Matches to make for Kamaru Usman, Rafael Fiziev, other UFC 286 losers

Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports

Matchmaking for Kamaru Usman, Rafael Fiziev and other UFC 286 losers

The UFC's first trip to London in 2023 was a memorable one both for the ruckus British crowd and fight fans all across the globe. The main event saw the end of an epic trilogy which decided the fate of the welterweight division but that was just the icing on the cake of an action-packed night full of huge moments.

If you are a betting person, then it was not a night to place your money on favorites. Only two of the five fights on the main card saw the betting favorite walk away with their hand raised, and both the co- and main event saw the underdogs leave the O2 Arena with a victory. With many favorites suffering defeat, it's time to set up the next fights for UFC 286's losers.

The fights to make for UFC 286's losers

Roman Dolidze vs. Brendan Allen

Despite coming up short, it was a good showing from Roman Dolidze when he faced Marvin Vettori. Perhaps he let his higher-ranked opponent set the pace of the fight for too long but there were moments when Dolidze looked much more dangerous than the Italian fighter and his power was certainly felt by his opponent.

It's back to the drawing board for Dolidze and he could remain in contention in the top ten if he were to face Brendan Allen. Another up and comer in the stacked middleweight division, this fight would allow either men to cement their place in the top 15, and become a more established contender in the weight class.

Casey O'Neill vs. Viviane Araújo

It wasn't the triumphant return for Casey O'Neill we all expected. Coming back to action for the first time in over a year after suffering from a torn ACL, the Scottish-born undefeated contender was maybe given too tough a task in her first fight back, facing the former Invicta champion Jennifer Maia.

Whilst O'Neill was not outclassed in any shape or form, she seemed a step behind Maia up until the final round. She's still one of the most exciting prospects in a competitive flyweight division so I don't see her fighting down despite the loss. She should face the no. 11 ranked contender Viviane Araújo in order to try to mend this setback in her career. A win would certainly do that.

Bryan Barberena vs. Ian Machado Garry

Bryan Barberena looked like he was game for a back-and-forth fight despite coming into it on short notice. Once it hit the ground, it was clear that Gunnar Nelson was just too many levels ahead, which he used to secure an armbar and win in the first round.

There is no shame in being outclassed by one of the best jiu-jitsu practioners in the welterweight division on short notice, and Barberena is clearly a fan-favorite given his 'fight anyone, anytime, anywhere' mentality. He should face up-and-comer Ian Machado Garry, who is coming off an impressive knockout win in his last fight, and would certainly bring the heat on the feet. A matchup between these two is unlikely to disappoint and would be just the type of fight that suits Barberena's wild style.

Rafael Fiziev vs. Loser of Charles Oliveira/Beneil Dariush

Another UFC event, another Rafael Fiziev banger. The no. 6 ranked lightweight came up just short against Justin Gaethje in an early fight of the year contender but showed that he has all the tools to be a staple in one of the deepest divisions in all of MMA.

He took quite the beating during the fight, and he has the scars to show for it, so he should probably take some time off before being part of another huge fight. Former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira and perennial contender Beneil Dariush are set to square off in May at UFC 288, with the winner guaranteeing themselves a shot at the 155 pound title. The loser will still be one of the best lightweights in the world and a fight with Fiziev would keep both them within reach of a title shot.

Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington 3

For the first time since 2019, Kamaru Usman entered a title fight as the challenger. Unlike in UFC 235, Usman did not leave the octagon with the belt over his arm, coming up short in a tightly contested fight against Leon Edwards. Despite his shortcoming, he brushed aside rumors of retirement and said he wishes to come back sooner rather than later during his post-fight interview. Good thing for him, his next opponent was already in the crowd.

Colby Covington was the official backup for the main event and will probably push for a title shot, however, champion Leon Edwards did not seem too content on giving an inactive fighter the chance at his belt. Instead, the UFC should book these two for a trilogy fight in a main event.

Usman and Covington are two of the biggest names in the sport and their last two encounters were extremely competitive. I know Usman is up two to zero but the UFC can't pass up on the opportunity to make another trilogy headline a massive pay-per-view event. The winner will be forced into the title picture, whether Edwards agrees with it or not.

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