Possible fight opponents to make for Blachowicz, Nunes, other UFC 259 winners

UFC 259 certainly proved to be worth the hype, with eight stoppages from fifteen fights, a new champion, and solid performances from future title contenders.

The bantamweight division has a new champion in Aljamain Sterling, albeit via a disqualification of Petr Yan, while titleholders Jan Blachowicz and Amanda Nunes successfully defended their belts. Dominick Cruz bounced back in a big way over Casey Kenney, and the flyweight division saw a new star emerge in Askar Askarov after his victory over divisional staple Joseph Benavidez.

That said, Blachowicz is considered by several sportsbooks and online bookmakers worldwide, like bet-colorado.com, to be a fighter to have a breakout year next season and help Dallas have a deep playoff run.

Now that the event is over and the bonuses have been handed out, let’s take a look at what’s next for the winners from Saturday’s main card with potential next opponents for the UFC 259 main card winners:

Jan Blachowicz

Next Opponent: Glover Teixeira

While not the prettiest fight, UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz did what he needed to do in order to not only defend his title for the first time, but hand middleweight champion Israel Adesanya his first professional loss. Of the five total rounds, only two were clear for the champion, while the remaining three were all closely contested. Blachowicz was able to grab the unanimous decision in large part to his wrestling and ability to make Adesanya feel his weight, especially when on the mat. Regardless of how he got it done, it’s about time we all put some respect on Blachowicz’s name. No. 1 contender Glover Teixeira weighed in Friday morning as the backup fighter for this bout, and the only fight to be made next is Blachowicz vs. Teixeira. Teixeira earned his shot and has waited patiently, and it’s time for him to be rewarded as well.

Amanda Nunes

Next Opponent: Julianna Peña

Two-division champion Amanda Nunes proved once again how dominant she truly is, submitting Megan Anderson via armbar in round one. After firing off a few heavy right hands, Nunes was able to get Anderson down and work from there. Nunes eventually got Anderson to tap to a tight armbar, securing her second title defense at featherweight, her 12th UFC win in a row. If we’re being honest, the featherweight division has been cleaned out. One could also say the same for the bantamweight division, with the exception of Julianna Pena. Ranked sixth at the moment, Pena was scheduled for a bantamweight bout with former champion Holly Holm in May, but it appears Holm is forced out of the bout due to injury. Could the UFC find a replacement for Pena? Sure. But in reality, Dana White will look at Pena and see her as a potential title challenger to take on Nunes in a division she’s essentially cleaned out already. Pena has been with the UFC since 2013 and is coming off a third-round submission victory over Sara McMann at UFC 257.

Aljamain Sterling

Next Opponent: Petr Yan

All was seemingly going according to plan for the bantamweight champ until he hit Sterling with a knee while he was ruled a downed opponent, leading to the end of the contest and the subsequent disqualification. Since the knee was not inadvertent, Yan was given the DQ and Sterling was crowned as the new bantamweight champion. Obviously, that’s not the way Sterling wanted the win the belt, and the two will definitely run it back sometime later this year. Yan looked to be getting the better of Sterling as the fight progressed, and was even winning 29-28 on two judges’ scorecards until the illegal knee landed. Things happen in mixed martial arts, and although Sterling walks away with the title, it seems highly unlikely the UFC will do anything other than book these two for a rematch.

Islam Makhachev

Next Opponent: Rafael dos Anjos

With a -455-betting price tag, Makhachev did precisely what he was expected to do in finishing Drew Dober. Following a suffocating first two rounds, Makhachev submitted Dober in the third via arm-triangle choke. Makhachev now owns the second longest winning streak among active lightweights with seven, only one behind Charles Oliveira. As for what’s next, Makhachev has been sidelined far too long for someone with his skills and promise, so a date with Rafael dos Anjos should be rebooked once again. The two were scheduled to fight multiple times, but the fight fell through following issues from both parties. Dos Anjos is ranked No. 7 at lightweight, and a win over him does wonders for Makhachev’s career and his ability to fight a top-5 opponent sooner rather than later. Makhachev has a solid chance to make a run at the title, and grabbing a win over the former champion would be huge.

Aleksandar Rakic

Next Opponent: Winner of Jiri Prochazka vs. Dominick Reyes

Rakic edged Santos via decision after three rather uneventful rounds to open up the main card. There was minimal contact throughout the fight as both men were aware of the other’s knockout power.  Albeit a win over the No. 2 ranked guy in the division, a performance like that is not going to make Dana White to give you the next title shot. Rakic likely needs one more win at 205 lbs unless Teixeira can’t make the walk against Blachowicz. Rakic should wait to fight the winner between No. 5 Jiri Prochazka and No. 3 Dominick Reyes. He’ll likely need a much better performance in order to get his shot at gold, so perhaps either of those men will make it a fight somewhere down the road.

Over the years I've watched the UFC develop into the powerhouse it is today, organizations like PRIDE, Strikeforce and WEC rise and fall, and Bellator emerge as a new force on the MMA landscape. Throughout it all I've remained captivated by the sport and I'm excited to cover what comes next here on MMA Insight.