What's next for UFC 263 winners?

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Another UFC event is in the books.

Israel Adesanya retained his middleweight title for the third time, Brandon Moreno reached the pinnacle of the sport, and Leon Edwards defeated one of the promotion's biggest stars.

Here's what should come next for UFC 263's notable winners.

Israel Adesanya

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Defeated: Marvin Vettori via unanimous decision
Should fight: Robert Whittaker

This is the rematch that needs to happen.

Adesanya took the middleweight belt from Whittaker in October 2019 with relative ease. But Whittaker has looked sensational since then, picking up three straight wins against top contenders Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and Kelvin Gastelum. Whittaker has clearly cemented himself as the second-best middleweight in the UFC and is more than deserving of an opportunity to try to take back the throne.

Frankly, Whittaker is one of the only challenges for Adesanya at 185 pounds. The reigning champion destroyed Paulo Costa - who was thought to be a stiff test for "The Last Stylebender" - before cruising past Vettori on Saturday. Adesanya has defeated four of the top five middleweights, and the highest-ranked fighter coming off a win who hasn't faced Adesanya is the No. 6-ranked Jack Hermansson.

A rematch between Adesanya and Whittaker wasn't a compelling option for some time because Adesanya handily won the first fight with a second-round knockout. But Whittaker can't be denied a rematch forever, and he's managed to turn it into an appealing matchup during his near perfect post-championship run. Whittaker has seemingly improved his skill set since the loss, and if anyone is going to dethrone Adesanya at 185 pounds, it's going to be "The Reaper."

Brandon Moreno

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Defeated: Deiveson Figueiredo via third-round submission
Should fight: Askar Askarov

Moreno will likely be gearing up for another rematch in his first flyweight title defense.

Fighting Askarov makes the most sense for a number of reasons. For starters, Askarov is undefeated as a professional at 14-0-1 and is riding a four-fight unbeaten streak in the UFC. He defeated the only other flyweight in the top six who's coming off a win - Alexandre Pantoja - in 2020. And he dominated longtime contender Joseph Benavidez in his last bout. So, as the No. 2-ranked contender, there's simply no one more deserving of a title opportunity at 125 pounds.

A potential bout gets more intriguing when you consider they faced off in September 2019 in an action-packed contest that ended in a split draw.

There was no clear winner in the first outing, and now Moreno and Askarov not only get to determine who the better flyweight is but also who's the best flyweight in the entire promotion. Can a rematch get any better than that?

Leon Edwards

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Defeated: Nate Diaz via unanimous decision
Should fight: Kamaru Usman

Another Edwards fight and another Edwards victory because winning is all that man does (aside from a no-contest with Belal Muhammad in March, but you get the point).

After extending his unbeaten streak to 10 with a largely dominant win over Diaz, Edwards should be next in line for a welterweight title fight against champion Usman. The Brit's resume still lacks a No. 1 contender-esque victory, but his combined success over the past five years - which includes wins over the likes of Rafael dos Anjos, Donald Cerrone, Vicente Luque, and Gunnar Nelson - makes him more than deserving of a title shot.

The key word in that last paragraph was should because, in reality, Edwards probably isn't getting a title shot without securing another win. UFC president Dana White has already said he still considers Colby Covington the No. 1 contender and next in line for Usman, even after Edwards dismantled Diaz. Unless Usman is more firm than we think on his stance that Covington doesn't deserve a title shot, it's difficult to imagine a scenario where the rematch between Usman and Covington doesn't get booked next.

So, assuming that fight happens, Edwards could face the winner of Gilbert Burns versus Stephen Thompson, which is set for UFC 264 in July. He could also agree to a rematch with Luque or take on Michael Chiesa, the No. 5- and No. 6-ranked welterweights, respectively.

We should be preparing to see Edwards finally get his well-deserved title shot against Usman, but luck will need to be on the 29-year-old's side for that to happen in the immediate future.

Belal Muhammad

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Defeated: Demian Maia via unanimous decision
Should fight: Neil Magny

Magny is a perfect measuring stick to see if Muhammad is ready to make a serious run in the welterweight division.

Muhammad extended his unbeaten streak to six with a clear-cut victory over Maia, a former title challenger who has the second-most wins in UFC history. Muhammad entered as the No. 12-ranked welterweight and Maia was No. 9, so the rising contender will likely crack into the top 10 when the rankings are updated later this week.

Meanwhile, Magny sits at No. 8. He has been in the UFC since 2013 but has never quite been able to get over the hump and become a top welterweight contender. Generally speaking, if you beat Magny, you're probably bound to become an elite 170-pound fighter, and if you lose to him, you have a bit more work to do before achieving that label.

So, this high-stakes matchup would be Muhammad's chance to break through as someone who's fit to make a title run at 170 pounds. But it would also give Magny a shot at doing the same thing.

One man moves further up the ladder, and the other takes a step back. Book it immediately.

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What's next for UFC 263 winners?
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