UFC 273 — Who’s next for Khamzat Chimaev, Alexander Volkanovski and Aljamain Sterling?

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Khamzat Chimaev stole the show, as expected, at UFC 273 on Saturday night with a unanimous decision victory over Gilbert Burns in what Dana White called one of the greatest fights he’s ever had. seen. Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski put on his own show with a fourth-round stoppage of Chan Sung Jung. And while Aljamain Sterling may not have silenced all of his critics, his split decision win over Petr Yan to defend his bantamweight belt will likely shift his focus to another opponent.

So who’s next for Chimaev? White had said Colby Covington was on deck if Chimaev won. Is this the right fight to fight?

And while Yan thinks he’s earned the decision and wants a third fight against Sterling, who won the title when Yan was disqualified for an illegal knee on March 6, 2021, would the UFC be interested in the trilogy?

And what about Volkanovski?

Here’s who should be next – complete with wildcard – for these winners, as well as Mackenzie Dern, who beat Tecia Torres, by split decision.


cheek

0:34

Alexander Volkanovski keeps Chan Sung Jung guessing throughout their fight and wins the fight by technical knockout.

Alexander Volkanovski, featherweight champion

Who should be next: Max Holloway

It is obvious. The trilogy fight between these two was supposed to take place at this event, but Holloway had to deal with a lingering injury. He was actually cleared in time to fight on Saturday, but the UFC had already moved on by then with Jung as a backup. Volkanovski is the champion – there’s nothing to debate there. But due to the proximity of his two wins over Holloway, there has always been a demand for them to complete the trilogy. Holloway was something of a thorn in the champion’s side. Volkanovski could not pass him. A third victory would obviously allow him to do so. And if Volkanovski can make a relatively quick turnaround, I think it will happen in August.

Wild card: Henry Cejudo

I’m almost kidding. It’s not going to happen. There is no other fight for Volkanovski, however. No other featherweight contender that could be worthy. No room for him to move up to lightweight for any reason. It’s the Holloway trilogy and nothing else.

But if Cejudo suddenly wanted to come out of retirement (and on his old contract, because it doesn’t seem like the UFC wants to pay him more to do it), this fight would be fun.

Chan Sung Jung, featherweight

Who should be next: Giga Chikadze

Jung is 35 and says he still has a little left in the tank. Any road to another title seems unlikely, but he is still highly ranked. He’s most definitely still capable of headlining a card.

Chikadze is coming off a pretty dominant loss to Calvin Kattar. Before that fight in January, he looked like a very legitimate title challenger. A win over Jung would bring Chikadze back into the mix, into the top six or seven in the division. Stylistically, it’s a fantastic fight – because a lot of them are featherweight, to be honest.

It’s such a dynamic division right now. It’s a solid fight, and I wouldn’t mind seeing it as a five-round main event.

Wild card: Arnold Allen

It’s not a perfect option, as Allen is coming off a win. But Allen is still looking to build his profile, and a fight against Zombie would do just that. It’s also just a really fun fight. And even though Jung has just suffered a loss, he is still highly ranked.

The UFC is considering a return to England this summer. Jung versus Allen in London would be a great fight for a multitude of reasons.


Khamzat Chimaev, welterweight

Who should be next: Colby Covington

Oh my God, what a fight. We wanted to see Chimaev tested, and we got it. And I’ll tell you what, it was one of those perfect situations for Chimaev, because defeat was staring him in the face. I think he made some mistakes in this fight. I think he probably took Burns lightly. He learned valuable lessons and he didn’t have to suffer a loss. He will be more dangerous because of this. Covington is the obvious next fight. Part of me hates to see them fight because you have to lose and then you lose a potential title challenger. But Chimaev looked human in this fight, and Covington is one of the best in the world. It’s such a good game. Let’s go.

Wildcard: Kamaru Usman winner against Leon Edwards

This is the next title fight. If Covington won’t fight Chimaev, if he’s not interested, then there’s nothing else to do but wait. Chimaev hates waiting, and maybe he would like to move up to a middleweight fight while he waits his turn, but it was a tough fight he just had with Burns. Maybe free time wouldn’t be the worst thing. Let him sit at the edge of the cage for Usman against Edwards and bring him into the cage to face the winner. Scenes. And a great way to end the year at welterweight.

