UFC 239 has come and gone and it was a night that did not disappoint. After a night of exciting finishes, closely contested contests and a knockout of the year highlight, it’s time we look ahead to what may or should be in store for some of the nights biggest victors.
5. Edmen Shabazyan vs. Tom Breese
Shabazyan is 4-0 since making his introduction to the UFC audience back in the summer of 2018. He has three finishes in those four bouts and continues to show that he is one of the few Contender Series winners to look out for in the future. With another highlight to his resume, Shabazyan should look to climb the ladder of his stakced Middleweight division. A solid win deserves a solid name.
Tom Breese recently made the move up to Middleweight from Welterweight and garnered a notable win over then-ranked Dan Kelly by way of TKO in the first. Breese has since tackled a handful of health concerns and cancelled fights and will be looking to garner some momentum back upon his return. A bout between these two men will highlight who we should be keeping our eye on more.
4. Marlon Vera vs. John Dodson
The UFC’s lone fighter from Ecuador has quietly rounded off four straight victories, all by way of finish before the end of the second round. However, due to multiple injuries and/or cancelled matchups Vera has yet to obtain that notable victory that would otherwise garner him the notoriety he is searching for. Vera was originally scheduled to take on rising star Sean O’Malley on this card. However, the bout fell through after the Nevada State Athletic Commission refused to license O’Malley following a failed test that the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) still deemed the fighter free of fault. Despite this, the NAC was still unwilling to license O’Malley until an investigation had been cleared.
Vera, an Ultimate Fighter alumni, deserves a crack at someone inside the top 15 to see if he is ready for the more elite athletes in his division. Former Flyweight title contender John Dodson has been looking to garner momentum since moving back up to Bantamweight and a win over a rising contender could be the right place to start.
3. Jan Blachowicz vs. Khalil Roundtree
Blachowicz garnered one of the bigger victories in his UFC tenure after knocking out former Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in the second round. The fight wasn’t without it’s adversity however as Rockhold commanded control of the fight for much of the first round. Blachowicz however proved that the heavier gentlemen do possess notable power for those moving up from Middleweight to worry about.
Blachowicz should look to build on this win and compete with others looking to climb the Light Heavyweight ladder so as to cement himself as the next possible contender for the Light Heavyweight title. A win against a surging Khalil Roundtree would set the Polish veteran on that path.
2. Jorge Masvidal vs. Tyron Woodley
Masvidal is likely looking at a Knockout of the Year award after cementing his name into the record books after taking the fastest knockout record with his five-second flying knee knockout over former Bellator and ONE championship champion Ben Askren. Masvidal is red hot at the moment. Arguably the hottest Welterweight going right now after back-to-back knockouts over standout stars Darren Till and now Askren. Fights in which Masvidal was the underdog in both bouts.
Masvidal has a credible stake at a championship opportunity as there is currently no one set to take on the new champion Kamaru Usman, who just so happens to be Jorge’s training partner. But if ever there was a matchup that could cement Masvidal as the true number one contender, it would be a victory over former champion Tyron Woodley, who is likely to make his return late in the year as he is recovering from a hand injury.
1. Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier / Francis Ngannou / Stipe Miocic
While it was not one of his more impressive wins by any means, Jon Jones continues his impressive reign atop the Light Heavyweight division. Narrowly taking a decision, Jones turns away yet another Light Heavyweight contender and one has to ask how much longer can Jones viably compete as the champion and still sell with no more real contenders to challenge? Fans have been clamoring to see the supposed Greatest of All Time fight a division up at Heavyweight and the time could soon make more sense than ever.
Daniel Cormier will soon defend his Heavyweight title against Stipe Miocic in a rematch from their initial encounter last summer. Should Cormier defend his title against Miocic, it sets up one of the biggest fights that the UFC could book with a Heavyweight title rubber match between Jones and Cormier. This is, of course, barring any retirement announcement from Cormier after August. But if Stipe wins the belt, and DC retires Jones is then set to possibly contend for the belt still, just against a former champion.
The third option that lies available would be a bout between Jon Jones and power-puncher Francis Ngannou who just recently knocked out former Heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in the first round last month. Should DC defend his title and retire, it would leave the belt vacant and Ngannou would need an opponent. Stipe, coming off two losses wouldn’t make the most sense, leaving Jones open to fight for the vacant strap and a chance at further cementing his legacy.