UFC 269 was the last pay-per-view event of the calendar year and it failed to disappoint. In a night where notable underdogs were victorious, Julianna Pena stole the show with her upset victory over the “Lioness” Amanda Nunes. Lightweight champion, Charles Oliveria defeated challenger Dustin Poirier by rear-naked choke in the main event to increase his UFC record 15 submission victories. He also increased his UFC record 18 finishes. We look below at what’s next for the fighters after UFC 269.
Fights to Make After UFC 269
Dominick Cruz vs. Marlon “Chito” Vera
Initially, Jose Aldo was going to be the selection here and a Cruz/Aldo matchup of WEC legends is something everyone can get behind. However, Aldo seems to be on the shortlist of title contenders at 135lbs after defeating the likes of Rob Font, Pedro Munhoz and Marlon Vera. Dominick Cruz has also had a resurgence in 2021. He’s on a two-fight win streak after going the distance with both Munhoz and Casey Kenney. Vera is also on a two-fight winning streak and is currently ranked #11 in the stacked bantamweight division.
Josh Emmett vs. Chan Sung Zung
Josh Emmett had a brutal stretch of injuries, however, one could argue he’s right behind Max Holloway for the next crack at Alexander Volkanovski’s 145lb championship. Emmett has rattled off four in a row and holds the #7 ranking. The Korean Zombie is also coming off of a decision victory against Dan Ige. Emmett has some of the best power in all of MMA and with the Zombie never being in a boring fight, this could produce a fight of the year contender. With Brian Ortega and Yair Rodriguez losing devastating battles, the winner of this matchup could cement his status as the next contender. This has fight night main event written all over it.
Sean O’Malley vs. Adrian Yanez
There’s no doubt that the UFC is bringing “Suga” along slowly. Don’t be mistaken, however, Sean O’Malley has rebounded with three straight finish victories since suffering his lone professional defeat, all in dominant fashion. Matchmakers could give a veteran like Marlon Moraes or Raphael Assuncao to the 27-year old, seemingly giving him a “gatekeeper” or they can match another rising prospect with O’Malley. Adrian Yanez is 28, possesses a 15-3 professional record and has yet to face defeat in the UFC. A matchup like this would be on-brand for how they’ve matched up O’Malley so far in his career.
Kai Kara-France vs. Alexandre Pantoje
Kai Kara-France made a statement with his stoppage over former Bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt. Daniel Cormier called for the Manel Kape matchup, however, this is where the rankings might play a factor. Alexandre Pantoja is on a two-fight win streak, including wins over Kape and #5 ranked Brandon Royval. With Askar Askarov seemingly being the alternate for the flyweight championship bout next month, that leaves France and Pantoja vying for the next spot. The flyweight division does not have the name value as other light weight classes, but it’s as good as it’s ever been.
Geoff Neal vs. Sean Brady
In the only fight on the main card that failed to produce a finish, Geoff Neal came away victorious nonetheless. Neal needed the rebound after dropping back-to-back fights. Neal is currently sitting at #12 while Sean Brady is at #8. Brady is undefeated in his professional career and is coming off of his best victory to date over Michael Chiesa.
Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes II
Julianna Pena pulled off what some are calling the biggest upset in MMA history. In situations like this, the newly crowned champ almost never get their just due until they defend the belt. A lot of questions still arise between these two women. Was Nunes burnt out? Was it just an off night at the office? Whatever the answers may be, it was evident that wasn’t the Amanda Nunes we’re accustomed to seeing. Fair or foul, Pena will have to beat the former champ again to solidify her status at 135lbs.
Charles Oliveria vs. Justin Gaethje
“Do Bronx” has now rattled off 10 in a row and has earned the right to be called undisputed champion after his performance over Dustin Poirier. Oliveria arguably has the best jiu-jitsu in the division and his newly improved pressure style of offence has made him an elite all-around fighter. Justin Gaethje rebounded after an unsuccessful attempt to dethrone then-champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. His performance against Michael Chandler was one of the best of the year and he’s rightfully deserving of another title opportunity.