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 most important moments at UFC 286 and supply ideas on what could be forward for the standouts in London.

There is not any doubting the welterweight champ after UFC 286

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

The prevailing narrative following Edwards’ beautiful dethroning of Usman in August was that the top kick that ended the battle within the remaining minute of Spherical 5 was the Hail Mary of a person in a hopeless scenario. And in a means, that was true. Usman was comfortably forward on all the judges’ scorecards.

However generally missed is that Edwards turned in essentially the most dominant spherical of that battle. He got here out for Spherical 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.

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

And that’s the essence of how this third assembly performed out, from begin to end. The small print had 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 Englishman, 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 filled with wrestlers. Colby Covington was cageside, campaigning for his shot — regardless of not having competed in over a yr. Extra possible challengers embrace Khamzat Chimaev, Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad.

There is a lengthy line of contenders ready for his or her shot. And so they all noticed what the champion did in opposition to a former champ who till final summer time appeared invincible.

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

Who ought 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. Whereas he hasn’t been energetic, Covington’s resume nonetheless places him first in line for a title shot.

Exterior of Usman, Covington has been the highest man of this division. Now, if I had been Edwards, I would not wish to battle him both. Edwards looks like Covington ducked him for years, so forcing him to take a battle and watch for a title shot would in all probability style fairly candy. However all outdoors elements apart, Covington deserves the shot subsequent.

Wild card: Jorge Masvidal

You already know if Masvidal does one thing spectacular in opposition to Gilbert Burns at UFC 287 subsequent month, there’s a excellent likelihood he is 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 strains on this sport’s historical past, and Edwards has at all times needed to get his fingers on Masvidal after their backstage incident in 2019.

In the event you’re in opposition to this situation as a result of Masvidal would not be as deserving as others, all I can let you know is: Recover from it. If Masvidal reveals up and takes care of enterprise subsequent month in Miami, we’re getting this title battle.

Who ought to be subsequent for Usman: Stephen Thompson

I used to be a little bit shocked Usman made it clear so shortly contained in the Octagon that he shall be again and he’ll see Edwards once more. I do not know why that shocked me, perhaps I simply thought after such an enormous battle, he’d desire a second to essentially collect his ideas.

In any case, it reveals the place his mindset is. Nothing has modified. He is right here and his objective is the highest. The Thompson matchup is one we by no means noticed throughout his title reign and I might like to see it.

Wild card: Belal Muhammad

Muhammad is on an ideal win streak and is looking for a title shot. I do know he would not really feel like he ought to be pressured to win another, however that is the fact of his scenario. If he had been to beat essentially the most dominant champion of the final decade, nobody might deny him anymore.

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 that he has one final run on the UFC light-weight title in him and he is not going to be round for much longer.

That was a little bit of a shock, as a result of, effectively, there is a sure vibe round Gaethje that he is barely human. Some followers may need anticipated a gray-haired Gaethje to limp and creak his method to the Octagon effectively 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?

However Gaethje’s feedback had been a tad sobering. His days of getting into the Octagon are numbered and admittedly, a fast actuality test would make anybody perceive why. Gaethje is simply 34 years outdated, however he has had 28 professional fights and he is not precisely the kind to coast to victory avoiding harm, you understand? That is simply not his fashion. Really, it is the alternative. Gaethje bores brow first into these battles with among the hardest, most harmful fighters on this planet with a half-smile on his face and pleasure in his eyes.

There are nonetheless some huge, undoubtedly unimaginable Gaethje fights to come back. His win over Rafael Fiziev at UFC 286 on Saturday retains Gaethje, the previous interim champ, within the contender dialog. He is in all probability just one victory away from one other title shot now.

So, let’s attempt to get pleasure from Gaethje whereas he is nonetheless round. There is a tendency amongst followers, and perhaps even media, to not absolutely respect issues occurring within the second. All of us have brief consideration spans. That Twitter timeline can scroll by fairly shortly. 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 fight-night bonuses in 11 UFC fights.

