Leon Edwards makes good on his phrase; Justin Gaethje prepared for his final title run

Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim react to the largest moments at UFC 286 and supply ideas on what could be forward for the standouts in London.

There’s no doubting the welterweight champ after UFC 286

Wagenheim: Are we alleged to be stunned that on the finish of a raucous Saturday night time in London on Saturday, Leon Edwards remained UFC welterweight champion? Anyone who’s shocked by the result in the principle occasion of UFC 286 on the O2 Arena in London may not have been paying shut sufficient consideration the final time he and Kamaru Usman tussled.

The prevailing narrative following Edwards’ gorgeous dethroning of Usman in August was that the pinnacle kick that ended the struggle within the ultimate minute of Round 5 was the Hail Mary of a person in a hopeless scenario. And in a method, that was true. Usman was comfortably forward on all the judges’ scorecards.

But generally neglected is that Edwards turned in essentially the most dominant spherical of that struggle. He got here out for Round 1 that night and scored the primary takedown surrendered by Usman in his 16-fight UFC profession, and Edwards managed the then champ on the canvas for a few minutes, threatening a submission.

Sure, Usman seized management and maintained it the remainder of the best way — till that one-kick KO — however as wonderful as that ultimate second was for Edwards, it was not his solely second. He had confirmed earlier in August’s struggle that he might cling with Usman and put him in bother.

And that’s the essence of how this third assembly performed out, from begin to end. The particulars have been simply totally different. There was no flashy knockout this time, only a complete lot of kicks to the legs and torso that slowed Usman’s advances. And there was no Edwards takedown, both, only a complete lot of stout takedown protection by the English fighter, who fended off 11 of Usman’s 15 makes an attempt to take him to the canvas. That regular success on each offense and protection for the complete 5 rounds is what enabled Edwards to retain his belt.

The takedown protection was a showcase for Edwards in a division stuffed with wrestlers. Colby Covington was cageside, campaigning for his shot — regardless of not having competed in over a yr. More possible challengers embrace Khamzat Chimaev, Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad.

There’s an extended line of contenders ready for his or her shot. And all of them noticed what the champion did towards a former champ who till final summer season seemed invincible.

Okamoto: Who’s subsequent for Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman

Who needs to be subsequent for Edwards: Colby Covington

Covington hasn’t fought since March, however that is tied to an alleged assault on him by Jorge Masvidal in Miami shortly after they fought. While he hasn’t been energetic, Covington’s résumé nonetheless places him first in line for a title shot.

Outside of Usman, Covington has been the highest man of this division. Now, if I have been Edwards, I would not wish to struggle Covington, both. Edwards looks like Covington ducked him for years, so forcing him to take a struggle and look ahead to a title shot would most likely style fairly candy. But all exterior components apart, Covington deserves the shot subsequent.

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Wild card: Jorge Masvidal

You know if Masvidal does one thing spectacular towards Gilbert Burns at UFC 287 subsequent month, there’s a superb probability he’s getting the subsequent shot. The story line is simply too juicy for Edwards or the UFC to cross up.

“Three piece and a soda” is likely one of the most well-known traces on this sport’s historical past, and Edwards has all the time needed to get his fingers on Masvidal after their backstage incident in 2019.

If you are towards this situation as a result of Masvidal would not be as deserving as others, all I can inform you is, recover from it. If Masvidal exhibits up and takes care of enterprise subsequent month in Miami, we’re getting this title struggle.

Who needs to be subsequent for Usman: Stephen Thompson

I used to be somewhat stunned Usman made it clear so rapidly contained in the Octagon that he shall be again and can see Edwards once more. I do not know why that stunned me; possibly I simply thought after such an enormous struggle, he’d need a second to actually collect his ideas.

In any case, it exhibits the place his mindset is. Nothing has modified. Usman is right here, and his aim is the highest. The Thompson matchup is one we by no means noticed throughout Usman’s title reign, and I’d like to see it.

Wild card: Belal Muhammad

Muhammad is on an important win streak and is asking for a title shot. I do know he would not really feel like he needs to be pressured to win yet one more, however that is the fact of his scenario. If he have been to beat essentially the most dominant champion of the previous decade, nobody might deny him anymore.

