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What’s next for Max Holloway and the rest of UFC 218’s PPV winners?

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The UFC first visit to the Metro Detroit area in 7 years turned out to be a success by all accounts. The event was a sell out and it drew a $2 million gate according to UFC President Dana White. A world title was defended by an up and coming superstar who endeared himself to the city during the build up to the event, emerging as a true superstar. A new number one contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship was decided on the strength of one of the deadliest knockouts every recorded and not one, but two fight of the night bonuses were handed out which means that the fans in attendance can consider themselves the true winners of the night.

As always, the real winners here were the fighters involved. Let’s take a look at what’s next for the ones who were able to come away with that all important victory in Detroit.

Max Holloway

Max Holloway is now 12-0 with 9 finishes since losing to Conor McGregor back in August of 2013. He’s finished the greatest featherweight of all-time not once, but twice in dramatic fashion and he’s done something that McGregor has yet to do during his UFC tenure — he’s defended a world title. McGregor versus Holloway actually could make a ton of sense down the line if ‘The Notorious’ one does decide to compete inside of the Octagon again. But for now, let’s take a look at two realistic options for Holloway in regards to his next title defense.

We’ll start with Frankie Edgar, the man who Holloway was originally supposed to fight at UFC 218. Edgar was removed from the card due to a broken orbital bone and should be able to go if the UFC still wants to move in that direction sometime in the spring/summer of 2018. He’s won seven of his last eight fights with his only losses since 2008 coming via decision in world title fights. Let’s not forget that two of those were of the controversial variety to Benson Henderson. When you look at the lay of the land, Edgar is still very much deserving of that next 145 lbs title shot. But he’s not the only option.

You have to believe that Max Holloway will be keeping a close eye on this coming Saturday night’s main event in Fresno, California. That is where the undefeated featherweight, Brian Ortega, will take on Cub Swanson in a fight that could decide his next opponent. An impressive showing from Ortega may move him to the front of the line because we all know it’s about “what have you done for me lately” in this sport. Ortega needs to create buzz with his performance in Fresno if he wants to take cuts in front of Edgar. And while a victory for Swanson likely won’t earn him a shot due to his last two losses coming against Holloway and Edgar (neither fight was close) he needs to stay ready should he be called upon on short notice due to another untimely injury.

Francis Ngannou

Ngannou virtually knocked Alistair Overeem’s head off his shoulders in the co-main event of UFC 218. It was the scariest knockout I’ve ever seen live and it may end up earning KO of the year honors when we get ready to turn the page on 2017. But was it enough to earn Ngannou a shot against UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic? The answer is simple, yes.

UFC President Dana White confirmed that Ngannou will get his first crack at UFC gold in 2018. White wants to get the fight signed sooner rather than later considering that Miocic hasn’t defended his title since May and Ngannou suffered zero damage during the short amount of time he need to dispatch of the 60-fight veteran Dutch mixed martial artist.

The only thing holding this potential earth shattering fight back is money. Ongoing contract negotiations are said to be in a good place when it comes to Miocic’s future but we still haven’t heard anything official yet. The UFC needs to pay their champion if they want to get him back inside of cage. Especially after what we saw Ngannou do last night.

Henry Cejudo

It wasn’t one of Cejudo’s most exciting victories, but the Olympic gold medalist did what he had to do to get the victory against a unique striker in Sergio Pettis. Another thing White confirmed during his post-fight presser is that flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will be defending his title against current bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw next. That leaves only one immediate option for Cejudo in my mind, a rematch with Joseph Benavidez to decide who gets to take on the winner of DJ versus TJ.

Both Cejudo and Benavidez are in strange place at flyweight. They seem to be able to dominate anyone in the division not named ‘Mighty Mouse’. Although Benavidez did come out on top when they first met, Cejudo did lose a point on the judges scorecards due to repeated low blows early on in the fight. You never like to see a fight of that magnitude decided by something like that but it was definitely the right call. Benavidez has not fought since facing Cejudo due to a knee injury; he should fight him again when he’s ready to return to decide which one of these two gets another crack at 125 lbs gold.

Eddie Alvarez

The former UFC lightweight champion and former 2-time Bellator lightweight champion claimed another world title on Saturday night in Detroit — UFC’s most violent man.

This fight between Alvarez and Gaethje didn’t even seen real. It was almost like something that MMA fans would scoff at if they saw it in a movie — there’s no way anyone could endure this much punishment in real life without being separated from consciousness. This was a fight to the death between the only two guys on the roster that are probably willing to go to those lengths. It was a last man standing match between two guys with octagon sized balls.

I think if you asked anyone who watched this fight last night what they’d like to see for Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje they’d all have the same answer — rest. When Alvarez does recover from whatever leg, face and mind injuries he suffered during this ridiculously intense war, you have to give the first man in history to beat and finish Gaethje something big. I can only think of two options.

The first option would be a rematch against Dustin Poirier. Their UFC 211 fight was deemed a No Contest due to Alvarez throwing illegal knees to a downed Poirier and it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Not because of Eddie’s actions —  I truly don’t believe he didn’t even know Poirier was down, the guy had been knocked around throughout the fight and was just trying to make a comeback — but because we were robbed of a true outcome to a great matchup between two of MMA’s most elite. Both men rebounded with incredible victories in their next fights making this the perfect time to run it back. I’d like to see this one as a PPV co-main or a FS1 headliner whenever Alvarez recovers if Poirier wants to wait that long.

The second option would be a UFC lightweight title shot against Tony Ferguson. Yes, you read that correctly. If current lightweight champion Conor McGregor is not scheduled for a title defense in the coming months that means that it’s time to strip him of the belt and promote current interim champion Tony Ferguson to undisputed champion. It’s not rocket science. McGregor has proven to be great for the bottom line of the sport. There’s no denying that. He’s just never appeared to have any intentions of defending a belt during his professional mixed martial arts career whether it be in the UFC or Cage Warriors; four title victories, zero title defenses. The man is a conqueror, he’s not a defender. So, instead of holding up another division, it’s time to move on and let Ferguson defend that title. If Khabib Nurmagomedov defeats Edson Barboza later this month at UFC 219, booking that fight for the umpteenth time is the logical answer. That said, Ferguson versus Nurmagomedov just doesn’t seem to want to happen. We’ll have to see if Nurmy can make the weight again at 155 lbs before he gets a shot at UFC gold. Ferguson versus Alvarez may be the answer for the next big title fight at 155 lbs.

Tecia Torres

‘The Tiny Tornado’ opened up the pay-per-view portion of UFC 218 with a dominant victory over former Invicta FC atomweight champion Michelle Waterson. Her gas tank appeared to be endless — she probably could’ve went another three rounds — and she looked absolutely ripped for a 115’er. After 7 fights in the UFC, Torres now boasts a 6-1 record with her only loss coming to current strawweight queen Rose Namajunas. This is a rematch that should happen, just not quite yet. I believe that there’s one test for Torres to pass before she gets a shot at UFC gold. And that test comes in the form of Brazilian Muay Thai and BJJ machine Jessica Andrade.

Andrade has looked incredible since dropping to strawweight last summer. Her most recent victory over former two-time title challenger Claudia Gadelha proved that she also deserves another crack at the gold that she was unable to capture when she took on Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 211. Torres versus Andrade is a fight that pits two women on two different paths who have one common goal against one another. One just has to get past the other in order to reach the top of the ladder.

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