UFC 225 produced a lot to talk about. What's next for the winners and losers from Chicago? Here's ESPN's take.
Robert Whittaker, middleweight champion
Result: Defeated Yoel Romero via split decision
Next: Kelvin Gastelum
It may take a second, of course, as Whittaker will need to recover from a broken right thumb he suffered on Saturday. Perhaps pencil this in for the UFC's year-end show in Las Vegas.
I see no problem in Gastelum waiting for this shot, even if takes a minute to book. Yes, he does have a loss to Chris Weidman from a year ago. And yes, Weidman himself is in the title conversation.
But that fight happened last summer, and Gastelum is 2-0 since with two quality wins. Weidman has been sidelined the entire time by injury.
Gastelum and Whittaker are both former welterweights, still in their 20s .There's actually potential to see this matchup multiple times. Let's get it underway now.
Yoel Romero, middleweight
Result: Lost to Robert Whittaker via split decision
Next: Alexander Gustafsson, at light heavyweight
It's pretty clear one of two things needs to happen: Either Romero needs to check in to fight week at a weight significantly closer to his 185-pound mark, or he needs to move up. Perhaps there is a bit of weight management he can do prior to the week of the fight, to come in lighter. If he's not willing or able to do that, move to 205.
There's a catch to that, of course. Is fighting at a higher weight actually safer for Romero, because he'll skip the cut? Yes. But it also means he'll be fighting a monster like Gustafsson -- a 6-foot-5 monster, with a six-inch reach advantage. That doesn't exactly sound "safe" either.
But following the events of last week, there's not much left for Romero at 185 pounds, at his age. It doesn't look like he's slowing down, but is he really going to just re-join the middle of the pack at age 41? Work his way back up? The light heavyweight division is wide open right now and Gustafsson needs an opponent.
Colby Covington, interim welterweight champion
Result: Defeated Rafael dos Anjos via unanimous decision
Next: Tyron Woodley
Obviously. Covington is interim champ. Woodley is undisputed champ. They are former teammates. Bad blood. All that good stuff. Book it sometime in the fall, maybe September. We'll break it down in time. For now, this is the fight to make.
Holly Holm, bantamweight/featherweight
Result: Defeated Megan Anderson via unanimous decision
Next: Ketlen Vieira
This probably isn't a popular answer, but let me explain. I've been on the Amanda Nunes vs. Cris 'Cyborg' Justino 'super fight' bandwagon for awhile now. I just think it's the biggest fight to make in women's MMA, and the timing feels right.
As impressive as Holm was at UFC 225, does she just skip ahead of Vieira (10-0) at 135 pounds? Why is that? Holm is an incredible talent in MMA and she's not going anywhere. She'll be there for a potential matchup against Nunes at 135, or a rematch against Justino at 145. But she's 2-4 in her last six.
Let's make the big one, champion vs. champion. And book Holm, Vieira to the same card. A blow-out night for women's MMA, with plenty of options to look at after.
CM Punk, welterweight
Result: Lost to Mike Jackson via unanimous decision
Next: No one
At least not in the UFC. I said this after Punk's first UFC fight back in 2016 -- if he wants to continue this journey in a more appropriate setting (a smaller show, against lesser talent), my hat is off to the guy. And quite frankly, I would tune in. I'm happy to watch his progression in mixed martial arts. Just a dude following his dream? We should all get behind that.
But he's an amateur-level fighter and the appeal of watching him compete in the UFC has to be gone. Right? Has to be.
Curtis Blaydes, heavyweight
Result: Defeated Alistair Overeem via third-round TKO
Next: Alexander Volkov
Much of the heavyweight attention from the night went to Blaydes' Shoey-drinking colleague Tai Tuivasa, but this 27-year-old former collegiate wrestler actually had the bigger night, in my opinion.
Volkov has already established himself as a title challenger and the fact that he's from Russia (a market the UFC wants to break into) makes him all the more attractive to the promotion. But I'd be interested in seeing him fight one more time for a title shot and Blaydes would make sense.