What happened last night at UFC 196 will send ripple effects across the MMA world for months to come. Nate Diaz and Miesha Tate both earned submission victories against opponents they were not expected to beat. Holly Holm had become the new queen of the UFC after defeating Ronda Rousey in November, and featherweight champion Conor McGregor had dismantled every opponent in his path since joining the UFC in 2013.
What Diaz and Tate did last night was change the narrative when it comes to matchmaking in the UFC, especially when it comes to UFC 200 in July. Holm’s anticipated rematch with Rousey will be put on hold for the near future, and McGregor will not be fighting at welterweight anytime soon. So what matchups should be made?
Amanda Nunes def. Valentina Shevchenko via unanimous decision
After defeating Shevchenko last night, Nunes clamored for a shot at Tate’s bantamweight belt in the post fight press conference, but that will be highly unlikely considering Rousey is waiting in the wings. Her win was impressive, but she still needs to fight someone like Cat Zingano or Holly Holm to earn a title shot.
Shevchenko was ranked 10th in the UFC rankings before last night, and she will need to fight someone like Bethe Correia or a rematch with Liz Carmouche in order to stay in the top 10 at bantamweight.
Corey Anderson def. Tom Lawlor via unanimous decision
Anderson should move up the light heavyweight rankings after defeating Lawlor. Being young in this sport will be a benefit to him as he eyes more top contenders. A fight with Jimi Manuwa would be interesting, or a matchup with the winner of Patrick Cummins vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 198.
Lawlor is a veteran in this sport who may not be with the UFC much longer, but if he does hang around he could see a rematch with Gian Villante who also lost on the night. Lawlor usually puts on exciting fights which will benefit him going forward.
Ilir Latifi def. Gian Villante via unanimous decision
Now on a three fight win streak, Latifi should see a jump in competition in his next fight. He could see a matchup with Manuwa or Anderson, or even fight the winner of Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua at UFC on Fox 19.
As mentioned earlier, Villante could see a matchup with Lawlor in his next fight, but will likely fall out of the top 15 with all of the light heavyweight matchups coming up.
Miesha Tate def. Holly Holm via submission (rear naked choke)
Tate is obviously on top of the world right now, and should enjoy everything that comes with being the women’s bantamweight champion. Defeating an elite striker like Holm is easily the greatest victory of her career.
After her celebrating is over, a third matchup with Rousey seems inevitable. Tate chose not to call anybody out last night, but a chance to end her longtime feud with Rousey is something that did not even seem possible until last night. But now Tate has the belt that many thought Rousey would never lose, so matching them up at UFC 200 feels like the best decision.
Holm was winning most of the fight and is not going anywhere when it comes to being a top bantamweight contender. She obviously would like a rematch with Tate, but that will unlikely happen unless Rousey decides to take an extended break. A matchup with Nunes or Zangano seems more likely as she looks for a title shot again. She is the best striker in the division by far, so we should see her in a championship fight again in the next two years.
Nate Diaz def. Conor McGregor via submission (rear naked choke)
Diaz certainly has some options after defeating the highly celebrated McGregor on such a huge stage. He has paid his dues in the UFC for a very long time and deserves everything he has coming to him. After the fight, he mentioned that he only wants big fights with big pay days, and his fans would want to see that as well.
Fighting at lightweight and welterweight, he has had success in both classes. He has a loss to LW champ Raphael Dos Anjos that he could avenge, or he could fight the WW champion Robbie Lawler who lost to his brother Nick Diaz back in the day. Either fight could be at UFC 200 which could be just the type of big money fight he is looking for. Out of all the fighters that competed at UFC 196, Diaz should feel happier than anybody considering where he was two weeks ago. He now has leverage that he has never had in his long career.
Although McGregor lost to Diaz, he still has a long career ahead of him. He fought a more experienced fighter on two weeks’ notice at a weight class 25 pounds above his normal weight. His infamous left hand connected multiple times, but he was not able to rock the durable Diaz. He also wore himself out early on and will learn from those mistakes.
With that being said, McGregor is still the featherweight champion and can go back down and fight either Edgar or Aldo to defend his belt (Edgar deserves it more). A matchup at lightweight is also possible considering his difficulty cutting to 145 pounds. Fighters like Dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis would surely love to fight him after seeing him lose some of his former glory. Whoever he fights next, the fight will likely be at UFC 200.
McGregor still makes the UFC a lot of money and any matchup will bring eyeballs, as last night proved. He is still going to hype fights like he always has, even if his doubters have more ammunition. McGregor makes everything at featherweight, lightweight and welterweight way more interesting, that’s for sure.