and he seemed to be finding his range and letting loose in the minutes leading up to the stoppage. He notably landed more significant and damaging strikes – despite the strike counter completely neglecting the leg kicks he defended.
Perhaps a fresh face would suit O’Malley better in his next fight, maybe an up-and-comer who won’t be hesitant to throw his hands, Adrian Yanez, anybody? How about Omar Nurmagomedov?
The UFC can’t protect their cash cow forever, and both Yanez and Nurmagomedov are on the same trajectory as O’Malley. The former is one of the fastest-rising talents in the bantamweight division, alongside O’Malley himself. Both fighters have publicly addressed this potential bout, so let’s make it happen. The latter is the cousin of Khabib Nurmagomedov, and he would most likely be the toughest possible test for O’Malley with such an authoritative grappling style.
Whichever path the UFC decides to take O’Malley down, they aren’t short of choice; although O’Malley will have you believe “most of the division is booked”, I just believe he’s ignoring some of the talent that could give him a challenging night.