UFC 236 was crafted as a top-heavy card by the UFC and to their credit as a promotion, the UFC certainly knew what they were doing.
Co-headlined by two interim title fights, both Dustin Poirier vs. Max Holloway and Israel Adesanya vs. Kelvin Gastelum will go down as the early front runners for ‘Fight of the Year’ awards as both bouts went the full 25 minutes in non-stop barnburners.
With Poirier and Adesanya emerging victorious from Saturday night in their respective fights, both fighters left Atlanta with more than UFC gold as they also cemented unification bouts later this year.
As UFC 236 is now in the books and the UFC weekly schedule back in effect, ReadMMA are here to help out the UFC matchmakers at a busy time. As a result, here are five fights that the UFC should make with this past weekend’s big winners:
Dustin Poirier vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
While Dustin Poirier has always packed big power throughout his UFC tenure, his recent improvements as a fighter have been astronomical.
Recording four straight wins over Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez and now Max Holloway, Poirier has put together a run of victories that will go down as one of the best in the history of the lightweight division.
To make it five, however, ‘The Diamond’ will have to do something no other fighter has been able to do thus far: defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker
After digging down deep in the fifth and final round to knockdown Kelvin Gastelum three times, Israel Adesanya went from UFC debutant to champion in just six fights.
In addition to his rapid ascension through the middleweight rankings, Adesanya has now also set up one of the biggest fights in Oceanic combat sports history as ‘The Last Stylebender’ will now take on Robert Whittaker later this year in a fight that will be a must-watch.
Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Shogun Rua
Outside of the two top-billed fights at UFC 236, Khalil Rountree Jr. was the standout performer this past weekend as his newly adopted Muay Thai stylings allowed him to dominate and simply beat up Eryk Anders for 15 straight minutes.
Recording four knockdowns in the second round, Rountree’s power and speed left Anders looking lost in the Octagon as Rountree landed at will with a plethora of strikes.
As for what’s next for Rountree on the back of his best career performance, a fight with fellow Muay Thai stylist and former champion Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua would make sense and provide a big name opponent for Rountree to try and catapult himself forward into possible title contention.
Nikita Krylov vs. Manuwa/Rakic Winner
Avenging his loss to Ovince Saint Preux from five years ago, Nikita Krylov submitted ‘OSP’ with relative ease to put himself back into the win column.
Krylov has long been touted as a potential mover and shaker at 205 lbs but his aggression has often gotten himself into trouble more often than not in the Octagon.
With a more calm approach against Saint Preux, Krylov now has a performance and win to build off of and a fight with the winner of the upcoming Jimi Manuwa – Aleksandar Rakic bout would make for some exciting matchmaking.
Alexandre Pantoja vs. John Dodson
Tasked with arguably his toughest fight since joining the UFC, Alexandre Pantoja made quick work of Wilson Reis to put his UFC record at 5-1.
Scoring a knockout blow just shy of the three-minute mark, Pantoja could be a potential flyweight title challenger. The problem with that line of thinking however is that sadly the UFC looks set to close down the division.
As a result of the slow demise of the male 125 lbs weight class, Pantoja should get a decently ranked bantamweight contender in his next outing and with former flyweight John Dodson currently ranked in the top 15, a match-up between the two should be next on the docket.