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UFC 287 is in the books and it was a hell of a fun PPV event. Israel Adesanya regained his middleweight crown from Alex Pereira. Gilbert Burns put Jorge Masvidal to pasture in the UFC 287 co-main. And Rob Font slammed the door on rising prospect Adrian Yanez. Plenty of finishes, a couple remarkable wars, and even a hard fought comeback or two.
So, if Pereira goes to light heavyweight after UFC 287, who does Adesanya fight now? Is Burns really going to get a shot at welterweight gold off a win over an obviously shopworn ‘Gamebred’? And what does the UFC do with Raul Rosas Jr. now that the wheels are off the hype train?
To answer those questions—and a whole lot more—I’ll be using the classic Silva/Shelby fight booking methodology from the UFC of years past. That means pitting winners against winners, losers against losers, and similarly tenured talent up against one another. Hopefully, by following that model, a few of these post-UFC 287 bout ideas will actually make it off the page and into the Octagon. Now, let’s get to the fights!
The ‘Last Stylebender’ is back, baby! And just as petty as ever before. All child taunting aside, though, Israel Adesany had an incredible night at UFC 287. Alex Pereira was his dragon to slay, his mountain to climb. The impossible fire hydrant upon which Adesanya could not urinate. But he kept trying, over and over again, and finally he did the damn thing.
The potential was always there; Adesanya had hurt Pereira with extremely similar shots in each of their last two bouts, and very nearly KO’d him both times. But standing 8-counts and round endings had saved ‘Po Atan’ in the past. This time, there was no angel on the Brazilian’s shoulder. Adesanya caught him swinging wild with a huge counter and a couple followup shots sent the former Glory champ crashing to the canvas. That puts Adesanya back on top of the middleweight division.
Honestly, if it were purely just a ‘what’s the coolest fight the UFC could make at 185 right now?’ kind of situation, then the answer would be Adesanya vs. Pereira 3. Robert Whittaker is the division’s only other obvious top contender and Whittaker vs. Adesanya 1 & 2 were not big PPV sellers. It’s also not a fight that makes much meritorious sense, considering that Whittaker is 0-2 in the series so far.
Given all that, it may just be the best idea for Adesanya to wait and see what happens. And especially to hope that Dricus Du Plessis’ run of success continues. The other, other option is that Jan Blachowicz called Adesanya out. If he can make 185—like he’s suggesting—that’s a true wild card. What the hell, if ever there was a time to get crazy, this is it. Jan Blachowicz vs. Israel Adesanya 2 is just mental enough to work.
A shocking upset loss for the middleweight champion. Alex Pereira has seemed like he had Izzy’s number for quite a while now. So much so that, even with Adesanya claiming that he was better prepared than ever, and even with oddsmakers giving the City Kickboxing talent favorite status, it still felt like UFC 287 was not a fight Adesanya would win.
It didn’t look like a fight he was winning after the first round, either. Sure Adesanya was more aggressive and persistent with his offense, but he also ate 64% of the strikes Pereira threw, and was getting his leg absolutely chewed to bits by the Brazilian’s kicking game. When he started to shell up with his back against the cage, a victory for ‘Po Atan’ seemed secure. Then the bombs dropped, and so did Pereira.
It’s a brutal loss for the Teixeira MMA & Fitness fighter, and one that just may spell the end of his time as a middleweight as well. After the UFC 287 bout, Adesanya seemed to feel the book on their rivalry had been closed (ambitious, considering he’s lost 3 out of 4 fights), but Dana White carried that message along with the news that he expected Pereira to move up to light heavyweight following this loss. If that’s the case, then he’ll be an immediate top contender, but should he be THE top contender?
If Jiri Prochazka isn’t going to be back soon (and it seems unlikely he would be) then Pereira might just make more sense than Ankalaev or Blachowicz considering that their draw got them both jettisoned from contention. I’d love to see Pereira vs. Blachowicz as a first test, but that just seems like a dangerous waste of a big fight. Alex Pereira vs. Jamahal Hill is the best light heavyweight title fight that can be booked right now.
Was this really the performance to get Gilbert Burns a title shot again? ‘Durinho’ didn’t exactly perform poorly, but Jorge Masvidal hasn’t looked like the ‘BMF’ champ for a minute now and most of what Burns had to offer in the early stages of this fight at UFC 287 was a low output kickboxing match. Where’s the version of Burns that buzz-sawed through Neil Magny? Where’s the version that went to war with Khamzat Chimaev? I don’t know if he was just overly wary of Masvidal’s reputation, or wanted to prove a point about his own striking ability, but once he actually turned up the heat in round 3, it became clear just how one-sided this fight could have been.
Still, Burns demanded that he be named backup for Edwards vs. Covington after UFC 287 if (or when) that fight gets made official, and Dana White seems like he’s down for the idea. Bad news for Belal Muhammad, who still can’t seem to get a fingerhold on top-contender status, despite all his success, but Burns vs. the Covington/Edwards winner seems like the fight that’s going to get made.
If Adrian Yanez has been something of a slow starter in the past, it seems like he was more than ready to change up the narrative against Rob Font at UFC 287. Font came out pressing hard, working heavy 1-2s behind a big jab. And Yanez was right there in the pocket, waiting to meet him with slick counters and a fast, darting jab of his own.
For a couple minutes it seemed like Yanez was even getting the better end of the deal. Font’s face was getting busted up quickly and he was walking right onto counter hooks and uppercuts. But the more Yanez tried to stand his ground and trade with Font, the more the disparity in natural power came into play. Font started landing hooks and uppercuts of his own and quickly put Yanez on his heels. A couple heavy trades of leather later and Font was getting his hand raised for the first round stoppage.
Exactly the showing Font needed at UFC 287 to prove he’s still a top 10 guy in the bantamweight division. Fights with Umar Nurmagomedov, Dominick Cruz, or the Song Yadong off a win over Ricky Simon would all be good. That Nurmagomedov fight is sitting right there, might as well go with that one. Rob Font vs. Umar Nurmagomedov is a great fight to see if Nurmagomedov is a top contender right now.
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