UFC 249 brought live sports back with a bang on Saturday evening. The card was so stacked with prominent fighters and exciting fights that the UFC 249 Post-Fight Matchmaker had to be split up into two articles. This second article covers the night’s main card. Here is a look at who the stars of the main card should face next.
UFC 249 Post-Fight Matchmaker: Main Card
Greg Hardy vs. Marcin Tybura
The “Prince of War” Greg Hardy continued to show development on Saturday, defeating “The Mad Titan” Yorgan De Castro by decision. The former NFL star has shown that his athleticism and raw power can get him a long way in the heavyweight division. Although he is still developing his skills and fight IQ, Hardy deserves a step up in competition. He was able to hold his own in his previous fight against Alexander Volkov, even in a losing effort. Someone right outside of the division’s rankings is Marcin Tybura, who is a tough out every fight. “Tybur” would serve as a well-rounded test for him, and gives him a chance to prove he belongs in the rankings as he climbs the division’s ladder.
Calvin Kattar vs. Yair Rodriguez
Calvin Kattar looked extremely impressive dispatching Jeremy Stephens by TKO, leaving “Lil’ Heathen” gushing in blood. Kattar is on a rapid rise up the featherweight rankings, proving his contender status on Saturday and even in a loss in his previous fight to Zabit Magomedsharipov. With most of the fighters ahead of him matched up, a great fight for him would be Yair Rodriguez. “El Pantera” also defeated Stephens in his last fight and is currently ranked fifth in the division. It would be an exciting striking affair between the solid boxing base of Kattar and the flashy taekwondo style of Rodriguez.
Francis Ngannou vs. Stipe Miocic
Another fight, another early first-round knockout for “The Predator” Francis Ngannou. Ngannou has looked virtually unstoppable since his two straight losses to Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis in 2018. His unrivaled power has gotten him on the cusp of a title shot again. However, the next heavyweight title fight has been made clear. Miocic will be defending his title against Daniel Cormier in their third fight, which will serve as the last of Cormier’s career. Cormier has made clear that he will be retiring after that fight, so it can be safe to assume that, win or lose, Miocic will be fighting for the title after his next fight. Ngannou is the only logical option to face Miocic for the title after the trilogy. We will all see if the Cameroonian has improved enough to be more competitive against the proud Clevelander than their first fight.
Dominick Cruz vs. Jose Aldo
In a career filled with injury-riddled layoffs, Dominick Cruz returned from his longest one on Saturday. While Cruz looked like his normal self for the nearly two rounds of action, a well-timed knee and follow-up punches spelled the end of the night for “The Dominator”. The stoppage was debatable, though, as Cruz looked to be getting back up to his feet with only two seconds left in the round before referee Keith Peterson stepped in. Cruz is now on a two-fight skid, but still a certain title contender. While he should not fight for the title again next, he still should face a top contender.
Before Cruz got the title fight, Jose Aldo was in line to fight Henry Cejudo. Aldo was coming off of a loss, though, so he still should not get a title fight in his next fight either. An Aldo-Cruz matchup makes a lot of sense and is one that has been anticipated for a long time. Cruz and Aldo were both longtime champions of the WEC before coming to the UFC to hold titles in their respective divisions. Now that they are both in the same division and this fight can finally happen.
Henry Cejudo vs. …….Retirement?
In what was a surprising turn of events for most fans, bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo announced his retirement after defeating the aforementioned Cruz, citing a long career in combat sports and the desire to start a family. By defeating Cruz, Cejudo cemented his legacy as one of the best small fighters in the UFC’s history. Combining that with his 2008 Olympic gold medal in wrestling gives him a case to be one of the best athletes across all combat sports. Not many fighters finish on top of the mountain, adding to the uniqueness of Henry Cejudo’s career. We wish him the best of luck in the future, whatever that may hold.
Tony Ferguson vs. Charles Oliveira
The longest win streak in the lightweight division was brought to a screeching halt on Saturday, as Tony Ferguson was beaten up for more than four and a half rounds before referee Herb Dean put an end to it. It was a sad end to the run of “El Cucuy”, but he is still near the top of the division. After a beating like that, Ferguson will likely need to take a decent amount of time off. When he returns, he should face Charles Oliveira, who has been surging since moving up to lightweight again, winning his last seven and eight of his last nine. After submitting Kevin Lee in March, “Do Bronx” has proven that he deserves a step up in competition. The leader of “Snap City” against the UFC’s all-time leader in submissions would make for a great grappling affair.
Justin Gaethje vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Justin Gaethje once again lived up to his nickname, adding Ferguson to the highlight reel after a completely dominant performance to earn the interim lightweight title. He pummeled Ferguson with heavy punches from pillar to post, proving to the world that he deserves to be the next person to face Khabib Nurmagomedov. His nonstop pressure, extreme power, all-action style, and All-American wrestling base will serve as a tough test for the current lightweight champion. Although “The Notorious” Conor McGregor is gunning for a fight with both Gaethje and Nurmagomedov, he should not fight either of them before they face each other. Book the unification bout and then go from there.
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