UFC 258 this was past weekend was an event to remember. The card was headlined by Kamaru Usman defending his title against his former teammate, Gilbert Burns. The five-fight main card was filled with exciting bouts with each winner exhibiting tremendous skill and each loser showing extreme perseverance. Sean Shelby and the rest of the UFC matchmakers have a difficult job finding both the winners and losers’ future matchups. Here are my thoughts on the future of the UFC 258 main card losers.
Maki Pitolo (13-8 MMA) has lost his last three fights. Most recently to Julian Marquez via anaconda choke 4:17 into the third round. Despite the loss, Pitolo was winning the fight with a comprehensive mix of striking and wrestling. Standing at just 5’9”, If Pitolo is to remain with the UFC, a move to welterweight may be crucial. There are interesting fights for him there such as the swift Takashi Sato or the always dangerous: Abdul Razak Alhassan.
At featherweight, Ricky Simon displayed his superior grappling and outworked Brian Kelleher (22-12 MMA) en route to a unanimous decision. Much like Kelleher’s recent bouts, this loss was contested at 145 pounds. Although both men are bantamweights, the current matchups for Kelleher are preferable at his original weight class rather than his new. Winning three of his last four at 135 pounds, a return fight with fellow UFC 258 bantamweight fighter Andre Ewell may be in Kelleher’s future.
Kelvin Gastelum stayed one step ahead of Ian Heinisch (14-4 MMA) and denied Heinisch a top ten ranking. With this loss, “The Hurricane” stands in limbo, just outside of the middleweight elite. A possible fight with Andrew Sanchez, who most recently lost by TKO at UFC 257; could get either man another crack at the division’s elite. The rebooking of a fight with Brendan Allen is a possibility as well. The two were scheduled to fight on two separate occasions. With both men losing their last fight and raring to get back in the Octagon, the time to fight is better than ever.
Maycee Barber (8-2 MMA) showed determination in her loss to Alexa Grasso by unanimous decision. 29-28 on all judge’s scorecards, Barber dropped the first two rounds and rallied late. A combination of heavy hands and cage control won her the third, but she was unable to put Grasso away. Barber possesses talent and potential, however, her skills and instincts need time to develop. At present, a fight with Molly McCann or Andrea Lee could help her make the strides she needs in the UFC.
Gilbert Burns (19-4 MMA) had a great first round against the welterweight champion Kamaru Usman. Burns stung Usman with an overhand right thirty-two seconds into the first round and looked to be gaining momentum going into the second. Instead, the champion rallied behind a precise jab from both stances and eventually put the durable Burns away in the third round. Burns, although disappointed by the loss, remains positive and is motivated to get a fight booked as soon as possible. With Kamaru Usman expressing interest in defending against Jorge Masvidal and the UFC trying to book Colby Covington and Leon Edwards, Burns’ options are limited. With two top contenders coming off of quality wins in the past two months, either fifth-ranked Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson or sixth-ranked Michael Chiesa could be vying for Burns’ number one contender spot in the near future.
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