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John Locher/Associated Press
Fight fans are going to be talking about UFC 252, which went down Saturday night at the UFC Apex facility in Las Vegas, for weeks to come.
In the card’s main event, UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and former champion Daniel Cormier collided for a third time with ambitions to settle a 1-1 tie across their two previous fights. In the end, it was Miocic who succeeded, defending the title and spoiling Cormier’s plans for a triumphant ride off into the sunset with a unanimous-decision victory.
In the co-main event, Ecuadorian bantamweight contender Marlon “Chito” Vera picked up a massive upset victory over the formerly unbeaten “Sugar” Sean O’Malley, capitalizing on his foe’s apparent leg injury en route to a first-round TKO win.
Elsewhere on the card, we saw a number of other exciting finishes, including one from heavyweight contender Jairzinho Rozenstruik, who stopped the division’s former champion Junior dos Santos in the second round of their bout.
It’s going to take some time to digest all of the action at UFC 252, but it will soon be time to start thinking about the next moves for the stars of the event.
On that note, here are five fights we’re hoping to see when the dust has settled.
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Gregory Payan/Associated Press
Stipe Miocic is the greatest heavyweight in UFC history—and by most accounts, in MMA history outright. The heavyweight champion reaffirmed that reputation in the UFC 252 main event, when he edged out his archrival, the retiring Daniel Cormier, to win a unanimous-decision victory after five grueling and competitive rounds.
From here, all signs point to Miocic defending his title against Francis Ngannou next. Miocic defeated Ngannou by unanimous decision in 2018, but since that meeting, the Cameroonian-French knockout artist has rattled off knockout wins over Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik—in less than three minutes combined. That streak has made it nearly impossible to deny him another crack at the division’s apex predator.
Of course, there is one other option for Miocic that could supersede a title defense against Ngannou.
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has long flirted with the idea of a move up to the heavyweight division and seems to have renewed interest in that possibility after watching Miocic and Cormier do battle.
“Avoid Stipe’s right hand, I’m too fast, I’ll be too strong when the time is right and have way too much energy,” Jones wrote on Twitter upon the conclusion of UFC 252. “Soon and very soon I’ll be considered the baddest man on this planet.”
While a Ngannou rematch is a sensible and exciting option for the heavyweight champ’s next fight, don’t be surprised if Jones ends up cutting to the front of the line.
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Steve Luciano/Associated Press
A hype train went skittering off the rails in the UFC 252 co-main event, as Marlon “Chito” Vera picked up an impressive, first-round TKO win over the formerly unbeaten “Sugar” Sean O’Malley.
The victory was not without controversy, as O’Malley seemed to badly injure his leg before Vera climbed into top position and ended the fight with a blizzard of ground-and-pound, but it was a massive win for the Ecuadorian fighter all the same, and one that will likely catapult him back into the bantamweight top 15.
With this huge win in the rearview, Vera should be rewarded with a fight with the bantamweight division’s No. 10-ranked contender Rob Font. The former CES MMA featherweight champion is riding high on a pair of impressive decision victories over Sergio Pettis and Ricky Simon and will be looking for a big-name opponent in his next fight. Vera, whose name will no doubt feature heavily in the MMA headlines over the coming weeks, is precisely that.
It’s also difficult to understate how well these two bantamweights match up on paper. It’s almost impossible to imagine them producing a boring fight.
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As previously noted, the O’Malley hype train lost a great deal of momentum in the UFC 252 co-main event, as he was stopped in the first round by an opportunistic predator in Vera. That being said, O’Malley’s loss is somewhat excusable, as he seemed to injure his leg early in the fight, which greatly compromised his ability to perform.
Given the nature of this defeat, it shouldn’t take much for O’Malley to get back on track. When his leg is all patched up, he should be given the opportunity to do so against former two-time UFC flyweight title challenger John Dodson, who lost a decision to Merab Dvalishvili in the UFC 252 pay-per-view opener.
It’s a matchup that would see the pair fighting to justify a place in the bantamweight top 15—and it’s a seemingly winnable fight for both men.
Schedule it for the main event of a Fight Night card, or on an upcoming pay-per-view, and see how O’Malley rebounds from his first taste of defeat.
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Gregory Payan/Associated Press
Before Miocic and Cormier stepped into the Octagon to settle their rivalry in the UFC 252 main event, we were treated to another clash between top-10 heavyweight contenders as former champion Junior dos Santos, ranked No. 5 in the division, took on No. 6 Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
After a tense first round, Rozenstruik ended this one in emphatic fashion, levelling his foe with a volley of second-round punches.
This win over the former champion gets Rozenstruik back on track after a 20-second knockout loss at the hands of Ngannou in May. It also sets him up for more big opportunities in the heavyweight division.
Unfortunately for Rozenstruik, most of the men ranked above him are occupied with other things, as the No. 2-ranked contender Ngannou is awaiting a shot at the title, and the Nos. 3 and 4 contenders, Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis, seem keen to fight each other in the near future.
With no viable options available above him in the rankings, Rozenstruik should be matched up with the winner of the fight between Alexander Volkov (No. 8) and Walt Harris (No. 11), who are scheduled to fight at UFC 254 on October 24.
The winner of this prospective matchup would be well positioned in the heavyweight rankings. And hopefully, by the time the fight comes to pass, the division’s title-contention picture should have cleared up a little bit.
It’s not perfect fight for the victorious Rozenstruik, but it’s the best option available.
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Neither Magomed Ankalaev nor Ion Cutelaba fought at UFC 252, but they were supposed to—against each other.
The bout would have marked the pair’s second meeting after their first fight, in February, ended with an extremely controversial stoppage in Ankalaev’s favor.
After absorbing some big punches from Ankalaev, Cutelaba began to wobble on his feet, showing the signs of a fighter who was on the precipice of being knocked out. When the referee stopped the fight, however, Cutelaba protested immediately and coherently, which gave the impression that he had been playing possum and not in any real danger.
The pair were scheduled to fight again on the UFC 252 main card, where they ideally would have battled to a more decisive end, but the bout fell through when Cutelaba tested positive for COVID-19.
There are still a lot of unanswered questions about these two light heavyweight bruisers, and once Cutelaba gets a clean bill of health, it would be great if the UFC made another attempt to schedule their rematch.
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Julio Cortez/Associated Press
UFC 252 Main Card
- Stipe Miocic def. Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision.
- Marlon Vera def. Sean O’Malley via TKO (R1, 4:40).
- Jairzinho Rozenstruik def. Junior dos Santos via TKO (R2, 3:47).
- Daniel Pineda def. Herbert Burns via TKO (R2, 4:37).
- Merab Dvalishvili def. John Dodson via unanimous decision (30-27 x3).
UFC 252 Preliminary Card
- Vinc Pichel def. Jim Miller via unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 29-27).
- Virna Jandiroba def. Felice Herrig via sub (armbar) (R1, 1:44).
- Danny Chavez def. TJ Brown via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).
- Livinha Souza def. Ashley Yoder via unanimous decision (29-28 x2, 30-27).
- Chris Daukaus def. Parker Porter via TKO (R1, 4:28).
- Kai Kamaka def. Tony Kelley via unanimous decision (29-28 x3).