It wasn’t until after UFC 230 was over that I remembered that this card should have included Nate Diaz, Dustin Poirier, Yoel Romero and Luke Rockhold. It’s testement to the quality of the fights we saw on Saturday night that it honestly didn’t matter than we’d seen so many changes to the original line up.
While the UFC’s marquee event at Madison Square Garden may have lacked the volume of title fights that their previous visits claimed, the event definitely didn’t scrimp on the action with exciting fights, dramatic finishes and standout performances up and down the card.
Let’s take a look at what could come next after an historic night for Daniel Cormier and the other UFC 230 main card winners.
Israel Adesanya (15-0-0)
It was billed as the biggest test yet and there were plenty of people who thought that Derek Brunson would be a step too far for Israel Adesanya. How wrong they were. How wrong indeed.
Adesanya passed the test with flying colours, putting on a striking exhibition against his more experienced opponent, finishing Brunson with a flurry of strikes with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first round, silencing those who had him written off as yet another hype job.
With such a dominant win over the number six ranked Brunson, Adesanya is perhaps just one fight away from challenging for the middleweight strap, just nine months after making his UFC debut. With 185lb champion Robert Whittaker set to face number 4 ranked Kelvin Gastelum in early 2019, Luke Rockhold injured and number 1 ranked Yoel Romero expected to face Paulo Costa in the not too distant future, there are limited options for the young Kiwi.
One option would be facing Jacare Souza (26-6-0). Aside from Gastelum, Jacare is the only other top 5 middleweight coming off a win and a match up between the two would almost certainly act as a title eliminator of sorts.
In the more immediate term, what should be next for Adesanya is some time off. Four fights in nine months is heavy work by anyone’s standards and “The Last Stylebender” has more than earned a break to enjoy the fruits of his labours.
Karl Roberson (7-1-0)
Former GLORY kickboxing standout Karl Roberson worked his way through a nasty leg injury to outpoint the extremely durable Welsh veteran Jack Marshman on his way to a unanimous decision win.
Roberson’s performance was without doubt impressive, particularly considering his limited mobility. It was the first time in his relatively short career than Roberson has gone the distance, providing valuable experience as he looks to make his way through the extremely tough UFC middleweight division.
Roberson showed more than enough against Marshman to warrant a fight with a ranked opponent in his next fight. Antonio Carlos Junior (10-2-0) currently occupies the number 11 spot in the middleweight division and would make an entertaining next fight for “Baby K”.
The 28-year-old is riding an impressive five fight win streak and is just one contest removed from his own win over Marshman, a first round submission win at UFC Sao Paulo in October 2017.
With Carlos Junior pulling out of his scheduled fight with Elias Theodorou at UFC 231 due to injury, it isn’t a fight which would happen immediately but with the UFC’s busy Q1 2019 schedule there will be plenty of opportunities for these rising stars to clash in the not too distant future.
Jared Cannonier (11-4-0)
It would be easy to forget that Jared Cannonier began his UFC career fighting at heavyweight. After a stint at 205lbs which saw the “Killa Gorilla” pick up consecutive losses to Jan Blachowicz and Dominick Reyes, Cannonier made his middleweight debut at UFC 230 and looked better than ever, dispatching the experienced and dangerous Dave Branch in the second round.
It was an impressive performance from Cannonier who took the fight on short notice after Branch’s original opponent, Jacare Souza, was called upon to replace the injured Luke Rockhold and face Chris Weidman.
The win over number seven ranked Branch will catapult Cannonier into the middleweight rankings, opening up a number of possible match ups as he looks to find the consistency he was lacking at both 205lbs and heavyweight.
So what next for Cannonier? With the very top of the division appearing to be tied up either through injury or existing match ups, it would make sense to give the “Killa Gorilla” a mid ranked test to allow him to prove he belongs there.
Number 10 ranked middleweight Brad Tavares (17-5-0) hasn’t fought since a unanimous loss to Israel Adesanya earlier this year which snapped the Hawaiian’s four fight win streak and would be the perfect test for Cannonier. With both fighters equally capable of either grinding out a victory or delivering an explosive finish, the fight has the potential to set the victor on course to face one of the veterans currently occupying the top 5 spots in the 185lb rankings.
Jacare Souza (26-6-0)
The co-main event had a lot to live up to, replacing the fan reaction when the cancelled match up between Dustin Poirier and Nate Diaz was announced. Fortunately for those of us watching, Jacare Souza and Chris Weidman put on a fantastic stand up war with both fighters giving their all for almost fifteen minutes.
After an extremely close first two rounds, Jacare stunned Weidman with a monster right hand to the temple which sent the New York native tumbling to the canvas. There was a slight moment of controversy as referee Dan Miragliotta refused to stop the fight with Weidman visibly knocked out, despite Souza pausing to give the referee a chance to stop the fight. After a pair of reluctant final shots from the Brazilian, Miragliotta mercifully stepped in to call an end to proceedings.
Jacare is a popular guy who is widely respected by both fighters and fans and as a result, people are pulling for him to finally get his shot at the UFC middleweight title. In reality, the Brazilian is 2-2-0 having alternated wins and losses in his last four fights. To get a shot at the title I believe he needs to put at least a pair of wins together.
In an ideal world I’d like to see him face fellow former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold but with Rockhold dealing with the host of injuries which forced him from the UFC 230 card, that fight seems unlikely at present. With reigning champion Rob Whittaker set to face Kelvin Gastelum early next year, Rockhold injured and Weidman defeated, there isn’t a massive amount of options for the 38-year-old. The choices would appear to be either a showdown with number one ranked Yoel Romero (13-3-0) or risk it all against the undefeated rising star Israel Adesanya (15-0-0).
A win in either of those fights should be enough to secure a long sought after shot at the 185lb strap for Jacare.
Daniel Cormier (22-1-0)
To say the build up to this hastily put together main event was what the UFC needed following the chaos which was UFC 229 would be an understatement.
The fried chicken based rivalry which developed between reigning champion Daniel Cormier and challenger Derrick Lewis dominated the headlines and was a welcome change from the fire and fury which had been prevalent before, during and after the promotions last PPV event.
As many people predicted, Cormier’s versatility proved too much for the heavy handed Houston native, with the double champ submitting Lewis via rear naked choke, 2 minutes into the second round.
As for what’s next for the double champ, there isn’t much need for discussion.
Brock Lesnar (5-3-0) may be riding a two fight losing streak (discounting his UFC 200 no contest vs Mark Hunt) but it seems the UFC have their heart set on having the WWE star challenge for the heavyweight title early next year. UFC 235 appears to be the most likely destination for the heavyweights to meet, just a couple of weeks ahead of Cormier’s 40th Birthday.
Should that fall apart for any reason (I’m looking at you USADA), a third and final fight with long time nemesis Jon Jones, this time at heavyweight, would be an acceptable alternative. For now however, we should resign ourselves to the idea that “DC” will close out his storied career against Lesnar shortly before his 40th Birthday in March next year.