Playing Prognosticator: What comes next for UFC 300’s winning fighters?

Kayla Harrison spoke with Aaron Bronsteter, after her submission victory over Holly Holm at UFC 300, about not getting the first round finish, welcoming Amanda Nunes out of retirement, her post fight meal, and more.

There are times when an event generates so much advanced attention that it seems inconceivable it will be able to live up to the expectations once it actually arrives. Genuinely excellent albums or movies still feel underwhelming because the hype and pre-arrival beliefs about how transcendent they will be was just so great that anything short of generation-defining somehow registers as a letdown.

UFC 300 had the potential to be an outstanding disappointment. Despite featuring the best collection of fights ever assembled by the promotion on a single card, many whinged at the triumvirate of bouts stationed at the top of the card; exceptional fights some deemed “not big enough” to carry the colossal weight of an event many had been looking forward to for well over a year.

Saturday night, the 13 pairs of men and women that made the walk and crossed the threshold into the Octagon combined to deliver the greatest event in UFC history. That is neither hyperbole nor recency bias.

UFC 300 was the rare massive event that still managed to exceed expectations by a colossal margin, with the combatants raising to the occasion, and those who wondered if this lineup would be strong enough to represent a milestone event of this magnitude were left looking silly for even pondering such a thing.

A great deal transpired at T-Mobile Arena. Now it’s time to sift through the results and try to figure out what comes next for the victors, and the divisions they represent.


“Poatan” quite literally marched to the Octagon and made an example of Jamahal Hill, showing everyone in the division (and perhaps another division as well) what happens when you poke the bear.

The light-heavyweight champion dropped Hill with a swinging left hand that didn’t quite land flush, sending the returning former titleholder crashing to the canvas, eyes wide as the Brazilian swarmed for the finish. Once the referee pulled him off, Pereira motioned to the battered Hill as if to say, “This is the guy you thought was going to beat me? This guy?”

In his post-fight interview, Pereira suggested he’d be open to testing the waters at heavyweight. Interim champ Tom Aspinall was in attendance, paying close attention to what transpired, and seems to need a dance partner for the rumoured July pay-per-view event targeted, but not confirmed, for Manchester.

That’s certainly one option.

The other is for Pereira to stick around at 205 pounds and defend his title, with Magomed Ankalaev becoming the obvious candidate to next challenge for the belt once the champion had successfully retained.

Ankalaev is unbeaten in a dozen fights and coming off a violent stoppage win over Johnny Walker at the start of the year. He fought Jan Blachowicz to a draw in a battle for the interim title at the close of 2022 and then was shoved out of the title conversation last year as Hill, Glover Teixeira, Pereira, and Jiri Prochazka all garnered opportunities to claim the belt.

Pereira has the belt, Teixeira is his head coach and retired from competition, and the champion has beaten both Hill and Prochazka within the past six months, leaving Ankalaev as the clear choice to face him should the streaking Brazilian superstar opt to stick around in this division before dipping his toes in the heavyweight waters.


The two-time strawweight champion appeared to have the second successful title defence of her second reign atop the division wrapped up in the closing seconds of the opening round, but somehow, Yan Xiaonan survived. Zhang ultimately leaned on her grappling to win a unanimous decision.

So now what? The UFC has two options, each of which have pros and cons.

Option No. 1 is a rematch with Jessica Andrade, the woman Zhang defeated in August 2019 to claim the title for the first time. The Brazilian powerhouse picked up her second consecutive victory earlier in the evening by out-hustling Marina Rodriguez and she is the top healthy, active contender in the queue.

Option No. 2 is a clash with Tatiana Suarez, the unbeaten Ultimate Fighter winner who has struggled with injuries and prolonged absences throughout her career. Suarez submitted Andrade last summer to move to 10-0 overall (7-0 in the UFC) and was slated to face recent title challenger Amanda Lemos at UFC 298 in February, but was forced out with a knee injury.

Suarez recently had surgery and anticipates a speedy return. All things being equal, Suarez should get the next championship opportunity, but these decisions aren’t made in a vacuum and her health has to be taken into consideration. Depending on when the UFC hopes to have Zhang back in the Octagon, a strong case can be made for booking the rematch with Andrade and giving Suarez ample time to recover and prepare for a title fight of her own against the winner in the final quarter of 2024 or early part of 2025.


After what he did on Saturday night, Jerome Max Kelii Holloway gets to call his own shot. Lightweight title fight? Done. Featherweight title fight? Sure. Defend the BMF belt? Who says no?

Holloway orchestrated a masterful performance against Justin Gaethje in their clash for the BMF Title, out-landing and outgunning the Colorado native for the majority of the contest before calling him to the center of the Octagon with 10 seconds left like he’d done with Ricardo Lamas at UFC 199 and punctuating his virtuoso effort by putting his right hand on Gaethje’s chin with one second remaining in the bout.

“Blessed” is now brandishing symbolic gold (that is silver or some other greyish metal) and all the momentum in the world after delivering the walk-off knockout seen ‘round the world.

