7 Fights We Need to See After UFC 255
On Saturday night, the UFC held its penultimate pay-per-view of 2020 in UFC 255.
While the card caught some flak from fans for its lack of big names and marquee fights, it featured appearances from two of the UFC's most impressive champions and a number of other compelling fighters.
In the main event, Deiveson Figueiredo defended the men's flyweight title with a first-round submission of Alex Perez. In the co-main event, women's flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko survived an early scare to successfully defend her belt with a decision win over Jennifer Maia.
Elsewhere on the card, viewers were treated to big wins from ranked contenders like Katlyn Chookagian, Paul Craig and Brandon Moreno, gritty veterans like Tim Means and Alan Jouban, and rising prospects like Joaquin Buckley and Sasha Palatnikov.
With the UFC 255 winners toasting their victories and the losers licking their wounds, the time has come to start thinking about the matchups that need to be made going forward.
Without further ado, here are the six fights we're hoping to see in the wake of this entertaining event.
Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno
Deiveson Figueiredo didn't need much time to defend his title in the main event of UFC 255. Less than two minutes into the first round, he snagged his challenger Alex Perez in a guillotine choke, and the tap followed immediately thereafter.
This victory reaffirmed what many fans already felt—that Figueiredo has the skills to become a terrifying champion in the 125-pound division.
From here, it's unlikely we'll see him as anything less than a huge betting favorite heading into his fights, but he does have a number of compelling challengers on the horizon.
Which of those challengers should be up next? It's got to be Brandon Moreno.
Moreno laid claim to a flyweight title shot on the UFC 255 undercard, when he picked up a similarly abrupt victory over Brandon Royval. While it's possible his opportunity will be stolen by former UFC bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt, who was booked to fight Figueiredo at UFC 255 until he suffered an injury, that would be an affront on all that is good and just in this world.
Garbrandt has never competed at flyweight before and is 1-3 in his four most recent bantamweight fights at 135. Moreno, on the other hand, has won his last three fights in the Octagon, beating a trio of ranked flyweights in Kai Kara-France, Jussier Formiga and Royval.
There's just no debating it. He should be next for the champ.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Jessica Andrade
Valentina Shevchenko got the victory she sought in the UFC 255 co-main event, but it didn't come easy.
While she ultimately left the cage with a unanimous-decision win and the flyweight belt still wrapped round her waist, her challenger Jennifer Maia put up an excellent fight and even won the first round on most viewers' scorecards.
Interestingly, this might have been the best possible result for Shevchenko. Heading into UFC 255, her fights felt more like public executions than athletic contests. Against Maia, however, she almost looked human—enough that it's possible to imagine a world where she can be beaten.
So who should get the next crack at attempting that feat?
At this stage, there's no other choice beyond former UFC strawweight title challenger Jessica Andrade. Andrade, who actually competed as a bantamweight previously, made her debut in the flyweight division earlier this year, when she scored a violent stoppage win over the highly regarded Kaitlyn Chookagian. That win alone was enough to warrant a crack at the champ.
This potential Shevchenko vs. Andrade fight was interesting on paper before UFC 255. After watching Shevchenko struggle ever so slightly in the card's co-main event, however, it's amply more compelling.
While Shevchenko should be favored against any flyweight she fights, Andrade has vicious knockout power and world-class grappling to boot. It's very possible she could be even more successful against the champion than Maia was.
Tim Means vs. Robbie Lawler
In the middle bout of the UFC 255 main card, Tim Means picked up a solid, unanimous decision win over "Platinum" Mike Perry—a win that was made even more impressive by the fact that Perry missed weight for the 171-pound welterweight limit by almost five pounds.
While Means has struggled to find consistency over the course of his 23-fight UFC career, he's now on a two-fight streak and is clearly capable of hanging with high-level welterweights when he's at his best.
In his next fight, he should be given the opportunity to make another leap toward the division's Top 15 by taking on former UFC welterweight champion Robbie Lawler.
Lawler was actually Perry's original opponent for UFC 255, but the 22-fight UFC veteran was forced out of the matchup with an injury and replaced by Means. While the former champ is currently on an ugly four-fight skid, he's still a huge name at welterweight and presents an excellent test to see where Means really stands in the division.
Paul Craig vs. Micha Cirkunov-Ryan Spann Winner
In the opening bout of the UFC 255 main card, Scotland's Paul Craig picked up the biggest victory of his career, forcing former UFC light heavyweight champion and Pride middleweight grand prix winner Mauricio "Shogun" Rua to tap to strikes in Round 2.
With this victory, Craig has now won three of his last four fights—the lone hiccup in that stretch being a 2019 draw against Shogun. On the heels of his recent triumphs, the 32-year-old, who entered this UFC 255 fight with the No. 15 spot in the 205-pound rankings, is ready for a significant step up in competition.
To that end, he should be matched up with the winner of the December 19 clash between Misha Cirkunov and Ryan Spann—the UFC's No. 10 and 12 light heavyweights, respectively.
Not only do these potential matchups make sense from a rankings standpoint, but Cirkunov and Spann are probably two of the only ranked light heavyweights capable of hanging with Craig in the grappling department.
Joaquin Buckley vs. James Krause
Just months removed from his viral knockout of Impa Kasanganay, Joaquin Buckley added another big win to his highlight reel on the UFC 255 undercard when he knocked out Jordan Wright in the second round.
While Buckley’s knockout loss to Kevin Holland is still clearly visible in the rear-view mirror, he is now on a two-fight streak and ready for a big step up in competition. At this stage, a fight with a Top 15 middleweight still feels premature, but a fight with James Krause, who has made no secret of his disdain for Buckley, makes a ton of sense.
Krause, who has enjoyed his biggest wins to date at lightweight and welterweight, competed in a middleweight fight earlier this year, and would likely be willing to do so again to get his hands on a man he clearly doesn’t respect. On the flip side, Krause is just the kind of established name Buckley will need to beat if he intends to earn fights with the best 185-pounders in the world.
He expressed interest in the fight during his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan—though he refused to identify his rival by name—and there's really no reason not to book it.
Alan Jouban vs. Sasha Palatnikov
Sasha Palatnikov's win over Louis Cosce, a third-round TKO in the first fight on the UFC 255 lineup, was an immediate front-runner for the evening's Fight of the Night honors. By the time Alan Jouban had picked up a unanimous decision win over Jared Gooden in the third bout of the night, Palatnikov had some serious competition for that coveted $50,000 post-fight bonus.
After dazzling viewers with their thrilling victories on the UFC 255 undercard, Palatnikov and Jouban should now fight each other.
Skeptics of this potential matchup will likely point out that Palatnikov just made his UFC debut, while Jouban is now 8-5 in the Octagon. However, Jouban just welcomed Gooden to the UFC, so clearly he's not opposed to fighting up-and-comers.
Pit him against Palatnikov and rest assured that the result will be thrilling, no matter which man comes out on top.