The UFC made a successful return after a two-month absence due to the coronavirus pandemic as the promotion held UFC 249 last weekend at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida under unique circumstances.

The event was held without a live audience and everyone in the venue was tested for the COVID-19 virus. Jacare Souza and two of his cornermen tested positive for the coronavirus and this forced his fight against Uriah Hall to be canceled. The night went on mostly as expected but there were a couple of twists in the last two bouts of the evening.

UFC bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo announced his retirement after becoming the first fighter to knock out Dominick Cruz in their UFC bantamweight title match in the co-main event of the evening. Then in the headliner, Justin Gaethje flipped the script and upset Tony Ferguson for the interim UFC lightweight title. Gaethje’s win killed a potential showdown between Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov who were originally booked to fight in the main event.

Now that it’s done, here are the best fights to make after UFC 249:

“Fighting" Justin Gaethje vs Khabib Nurmagomedov

Justin Gaethje fought a perfect fight against Tony Ferguson and he ended up dealing El Cucuy his first loss in 13 fights. If you don’t realize the weight of that upset, the last time Ferguson lost was in 2012 when the UFC didn’t have women fighting yet and when Kamaru Usman had zero MMA fights.

With his victory, the Highlight captured the interim UFC lightweight champion and now stands as the fighter who should get the next crack at the UFC lightweight belt held by Khabib Nurmagomedov. Khabib was supposed to fight Ferguson at UFC 249 but due to the pandemic, the champion got stuck in his native Dagestan and the UFC was forced to substitute him with Gaethje.

As of 05/12/2020, the BetOnline has Gaethje as a +205 favorite in a potential title unification against Nurmagomedov who came back at -240.

Khabib is unbeaten in 28 fights and he has dominated every opponent that he has faced. Gaethje is an elite striker but remember that Khabib dominated one of the best strikers in the game when he beat McGregor.

This fight will have to wait though, at least until Khabib can travel from Russia. As to when that will be, nobody knows right now with the outbreak of the pandemic still going on all over the world. If Gaethje wants to keep busy though, the next fight on our list should be equally salivating.

“Fighting" Justin Gaethje vs Conor McGregor

With Tony Ferguson out of the equation, for now, the other fighter who has a claim at challenging Khabib is Conor McGregor, who held the belt before Khabib won it. The Notorious has not fought since defeating Donald Cerrone and fighting Gaethje might be a better option for the Irishman right now than Nurmagomedov.

Gaethje has been asking for this bout too as he’s had McGregor on his radar since 2018. Now that he has the interim belt, he gets to call the shots. If Gaethje wants to stay busy while waiting for Khabib, then this is the other best fight to make for him after UFC 249.

McGregor is the money fight every UFC fighter is looking for. Gaethje knows that and McGregor knows that winning that interim belt will force Nurmagomedov to give him a rematch. The Notorious is a -175 favorite to beat Gaethje who came back at a +150 in this possible matchup.

Should this bout happen, it’s going to be an explosive striking battle between two of the heaviest hitters in the lightweight division. McGregor may be the more technical striker between the two but after how Gaethje dissected Ferguson, this will be a very interesting bout to pick.

“Fighting" Tony Ferguson Takes a Break

While Tony Ferguson is a freak who would want to fight right away, I think the best option for the UFC is to let El Cucuy take a short break before getting him back in the mix.

Ferguson suffered a beat down at the hands of Gaethje and it ended one of the most impressive winning runs in UFC history. Common sense says that Ferguson needs to get back as soon as possible so he can regain the #1 contender spot and finally get a chance to face Nurmagomedov. El Cucuy isn’t getting any younger so time is of the essence for him.

But after a loss like that, I think Ferguson needs to regroup and heal up his injuries. Sure, we saw him dancing in the hospital after his loss, but hey, he’s human and he needs a break after taking an incredible amount of punishment last weekend.

Once he’s ready, I think the next big fight for him would be Conor McGregor, if McGregor doesn’t get Khabib first. If not, he could dance with Dustin Poirier which is also not a bad idea at all.

“Fighting" Dominick Cruz vs Frankie Edgar

Dominick Cruz lost to Henry Cejudo last weekend but despite that, he proved that there is still something left in the tank. Cejudo is out of the picture and as Triple C suggested, the UFC might have a four-man bantamweight tournament to decide who the next champ will be.

Cruz doesn’t deserve to be in that tournament nor does he deserve to be in the next bantamweight title fight. However, an interesting proposition might be Frankie Edgar, a former champion himself.

Edgar has talked about going back at 135 and fighting a fellow former champion in his first fight back would make an interesting co-main event. Both fighters are already past their primes but they are still good enough to be in the Top 10. I think this fight will determine which old warrior is still in the title mix.

“Fighting" Francis Ngannou vs Daniel Cormier

Francis Ngannou didn’t like the fact that his bout at UFC 249 against Jairzinho Rozenstruik wasn’t for the interim UFC heavyweight title. With champion Stipe Miocic busy prioritizing his job as a frontliner in the battle against the coronavirus, the belt is being held up.

Stripping Miocic of the title won’t be a good idea because the guy is helping the country fight a pandemic as a firefighter. However, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have an interim title bout and there is no other heavyweight out there right now who deserves a shot at fighting Ngannou than the former champ himself Daniel Cormier.

Cormier is also waiting to fight Miocic but if the champ won’t be available until later this year, DC could fight Ngannou for the interim belt. Cormier has stated that if his trilogy fight with Miocic doesn’t push though, he’s willing to fight Ngannou. How about that Uncle Dana?

“Fighting" Calvin Kattar vs Yair Rodriguez

Calvin Kattar didn’t just brutally stop Jeremy Stephens last Saturday, he sent a message to the featherweight division. The Boston Finisher deserves to get a Top 5 opponent in his next bout and there is no better match out there than #5 Yair Rodriguez.

This should be an exciting fight between two up and coming fighters. Rodriguez is an exciting but unorthodox striker while Kattar is a high-volume striker. This should be fireworks and I think the UFC should get this one done soon.

“Fighting" Vicente Luque vs Geoff Neal

The Silent Assassin brutalized Niko Price last weekend and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he gets Anthony Pettis in his next fight. Pettis though has moved up and down the weight classes in recent years and I”m not sure where he wants to fight next. Having said that, Luque also needs a higher-ranked foe to continue moving up the ladder.

Geoff Neal is ranked one spot higher than Luque right now so this is a win-win fight for both. Given what Luque has done in his 14 bouts inside the octagon, this one also has Fight of the Night written all over it.

“Fighting" Carla Esparza vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Carla Esparza has won back to back split decision fights and the first thing that comes to my mind is to give her the fight that she wants against Claudia Gadelha. Gadelha is fighting this weekend so both are in the same timeline. However, I think that the best fight out there for Esparza would be Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

It was Joanna who took away Esparza’s title at UFC 185 and she didn’t just beat Esparza, Joanna beat her up. Esparza never had the chance to avenge that loss but now that she’s starting to win, she might get that opportunity.

I know that Joanna is asking for a rematch against Weili Zhang but it might be better if the UFC marinates that rematch and let Joanna fight Esparza first. As for Zhang, she could fight compatriot Yan Xiaonan and if she retains her belt and Joanna beats Esparza, then a rematch will happen.

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