Jon Jones returned last night (Sat., March 4, 2023) to reclaim his spot at the top of the mixed martial arts (MMA) combat game by winning the vacant Heavyweight title with an impressive first-round submission win over Ciryl Gane (highlights here). Not bad for a man who hadn’t competed in three years and was fighting in a new weight class for the first time. In the co-headlining act, Alexa Grasso pulled off a huge upset by submitting Valentina Shevchenko in the fourth round of their women’s Flyweight championship fight (video here).
Winner: Jon Jones
Who He Should Face Next: Stipe Miocic
Despite getting knocked out by former champion, Francis Ngannou, in rather violent fashion in March 2021 (relive it here), Miocic will get the next title shot after Dana White confirmed he would be Jones’ first challenge as new Heavyweight king. Sure, Sergei Pavlovich was the backup for UFC 285, is on a five-fight win streak and hasn’t tasted defeat in close to 4.5 years, but we’re not using logic here. Because if we were, the winner of Pavlovich vs. Curtis Blaydes would get Jones next. Instead, the promotion is going with the fight the sells and the fight people want to see. Plus, Jones trying to prove his point and further cement his status as the greatest fighter in the game by defeating the man with the most consecutive title defenses at 265-pounds.
Winner: Alexa Grasso
Who She Should Fight Next: Valentina Shevchenko rematch
This one is a no-brainer given “Bullet’s” lengthy reign as champion. The fight was close and competitive up until Grasso pulled off the submission in the fourth round to dethrone Shevchenko form the top of the 125-pound women’s mountain. Should Shevchenko get her belt back a trilogy fight is almost certain.
Winner: Shavkat Rakhmonov
Who He Should Face Next: Stephen Thompson
Rakhmonov passed one of the biggest tests of his mixed martial arts (MMA) career after taking all Geof Neal could give him before eventually earning a third-round submission. The victory puts Rakhmonov at 5-0 inside the Octagon, and 17-0 overall. The victory will give him a huge boost in the rankings, setting him up for a higher profile fight with a bigger and more accomplished name. Thompson got back on track after defeating Kevin Holland in December 2022, and is currently ranked No. 6 on the official UFC rankings. Depending on where Rakhmonov lands this week on the list, it could be a fight matchmakers will consider. But seeing as how Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns will collide at UFC 287 in April, the winner of that fight can also be a good option.
Winner: Mateusz Gamrot
Who He Should Face Next: Justin Gaethje vs Rafael Fiziev winner
Gamrot got back in the win column by edging out Jalin Turner via split-decision in a very close contest. The win is Gamrot’s first after having his four-fight win streak snapped by Beneil Dariush at UFC 280 in Oct. 2022. Up next for the Polish bruiser, a fight against the winner of the upcoming bout between Justin Gaethje (No. 3) and Rafael Fiziev (No. 6) could be in order. The two contenders are set to collide at UFC 286 in a couple of weeks and are both currently ranked ahead of Gamrot, who currently sits at No. 7.
Winner: Bo Nickal
Who He Should Face Next: Jacob Malkoun
Nickal had another impressive outing by earning a first-round submission in his debut after forcing Jamie Pickett to tap to an arm-triangle choke three minutes into the fight (see it here). But before we start praising him as the next big thing, he will have to come along slowly because I highly doubt UFC is going to throw him into the deep end of the pool so soon. So matching him for the time being will be a challenge. Malkoun sounds like a decent matchup for Nickal’s next challenge because unlike Pickett —who was on a two-fight losing streak coming into UFC 285 — Malkoun is coming off a win over Nick Maximov and is a respectable 3-2 so far under the UFC banner.
For complete UFC 285 results and highlights click HERE.