5 Fights We Need to See After UFC 285
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Fans are going to be talking about UFC 285 for years to come.
The card, which went down on Saturday night in Las Vegas, was stacked with big stars and top talent and concluded with two dramatic title fights.
In the main event, former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones defeated Ciryl Gane with a first-round guillotine choke to win his heavyweight debut—and the division’s undisputed title, which has been vacant since Francis Ngannou departed the UFC earlier this year. It was Jones’ first fight in three years, and a challenge that many fans did not believe the 35-year-old could topple, despite his incredible competitive achievements.
The co-main event was no less significant, as Mexico’s Alexa Grasso pulled off a massive upset by submitting flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko with a fourth-round rear-naked choke. Shevchenko entered the Octagon as MMA’s pound-for-pound queen in the eyes of most fans and, barring a close call against Taila Santos last year, has looked nearly unbeatable as the flyweight champ—but Grasso was undeterred.
The card also included appearances from some of the fastest rising talents in the UFC, including unbeaten welterweight contender Shavkat Rakhmonov, who submitted Geoff Neal on the main card, and Dricus du Plessis, who defeated Derek Brunson at middleweight on the undercard.
Former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt was also in action on the undercard, picking up a sorely needed decision win over Trevin Jones after a string of tough losses.
It was a great night of fights—packed with exciting finishes and big shocks. It’ll take some time to digest, but keep scrolling for the matchups we’re hoping to see when everyone’s ready for another course.
Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic
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The fight most people really want to see after UFC 285 is Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones. Ngannou was the heavyweight champion until he parted ways with the promotion after a long and public contract dispute earlier this year. He could not take his UFC title with him when he left, but he never lost it, either. Until he and Jones fight, it is not going to be completely clear who the best heavyweight mixed martial artist in the world is.
It’s a great matchup on paper, too.
Jones has asserted himself as one of the best fighters of all time—maybe the best ever period—with one of the most diverse skill sets we’ve ever seen in MMA. Ngannou, on the other hand, might be the hardest puncher we have ever seen in the sport, with the firepower to stop anybody in their tracks—even a juggernaut like Jones, whose only loss in 29 fights occurred when he was disqualified for battering Matt Hamill with illegal elbows in 2009. It’s a wild fight. But it’s unlikely we’re going to see it.
The consolation prize, it seems, will be a clash between Jones and former champ Stipe Miocic, who holds the record for most title defenses in UFC heavyweight history and is widely considered the division’s best ever. That’s not quite as good of a fight—Miocic hasn’t fought since he was knocked out by Ngannou in March 2021—but it’s still a great one, with plenty of significance for the MMA history books.
Better to appreciate what we have than lament the things we don’t. Bring on Jones vs. Miocic. Both fighters seem to be interested.
Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko II
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Alexa Grasso has two clear options as the new UFC flyweight champion. She could take on surging contender Erin Blanchfield, who recently burst into title contention with a submission win over Jéssica Andrade, or she could take on Shevchenko, whom she submitted to win the belt in a stunning upset at UFC 285.
A fight with Blanchfield would be awesome, as she and Grasso both represent the new generation at flyweight. It would be an exciting break from the status quo, as Shevchenko has been involved in nearly every title fight in the division’s history.
But it wouldn’t be right.
Shevchenko has been one of the most dominant champions we’ve ever seen in the Octagon, defending her title seven times, mostly with impressive ease. If we’re giving Kamaru Usman a chance to reclaim his title from Leon Edwards, if we’re giving Israel Adesanya a chance for redemption against Alex Pereira, we’ve got to give Shevchenko the opportunity she deserves too.
Thankfully, this is probably a bigger fight—as far as the UFC’s coffers are concerned—than a Grasso vs. Blanchfield matchup at this point, so it’s probably the one we’ll get.
Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Belal Muhammad
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After submitting Geoff Neal at UFC 285, Kazakhstan’s Shavkat Rakhmonov is now 17-0 as a pro, 5-0 in the Octagon and one of the welterweight division’s top contenders. A title shot is probably still a win away, but he’s almost there.
As for his next fight, he’s got options—the perks of being a relatively new face in a crowded division. The best option would probably be a fight with former interim champ Colby Covington, but Covington doesn’t seem interested in fighting anytime soon, so better to set our sights on something realistic, like a fight with Belal Muhammad.
Muhammad, the division’s No. 4 contender, has been chasing a fight with Covington himself but seems to be coming up empty and might be willing to accept a fight with a hyped contender like Rakhmonov instead.
It’s a great fight between two guys with a ton of momentum, and it would be hard to deny the winner a shot at the title, which will next be up for grabs when Leon Edwards defends against Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 later this month.
Cody Garbrandt vs. Dominick Cruz II
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UFC 285 was so stacked that we had a popular former champion in Cody Garbrandt fighting on the undercard. Granted, the former bantamweight king hasn’t really been getting main card-worthy results of late.
Heading into his undercard fight with Trevin Jones, Garbrandt had won just once in his last six fights and suffered four knockouts in that stretch. He needed a win, and after three hard-fought rounds, he got one via unanimous decision.
The win over Jones, who has now lost four straight, will not be enough to push Garbrandt back into title contention, but it did keep his UFC career alive. From here, it would be fair to match him up with another fighter of Jones’ ilk—somebody good but not great. Yet as a former champ with a big following, Garbrandt will probably get a fairly big fight now that he’s back in the win column. If that’s the direction the UFC goes, our pick is a fight with Dominick Cruz.
Garbrandt defeated Cruz, who was at the time considered one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound talents, to win the bantamweight belt in 2016. It was a huge upset and excellent performance, but the fight was more competitive than people remember. Cruz probably should have gotten an immediate rematch.
Unlike Garbrandt, Cruz is still ranked at bantamweight, at No. 7. However, it’s hard to imagine him ever winning the title back at this point, and with much of the bantamweight top 10 booked up, he doesn’t really have any better options than a fight with Garbrandt, whom he has surely always wanted another crack at.
Dricus du Plessis vs. Jared Cannonier
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South Africa’s Dricus du Plessis picked up the best win of his UFC career on Saturday’s undercard, battering No. 5 middleweight contender Derek Brunson to a second-round corner stoppage. The win follows a submission defeat of Darren Till for du Plessis and asserted him as a legitimate title contender at middleweight.
From here, the best option for him seems to be a fight with Jared Cannonier.
Cannonier was last in action in December when he defeated Sean Strickland by split decision to rebound from a unanimous-decision loss in a title fight with Israel Adesanya. He’s currently ranked No. 3 at middleweight—which is probably just ahead of where du Plessis will land when the rankings are updated, so it makes sense from that perspective.
The real appeal of the fight, though, is that, outside of the champion Alex Pereira, du Plessis and Cannonier might be the two scariest knockout threats in the middleweight division.
Book it for a pay-per-view main card and ready the bonus checks.