Fights to make for Israel Adesanya, Gilbert Burns, and the rest of the UFC 287 main card winners.
The UFC’s first return to Miami in 20 years was seemingly a wild success, as the night was full of great fights and great comeback stories from fighters with their backs against the wall. Fighters like Kelvin Gastelum and Rob Font saw their careers in some trouble, and each answered in a huge way. Christian Rodriguez also got his name out there, joining Font in stopping one of the UFC bantamweight hype trains right in its tracks.
Gilbert Burns also landed a big win that put him in title contention, but it was overshadowed as UFC legend Jorge Masvidal retired from mixed martial arts. The real story is obviously Israel Adesanya finally solving the Alex Pereria puzzle, as he slept Pereria in round two after winning a closely contested first round. Now it’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite topic in the morning after a great pay-per-view card and answer the question: Who’s next for the winners?
Fights to make for UFC 287 main card winners
Christian Rodriguez vs. Farid Basharat
Christian Rodriguez stopped the Raul Rosas Jr. hype train right in its tracks at UFC 287. Rodriguez now finds himself on a two-fight winning streak and should get another bigger name outside of the bantamweight top 15.
Farid Basharat won his UFC debut against Da’Mon Blackshear in a pretty convincing decision, and he and Rodriguez matchup well as two up-and-comers in the UFC bantamweight division. Basharat was clearly a step above Blackshear and needs a better fight, and Rodriguez gives a completely different style and will be a step up in talent.
Kevin Holland vs. Sean Brady
Kevin Holland is back in the win column after a huge knockout against Santiago Ponzinibbio, breaking his very strange two-fight losing streak. Sean Brady was supposed to fight Michel Pereria at UFC San Antonio but had to back out due to an undisclosed injury, and now Pereria is scheduled to fight Stephen Thompson at UFC 289.
Brady lost his first professional MMA fight after getting peppered on the feet by Belal Muhammad and losing via TKO in the second round. Brady needs to fight down in the rankings, and Holland deserves a ranked opponent. This also gives Holland a test to see if he can handle grappling at welterweight better than he could against Marvin Vettori and Derek Brunson at middleweight.
Rob Font vs. Cory Sandhagen
After simultaneously ending the Adrian Yanez hype train and a two-fight skid of his own, Rob Font is back in the win column in a big way. Yanez opened up the first two minutes well, but it looked as if he underestimated the power and skill of Font, who was able to drop Yanez and finish him quickly.
Cory Sandhagen poses a potential Fight of the Night candidate with Font, who surely will be looking up the rankings after wasting no time showing everyone he still belongs at the top of the bantamweight division. If Aljamain Sterling leaves the division after his bout with Henry Cejudo, then Font vs. Sandhagen very quickly can become a title eliminator.
Gilbert Burns vs. Winner of Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington
Since losing via TKO in his title bout with Kamaru Usman at UFC 258, Gilbert Burns is now 3-1 in his last four fights, beating Stephen Thompson, Neal Magny, and now Jorge Masvidal, with his one loss coming against Khazmat Chimaev in one of the greatest three round fights of all time.
Burns is a very fun fighter and arguably could have been given the nod over Chimaev. It is all but finalized for UFC 291 on July 22, headlined by Edwards vs. Covington, and Burns said in his post-fight interview that fighting the winner for the belt is the only fight he’ll accept. If Covington wins, he might call out welterweight legend Kamaru Usman in hopes of finally beating his bitter rival, whom he is 0-2 against in two great fights, but Usman now has not won since 2021, with his last win being over Covington. Burns deserves the shot more than anyone in welterweight, with the exception of maybe Belal Muhammad.
Israel Adesanya vs Alex Pereria 3
This one is obvious. Israel Adesanya finally got his revenge against Alex Pereria, who for so long had his number. Now with them being 1-1 against each other in MMA, we need one final fight to declare a winner of this trilogy.
Adesanya looked hurt, but as he said, he was “playing possum” before landing the two biggest right hands of his career, knocking Pereria out cold. This final fight has huge implications, as Adesanya’s attempt at light heavyweight went poorly the first time, so more than Pereria, his back is still against the wall to win this MMA rubber match.