Opinion: What next for Rob Whittaker and the other UFC 225 winners?

On paper, UFC 225 appeared to be the strongest card of the year so far. In reality, it delivered some incredibly entertaining fights and went a long way towards successfully living up to that billing. Yes, there were some controversial decisions from the judges and yes, there was a fight on the main card which belonged on the fight pass prelims at best.

Despite that, there were plenty of positive talking points and a number of memorable performances throughout the card (shout out Curtis Blaydes and Charles Oliveira). The main card alone delivered a fight of the year candidate, the crowning of a new champion, an undefeated young heavyweight extending his perfect record and a demonstration of experience and fight IQ from a multiple division title contender.

Lets take a look at what should come next for each of UFC 225’s main card winners.

Like it or not, the main card kicked off with a not so highly anticipated bout between CM Punk and Mike “The Truth” Jackson. I’m not really sure what to say about this fight that hasn’t already been said so I’ll leave you with what Dana White’s thoughts on the fight.

“Michael Jackson, I’m not happy with,” White said. “This guy was acting like a goofball tonight. You get this opportunity to fight CM Punk and you’re doing like bolo punches to the body on top? Never looked like he was trying to finish the fight ever, right? Looked like he could have finished the fight a few times. Never tried. I don’t know what that guy did for a living before we gave him this shot, but whatever it was he needs to go back and do that again. He’s 0-2 as far as I’m concerned.”

 

“That’s it for his UFC career,” White added. “I wouldn’t put that kid in the Contender Series.”

Considering Dana’s comments, I don’t think I’ll take up any more of your time by suggesting who Jackson’s next UFC opponent should be.

Tai Tuivasa (10-0-0)

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Tai Tuivasa maintained his perfect professional record, defeating former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski by unanimous decision. Arlovski is the first man to take Tuivasa the distance and the experience should provide the young Australian with plenty of valueable lessons as he continues his climb up the heavyweight rankings.

In a relatively thin heavyweight division it would be easy to justify matching Tuivasa with someone on the edge of the top five. Perhaps the winner of Junior Dos Santos vs Blagnoy Ivanov. Personally, I’d rather see the 25-year-old given time to continue to develop. There’s no need to rush him toward a title shot just three fights into his UFC career. I’d like to see him face the winner of Marcin Tybura (16-4-0) vs Stefan Struve (28-10-0) in his next fight.

Both Tybura and Struve have a wealth of experience at the top level yet are still relatively young compared with a large proportion of the heavyweight division. A victory over either would almost certainly set up a fight against a top five opponent for Tuivasa in his next outing.

Holly Holm demonstrated her top level experience for all to see in defeating UFC newcomer Megan Anderson by unanimous decision. It was a mature performance from Holm who refused to be drawn into a stand up, gun fight with the heavy handed Australian. While some fans have been vocal in their disappointment at not seeing the striking war they were anticipating, few can legitimately complain about Holm implementing an effective game plan and leaving with a convincing victory.

With her victory over Anderson, Holm has a couple of viable options for her next fight.

Robert Whittaker (19-4-0)

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Where do I begin? Indisputably a contender for fight of the year, Whittaker vs Romero 2 delivered in every imaginable way. Yes, Romero was 0.2lbs over weight and the title wasn’t on the line but having watched these two dual for the second time in a year, I can’t shake the feeling that they were always meant to be rivals. They are here to fight one another. Evenly matched in every concievable way, this is a rivalry which transcends the more recent, somewhat engineered rivalries, of McGregor and Diaz or Garbrandt and Dillashaw.

On the night, Whittaker once again emerged with the victory but the real winners here are the fans.

As much as I’d love to see Whittaker face Romero for a third time, I don’t believe it’ll happen any time soon. At 41-years-old, Romero is running out of time to rebuild for another title shot at 185lbs and with his well documented weight misses in his last two fights, it seems inevitable that he will be heading up to 205lbs in the not too distant future.

With Romero out of the picture, the next man to challenge Whittaker for his title should be Kelvin Gastelum (16-3-0). Gastelum has looked impressive since moving up from welterweight and owns victories over former champion Michael Bisping and perenial contender Jacare Souza in his last two fights. The 26-year-old may be ranked fourth in the division but with number one ranked Romero having missed his chance, number two ranked Luke Rockhold out of action for the immediate future and number three ranked Chris Weidman not having fought for a year, he would appear to be the logical choice to challenge Whittaker.

 

 

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