Combat Sports

UFC 266: Matchmaking for Winners

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UFC 266 is now in the books and was one of, if not the best pay-per-view card of the year in combat sports. We witnessed prospects rise, veterans fall and champions reign. The question to ask now is, what’s next? Let us take a look at the possible future of the winning fighters from UFC 266.

Dan Hooker

With a rocky head into UFC 266, Dan Hooker was on the verge of not being able to fight due to visa issues. With everything overcome, Hooker not only showed up but put on a technical clinic that featured beautiful level changes and amazing pressuring footwork.

Now with a division as stacked as the UFC’s lightweights, matchmaking can be very tricky but looking at the title picture and seeing who Hooker has recently faced, a matchup with Beneil Dariush would make the most sense as a number 1 contender fight. Hooker, who is always game, could step in on short notice to replace Rafael Dos Anjos in his UFC 267 match against Islam Makhachev. A five-round fight with Tony Ferguson could also be a possibility.

Merab Dvalishvili

Georgia stand up! What a year 2021 has been for the European country known as Georgia with rising contenders in multiple divisions all putting on tremendous performances. This featured prelim bout saw “The Machine” square off against Brazilian Thai-boxing specialist, Marlon Moraes in a fight that could be a fight of the year, a comeback of the year and performance of the year contender, that’s just how crazy this contest was!

LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 25: (L-R) Marlon Moraes battles Merab Dvalishvili in their bantamweight fight during UFC 266 on September 25, 2021, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The rising Bantamweight will be looking for a big push to the title so we could see him face Jose Aldo, Rob Font or TJ Dillashaw next, all of which would be interesting to see. The pressure wrestler scored his first TKO finish inside of the promotion at UFC 266 so doors have definitely been open for him.

Jessica Andrade

Andrade made quick work of Cynthia Calvillo in her comeback performance from losing to the Flyweight champion earlier this year. The only two matchups that make sense going forward would be against the most recent victim of the titleholder, Lauren Murphy and former title challenger Jennifer Maia.

Curtis Blaydes

“Razor” Blaydes returned at UFC 266 with improved footwork and striking to patiently ride out a 3 round unanimous decision. Blaydes finds himself in a weird position having previously lost to recent interim title challenger Derrick Lewis. Going forward, Blaydes could see himself in a rematch with either Lewis or Alexander Volkov.

Robbie Lawler

“Ruthless” aggression was on display from the former welterweight champion at UFC 266 where we would see him get a loss back against fan favourite Nick Diaz. Possibly a loss away from being cut, Lawler needed a win to stay in the promotion so likely he will be put against someone on a losing streak. The biggest question is not “Who?” but “Where?” With this bout being changed to middleweight, Lawler could find himself finishing his UFC tenure within the division.

Ian Heinesch, Sam Alvey and Joaquin Buckley are intriguing battles that could be on the horizon for “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler.

Valentina Shevchenko

The Flyweight champion. of the UFC is simply too dominant for her division, however, she would like to fight for… Well, forever, so what’s next for the “Bullet”? A step up in divisions to finish a trilogy with rival Amanda Nunes could very well be the next step for Shevchenko but if that matchup doesn’t come to fruition then the long-awaited matchup against Joanne Calderwood could be a possibility.

Alexander Volkanovski

“The Great” Volkanovski proved to the world once again that he is currently the greatest featherweight in the world. Brian Ortega brought the fight to the champ but ultimately the heart, technique and capability of Volkanovski proved that he was the better fighter.

LAS VEGAS, NV – SEPTEMBER 25: Alexander Volkanovski of Australia taunts Brian Ortega in between rounds during their Featherweight title fight during UFC 266 at T-Mobile Arena on September 25, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

“The Great” one wants to stay active so although he will be watching Max Holloway vs Yair Rodriguez, it is likely he will want to square off against another contender before then. Names we could see challenge for the belt include, Giga Chikadze and Chan Sung-Jung. Other than those two names, the division is booked up so we could see a jump up to lightweight and a debut against Tony Ferguson would definitely draw the eyes of the world.

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Featured Image Credits to Embed from Getty Images

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