Justin Gaethje places on one other memorable efficiency, however is aware of finish of the street is coming

Raimondi: Justin Gaethje stated one thing actually fascinating in his postfight interview. He instructed Daniel Cormier he has one final run on the UFC light-weight title in him and that he is not going to be round for much longer.

That was a little bit of a shock, as a result of, properly, there is a sure vibe round Gaethje that he’s barely human. Some followers might need anticipated a gray-haired Gaethje to limp and creak his method to the Octagon properly into his 50s and attempt to slug it out with opponents a couple of a long time his junior. Why would anybody put it previous him?

But Gaethje’s feedback have been a tad sobering. His days of getting into the Octagon are numbered, and albeit, a fast actuality verify would make anybody perceive why. Gaethje is barely 34 years previous, however he has had 28 professional fights, and he is not precisely the sort to coast to victory avoiding harm, you recognize? That’s simply not his model. Actually, it is the alternative. Gaethje bores brow first into these battles with a number of the hardest, most harmful fighters on the planet with a half-smile on his face and pleasure in his eyes.

There are nonetheless some massive, undoubtedly unbelievable Gaethje fights to return. His win over Rafael Fiziev at UFC 286 on Saturday retains Gaethje, the previous interim champ, within the contender dialog. He might be just one victory away from one other title shot now.

So, let’s attempt to take pleasure in Gaethje whereas he is nonetheless round. There’s a bent amongst followers, and possibly even media, to not absolutely admire issues occurring within the second. We all have brief consideration spans. That Twitter timeline can scroll by fairly rapidly. Instagram tales are gone in 24 hours. Let’s not make that mistake with Gaethje, who may actually be essentially the most entertaining fighter in UFC historical past. He has received 11 struggle night time bonuses in 11 UFC fights.

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When it involves motion, the person doesn’t miss — more often than not on the detriment of his personal well being and security. Gaethje may not win the undisputed UFC light-weight title, and largely that will not imply a lot for his legacy. The Fiziev struggle was one other notch in an equally vital belt, the legendary one granted to him as the game’s king of violence. And nobody is coming for that crown any time quickly.

Okamoto: Who’s subsequent for Justin Gaethje



Rafael Fiziev, Justin Gaethje placed on a present in co-main occasion

Rafael Fiziev and Justin Gaethje let the kicks and punches fly within the co-main occasion of UFC 286.

Who needs to be subsequent: Dustin Poirier

This was some of the spectacular wins of Gaethje’s profession. He stated it himself repeatedly within the buildup to this struggle that Fiziev is younger and hungry and that it’s a harmful mixture. And Gaethje was capable of win after falling into an early gap.

The late adjustment of discovering the uppercut was a factor of magnificence, and it preserved what could be the ultimate title run of his profession. Poirier is in an identical spot. He has been on the high endlessly, however he got here up brief in a title bid that wasn’t that way back (December 2021).

A struggle between them makes all of the sense on the planet. It’s a rematch of a incredible struggle. It’s two former interim champs. The winner will get yet one more shot on the undisputed belt. Perfect struggle.

So good, in actual fact, I haven’t got a wild card for Gaethje. This is the one struggle to make for each he and Poirier.

Okamoto: Who’s subsequent for Rafael Fiziev

Who needs to be subsequent: Loser of Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush on May 6

This was a tricky loss for Fiziev, however he’s nonetheless in a great place. Had he received that bout, he most likely nonetheless would have been a Dustin Poirier struggle away from a title shot. Coming off this loss, Fiziev nonetheless may solely be one struggle away.

Regardless of whoever loses between Oliveira and Dariush, a win over one in every of them could be huge. There aren’t many names nonetheless forward of Fiziev, and whereas he took the loss, this struggle raised his profile. Either matchup could be fireplace.

Wild card: Mateusz Gamrot

Gamrot is coming off a win over Jalin Turner, nevertheless it wasn’t all that dominant of a efficiency. Gamrot would actually check Fiziev’s wrestling, which I’d wish to see.

