Filled with action, intrigue and brilliant performances, UFC 231 was one of the events of the year.
With two title fights where the victor put in career-defining performances, both Max Holloway and Valentina Shevchenko left Toronto, Canada with UFC gold strapped around their waist.
The rest of UFC 231 saw big wins for the likes of Gunnar Nelson and Thiago Santos on the main card while the preliminary cards saw important victories in closely matched bouts.
With one final event next week before the holidays, here are five fights to make with UFC 231’s winners:
Max Holloway vs. Renato Moicano
After a year-long layoff, Max Holloway put on what may very well be his career-best performance.
Tasked with an undefeated challenger who had become the first man to knock out Frankie Edgar in his previous outing, Holloway set a whole of host of records while adding to the ones he already owns.
‘Blessed’ now holds the record in the featherweight division for wins, winning streak, stoppages, knockouts, total strikes landed, significant strikes landed while earning the UFC-wide records for most significant strikes in a fight and most significant strikes overall.
At just 27-years-old, Holloway has the potential to improve even more which seems unfathomable and he has now been urged by UFC president Dana White to move up to lightweight.
While there are a plethora of great fights for him at 155 lbs, Holloway has time on his side to make the move up in weight class.
Instead, Holloway should defend his title against Renato Moicano and do so in his home state of Hawaii. With a home crowd on his side, Holloway can become a bigger star and receive the public adulation that someone of his talents deserves.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Eye
Valentina Shevchenko finally got her hands on UFC gold at UFC 231 as her power and timing saw her coast to victory against Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
The Kyrgyzstani–Peruvian fighter had previously been denied her chance at the flyweight title due to former champion Nicco Montano missing weight and now that she is the queen of the flyweights, it’s hard to see who will take the title from her.
With the division still in its infancy, there are little in the way of credible challengers for Shevchenko but with Jessica Eye winning earlier in the night and stretching her win streak to three at the weight class, Eye is more than likely the defacto number one contender and should face Shevchenko next.
Gunnar Nelson vs. Leon Edwards
Coming off of his longest break in between fights in the UFC, Gunnar Nelson’s grappling was too much for Alex Oliveira to handle.
Starting off the gruesome finishing sequence with a thudding elbow from mount, Nelson proceeded to sink in a tight rear-naked choke that left Oliveira no choice but to tap out as quickly as possible.
With such a dominant finish in his return, Nelson should start to look up the rankings in the welterweight division and a fight with Leon Edwards would be a smart choice for both men.
Thiago Santos vs. Dominick Reyes
In what was one of the most fun fights of the year, Thiago Santos stood tall against Jimi Manuwa after both men landed some crunching blows.
Santos is now 2-0 since moving up to light heavyweight and his power and high output could carry him to the top.
To test how far he could go at light heavyweight, a fight with rising prospect Dominick Reyes would guarantee fireworks and see the winner enter the title picture.
Nina Ansaroff vs. Tatiana Suarez
In the biggest upset of the night, Nina Ansaroff’s work rate scored her a unanimous decision win against former strawweight title challenger Claudia Gadelha.
Ansaroff is now on a four-fight win streak at 115 lbs and with a win over the Brazilian Gadelha, she is undoubtedly a top contender in a stacked division.
With the best win of her career in the bag, another win against a top five fighter should be enough to secure a title shot for the 33-year old.
With Jessica Andrade most likely next for the champion Rose Namajunas, Ansaroff should square off against Tatiana Suarez in a title eliminator.