UFC 264 only added another chapter in the rivalry between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. “The Diamond” was victorious, but with no clear-cut ending, it sure appears to be enough to make a fourth fight in the future.
Gilbert Burns was able to bounce back with a big win over Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Tai Tuivasa continued his win streak as he emphatically knocked out Greg Hardy. With that said, let’s dive into what’s next for some of UFC 264’s fighters.
UFC 264 Matchmaking
Dricus Du Plessis vs. Phil Hawes
Du Plessis has been victorious in both of his UFC bouts, winning by stoppage against Trevin Giles and Markus Perez. The 27-year old is one unranked middleweight to start paying close attention to. Another rising middleweight that has an unblemished record inside of the UFC is Phil Hawes. “Megatron” was scheduled to fight Deron Winn this month. However, due to a rib injury for Winn, Hawes does not officially have his next opponent lined up. This matchup could propel the winner into the top-15 at 185lbs.
Ilia Topuria vs. Sodiq Yusuff
Personally one of my favorite matchups at UFC 264, Topuria was every bit as advertised. He was able to defend the wizardry of Hall to the point he was never in any vulnerable position. Recently promoted to No. 15 in the featherweight rankings, Topuria should take on No. 12-ranked “Super” Sodiq Yusuff. Yusuff has a more well-rounded game than Ryan Hall and should make for an interesting matchup for the undefeated prospect Topuria.
Michel Pereira vs. Geoff Neal
If it wasn’t for an illegal knee, Michel Pereira would be on a four-fight win streak. However, he still continues to show cardio concerns later in his fights. Niko Price is as game as anyone in the welterweight division and he almost pulled off a legitimate comeback in their bout at UFC 264. Pereira’s ceiling is debatable, but an opponent like Geoff Neal should be on the radar. Neal has lost two in a row by decision against the upper echelon of the welterweight division. Combined with some medical issues, Neal was expected to take some time off after his last fight in May. A bout between Pereira and Neal could take place in late 2021 or early 2022.
Sean O’Malley vs. Dominick Cruz
Kris Moutinho was largely outclassed as “Suga” put on a showcase. It’s time for O’Malley to take the next step up in competition. His original opponent was Louis Smolka and that was a surprise to many as O’Malley is now 6-1 under the UFC banner. O’Malley could be an intriguing alternate to the Merab Dvalishvili vs. Marlon Moraes matchup if either were to pull out the matchup. If not, a fight night main event against future hall-of-famer Dominick Cruz would be the perfect step-up for O’Malley. Cruz is against the idea. However, wins against Casey Kenney and Sean O’Malley would put him in line for a elite opponent, maybe even a #1 contender’s fight.
Tai Tuivasa vs. Ilir Latifi
“Bam Bam” is on a three-fight win streak and is becoming a fan favorite in the heavyweight division. A matchup with “The Sledgehammer” makes for a fun fight between two UFC veterans. Latifi is coming off of a victory to Tanner Boser and is 1-1 since moving to heavyweight.
Gilbert Burns vs. Leon Edwards
“Durinho” bounced back after suffering a knockout loss in his attempt at the welterweight championship. Still one of the very elite at 170lbs, a second run at the title is not unquestionable. You could make a case for Leon Edwards to be next in line for a title shot, though there does not appear to be a desire from the UFC to give him that opportunity. Edwards was dominant in his bout against fan-favorite Nate Diaz but was rocked late and the narrative changed to Diaz’s favor. This could be an unofficial #1 contender’s fight if Kamaru Usman rematches Colby Covington.
Dustin Poirier vs. Charles Oliveira
The run Dustin Poirier has had through the lightweight division is arguably the best in history. Since November of 2017, “The Diamond” has defeated the likes of Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, Max Holloway, Dan Hooker, and Conor McGregor twice. Charles Oliveira is the champion and he’s deserving of the crown. However, this is the undisputed matchup that would give the lightweight division the clarity it rightfully deserves.
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