Fiziev has seemed stable defending takedowns to this point in his profession, and if he might accomplish that once more versus Gamrot, that will actually inform us one thing as Fiziev rebuilds his case for a title shot.

Not the return Casey O’Neill needed, however there’s nonetheless optimism for the longer term

Raimondi: Casey O’Neill’s return from a torn ACL did not go fairly as deliberate. The standard, Scotland-born fighter was competing within the United Kingdom for the primary time, a big second in her profession. Moreover, she had not fought in 13 months after recovering from knee surgical procedure.

But O’Neill wasn’t capable of decide up the win. Jennifer Maia outboxed her in a enjoyable, back-and-forth struggle. And that is OK. Maia could be very robust and significantly better than what she is given credit score for. Let’s not overlook Maia gave then-champion Valentina Shevchenko one heck of a struggle in 2020. It’s onerous to look good towards Maia, who’s well-rounded, hits onerous and has stable approach. That’s the precise form of matchup you do not need getting back from an extended layoff and a extreme knee damage. Yet, O’Neill did not shrink back in any respect, which might have been a priority.

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O’Neill continues to be simply 25 years previous. She continues to be some of the promising younger fighters within the division. The truth she was capable of stand and bang with Maia in a aggressive struggle is encouraging. It means O’Neill actually is not all that far off the elite fighters within the division.

Women’s flyweight, by the best way, is a division in potential flux. Alexa Grasso simply knocked off Shevchenko to win the title. Shevchenko is more likely to get the speedy rematch, and deservedly so, however issues are large open.

So, let’s not throw chilly water on O’Neill’s prospect standing simply but. Give her one other yr and see the place she is right now in 2024. It’ll possible be fairly near the highest of the 125-pound division.

Okamoto: Who’s subsequent for Marvin Vettori

Who needs to be subsequent: Khamzat Chimaev

Chimaev is coming to middleweight. The two opponents who take advantage of sense for him are Robert Whittaker and Vettori. The UFC has mentioned that matchup, and it is a good one; but when Alex Pereira defends his title subsequent month towards Israel Adesanya, Whittaker might and may slide in for a title shot. So, if that have been to be the case, Chimaev would wish a brand new dance companion at middleweight, and Vettori is the one. Actually, from a prefight standpoint, this matchup would have a captivating buildup. We’ll must see how a couple of extra issues play out on this division, however I might positively see these two crossing paths.

Wild card: Alex Pereira

Like I stated, if Pereira beats Adesanya, Pereira will clearly want a brand new title challenger. Whittaker is the right alternative, but when that fell by means of for no matter cause, Vettori could be subsequent up.

Muhammad Mokaev wins, however at what price?

Raimondi: Muhammad Mokaev remained undefeated. He bought his third end in 4 UFC victories. And he’s nonetheless top-of-the-line prospects in all of MMA. But will he remorse how his struggle with Jafel Filho went down at UFC 286? He very properly may, even years down the street.

Filho had a professional, deep kneebar locked in on Mokaev’s left leg within the third spherical. Mokaev was in ache and stated he heard the knee cracking. But he didn’t faucet. He one way or the other weathered it, bought out and slapped a choke on Filho for the end.

Afterward, although, Mokaev’s left leg was clearly compromised. He had a tough time getting again to his toes and was limping across the Octagon. Hopefully, the harm to the knee is not too unhealthy. But kneebars could be some of the harmful submissions in MMA due to the hyperextension of a vitally vital joint.

During commentary on Saturday, former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping famous {that a} buddy of his did not faucet to a kneebar throughout his profession and was by no means the identical once more. Knees aren’t one thing to fiddle with. Mokaev is barely 22 years previous, and that was a really 22-year-old choice. “Live to fight another day” is just not a mantra typically utilized in MMA, the place toughness and the flexibility to resist ache and harm are glorified. But this wasn’t only a reduce above the attention; it was one thing that would have an effect on the remainder of Mokaev’s profession.

Let’s hope it would not. Mokaev is an distinctive fighter who might find yourself dominating the flyweight division for years and years to return. That might have been the case, although, even when he took his first profession loss at UFC 286 and left the cage with two absolutely operational legs.