The next fights to make for the UFC 288 losing fighters.
Just like that, another UFC pay-per-view has come and gone. UFC 288 was the MMA's premiere combat sports organization return to New Jersey for the first time in four years, headlined by Long Island native Aljamain Sterling defending his bantamweight title against the returning Henry Cejudo.
It was yet another successful pay-per-view card filled with high-level action and drama, creating new storylines to follow after the event. While the winners bask in their glory, the losers from UFC 288 will have to recuperate and aim to put themselves back in the winning column.
Without further ado, here are the matches to make for UFC 288's losers.
Fights to make for Henry Cejudo, Gilbert Burns, and other UFC 288 losers.
Kron Gracie vs. Ryan Hall
The MMA world has had a shift in their perception of jiu jitsu ace Kron Gracie. The IBJJF and ADCC world champion had told everyone that he had rounded out his MMA game during his four year absence from the sport. We all expected this new mixed martial artist to appear come Saturday night.
Instead, what we got was a Gracie who looked sluggish on the feet and was simply there to pull guard. Although his tactic to get his opponent to the ground was working, he failed to threaten with his submission game as Charles Jourdain was prepared for Gracie to do just that.
Overall, it showed that Gracie is still miles behind in his overall MMA game and cannot simply expect to get by with his elite level jiu jitsu. If he is going to fight again in the relative future, the UFC should book him with Ryan Hall. Another jiu jitsu wizard, Hall has gone through many surgeries since last competing in 2021. He's targeting a return in September, which would be more than enough time for Gracie to recover and jump back into action.
Hopefully this time it doesn't take four years for him to do so.
Diego Lopes vs. Julian Erosa
Diego Lopes, take a bow. Coming into his UFC debut on five days notice, replacing the injured Bryce Mitchell against the No. 10 ranked featherweight and undefeated Movsar Evloev, nobody expected Lopes to put up much of a fight.
The odds reflected this as Evloev closed as a -900 favorite, however, Lopes showed he has the heart and grit to stay in the UFC. Threatening with powerful hands and sneaky submissions from his back, Lopes pushed Evloev much harder than anyone expected, even winning a round on two different judges' scorecards.
He was close to a shocking submission win but it wasn't meant to be. He should look to fight Julian Erosa next, a well-known name in the UFC who is facing a two-fight losing skid. This matchup keeps Lopes relevant in a stacked featherweight division and it'll allow us to see at exactly what level the rangy featherweight is at.
Jessica Andrade vs. Virna Jandiroba
The only finish from the pay-per-view segment of UFC 288, Yan Xionan's knockout of Jessica Andrade was worthy of being the only finish. As Andrade charged Yan, she simply connected with a massive overhand right that dropped Andrade hard before finishing the former strawweight champion off with ground and pound.
It appears that Andrade is going to stick at strawweight for the near future and she should welcome another fighter who competed in UFC 288. Vinda Jandiroba picked up the biggest win of her career when she defeated Marina Rodriguez in the prelims. The jiu jitsu specialist is now 5-3 in her UFC career, winning her last two and climbing into the top 10 of the rankings.
This fight offers Andrade a different type of opponent than the one she has been facing in recent times and still keeps her within the top 10 of the rankings. For Jandiroba, a win against her Brazilian compatriot would sky rocket her to a whole new level of success and competition.
Gilbert Burns vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov
Activity finally caught up to Gilbert Burns. The man who has already fought three times in 2023, including twice in the last month, Burns appeared slower and more sluggish than we are used to. His fight against Belal Muhammad wasn't going to get any better as he struggled with a left arm injury, rendering that limb completely useless throughout.
It's back to the drawing board for Burns as Muhammad carefully dominated his way into a decision victory. As much as we all think Burns needs a lengthy break, don't be surprised to see him get back into a matchup sooner rather than later.
Given that Shavkat Rakhmonov has become the welterweight division's boogeyman, Burns seems like the ideal candidate to step up and face the undefeated contender. A win for Burns would push him straight back into the title picture, a window that is closing fast in front of the almost 37 year old Burns.
Henry Cejudo vs. Deiveson Figueiredo
It wasn't the triumphant return that Henry Cejudo was hoping for. Following a three year layoff, the former double champion was hoping to win back his belt over Aljamain Sterling and cement his place as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time.
Cejudo looked as good as he has but Sterling was able to go stride for stride with the Olympic gold medallist. In the end, a close split decision victory was given to the champion as Cejudo's plan to reclaim his throne and go challenge for the featherweight title disappeared in front of his eyes.
It's unclear whether Cejudo will fight again or not. He did take his gloves off following his loss but didn't mention retirement. For the sake of the UFC, Cejudo has to stay. He brings new energy and a personality that very few fighters possess.
He will undoubtedly get another big name for his next fight, if there is one. With Deiveson Figueiredo still flirting with a move up to bantamweight, and his latest flyweight bout cancelled due to injury, Cejudo would be the perfect dance partner for the former flyweight champion. Two big names that could headline a fight night card anywhere around the world, keeping each other relevant and close to the title picture.