Matches to make for the main card winners of UFC 288.
UFC returned to New Jersey for UFC 288 where Aljamain Sterling defended his bantamweight title against former champion Henry Cejudo, Belal Muhammad cemented his place as the No. 1 contender with a win over Gilbert Burns, Yan Xiaonan stunned the crowd with her knockout of former champion Jessica Andrade, Mosvar Evloev kept his unbeaten record alive against the short-notice Diego Lopes and Charles Jourdain out-dueled BJJ ace Kron Gracie.
Where do the winners go from here?
Charles Jourdain vs. Edson Barboza
Jourdain was able to stifle the ground game of BJJ ace Gracie and won a convincing unanimous decision on the scorecards to kick off the main card. Jourdain was looking to avoid a three-fight losing streak and did just that, winning his first fight in over a year. After a lackluster fight that many fans found boring with how Gracie approached his opponent, it would be fun to see Jourdain matched up against striker and No. 14-ranked Edson Barboza.
Barboza is coming off a knockout of the night against Billy Quarantillo last month that saw him break his own two-fight losing streak. Jourdain and Barboza can give us a fight of the night if matched up together next.
Movsar Evloev vs. Bryce Mitchell
After Bryce Mitchell pulled out of his fight with Evloev prior to UFC 288, it only makes sense for these two rising stars to be matched up again. Five days before their scheduled bout, Mitchell pulled out with a back injury, and if not serious, could be matched up with Evloev again.
Lopes stepped up on three days' notice to face the unbeaten Evloev, who improved his record to 17-0. Evloev and Lopes were rewarded fight of the night honors as Lopes impressed the UFC brass with his performance. Evloev likely won't move up from his No. 10 ranking, so this should be the fight to make going forward.
Yan Xiaonan vs. Amanda Lemos
Yan picked up her second straight win with a knockout of the night against Andrade at UFC 288. Andrade dropped her second in a row after returning to the strawweight division and after defeating the former champion, Yan could set herself up for a shot at the title.
While many fans are calling for a fight with champion Zhang Weili, it would make more sense to match Yan up with No. 3-ranked Amanda Lemos. Lemos is on a two-fight win streak after defeating Marina Rodriguez in November and needs a fight. This could be a No. 1 contender fight to see who will face the champion next.
Belal Muhammad vs. Leon Edwards
While Dana White has said Colby Covington will receive the next title shot, there's not a fighter on the welterweight roster that deserves it more than Muhammad right now. Muhammad hasn't lost since 2019 and is on a five-fight win streak after defeating Burns at UFC 288. Burns stepped up after fighting a month prior, but Muhammad was too much for him as he won a unanimous decision over five rounds.
Before he won the title, Leon Edwards and Muhammad faced off in 2021 with the fight ending in a no-contest due to an eye poke. The fight was never run back and now would be a perfect opportunity to do so as Muhammad is more deserving than Covington. Edwards defended his title against former champion Kamaru Usman at UFC 286.
Aljamain Sterling vs. Sean O'Malley
Sterling has silenced his doubters once again with a win over former champion Cejudo at UFC 288. Sterling was victorious by split decision and extended his winning streak to nine. Sterling has taken out three former champions and now it looks like his focus will be on Sean O'Malley. O'Malley has been calling for a title shot after his win against former champion Petr Yan at UFC 280 and now looks like he got his wish.
The young Dana White's Contender Series winner is 8-1 since joining the UFC and after getting a push, will most likely appear in his first title fight. This will be an interesting matchup to see if O'Malley is ready for championship fights against a veteran like Sterling.