Gilbert Burns, welterweight

Who should be next:Jorge Masvidal

Let’s reward Burns, right? This guy will fight anyone. He will do this whenever the UFC asks. He was ready to take the fight the rest of the division didn’t want in Chimaev, and he came close to pulling it off as a significant underdog. He accepted all of that and put in one of the best performances of his career, even in defeat. He deserves another big fight, after this one. Fans love it, as it should. Burns comes to fight, he’s entertaining, he’s humble, he doesn’t give up. Masvidal hasn’t won in his last three fights, but he has as big a name as anyone in the division, and he’s still ranked. It’s the right one.

Good call! But what a fucking fight boys!!! @KChimaev and @GilbertDurinho bow down guys!

—Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) April 10, 2022

Generic card: Loser of Kamaru Usman against Leon Edwards

If Edwards loses to Usman, that makes a lot of sense – although I will say, I think the UFC would be looking closely at Edwards vs. Masvidal, which would leave Burns on the outside. If Usman loses, he could get an immediate rematch, or not, with all the right options at welterweight. There are a lot of moving parts in all of this, and I don’t know if Burns and Usman would fight again, unless there was a title on the line. Maybe not. But from a ranking point of view, it’s the one that makes the most sense, if not Masvidal.


cheek

1:08

Aljamain Sterling wins his long-awaited rematch with Petr Yan via split decision at UFC 273.

Aljamain Sterling, bantamweight champion

Who should be next: TJ Dillashaw

Whether you agree with Saturday’s scorecards or not, you might as well go beyond the Sterling-Yan game. Because the UFC will. Sterling has done it before. It was a close fight that could have gone either way, but the UFC isn’t about to rerun it. Dillashaw has been waiting for the title since coming back and beating Cory Sandhagen last July. Waiting is probably not the right term, he is recovering from the injuries sustained in this fight. Sterling wants to fight him. This is the biggest title fight the UFC can make at bantamweight right now. It will be next. Dillashaw told me he would like to do it on October 22 in Abu Dhabi, but he will do it wherever Sterling wants.

Wildcard: petr yan

If the UFC doesn’t do Dillashaw for whatever reason, then rolling that back would be the only thing that makes sense. Perhaps if the outrage over the decision is high enough, a third meeting would be booked. But I don’t see that happening.

Petr Yan, Bantamweight

Who should be next: Merab Dvalishvili

It may look bleak for Yan right now after losing to the same opponent twice in title fights, in heartbreaking fashion. He cost himself in their first encounter with an illegal knee, and he paid dearly for it. Then losing this one, by split decision, was tough. But in reality, he is not far from the belt. And this fight has all its meaning for me. Dvalishvili is Sterling’s teammate and close friend. There is already a built-in story behind this fight. I wouldn’t mind seeing Yan against someone who will strike with him, but I think that’s the one to do because of the story.

Generic card:Dominique Cruz

Cruz is one of the biggest names in the division and, in my opinion, the greatest bantamweight of all time. Cruz isn’t at his peak anymore, but he deserves a big fight. One that could earn him one last shot at a UFC title. Yan fits this bill. Yan is a scary opponent, and Cruz should be perfect. Is Cruz able to pull off a game plan similar to what Sterling just did? Absolutely. Yan battles a division legend. Cruz fights against someone who can win him a belt. Win, win.


Mackenzie Dern, straw weight

Who should be next: Winner of Jessica Andrade against Amanda Lemos on April 23

Last fights mean. His constant pressure forces opponents to fight and Dern believes in his chin. She is ready to fight in a phone booth. And that leads to chaos, which benefits her because she’s dangerous in a scramble or ripping off a submission. She has a lot of career left, and it’s going to be interesting before it’s all said and done, as she continues to improve between contests. Andrade returns to the flyweight division, and she faces a real back-and-forth in Lemos. In a perfect world, Dern remains active. There is no emergency. She doesn’t need to fight for the title in 2022. Keep building. This match would be a real test.

Generic card: Amanda Ribas

This may seem odd as Ribas moves up to flyweight. She fights Katlyn Chookagian on May 14. If she lost that fight and decided she wanted to retest 115, I think that match could make a lot of sense. Ribas holds a win over Dern from 2019. If Ribas beats Chookagian, she will obviously stay at 125. And even if she were to lose this fight, she could stay at flyweight. But I could see a world that this fight is taking place in, and again, it’s about keeping Dern active. And there aren’t many options right now that are ranked ahead of her in the division.