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Matchups to make: What's next for stars of UFC 300?


UFC 300 has come and gone, so it's time to wear our matchmaker hat.

The highlights of Saturday's tentpole event included Alex Pereira defending his light heavyweight title for the first time, Max Holloway knocking out Justin Gaethje in the final second, and Zhang Weili retaining the strawweight belt.

Here's what should come next for the notable fighters who competed in Las Vegas.

Alex Pereira

Chris Unger / UFC / Getty

Result: Defeated Jamahal Hill by first-round knockout
Should fight: Magomed Ankalaev

Pereira has beaten the top two contenders in the light heavyweight division in his last two fights - Hill and Jiri Prochazka. Now, only one opponent makes sense for Pereira's next title defense: Ankalaev.

Ranked No. 3 in the division, Ankalaev is riding a 12-fight unbeaten streak and is coming off a knockout win over Johnny Walker in January. The Russian poses a unique threat to Pereira as a wrestling-oriented fighter with a lot of power on the feet.

It's not the sexiest matchup on paper, but Ankalaev has earned the right to challenge for the 205-pound belt. And no one else is even close to as deserving as him.

Jamahal Hill

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Result: Lost to Alex Pereira by first-round knockout
Should fight: Jiri Prochazka

With the majority of the top 10 at light heavyweight not matched up at the moment, there are several different ways you could go with Hill. But Prochazka is the most compelling matchup for both.

Hill and Prochazka likely would've met last year in a title fight had Hill not ruptured his Achilles tendon and vacated the belt. A lot has changed since then: Prochazka lost to Pereira in a vacant title bout and then bounced back with a win over Aleksandar Rakic at UFC 300. And, of course, Hill lost to Pereira.

The UFC doesn't always book fights between winners and losers, but Hill-Prochazka has the potential to be a super fun striking battle. It would also put the winner back at the front of the line for a title shot. That could be a bit problematic if Pereira is still the champion since he beat both of them not long ago. But hey, let's deal with that when it happens. Hill-Prochazka is too fun to pass up.

Zhang Weili

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Result: Defeated Yan Xiaonan by unanimous decision
Should fight: Tatiana Suarez

It feels like Zhang and Suarez have been on a collision course for the better part of a year. And now's the time for the fight to happen.

After Zhang retained the title against Yan, the No. 1-ranked strawweight, no one but Suarez was left in the conversation. Suarez, the winner of "The Ultimate Fighter 23," has been on track to fight for a UFC belt ever since she joined the promotion in 2016, but injuries and health issues have halted the undefeated wrestler's momentum several times.

Suarez has finally gotten active again, winning two fights in the last 14 months. And following a submission win over former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade the previous summer, she proved that she's ready to test herself against the very best.

Max Holloway

Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Result: Defeated Justin Gaethje by fifth-round knockout
Should fight: Ilia Topuria

After Holloway produced one of the most iconic moments in UFC history, the consensus seemed to be that the Hawaiian should get whatever he wants - whether that's a featherweight title shot against Topuria or a crack at the lightweight belt against Islam Makhachev. It's hard to argue otherwise: Holloway is ranked No. 2 at 145 pounds and just knocked out the No. 2-ranked fighter at 155 pounds. He's legitimately a top contender in both divisions.

Holloway's priority seems to be getting the featherweight title back in a fight with Topuria. Honestly, that's nothing short of perfect matchmaking. For starters, the storylines run deep. Holloway finally got back into the title conversation once Topuria toppled longtime champion Alexander Volkanovski from the throne in February. And although Topuria looked sharp in his knockout win over Volkanovski, Holloway presents a different kind of stylistic challenge. With how good Holloway looked against Gaethje, who's to say he can't beat Topuria?

It would be quite the redemption arc if Holloway becomes the featherweight champion again, considering that less than two years ago, we wondered how the 32-year-old would bounce back from a lopsided third loss to Volkanovski.

Topuria-Holloway would do big business for the UFC - and it's the perfect headliner for a debut event in Spain.

Arman Tsarukyan

Chris Unger / UFC / Getty

Result: Defeated Charles Oliveira by split decision
Should fight: Winner of Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier

Tsarukyan did more than enough to earn a lightweight title shot by beating Oliveira. The Armenian-Russian broke through as one of the very best 155-pounders in the world and has only lost once in the past five years, going 9-1 in that time.

Of course, Tsarukyan will have to wait his turn, as Dana White announced after the event that Poirier would get the next crack at Makhachev at UFC 302 on June 1. Poirier is less deserving than Tsarukyan or even Holloway, but his title shot came down to timing more than anything else. Tsarukyan confirmed Monday on "The MMA Hour" that he was offered the Makhachev fight immediately after his win over Oliveira but turned it down because it would be too quick of a turnaround. However, things now line up nicely for Tsarukyan to face the winner.

UFC 308 on Oct. 26 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is the most likely landing spot for that fight.

Justin Gaethje

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Result: Lost to Max Holloway by fifth-round knockout
Should fight: Mateusz Gamrot

Gaethje will need a bit of time off after the devastating knockout loss, but don't be surprised if we see "The Highlight" back in the Octagon before the end of the year - that's just the kind of fighter he is. Gamrot is coming off a win over former champ Rafael dos Anjos and looking for a step up in competition, and Gaethje fits the bill.

Charles Oliveira

Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Result: Lost to Arman Tsarukyan by split decision
Should fight: Loser of Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier

Oliveira is in a similar spot as Gaethje. Both longtime contenders are outside the lightweight title picture post-UFC 300, but all it takes is one win to get back there. Oliveira still deserves a top-ranked opponent after taking one judge's scorecard against Tsarukyan, and the loser of the June title fight is a pretty ideal option.

Jiri Prochazka

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Result: Defeated Aleksandar Rakic by second-round TKO
Should fight: Jamahal Hill

See above

Aljamain Sterling

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Result: Defeated Calvin Kattar by unanimous decision
Should fight: Brian Ortega

Sterling didn't thrill in his featherweight debut against Kattar. However, the former bantamweight champion got the job done, and that's what matters most. Now it's time for "Funk Master" to take a step up in competition and see if he can be a legitimate contender at 145 pounds. Not only would Ortega make for a fun stylistic matchup on the ground, but the winner would be right in line for a shot at the belt.

Kayla Harrison

Carmen Mandato / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Result: Defeated Holly Holm by second-round submission
Should fight: Raquel Pennington

After Harrison decimated Holm in her Octagon debut, the UFC has to put her in a women's bantamweight title fight with Pennington as soon as humanly possible. This is the promotion's chance to make the division great again. All signs point to Harrison being a huge star in women's MMA if she wins the belt.

Deiveson Figueiredo

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Result: Defeated Cody Garbrandt by second-round submission
Should fight: Petr Yan

With wins over Rob Font and now Garbrandt, it's obvious that Figueiredo is, at worst, one of the 10 best bantamweights in the UFC. The former flyweight champ is ready for another step up in competition, and a fight with Petr Yan sounds like a lot of fun.

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