Relating to motion, the person doesn’t miss — more often than not on the detriment of his personal well being and security. Gaethje won’t win the undisputed UFC light-weight title and largely that will not imply a lot for his legacy. The Fiziev battle was one other notch in an equally necessary belt, the legendary one granted to him as the game’s king of violence. And nobody is coming for that crowd 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 ought 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 battle, that Fiziev is younger and hungry and that may be a harmful mixture. And he 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 is been on the prime perpetually, however got here up brief in a title bid that wasn’t that way back (December 2021).

A battle between them makes all of the sense on this planet. It is a rematch of a incredible battle. It is two former interim champs. The winner will get another shot on the undisputed belt. Good battle.

So excellent, the truth is, I haven’t got a wildcard for Gaethje. That is the one battle to make for each.

Okamoto: Who’s subsequent for Rafael Fiziev

Who ought to be subsequent: Loser of Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush on Could 6

This was a troublesome loss for Fiziev, however he is nonetheless in a great spot. Had he received that battle, he is in all probability nonetheless a Dustin Poirier battle away from a title shot. Coming off this loss, he nonetheless may solely be one battle away.

No matter whoever loses between Oliveira and Daiush, a win over them can be large. There aren’t many names nonetheless forward of Fiziev, and whereas he took the loss, this battle raised his profile. Both matchup can 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 might prefer to see.

Fiziev has appeared strong defending takedowns to this point in his profession, but when he might do in opposition to Gamrot that might actually inform us one thing as he rebuilds his case for a title shot.

Not the return O’Neill needed, however there’s nonetheless optimism for the long run

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

However O’Neill was not capable of decide up the win. Jennifer Maia was capable of outbox her in a enjoyable, back-and-forth battle. And that is OK. Maia could be very robust, and a lot better than what she is given credit score for. Let’s not neglect Maia gave then-champion Valentina Shevchenko one heck of a battle in 2020. It is arduous to look good in opposition to Maia, who’s well-rounded, hits arduous and has strong method. That is the precise type of matchup you don’t need getting back from a protracted layoff and a extreme knee damage. But, O’Neill did not draw back in any respect, which might have been a priority.

O’Neill continues to be simply 25 years outdated. She’s nonetheless some of the promising younger fighters within the division. The actual fact she was capable of stand and bang with Maia in a aggressive battle on this battle was encouraging. It means O’Neill actually is not all that far off the elite fighters within the division.

Ladies’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, deservedly so, however issues are vast 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 that this time in 2024. It’s going to possible be fairly near the highest of the 125-pound division.

Okamoto: Who’s subsequent for Marvin Vettori

Who ought to be subsequent: Khamzat Chimaev

Chimaev is coming to middleweight. The 2 fights that 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 in opposition to Israel Adesanya, Whittaker might and may slide in for a title shot. So, if that had been to be the case, Chimaev would wish a brand new dance companion at middleweight and Vettori is the one. Really, from a pre-fight standpoint, this matchup would have a captivating buildup. We’ll should see how a couple of extra issues play out on this division, however I might undoubtedly see these two crossing paths.

Wild card: Alex Pereira

Like I stated, if Pereira beats Adesanya, he’ll clearly want a brand new title challenger. Whittaker is the proper selection, but when that fell by for no matter motive, Vettori can be subsequent up.

Moakev wins, however at what value?

Raimondi: Muhammad Mokaev remained undefeated. He acquired his third end in 4 UFC victories. And he is nonetheless among the finest prospects in all of MMA. However will he remorse how his battle with Jafel Filho went down at UFC 286? He very effectively may, even years down the street.

Filho had a reliable, deep kneebar locked in on Mokaev’s left leg within the third spherical. Mokaev was in ache and stated he heard the knee cracking. However he didn’t faucet. He in some way weathered it, acquired 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. However kneebars will be some of the harmful submissions in MMA due to the hyperextension of a vitally necessary joint.

On commentary Saturday, former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping famous {that a} good friend 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 simply 22 years outdated and that was a really 22-year-old determination. “Stay to battle one other day” isn’t a mantra typically utilized in MMA, the place toughness and the power to face up to ache and harm are glorified. However this wasn’t only a lower 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 come back. That would 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.

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