Pay-per-view three of 2023 sure did deliver.
UFC 285 took place over the weekend on Saturday, March 4th from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. In total, 14 fights occurred with two promotional title fights capping the show. In the night’s main event, Jon Jones found great success with his move to heavyweight by finishing Ciryl Gane and winning the vacant heavyweight championship. Additionally, Alexa Grasso shocked the world with her capturing of the UFC women’s flyweight belt over Valentina Shevchenko in the co-main event.
Other fighters scattered throughout the event saw their hands raised in impressive fashion. Welterweight Shavkat Rakhmonov fought to a “Fight of the Night” bonus in his bout with Geoff Neal. Former wrestling superstar Bo Nickal opened the pay-per-view with a slightly controversial yet one-sided win over Jamie Pickett. A new challenger has rightfully emerged at middleweight with Dricus du Plessis rallying over Derek Brunson after the corner was forced to step in. Three undefeated fighters of Ian Garry, Cameron Saaiman, and Farid Basharat managed to get the better end against their respected opponents.
What comes next for those who impressed? Here are the top five fights to make after UFC 285: Jones vs. Gane.
5. Mateusz Gamrot vs. Renato Moicano
Back-and-forth it went between lightweights Mateusz Gamrot and Jalin Turner across three rounds, but the split decision would go in favor of Poland. Gamrot’s win was his fifth across seven appearances thus far since joining the UFC in late-2020. Both losses have been his only falters through 24 professional bouts; a split decision in his octagon debut to Guram Kutateladze and a unanimous loss to Beneil Dariush last October. The former KSW featherweight and lightweight champion looks to start a new run towards the 155-pound UFC title.
His weight class has so much activity and possibility at the moment. Current divisional champion Islam Makhachev sits open without an opponent as someone like Dustin Poirier could be the next challenger. Fighters like Rafael Fiziev and Beneil Dariush are on the cusp of title shots if victorious over Justin Gaethje in March and Charles Oliveira in May, respectively. Michael Chandler and Conor McGregor will duel following their coaching of The Ultimate Fighter 31.
For Gamrot, a fight with Poirier could work, or even a rematch with Arman Tsarukyan after their debatable result in June of last year. Why not pair him against another dangerous grappler in the division like Renato Moicano? The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai black belt has won three of his last four and is awaiting his 2023 debut. A “Fight Night” main event would be the perfect placement to showcase their abilities.
— UFC (@ufc) March 5, 2023
4. Dricus du Plessis vs. Robert Whittaker
Dricus du Plessis continues to show off his dangerous ability. After a rocky start against Derek Brunson, the fight would turn in his favor before ultimately landing fight-ending, unanswered blows to close the second round from top control. Although the referee did not wave off the bout, Brunson’s corner elected to throw in the towel. The stoppage for the former EFC and KSW champion was his 18th of 19 by way of finish (eight KO/TKO, ten SUB) giving Brunson his second consecutive loss.
Back in December and before Saturday’s scheduling, we called for a possible fight between du Plessis and Jared Cannonier. This very well could be the fight to make next, but there is another possibility that could play as a title eliminator bout: a matchup with Robert Whittaker. Yes, the former champion has contested twice for the belt in recent years, but he remains one of the best fighters at middleweight and on the planet.
Whoever, between the two, finds a win gets the victor of this April’s rematch between Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya.
3. Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Colby Covington
Undefeated is his name, finishes are his game. With less than a minute left in the fight, Shavkat Rakhmonov found a standing rear-naked choke over Geoff Neal en route to his 17th win. Along his mixed martial arts journey, he has remained undefeated and had captured M-1’s welterweight title whilst keeping his 100% finishing rate intact.
The ceiling is high for Rakhmonov as we now prepare for only his sixth fight in the UFC. What about a title eliminator fight suggestion between he and former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington? We have just passed one year since his five-round decision win over teammate-turned-rival Jorge Masvidal at UFC 272.
Rumblings of a hopeful fight between these two started after Rakhmonov’s win, and it appears UFC President Dana White could be on board as well. Five rounds is a must, but why not showcase this on a pay-per-view? Make the special exception a co-main event and have the victorious next up for the winner of Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman on March 18th.
— UFC on BT Sport (@btsportufc) March 5, 2023
2. Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Alexa Grasso shocked the world. The massive sportsbook underdog took advantage of a missed spinning kick from Valentina Shevchenko to secure a lightning-fast face crank in the fourth round. Grasso became Mexico’s first female UFC champion extending her active win streak to five in-a-row at just 29 years of age.
The defeated Shevchenko has always been heavily regarded by many as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all-time. Her well-rounded ability and dominant reign including her capturing of the belt over Joanna Jedrzejczyk in December of 2018 and seven subsequent title defenses including finishes over notable veterans Jessica Eye, Katlyn Chookagian, and Jessica Andrade.
From the history of her time at the top, it would be unjust for Shevchenko to receive anything less of an immediate rematch against Grasso. This would cause delay for fighters like Manon Fiorot and Erin Blanchfield who sit on the verge of a shot at gold, but it just seems the most likely path the promotional will take next. Let Grasso and Shevchenko re-rack sometime in July or August.
1. Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic
A near-three and-a-half year layoff was not enough to impact the long-awaited return Jon Jones. The end would come just over two minutes into the very first round where he found the neck of Ciryl Gane, forcing a tap via guillotine choke and become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion. Moving up to heavyweight proved successful for Jones coming after his dominance as the former 205-pound king that included 13 consecutive wins in the division and eleven total title defenses. His greatness and legacy in MMA will be remembered by fans for many, many years to come.
It seems that only one viable option can be next, and that is for Stipe Miocic to get his shot. Jones made sure to call out the former champion and Ohio native during the post-fight press conference (see below). Miocic has yet to compete since losing the championship by second-round knockout to former title holder Francis Ngannou in March of 2021 and has yet to get his hand raised since a unanimous decision defense over Daniel Cormier in August of 2020.
Look for this thriller between Jones and Miocic to be announced soon for the summer!
Jon Jones has a message for Stipe Miocic… ☠️ pic.twitter.com/7b76c1uzrU
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) March 6, 2023
Bo Nickal vs. Jacob Malkoun
Cody Garbrandt vs. Raoni Barcelos
Amanda Ribas vs. Tracy Cortez
Marc-Andre Barriault vs. Joaquin Buckley
Ian Garry vs. Max Griffin
Cameron Saaiman vs. Julio Arce
Tabatha Ricci vs. Carla Esparza
Farid Basharat vs. Kyung Ho Kang
Loik Radzhabov vs. Jordan Leavitt