[brightcove videoID=6350905618112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

He wants to return to featherweight to challenge Ilia Topuria for the title, and that is most likely the direction the UFC will head, as Holloway is now an even bigger name to station opposite the new champion than he was prior to Saturday night. It will be an outstanding fight.

Part of me can’t help but think it’s a mistake, however, as Holloway looked exceptional at lightweight and a fight with the winner of the just announced UFC 302 title clash between Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier would be just as electric. The Hawaiian has earned his place in the title conversation in the 155-pound weight class with his incredible performance and thrilling finish, and a return to featherweight feels short-sighted.

Topuria feels like a star-on-the-rise right now, and it makes more sense to allow him to continue growing on his own, rather than trying to further expedite things by pairing him with a radiating Holloway that has lost his last three featherweight title fights. This should be where the 32-year-old star transitions to lightweight full time, and after what he did to Gaethje at UFC 300, giving him a championship opportunity against the Makhachev-Poirier winner would make a great deal of sense.


Sometimes things just don’t line up the way you’d hope they would…

Tsarukyan handled his business in Las Vegas over the weekend, registering a split decision win over Charles Oliveira to extend his winning streak to four and his record to 9-1 overall since his debut loss to Makhachev in the spring of 2019. He walked backstage as the clubhouse leader in the chase for the next championship opportunity in the lightweight division, and maintained that position right up until Holloway sent Gaethje crashing face-first into the canvas. Now he has to wait and see what happens with Holloway, and cross his fingers that the UFC and the Hawaiian opt for a return to featherweight and a fight with Topuria.

If that is what comes next for “Blessed,” Tsarukyan returns to being next in line for a lightweight title opportunity, with October a likely date to face Makhachev should he defend vs. Poirier, and November at Madison Square Garden feeling like the proper location should Poirier finally claim the undisputed title on June 1 in New Jersey.

Right now, the next step for Tsarukyan feels like a flowchart that quickly expands out into multiple tentacles and tangents based on the path Holloway opts to take. As such, the surging, talented 27-year-old contender should just sit tight, wait to see where Holloway lands, and then see how things shake out at UFC 302. When those two dominos fall, it’ll be much easier to figure out where Tsarukyan is headed next.

[brightcove videoID=6350899370112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]


An event this big merits running through the remaining winners and offering up quick thoughts on who they should fight next simply because every fight on this card had legitimate divisional significant or massive intrigue, so let’s dive in.

BO NICKAL: The unbeaten middleweight prospect had to work harder than many anticipated, but he’s still undefeated, still never gone to the scorecards, and still improving with each fight. Give him a veteran test along the lines of Jun Yong Park or Gregory “Robocop” Rodrigues next.

[brightcove videoID=6350898669112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

JIRI PROCHAZKA: The former champion turned in a thrilling second-round stoppage win over Aleksandar Rakic on Saturday, disdainfully marching forward until he was able to hurt and dispose of the returning contender. He lost to Pereira in November and a rematch now doesn’t feel necessary, so have him fight Jamahal Hill and see where things are at in the division towards the end of the year.

ALJAMAIN STERLING: After grinding out a win over Calvin Kattar in his featherweight debut, the former bantamweight champ threw out Brian Ortega’s name, and while it makes sense, it also feels like a little too much given the “only okay” effort he turned in on Saturday night. More on who he should fight in just a moment…

[brightcove videoID=6350897442112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

KAYLA HARRISON: It has to be Raquel Pennington and it has to be for the bantamweight title. The champion can object on behalf of the tenured talent in the division and Julianna Pena can object because she was supposed to fight for the belt last summer, but after the way Harrison ripped through Holly Holm over the weekend, the only thing you do next is have her fight for the belt.

DIEGO LOPES: For the third consecutive fight, Lopes ran through his opponent in roughly 90 seconds, dispatching Sodiq Yusuff with sharp uppercut in tight to add to his snowballing momentum and popularity. The win will elevate him into the rankings and the buzz should be enough to land him a fight with Sterling, with the winner then advancing into the mix in the featherweight division. Stick it on the main card of UFC 306 in September at The Sphere in Las Vegas.

RENATO MOICANO: Please give us the carnage that would be a clash between “Money Moicano” and Dan Hooker, once “The Hangman” is cleared for action and ready to return. The UFC is headed to Australia in August for UFC 305 and opening the main card with Moicano versus Hooker would be all kinds of fun.

[brightcove videoID=6350894080112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]

JESSICA ANDRADE: If she doesn’t get the championship opportunity discussed above, a bout with fellow Brazilian contender Virna Jandiroba is a no-brainer to determine who is next in line from there.

BOBBY GREEN: Why Paddy Pimblett uttered this man’s name is unclear to me, but now he’s likely going to have to share the Octagon with the dangerous veteran. Add it to the Manchester card in the summer — main card opener? — and see what happens.

DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO: After a strong bantamweight debut against Rob Font in December, the former flyweight king submitted Cody Garbrandt in the UFC 300 opener, showing more of his grappling. Now 2-0 in the division, who says no to a five-round main event pairing with ex-champ Petr Yan, who got things moving in the right direction again last month at UFC 299?

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.