UFC 264 main event didn’t end as planned, but after a frenzied first round Dustin Poirier earned a TKO victory over Conor McGregor as the ring doctor said McGregor couldn’t continue due to an ankle injury. Poirier dominated much of the five minutes, had a number of big hits and now has his eyes on UFC gold.
Before the main event festivities, Gilbert burns entered UFC 264 in hopes of retaining his welterweight spot. After a dominant performance on Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, he’s still one of the men to beat at 170 pounds, but was his win enough to bring him back to another title fight against Kamaru Usman?
Sean O’Malley entered the Octagon as a big favorite against the late substitution Kris Moutinho, and as expected, did the job with ease. O’Malley landed 230 important strikes before referee Herb Dean saw enough in the third round. In his post-fight legend, O’Malley tossed out a bunch of names as he searched for the fight that would propel him closer to a title opportunity.
So what’s next for the new lightweight No.1 contender and the other stars of UFC 264? We will take a look.
Lightweight Dustin Poirier (defeated Conor McGregor by TKO)
Who should be next: Charles Oliveira
Poirier bet on himself and it paid off. Now that the fight for money is in his rearview mirror – and his bank account is bigger – the real goal is this.
Poirier wants to be a UFC champion. It’s the only thing he hasn’t accomplished. Yes, he won an interim title in 2019 by beating Max Holloway, but it’s not the same as the real thing, and he said it. This title fight between Poirier and Oliveira will pit two of the most consistent lightweight weights of the past five years against each other. It’s a legitimate fight for the 155-pound title, and it should be pretty competitive.
Wildcard: Conor McGregor
Before Saturday, I felt like whatever happened, this would be McGregor’s final chapter against Poirier. And in some ways, it still feels that way. Once the dust settles, I’m not convinced there will be a huge demand for these two to fight again – not right away, at least. UFC president Dana White has said Poirier will fight for the title next, and when McGregor heals he could get a fourth shot against Poirier.
Conor McGregor, lightweight (lost to Dustin Poirier by TKO)
Who should be next: Nate diaz
I feel like I’ve written this over and over over the past four years – that now was the time to do McGregor vs. Diaz 3. And the UFC could easily have done it, any of those times. . But now … it’s really trilogy time.
I wouldn’t say there is nothing else for either, but there is nothing else that comes close in terms of meaning. McGregor, for the time being, is no longer seen as a legitimate threat to the title. Maybe he’ll go back someday, but he’s not there now. Diaz neither. But they are the two biggest stars in the sport.
A third fight always had to take place. I’d love to see this booked for the final 2021 UFC pay-per-view in December.
Wildcard: Jorge masvidal
Masvidal fits the same reason a fight with Diaz would make sense. It brings in a lot of money. Time will tell what McGregor’s long term goals in MMA will be. Does he want to try to move up the ranks and become elite again? Does he want money fights, mixed in with the occasional appearance of boxing? Depending on his long-term goals, a fight with Masvidal might or might not make sense.
If he is just looking for something that will interest people – something that will capture the attention of the sports world, as he is used to doing – a fight against Masvidal would certainly suffice.
Gilbert burns, welterweight (defeated Stephen Thompson by unanimous decision)
Who should be next: Leon edwards
Sometimes there are a ton of options. Other times there is basically no option. It falls into the latter.
Burns just beat a guy in Thompson who was on a roll and could have fought for the title afterwards if he had won. Burns should be rewarded for it. But unfortunately, he has nowhere to go at the moment. Kamaru Usman probably fights Colby Covington next and Burns just lost to Usman. Even if Covington took the title from Usman, an immediate rematch between these two would be very likely.
Edwards, frankly, deserves a title shot as well. The welterweight division is a bit of a stalemate, and part of that is because Usman has already beaten all the top contenders. But at the end of the day, there’s no title shot at Burns for the very near future, so what is he going to do? Sit? I think he’s fighting, and Edwards would make sense.
Wildcard: Jorge masvidal
It makes a lot of sense. The problem is, other fights make more sense for Masvidal. A fight with Covington, for the title or not, makes sense. A fight between Masvidal and Edwards makes perfect sense.
Masvidal has expressed interest in a fight against Nick diaz. Really, he could fight Thompson as well. These two have fought before and both have expressed interest in starting over. Masvidal could use this fight against Burns to strengthen his record for another title shot, but ultimately I think he has other better options. So Burns will probably have to find another dance partner.
Who should be next: Police Rob
You know what? Why not? I will say that when I first heard the legend of O’Malley on Font, I thought it was a good legend, but I didn’t see it happen because Font deserves better. Font is the UFC’s No.4 bantamweight. O’Malley was not in the Top 15 this weekend. But when I take a closer look, who is Font going to fight?
We still do not have a specific date for the Aljamain Sterling–Petr yan revenge of the title. Even though it’s in the near future, the next No.1 contender will be determined in a fight later this month between TJ Dillashaw and Cory sandhagen.
Font is probably going to have to fight again before he gets a title shot. Why not O’Malley? This raises his profile. It’s a fun style fight. If Font is open to this, I wouldn’t mind seeing O’Malley skip the line. He doesn’t deserve it on the basis of the record, but sometimes the sport is more than a record, and it would be silly for any of us to pretend that’s not the case.
Wildcard: Dominique cruz
O’Malley suggested that Cruz “dodged” him in his post-fight call. Who knows if this is the case, but if you are Cruz, isn’t this kind of fight attractive? O’Malley looked spectacular, but he was untested in some areas. I believe Cruz could offer these tests. And for a former champion who just fought and failed for the title last year, a big win over a guy who’s gained a lot of popularity might help him a bit.