Fights to make for Jon Jones, Alexa Grasso, and other UFC 285 winners.
UFC 285 was one of the most highly anticipated pay-per-view cards of the year as Jon Jones finally returned to the Octagon to make his heavyweight debut. Luckily for fight fans, the event hosted at the T-Mobile Arena more than delivered.
Two new champions were crowned on this night. While we always knew that a new heavyweight champion would leave Las Vegas, the co-main event served us an early ‘shock of the year’ contender as we watched one of MMA’s most dominant champions lose for the first time in half a decade.
After a card packed full of action from the early prelims to the main event, these are the fights to make for UFC 285’s winners.
Next fights for UFC 285 winners
Bo Nickal vs. Gregory Rodrigues
Bo Nickal showed everyone exactly why he’s the real deal. The three-time NCAA wrestling champion made quick work of Jamie Pickett after he slapped on a tight arm-triangle choke to secure the win in the first round, walking away with a performance of the night bonus.
Nickal said he’s ready for anyone in the 185-pound division, however, the UFC should be careful of rushing his development. They have a potential star and world champion in their hands so they should still give him a couple of fighters outside the top 15 before he makes the jump in competition.
Enter Gregory "Robocop" Rodrigues. The knockout artist is a commodity within the middleweight division and would prove to be a bigger test for Nickal than Pickett without forcing him into high-level competition in his second UFC fight. A win here would definitely see Nickal compete for a spot in the top 15.
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Arman Tsarukyan 2
Mateusz Gamrot, the No. 7-ranked lightweight, stepped into the UFC 285 main card on short notice against one of the scariest 155-pounders in Jalin Turner and won a close split decision to improve his record to 5-2 in the UFC.
Despite his impressive showing given he was a last-minute addition, everyone in the top five of lightweight is booked to fight each other, or Connor McGregor. The only other fighters without a fight are champion Islam Mackachev and No. 2-ranked Dustin Poirier, and I don’t see the UFC matching Gamrot with any of them just yet.
One of Gamrot’s best fights was when he competed in his first UFC main event against another rising prospect Arman Tsarukyan. The two went through a grueling and extremely high-paced match back in June 2022 that many people thought Tsarukyan won. Whilst this means that he isn’t able to push himself into the top five, it would give Gamrot the chance to solidify himself as a cut above the rest of the prospects if he’s able to comfortably beat Tsarukyan for a second time.
Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Belal Muhammad
The 100 percent finish streak continues. Shavkat Rakhmonov improved to 17-0 when he submitted Geoff Neal with a nasty rear-nacked choke to continue his ascend into the top 10 of the welterweight rankings. Although he defended both his undefeated record and the finishing streak, Neal did push Rakhmonov to the edge and was arguably winning the fight going into the third round.
While it was inevitable that Rakhmonov would eventually look human against superior opposition, he continues to show what a threat he is to anybody at 170 pounds. Belal Muhammad, while slightly less intimidating, has proven to do the same, riding a nine-fight unbeaten streak and holding the No. 4 spot in the rankings.
This fight gives the winner the chance to be matched up with one of the top contenders in the shark-infested waters of the welterweight division, or even a chance at the champion.
Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko 2
The shock of the night, and maybe the year, happened during the fourth round of the co-main event. As dominant champion and seemingly unbeatable flyweight queen Valentina Shevchenko appeared to be on course for an eighth consecutive title defense, a questionable spinning kick attempt led to Alexa Grasso taking her back and eventually forcing her to tap, leaving the MMA world stunned.
As the shock still wears off on both MMA fans and the new champion herself, it is clear that an immediate rematch is the only option forward. Shevchenko was starting to establish dominance in the fight following a shaky first round prior to her fight-defining mistake and should get the nod over other contenders given her history as the greatest flyweight of all time. In the meantime, Grasso can enjoy becoming Mexico’s third UFC champion of the year.
Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic
Jon Jones perhaps cemented his status as the MMA G.O.A.T. following his quick and dominant victory over Ciryl Gane, a man many thought would be Jones’ toughest test in the division. After what felt like a century of build-up, all Jon Jones needed was two minutes to secure a tight choke and become the new heavyweight champion of the world, looking as dominant as he did during his rule over the light heavyweight division.
The next fight has been all but confirmed. Already mentioned by Stipe Miocic during an interview with UFC commentator Daniel Cormier, it seems Jones will defend his new title against the man many consider the heavyweight G.O.A.T. If the rumors of international fight week are true, then we are set for a monumental heavyweight clash in July between Jones and Miocic.