Follow The Fight Library on social media!
Aftermath is back! UFC 258 wasn’t the greatest card. But the event did feature several fights that have major implications for a couple divisions. So, in TFL fashion, we have to pontificate on what could be next! Let us dive in!
Kelvin Gastelum: Not All The Way Back
Next opponent for Kelvin Gastelum: Edmund Shahbazyan, Holland/Brunson Winner
Kelvin Gastelum came into UFC 258 on a three fight skid. He left it all on the line against Israel Adesanya and Adesanya came out the better fighter and it looked as if Gastelum left a piece of himself behind that night. Ian Heinisch is a fantastic opponent and very durable. Gastelum fought well but his hands were noticeably regressed. Regardless, Gastelum looked good and got the decision. But he was not quite the Kelvin Gastelum that made his title run.
I know the rush to the top is a huge desire for fighters, especially for someone who has been near that. But Kelvin Gastelum might not be afforded that luxury just yet. On Rokfin, I wrote about extracting the last bit of value from Tyron Woodley. While not being a former champion, Gastelum might find himself in that cycle for the time being. Edmen Shahbazyan might be the first to get that value boost with a matchup from Gastelum. But, it is a fight that Gastelum could win. The matchup would see if Gastelum can keep up with the speed of Shahbazyan and if Shahbazyan can handle the wrestling of Gastelum.
Another option for Gastelum would be the winner of Derrick Brunson and Kevin Holland. The two are scheduled to fight on March 20th and the winner could use a fight with a former champion to move them forward in the division. Gastelum, again, would be in that added value stage. Plus, should Holland win, he and Gastelum would be a banger. And if Brunson wins, wrestle city.
Maycee Barber is not “The Future”
Maycee Barber gets a lot of flack. After coming to the UFC from the Contender Series and proclaiming herself to be the next youngest champion in UFC history, fans were quickly turned off to her, and rightfully so. Barber’s outspokenness could have been what had fans flocking to her, instead Barber shows as a prime example of how not to use your words to promote yourself. Fans cheered when Barber was beat by Roxanne Modafferi, regardless if it was caused by an injury or not. At UFC 258, we saw her return and “a new version of herself.” This time, she lost fair and square. The problem with Maycee Barber is nobody likes a braggart and she was exactly that.
All that said, Barber isn’t a bad fighter. She lost two rounds and showed great heart and determination in the third round. I won’t say she’s the next world beater, and she absolutely wouldn’t have posed a threat to Valentina Shevchenko or her belt in the next year. Barber still just does stuff because she knows she should, but seems to not know when she should do them. Like a jab; Barber threw them when Grasso was across the cage.
Barber will continue to grow, she’s only 22. She can be a very good fighter one day. She just can’t get too full of herself and recognize her shortcomings.
Kamaru Usman Won Me Over at UFC 258
Next opponent for Gilbert Burns: Stephen Thompson, Michael Chiesa
UFC 258 was disappointing for Gilbert Burns, to say the least. The welterweight Brazilian looked to cap off his great run through the division by capturing the belt. Burns fought well against Usman, but it wasn’t enough. Gilbert Burns really did fight Usman smart. He managed to rock the champion in the first round but let him off the hook. Burns’ head movement was his undoing. Usman kept popping him with a jab and eventually knocked him down with one.
Next, Burns will likely have a long way to the top with how he was basically dominated by Usman. I expect few fighters to want to actually fight Burns, however. He is very dangerous and with how crowded the welterweight division is, there are easier paths to Usman than through Burns.
One guy who will take on Gilbert Burns would be Stephen Thompson. Wonderboy is one of my favorite matchups for Usman. Thompson wants to get one more shot at the welterweight title after his two bouts with Woodley. Thompson is one of those fighters that nobody wants to fight because he is such a tough out. But Burns is crazy enough to fight Thompson and Thompson is crazy enough to fight Burns.
Another fight I think could happen is one with Michael Chiesa. While I don’t like this one as much as the Wonderboy fight, it makes sense. Chisesa is a lightweight transplant just like Burns and is looking for his shot in the top of the division. Chiesa has shown he is improved and could be a great rebound for Burns as well.
Next opponent for Kamaru Usman: Colby Covington, Leon Edwards, Jorge Masvidal
Longer term readers of the site will recall my UFC 251 Aftermath post were I said that Kamaru Usman was boringly effective. He had just beat Jorge Masvidal and it was pretty lackluster but dominant. Here is an excerpt from that post:
Don’t let my title of this section let you believe I don’t think Kamaru Usman is not a fantastic fighter. He is very great and incredibly effective. The only issue is that he’s so effective and has such a bullet proof game plan, it is boring. He is stronger than everyone in the division and uses that along with his wrestling to win.UFC 251 Aftermath: Kamaru Usman Boringly Effective
This post’s title is just a callback to that because Usman was anything but boring at UFC 258. He was hurt by Burns in the first and my heart jumped out of my chest. But Usman pursued and was as mentally strong as you can be. Usman did have some moments where I was rolling my eyes, like kicking the thigh of Burns, a la the Demian Maia fight, but I didn’t even remember that until I thought about the fight. Fact of the matter is, training with Trevor Wittman was a great thing for Usman and he should absolutely stay there. Wittman focused on what Usman did well on the feet and it made him more dangerous. “You are a champion because you jab” is a quote that rings out in my head from Whittman to Usman during the fight.
Usman has a plethora of options that would all do quite well. First is absolutely Leon Edwards. Edwards is at the top and is about as technically sound as you’ll find in the welterweight division at this time. While he’s supposed to fight in March against Khamzat Chimaev, that fight fell through and Edwards is welcoming any challengers. Should he pick up a win there, he’s the number one choice for Usman in the division.
Second: Colby Covington. Covington and Usman went to warren their first fight. Usman won by knockout in the fifth in a fight he was likely losing. The rematch has to happen. The only issue is Covington is one win removed from that loss against a washed Woodley. You’ll find a hard sell on that for Usman with so many other options out there with the beef the two have. In addition, the Whittman-Usman duo would be nightmares for Covington and I believe the fight would be one sided in Usman’s way as opposed to the first.
Third option is the money fight: Jorge Masvidal. I don’t really like this fight but it could help Usman cash in one more time before going through the rest. This fight does nothing for me.