History was made in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Saturday, as Daniel Cormier became the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously and defend both.
In addition to Cormier’s historical achievement, UFC 230 served as a playground for several of the sport’s top middleweights, including one-time titleholders both in and out of the UFC.
What’s next for Cormier, Derrick Lewis and the other major players at UFC 230? Here’s my take.
Daniel Cormier, light heavyweight and heavyweight champion
Result: Defeated Derrick Lewis via second-round submission.
Next: Brock Lesnar.
Not much has changed since July, really. Cormier is still the champ. Lesnar still does not deserve a title shot. And former champ Stipe Miocic still does.
But Cormier is retiring in March (so he says), and he is just four months removed from a no-doubt, first-round knockout over Miocic at UFC 226. Cormier is a big WWE fan and really wants to fight Lesnar. Miocic is getting the short end of the stick here, but the reasons for it aren’t completely unreasonable.
The UFC has a pay-per-view event scheduled on March 2 in Las Vegas, 18 days before Cormier’s 40th birthday. It’s the perfect spot for him to fight Lesnar.
Derrick Lewis, heavyweight
Result: Lost to Daniel Cormier via second-round submission.
Lewis is sort of left without a dance partner at the moment, which is fine because he’s in need of a break after fighting twice in one month.
If Blaydes defeats Ngannou later this month, he would have a very strong case for a title shot — but the timing is not in his favor. If Lesnar gets the next shot and Miocic is still ahead of him, there’s uncertainty there for Blaydes. He might not want to fight Lewis before getting a title shot, but you wonder if he’ll have a choice.
And if Ngannou wins, well, then we run back one of the worst heavyweight fights in UFC history. Those two stood in front of each other and did next to nothing for 15 minutes in July, but Lewis’ back hurt and Ngannou was gun shy coming off his first loss. A second go-around would look a lot different. I think.
Result: Defeated Chris Weidman via third-round TKO.
It’s time to reward Souza with a UFC title shot. Finally. He’s 9-3 in the UFC, and the losses have come against the top guys: Whittaker, Gastelum and Yoel Romero.
Honestly, as recently as last year I wasn’t sure if Souza would get back to this point. He’s 38 and lost significant time in 2017 to a torn pectoral muscle and burst appendix. He contemplated retirement. But knockout finishes against Derek Brunson and now Weidman in 2018 have him back at the top of the division.
The magnitude of this Weidman win can’t be understated. It’s as signature of a result as Souza has ever had, and it happened in a key spot in terms of where the division is at right now. You couple all that with his overall body of work, and a title shot is the only thing that makes sense.
Chris Weidman, middleweight
Result: Lost to Jacare Souza via third-round TKO.
Next: Anderson Silva.
Why not? The UFC actually kicked the tires on booking a third meeting between them last year, but it would have been on short notice and didn’t work out.
This is really the best option for Weidman, in my opinion, because there’s just nowhere for him to go in terms of a title shot right now. As huge as this win was for Souza, it was equally as devastating for Weidman. He’s still highly ranked, but a lot of cards would have to fall his way for him to get a shot anytime soon.
If that’s the case, why take on someone like an Israel Adesanya, Paulo Costa, David Branch, Jared Cannonier, etc.? Obviously, any of those fights make sense, but none would instantly catapult Weidman back where he wants to be. So let the division play out for a second. And in the meantime, book the high-profile Silva trilogy.
Israel Adesanya, middleweight
Result: Defeated Derek Brunson via first-round TKO.
Next: Luke Rockhold.
Adesanya isn’t an easy one. He’s blitzed so quickly through the ranks (four wins in 2018), you have to keep elevating him. But you don’t want to rush him, either.
Rockhold is a steep climb. Honestly, it’s a little rushed for my liking — but if I have to choose between a fight that’s maybe too much for Adesanya or a fight that basically moves him backward, I say keep the tests coming. He has passed them all so far, seemingly with ease.
After Adesanya beat Brad Tavares this summer, I really liked the idea of him fighting Brazilian prospect Paulo Costa. And I still do. But the UFC has shown a lot of interest in booking Costa against Yoel Romero, which is a great fight. If both of these matchups were to come together, middleweight business would be booming.