A week after the monumental Pay-Per-View of UFC 261, we take a look at where the show’s fighters may go from here as we saw glorious moments of triumph, heavy knockouts, and career-altering injuries all happen.
Anthony Smith def. Jimmy Crute (TKO Doctor’s Stoppage, 1st Round)
Anthony Smith came back in a very well earned victory over Jimmy Crute by chopping his legs down to take away the strength to keep standing. Smith has now won his last two fights in impressive fashion as he submitted Devin Clark back in November. You could argue he has stayed relevant now after losing 3 of his previous 4 fights before the Clark fight.
With this win over Crute, he now puts himself in the position to challenge a higher-ranked fighter, such as a rematch with Number 4 ranked Thiago Santos, who has been on a 3 fight losing skid. Santos owns the win in their meeting back in 2018; however, that was before Smith went on his wave of wins to challenge then-champion Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight strap. A fight between the two would allow both fighters to make a case for who should continue fighting in the top 5.
As for Jimmy Crute, who now is the 12th ranked in the Light Heavyweight division, he can perhaps renegotiate a fight with 10th ranked Johnny Walker. Crute was supposed to have this fight with Walker originally, but Walker pulled out due to a chest injury back in February, which then led to Crute being paired with the higher-ranked Smith.
Uriah Hall def Chris Weidman (Leg Injury, 1st Round)
Uriah Hall is an interesting case of a fighter right now in the Middleweight division. He’s on a 4 fight win streak, however, 2 of those 4 wins come against two unranked fighters. He then proceeded to win against 45-year-old Anderson Silva, who was actually a replacement for then-top 5 ranked Yoel Romero after he suffered an injury in his training camp (before he then got cut by the UFC). Hall then proceeded to get a victory in a rematch against Chris Weidman, who suffered a freak leg injury in the fight (Weidman had thrown a heavy outside low kick, which Hall blocked with his left knee; this resulted in Weidman snapping his right fibula and tibia).
Though Hall is on the right side of rankings, now being ranked at #8, he also finds himself on the doorstep of the top 5 contenders. A fight with Darren Till, who was scheduled to fight Vettori but pulled out due to injury, and now has to find a new dance fighter for his next fight, would make sense. As Till is on a two-fight losing skid, this would be a true test for Uriah Hall’s winning streak.
As for Chris Weidman, who suffered an eerily similar injury to the one Anderson Silva got when those two met for the Middleweight Championship, and which Weidman became champion as a result of, now finds himself in a recovery process, and not just as sports fans but as humans, we can only pray for a speedy recovery for the former champ.
Valentina Shevchenko Def. Jéssica Andrade (TKO Elbows, Round 2)
Valentina Shevchenko has now successfully defended her Women’s Flyweight Title for the fifth time and is ranked #2 on the Women’s ‘Pound for Pound’ list behind only Amanda Nunes. Shevchenko now seeks the next worthy opposer to her dominant reign. It’s hard to imagine who, as many thought the wrestling of Andrade would give her problems, only for it to turn out that the champion would out-grapple the challenger and just dominate the fight.
Many speculate the fight between Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood, set for June 13th at UFC 263, is the best audition to see who’s next in line for Shevchenko, should she choose to not pursue a trilogy fight with Women’s Bantamweight Champ Amanda Nunes.
Meanwhile, for Jéssica Andrade, failing to secure a title in two different divisions, she finds herself in a bit of a “defend my ranking now” spot, as she is still ranked #1 will most likely fight the winner of UFC 262’s fight between #2 ranked Kaitlyn Chookagian Vs #7 ranked Vivane Araújo. Should Chookagian emerge victorious from that fight, a rematch between her and Andrade would be an appealing fight to see who can run it back with the champion then.
Rose Namajunas Def. Zhang Weili (KO Head kick, 1st Round)
Thug Rose is once again Champion! And she came back with a statement, taking out highly regarded champion, and China’s first female UFC Champion, in Zhang Weili. Many looked at this fight as a very even match up, with Rose still having the people doubt if she could get back to her championship form. Well, Rose came to Jacksonville and delivered a performance that left no doubt as to who the queen of the division is.
Rose finds herself in a position at the top now with no reason to give Weili a rematch for the title immediately; she can sit back and watch the competition unfold. Perhaps Weili running it back with fight of the year dance partner, #2 ranked Joanna Jędrzejczyk, is an appealing fight so as to see who can get the rematch against Namajunas. If not, Rose can keep her eye on the matchup between #3 Yan Xiaonan Vs #4 Carla Esparza set for May 22nd.
Kamaru Usman def. Jorge Masvidal (KO Punch, 2nd Round)
Put some respect on his name! That’s all Kamaru Usman has ever wanted, and leading into the fight, having the reputation of toe stomping and keeping fights at stalemates and winning on points, these were his highlights when he met his rival Jorge Masvidal last year.
This year, things went completely different. Usman dropped Masvidal with a perfectly set up punch right on the button to put Gamebred’s lights out for the first time in his 50 fight career. Gaining even the respect of Masvidal himself, Usman left no question that he is a complete fighter in this division, and having won his 4th defence of his Welterweight Title, many speculate, and even Dana White himself has said, that #1 ranked Colby Covington is next in line for a rematch against Usman.
However, Usman’s management did say during an ESPN interview that Covington beating Tyron Woodley and being inactive for so long, having 1 fight since they met for the strap back in December 2019, isn’t enough to warrant a rematch against the champion. They went on to say that a fighter such as #7 Michael Chiesa, who is currently on a 4 fight win streak, is more deserving of the opportunity. Another possibility for Usman would be the winner of the May 15 co-main event for UFC 262 between #3 Leon Edwards and Nate Diaz.
For Jorge Masvidal, he finds himself now ranked #5 in the heavily stacked Welterweight division. Luckily for Gamebred, being arguably the biggest star in the sport comes with the perks of not having too much to search for in terms of rivals. One fight to keep an eye on is the Edwards vs. Diaz fight, as the loser of that most certainly would make sense for Masvidal, who has history with both individuals. After Masvidal beat Darren Till in March 2019, Edwards interrupted a Masvidal interview, which led to the famous “3 piece and a soda” catchphrase and caused a grudge between the two. Also, Diaz has a win over the Stockton 209 prodigy, back in November of that year for the BMF Title. That might be something Masvidal would want to avenge.
What do you think? Have we got our list of potential future fights right? Let us know in the comments!