- MMA columnist for ESPN.com
- Analyst for “MMA Live”
- Covered MMA for Las Vegas Sun
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Francis Ngannou is leaving UFC 270 as the undisputed heavyweight champion, but the way he retained his title is far from what was expected. Ngannou earned his first decision win as he outwrestled Ciryl Gane in the final three rounds to solve Gane and hand him his first professional loss.
With Ngannou adding more to his game, who matches up with him best moving forward? Or will he even fight? He told ESPN last week that he won’t compete again for the UFC under the current contract.
Before Ngannou’s win, Deiveson Figueiredo recaptured the flyweight title with a unanimous decision win over Brandon Moreno. Figueiredo told Joe Rogan in the Octagon that he would love a fourth fight against Moreno, but is that the right next move for the two-time champ?
Let’s take a look at what could be next for Ngannou, Gane, Figueiredo and Moreno.
Francis Ngannou, heavyweight champion
Who should be next: Jon Jones
Come on! Please. A deal needs to be reached between these two sides. The UFC and Ngannou need to get in a room and not leave until a new deal is hashed out and Ngannou remains in the UFC. And once that’s done, get Jones onboard and book a date. This would be one of the most heavily anticipated fights of the year, especially after Ngannou showed that his cardio and wrestling could carry him to a win.
Going into this matchup with Gane, one would’ve argued Jones’ best shot might be to wrestle. After seeing this, that’s less clear. This fight has everything you could ever want. Please!
Wild card: Boxing
If Ngannou doesn’t come to financial terms with the UFC, he would still have to remain under contract for one year due to the champion’s clause. But he said going into this fight that he wouldn’t fight again unless he gets a new deal, so it’s conceivable he could wait out the terms of the contract and move on to something else — which could very well be boxing. But that would be a shame.
We just saw the evolution of his MMA game on Saturday. I’d hate to see him leave the sport without showing it more.
Ciryl Gane, heavyweight
Who should be next: Stipe Miocic
After what we saw on Saturday, this might be one of the toughest assignments you could give Gane. If Miocic watched on Saturday, it’s probably safe to assume he has an idea of his path to victory against Gane. But from a rankings standpoint, it makes the most sense.
Gane will learn from this experience, the same way Ngannou learned from his loss to Miocic back in 2018. Miocic wants to get back to the title. That path should go through Gane.
Wild card: Chris Daukaus
Daukaus had his first shot at some real limelight at the end of last year, and it did not go well for him. He suffered a first-round knockout loss to Derrick Lewis.
Watching Gane go from up two rounds in a unification title bout to fighting Daukaus feels like a long fall, but at the same time, Gane is still young in the sport. Experience is important. He needs to stay active and fight different styles. Daukaus will be heavily motivated off that last loss.
This option isn’t the top choice, but it’s a choice.
Deiveson Figueiredo, flyweight champion
Who should be next: Winner of Askar Askarov vs. Kai Kara-France
I’ll be honest. Part of me wants to see the fourth fight right away. These two have fought three times, and two of them will have received Fight of the Year consideration when it’s all said and done. That’s pretty awesome. They combine for a great fight.
But to rush straight into it? First off, I think any fourth fight would be better if it’s not right away. Let them focus on a new challenge and then come back to each other. Second, there are really deserving challengers. And at the top of that list is Askarov and Kara-France. These two fight in March. Move the winner ahead to a title shot.
Wild card: Moreno
If the UFC can take an event to Mexico, I’m not against it. I’m really not! As I just mentioned, I think they should put it off and I’m going to guess they will put it off. But if it were to happen next, I wouldn’t complain.
Brandon Moreno, flyweight
Who should be next: Alexandre Pantoja
It’s the obvious choice. Going into Saturday, Moreno hadn’t lost since May 2018. And that loss was to Pantoja. There’s history here, and Pantoja is deserving of a chance to even the score.
This was going to be an attractive option for Moreno as a champion. Of course it loses a little luster now that he’s lost the belt, but there is going to be plenty of interest in Moreno’s next move after this Figueiredo trilogy. This would be a high stakes fight and if Moreno wins, he’s straight back into a title fight.
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