UFC on Fox 29 is in the books and it certainly did not disappoint. With a main event which delivered exactly the kind of war fans expected and some fantastic scraps throughout the card, UFC fans in Glendale were treated to an entertaining night of action.
Let’s take a look at what could be next for Dustin Poirier and the other main card winners in Glendale, Arizona.
Dustin Poirier (23-5-0, 1 n/c)
In a main event which truly lived up to expectations, Dustin Poirier ultimately won the stand up battle against Justin Gathje on his way to earning a fourth round stoppage victory. Poirier is now undefeated in his last 4 outings, with wins over Jim Miller and Anthony Pettis either side of a controversial no contest against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 211. With just one loss in his last nine fights, The Diamond is firmly entrenched in the top five of the lightweight division and can only be one fight away from getting his shot at the gold.
Considering the uncertainty at the top of the UFC lightweight division, it came as no surprise that Poirier took the opportunity to call out current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in his octagon interview. With Tony Ferguson sidelined following knee surgery and Conor McGregor facing an uncertain future, the only other realistic challenger for the belt is Eddie Alvarez (29-5-0, 1 n/c). Poirier and Alvarez have unfinished business following UFC 211 and a second fight between the two warriors would make perfect sense. The winner would be all but guaranteed to move on to face Khabib for the title later this year.
Alex Oliveira (18-5-1, 2 n/c)
Alex Oliveira stepped in as a late replacement after Matt Brown pulled out of his planned match up with Carlos Condit in Glendale and he certainly made the most of the opportunity. With a little over three minutes gone in the second round, Oliveira secured a guillotine choke which ended the fight and delivered Cowboy the biggest win of his career to date.
With a win over number 12 ranked UFC legend Condit under his belt, Oliveira will likely be eyeing another ranked opponent when he returns to the octagon later this year. The welterweight division has been a busy one over the past few weeks, with almost all of the top 15 being booked to fight in the coming months. One fighter who remains unattached is Dong Hyun Kim (22-4-1, 1 n/c). Kim is a 10 year UFC veteran who is currently ranked at number 15 and hasn’t fought since dropping a decision loss to Colby Covington in July 2017. In an ideal world, Oliveira would be looking at fighting someone a little higher up the rankings but as a fighter who likes to stay busy, I expect he would be happy to take a fight with Kim rather than wait around for someone else to become available.
Israel Adesanya (13-0-0)
He may not have been happy with his performance but Israel Adesanya got the job done against Marvin Vettori. The charismatic 28-year-old extends his record to 13 fights without defeat and had this been a more emphatic performance would be almost certain to move on to face a ranked opponent in his next appearance. Prior to facing Vettori, Adesanya had won all 12 of his professional fights by KO/TKO and there was certainly a sense of disappointment in his post fight interview. The reality is, while the performance may have been less flashy than we have been accustomed too, there will be valuable lessons learned by Adesanya in his first fight to ever go the distance. In the long run, this will serve him well.
There are two paths available for the UFC when looking at what could be next for Adesanya. They could look to further build his stock by matching him against someone they feel he will be able to showcase his full array of skills against. Former champion Johny Hendricks is a fading former star who the UFC seem to have no problem with matching up against streaking young stars. They could alternatively choose to match Adesanya with someone who will provide him a sterner test. The UFC are rarely slow to build up exciting fighters and I expect they will take the latter approach. A match up with UFC veteran C.B. Dollaway (17-8-0) would certainly provide Adesanya with an opportunity to prove he is the real deal. Should be emerge victorious, there would be little to stand in the way of him moving on to face a ranked opponent in his next fight.
Michelle Waterson (15-6-0)
Michelle Waterson ground out a split decision win with a gritty display against Cortney Casey. Waterson, a natural atomweight, was visibly smaller than her opponent at 115lbs and while she had enough to emerge with the victory on this occasion, it is hard not to think of what she could achieve if the UFC provided her with the opportunity to fight at her natural weight.
The Karate Hottie has an impressive record against the majority of the division but has twice fallen short when stepping up a level against both Tecia Torres and reigning champion Rose Namajunas. None the less, Waterson is back in the mix at the top end of the division and is likely to take another step up in opponent in her next fight. Carla Esparza (13-4-0) and Claudia Gadelha (15-3-0) are set to meet at UFC 225 in what is likely to be a title eliminator. With the winner likely to face Namajunas for the strawweight belt, who ever loses that fight would make an ideal next opponent for Waterson. A win against either Esparza or Gadelha would prove that the 32-year-old is ready for the next level of competition and put her on track for a shot at the strawweight gold.