UFC 292: Matches to make for Sean O'Malley, Zhang Weili, other winners

What's next for UFC 292's winners? Let's take a look.
Zhang Weili
Zhang Weili / Paul Rutherford/GettyImages

The UFC's return to Boston was one to remember as Sean O'Malley fulfilled his Dana White's Contender Series prophecy by beating one of the best bantamweights of all-time and becoming a world champion.

Zhang Weili dominated Amanda Lemos over five rounds to add to her strawweight legacy. Ian Garry continued to prove he is the real deal with a convincing win over veteran Neil Magny. Mario Bautista took care of business in a short-notice fight with Da'Mon Blackshear. Marlon Vera beat Pedro Munhoz and made his case for a title shot.

Where do the winners go from here?

Sean O'Malley vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Yes, everyone would much rather see the rematch between O'Malley and Marlon Vera after both fighters won Saturday night, but with Aljamain Sterling more than likely moving up a weight class, no other bantamweight deserves it more than Merab Dvalishvili.

O'Malley caught Sterling early in the second round with a counter shot and dropped the champion, following up with ground strikes before the referee stepped in. A fight with Vera would definitely favor the new champion instead of a matchup with grappler Dvalishvili, but O'Malley was able to defend Sterling's takedowns, so it would be interesting to see how a fight with Dvalishvili would go, and of course, the revenge factor would play a role.

Dvalishivi is on a nine-fight win streak, including beating three former champions Petr Yan, Jose Aldo, and Marlon Moraes. He's also ranked No. 1 in the division.

Zhang Weili vs. Yan Xiaonan

Zhang turned in another stellar performance over Amanda Lemos, dominating over five rounds, mostly on the ground. Yan is coming off a knockout of former champion Jessica Andrade at UFC 288 and has won eight out of her 10 last fights. With both fighters hailing from China, it would be awesome to see the two square off in their home country. The UFC hasn't been to China since Zhang won her first title in 2019 and now would be a perfect time to go back.

Ian Garry vs. Stephen Thompson

Garry kept true to his word Saturday night and put a beating on Neil Magny, continuing to prove he's ready to become a superstar. Garry's original opponent Geoff Neal pulled out of the bout and was replaced by Magny, but matching up Garry with the No. 7-ranked Stephen Thompson next would be the more intriguing fight.

Thompson was set to face Michel Pereira at UFC 291, but Pereira missed weight and Thompson refused to accept the fight. Thompson also hinted at accepting a fight with Garry given a new fight camp, so I think that's the way the UFC should go next. With their similar styles, it could have Fight of the Night written all over it and also be set up as a way for Garry to continue to make that leap.

Unfortunately, according to Dana White, Thompson already turned down the fight, but we'll see if he has a change of heart.

Mario Bautista vs. Cody Garbrandt

Bautista beat a short-notice Da'Mon Blackshear, who fought just seven days prior after his original opponent pulled out due to injury. Cody Garbrandt moved back to bantamweight after his unsuccessful try at flyweight and was coming off a win against Trevin Jones. Bautista, who is now on a five-fight win streak, was set to face the former champion and I think this fight should still happen.

With both their exciting styles, this could help get Bautista into the rankings, or help Garbrandt get back on a winning streak.

Marlon Vera vs. Henry Cejudo

Vera is angling for a rematch with the new champion after his short-notice win against Pedro Munhoz, but with Dvalishvili being more deserving, the UFC should match Vera back up with Henry Cejudo.

Former double champion Cejudo was set to face Vera before pulling out due to injury, with the winner being in line for a title shot, and there's no question on who O'Malley would rather face next, looking to get revenge on Vera for his only professional loss. Cejudo is coming off a loss to Sterling, and a win for either him or Vera would put them next in line for a title shot. Curious to see what White will do, knowing a fight with Vera would get more hype than a fight with Dvalishvili, though there is the revenge angle for both matchups.

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