7 Fights We Need to See After UFC 264

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IJuly 11, 2021

7 Fights We Need to See After UFC 264

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    UFC 264, probably the biggest pay-per-view fight card of the year thus far, went down Saturday night in Las Vegas, and we'll all be talking about it for months to come.

    In the main event, top lightweight contenders Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor looked to settle a 1-1 tie in a headline-dominating trilogy fight. While both men had their moments in the first round, the fight was ultimately stopped before the second could begin after McGregor suffered a broken tibia.

    It was a disappointing end to one of the biggest trilogies in MMA history, and one that McGregor was quick to label a fluke, but that's the way the ankle crumbles—I mean cookie.

    Of course, that's not all UFC 264 had to offer.

    In the card's co-headliner, recent welterweight title challenger Gilbert Burns picked up a sorely needed win over perennial contender Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson. Elsewhere on the main card, we witnessed big wins from Tai Tuivasa, Irene Aldana and Sean O'Malley, while the undercard featured plenty of memorable action in its own right.

    What's next for the stars of the card? The UFC matchmakers rarely move the way we expect them to, but here are the fights we want to see when the dust has settled.

    Oh, and let's just get this out of the way: We've already covered what might be next for McGregor, but his immediate priority should and will be recovery.

Dustin Poirier vs. Charles Oliveira

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    You had to know this fight would be the first one we'd suggest.

    Call Dustin Poirier's UFC 264 win over Conor McGregor flukey, call it disappointing, call it whatever you want, but it's a win all the same, and it cements what most reasonable people already believed: that the American is long overdue for another crack at lightweight gold.

    The UFC lightweight title is currently held by Brazil's Charles Oliveira, who earned it with a stoppage win over former Bellator champ Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in May.

    Heading into UFC 264, Oliveira was expecting (read: hoping for) a McGregor win. Instead, he will now have to steel himself for the daunting task of fighting the 2021 version of Poirier, who is not just one of the best lightweights in the world, but one of the best fighters in the world period.

    Sorry, Dana White, but it's the only fight to make.

Gilbert Burns vs. Leon Edwards

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    No. 2 welterweight contender Gilbert Burns authored a minor upset in the UFC 264 co-main event, out-grappling a fellow former title challenger in Stephen Thompson to a decision victory. With this win, Burns separated himself from a tough knockout loss to reigning welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and likely set himself up for another big opportunity in his next fight.

    In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, Burns called out three men: Jorge Masvidal, Nate Diaz and Leon Edwards. The first two of those men are on losing streaks—so let's just breeze past them. The third, Edwards, is on a 10-fight unbeaten streak, having recently battered Diaz to a decision win.

    That, therefore, is the fight to make—particularly given that Edwards won't get a title shot until Usman and Colby Covington battle for gold in the near future.

    Book it for a pay-per-view co-main event and see if either man can make his claim to a title shot undeniable.

Tai Tuivasa vs. Walt Harris

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    "I'm not the right guy to bang with. Pick another bloke."

    Those were the words uttered by Australian heavyweight Tai Tuivasa moments after he turned the lights out on Greg Hardy on the UFC 264 main card—and they were bang on.

    Hardy appeared to sting Tuivasa in the early moments of the fight, but when the American pressed the action, the Australian countered with fight-ending consequences. He then topped the win off with a trademark shoey—Google it if you've been living under a rock—to the elation of the crowd.

    With this win, which definitely had a star-making quality, Tuivasa has set himself up for another big opportunity. A fight with No. 11 heavyweight contender Walt Harris would certainly qualify.

    At the precise moment Tuivasa is looking for a step up, the hard-hitting Harris is looking to rebound from a trio of losses to Alistair Overeem, Alexander Volkov and Marcin Tybura.

    It would be a great fight for as long as it lasts, and it would give us a real sense of where the two big boys stand in the heavyweight food chain.

Irene Aldana vs. Aspen Ladd-Macy Chiasson Winner

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    Irene Aldana picked up one of the biggest wins of her career on the UFC 264 main card, battering Russia's Yana Kunitskaya to a first-round TKO win. That triumph unfortunately comes with an asterisk, as the Mexican puncher missed weight for the contest, but she did have a solid reason.

    Heading into UFC 264, Aldana already had the No. 4 spot in the UFC women's bantamweight rankings. After her big win in Las Vegas, she's likely within arm's reach of a crack at the division's iron-fisted queen Amanda Nunes, but she'll probably need another win first, as it was still less than a year ago that Holly Holm walloped her.

    She seems to recognize that reality, too.

    "I don't want to rush things," she said in her post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.

    From here, Aldana should be matched up with the winner of a July 24 fight between No. 3 contender Aspen Ladd and No. 9 contender Macy Chiasson. If she wins that, her claim to a title shot will be undeniable.

Sean O'Malley vs. Cody Garbrandt

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    Sean O'Malley didn't get the quick win many expected against his short-notice replacement opponent Kris Moutinho, but the stoppage finally materialized in the third round, thanks to a merciful if controversial intervention from referee Herb Dean.

    In his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, an opportunistic O'Malley set his sights on a number of big-name bantamweights, including former champions Petr Yan and Cody Garbrandt. At this stage, a fight with Yan feels a bit premature, but a scrap with Garbrandt, who recently came up short against Rob Font, is definitely an interesting idea.

    O'Malley and Garbrandt are two of the flashiest punchers in the bantamweight division and have exchanged plenty of trash talk in the past. Why not pit them against each other on an upcoming pay-per-view main card?

    If O'Malley wins, he'd finally earn a spot inside the bantamweight top 10. If Garbrandt wins, he'd keep his. The stakes couldn't be much higher.

Kris Moutinho vs. Louis Smolka

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    When Kris Moutinho was chosen to replace the sidelined Louis Smolka against Sean O'Malley at UFC 264, he was labeled a sacrificial lamb by many people—including this writer.

    He certainly surpassed those expectations.

    While Moutinho ultimately came up short by way of third-round TKO, he was the picture of toughness throughout his fight with O'Malley, absorbing a ridiculous 230 strikes to the head and body but never taking a backward step. He deserves a reward for his toughness—and for his willingness to fight somebody as highly regarded as O'Malley on such short notice.

    A fight with O'Malley's original UFC 264 opponent Smolka would be just that. When Smolka is recovered and ready to get back in there, match him up with the new kid on the block.

Michel Pereira vs. Max Griffin

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    In the penultimate bout of the UFC 264 undercard, popular Brazilian welterweight Michel Pereira picked up a hard-fought decision win over the gritty Niko Price. Not long thereafter, in the final attraction of the prelims, Californian welterweight Max Griffin picked up an equally competitive decision over a similarly tough foe in former interim champ Carlos Condit.

    With their UFC 264 wins, Pereira and Griffin are both on three-fight win streaks. Having both gone through grueling battles on the same night, they're also on similar fight schedules. It makes all the sense in the world to match them up against each other—and with four post-fight bonuses between them, it would more than likely be a very entertaining scrap.

    Stick it on an upcoming Fight Night card and see which man is ready for another big step up the welterweight ladder.