The UFC’s 10th visit to London may have lost a couple of fights along the way but it still managed to deliver above and beyond all expectations. There were mixed results for two of the British fighters on the main card at the O2 Arena. A changing of the guard in the heavyweight division, along with a bounce back win for a young bantamweight prospect. Below, I take a look at who should be next for the four fighters who emerged victorious on the main card.
Leon Edwards (15-3-0)
After snatching a literal last second stoppage victory against Peter Sobotta, Birmingham’s Leon Edwards wasted no time in calling out fellow British welterweight Darren Till. While the call out came as no surprise to anyone watching, I feel it was made out of hope rather than expectation.
The win over Sobotta brings Edwards’ UFC win streak up to five fights. Unfortunately for Edwards, beating the unranked Sobotta is unlikely to improve on his current number 15 ranking in the welterweight division.
I believe it’s time Edwards looked for a ranked opponent and I can see no better option than Gunnar “Gunni” Nelson (16-3-1). There had been rumours of Nelson facing Darren Till, with the now scrapped UFC Dublin discussed as a potential location. I honestly don’t see Till vs Nelson happening any time soon, but the prospect of him facing Leon Edwards is an intriguing one.
Nelson is looking to bounce back from a controversial knockout loss to Santiago Ponzinibbio last July. While Gunni is understandably aiming a little higher up the rankings, a win over Edwards would put him in a position to prove he deserves to fight a top 10 fighter. For Edwards, Nelson would be by far his biggest fight since picking up a unanimous decision loss against Kamaru Usman back in December 2015. A win against the SBG trained Nelson, would cement his claim that he deserves a top 10 fight next.
Tom Duquesnoy (16-2-0, 1 n/c)
24-year-old prospect Tom Duquesnoy bounced back from a split decision loss to Cody Stamann at UFC 216, picked up a somewhat controversial decision win against Terrion Ware.
It was a close fight with both fighters believing they had done enough to secure a victory. While Duquesnoy should consider himself fortunate to have his arm raised, it is important that he takes lessons from the battle with Ware.
While I would like to see Duquesnoy face someone like Renan Barao, I feel it is probably a little soon. To build on his victory over Ware and begin his climb toward the rankings, Duquesnoy should face Joe Soto (18-7-0) next. 30-year-old Soto is on a two fight losing streak against tough competition after picking up loses against Iuri Alcantara and Brett Johns over the last 3 months. With a UFC record of 3-5, Soto could well be fighting for his contract in his next outing which would certainly raise the stakes a little. For Duquesnoy, Soto would be an opportunity for him to gain some more octagon experience and begin to put together a win streak which would leave his disappointing loss to Stamann firmly in the rear view mirror.
Jan Blachowicz (22-7-0)
Lets be completely honest with ourselves. Manuwa vs Blachowicz 2 was a rematch nobody wanted to see. That said, in a twist which caught almost everyone by surprise, we were treated to an incredible stand up battle which when all was said and done was worthy of being awarded fight of the night honours.
35-year-old Blachowicz took a deserved victory and leveled his series with Manuwa at one win apiece. It was comfortably the biggest win of the Polish stars career and will almost certainly catapult him up the light heavyweight rankings.
You could argue the case for an immediate rematch with Manuwa but I feel Blachowicz will want to seize this opportunity to cement his place at the top of the division. A match up with Brazilian legend Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (25-10-0) would certainly be of interest. Both fighters currently hold three fight win steaks and with the rest of top four in the division all booked to fight, this fight makes a lot of sense.
Alexander Volkov (30-6-0)
Alexander “Drago” Vokov added his 30th professional win and his 20th professional knockout to his resume in London, finishing Fabricio Werdum 1 minute 38 seconds into the fourth round. With the win, the 29-year-old Russian extended his win streak to six fights and now has a perfect 4-0 record since joining the UFC.
I’d like to see Volkov face Mark Hunt (13-12-1, 1 n/c) next. Hunt’s last outing was against rising star Curtis Blaydes at UFC 221 where he was wrestled to a unanimous decision loss. Volkov would be far more likely to engage Hunt in a stand up battle, exactly kind of fight he enjoys. From Volkov’s perspective, Hunt has become something of a gatekeeper to the top five of the heavyweight division. A win against Hunt would solidify his claim at taking on either Stipe Miocic or Daniel Cormier when they meet later this year. While Hunt would be giving up around 9 inches in height against Volkov, he has proven in the past that he’s capable of finishing fights against fighters much taller than himself.
If this fight happens, and I really hope it does, one way or another someone is getting knocked out.
Who would you like to see the main card winners face next? Let us know in the comments.