Here are the opponents we think should be next for the winners at UFC 258.
Third time was indeed the charm for Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns as they were finally able to meet in Saturday’s main event at UFC 258. After weathering an early storm from Burns, Usman was able to compose himself, eventually ending the fight via spectacular third-round technical knockout. Fans also saw the emergence of Alexa Grasso as a real contender at flyweight, as well as Kelvin Gastelum dust off his wrestling shoes and take down Ian Heinisch at will en route to a dominant decision victory.
Now that the event is over and the bonuses have been handed out, let’s take a look at what’s next for the winners from Saturday’s main card.
Potential next opponents for the UFC 258 main card winners
Next Opponent: Leon Edwards
Now this is a tricky one considering the roster the UFC has at welterweight. Usman has already dispatched the likes of Masvidal, Covington, Woodley and now Burns, with only Leon Edwards left. Edwards was scheduled to fight Khamzat Chimaev multiple times in the past few months, but that fight seems just as cursed as Khabib vs. Ferguson. If Edwards does not get an opponent for March 13, they might as well just give him a title shot if he is willing to sit out even longer. Edwards has strung together eight wins in a row, with his last loss coming against Usman back in 2015, and this would create a fresh matchup should Usman not want a rematch with either of his aforementioned opponents.
However, UFC president Dana White spoke earlier this week on his interest in setting up a fight between Edwards and Covington, so if that does occur, perhaps Usman can fight the winner. On the other hand, Usman got on the microphone post-fight and essentially called out Masvidal for a rematch, vowing to secure a finish the next time around. Who knows what will happen with Edwards, Usman and the rest of the top five, but make no mistake, Edwards is in the mix for a shot at gold.
Next Opponent: Jessica Eye
Now 2-0 in her new weight class, Grasso has proven she is a real contender following her unanimous decision nod over No. 10 Maycee Barber. Grasso fought well in the clinch and in striking range, enough to hand Barber the second-straight loss of her professional career. Grasso looks much more comfortable at this weight class, and from what we’ve seen in the past year she looks ready to make a run at the title. Assuming she cracks the top-10, a logical next fight for her would be No. 8 Jessica Eye. Eye is a former title contender at flyweight, and although just 1-2 since her title fight loss to Valentina Shevchenko, she still has wins over notable names like Katlyn Chookagian and Viviane Araujo, both of whom are ahead of her in the rankings. If Grasso can continue to display a solid striking arsenal and defeat someone like Eye, a top-5 opponent would likely be next.
Next Opponent: Jared Cannonier
Kelvin Gastelum was able to snap his three-fight losing skid with a unanimous decision victory over a tough opponent in Ian Heinisch. The former interim title challenger showed everyone that his wrestling, when needed, is still top-notch. Gastelum unofficially secured six takedowns over Heinisch who was a two-time wrestling state champion back in the day, in a fight where some might have predicted Heinisch would get the better of the wrestling exchanges. It will be very interesting to see if Gastelum utilizes his wrestling more often in his next fights. Speaking of next fights, with most of the middleweight division either booked up or having already fought Gastelum, a name like Jared Cannonier makes a lot of sense. Cannonier is currently ranked No. 3 in the division, but is coming off a tough loss to Robert Whittaker. If Gastelum can get past a guy like Cannonier next, he’s right back in title contention.
Next Opponent: Marlon Vera
Ricky Simon did what needed to be done at UFC 258, grinding out a clear decision victory over Brian Kelleher. Although the fight took place at featherweight, both he and his opponent primarily compete at bantamweight, which makes that three wins in a row for Simon in the division. Simon improved to 18-3, and after the resume he’s put together in the promotion, he deserves a big name next. While not in the rankings anymore, Marlon Vera would be a solid next test for Simon. Vera, albeit coming off a loss to Jose Aldo, is still a very tough opponent, and if Simon can beat “Chito” he will for sure get a ranked opponent afterward.
Next Opponent: Deron Winn
Talk about a comeback. Middleweight Julian Marquez, who had been sidelined for over two and a half years due to injury, was able to pull off a stunning result to open up the main card, submitting Maki Pitolo in round three. Down two rounds to zero, Marquez needed a finish. After a fiery speech from coach James Krause, Marquez mustered enough will power to get the finish via anaconda choke with less than a minute remaining in the bout. While Marquez didn’t exactly look like a world-beater in his return fight, he still has plenty to prove in the UFC at 185 lb. A good next step for Marquez would be a fight with Deron Winn. Winn is 2-2 in the UFC thus far and 7-2 overall, and both men have similar records.
UFC 258 took place on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV. Follow along with FanSided for all your live news and highlights.