UFC 246: What’s Next
By Ross Markey
We’ve seen a couple of flawless performances from ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor over the last five years.
His thirteen-second, record-setting knockout of José Aldo at UFC 194. His two-round demolition, record-setting stoppage of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. Add Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone to this list.
Lodging his second-fastest Octagon victory, forty seconds was ideal time for the Dubliner to return to the win column at UFC 246.
BMF champion, Jorge ‘Gamebred’ Masvidal made a point of highlighting McGregor’s quick start during his pre-fight analysis – an omen which was fulfilled come the opening buzzer.
Launching a straight left toward Cerrone, McGregor overextended and wound-up in a clinch. Four, unorthodox shoulder strikes later – Cowboy’s nose was shattered. Separating from the damaging clinch, Cerrone fired back with a blocked high-kick, with McGregor returning fire with a left high-kick of his own, stunning the Denver native. A flying knee later and a couple of left-hand shots forced Cerrone to cover up with Herb Dean eventually stepping in to call a halt to proceedings. The UFC is once more Conor McGregor’s oyster – so who’s next.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Conor McGregor:
“Look at that fool in his bleedin’ housecoat, the stupid thick.” Conor McGregor’s barrage aimed at a cage-side, Jorge Masvidal.
It’s the fight to make in my opinion – certainly the most lucrative next step, business-wise. McGregor has voiced his attraction toward BMF champion status; the proud owner of such a status, Jorge Masvidal.
The Miami native is next in line for welterweight titleholder, Kamaru Usman – but according to the American Top Team staple, McGregor is the clear option in terms of stacking your bank account.
McGregor left the Octagon unscathed, with the March turnaround he’s spoken of previously, most certainly a strong possibility. If I were to play matchmaker here – I’d pair Masvidal and McGregor in July during International Fight Week. Apart from Khabib vs. Ferguson, Masvidal vs. McGregor may be the biggest fight the promotion can put together this year.
Conor McGregor vs. Justin Gaethje:
“That man is good. B**ch move to take that fight. Say my name @thenotoriousmma.” Perennial contender, Justin Gaethje’s message to the returning, Conor McGregor.
Despite Dana White’s claims that a victory on Saturday would guarantee McGregor the next shot at lightweight gold after Tony Ferguson; Justin Gaethje begs to differ.
According to McGregor – the former WSOF lightweight best, “is on the list.” Also, I believe the worse possible option for McGregor would be to rush a return to a championship showcase.
Things have been quite hostile and even personal between McGregor and Gaethje over the previous six months, so a headliner billed as a legitimate title-eliminator between the pair within the next six months makes total sense.
A homecoming stadium show in Dublin was earmarked as yesterday’s post-fight press conference by McGregor; Gaethje represents the perfect opponent for such an occasion.
Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson winner vs. Conor McGregor:
Personally, in my opinion, a title-shot off the back of his victory over Cerrone isn’t necessarily warranted and a step McGregor should certainly rack his brains over first – but it’s an inevitable matchup from the UFC. Face it, McGregor is still the poster boy for mixed-martial-arts, and he brings with him a serious flow of money.
The UFC is a business at the end of the day, and what sells better in 2020 than Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor II? Arguably only, Masvidal vs. McGregor.
The Russian has a date against deserved challenger, Tony Ferguson in April at UFC 249. It’s the fifth time of asking for that pairing, and McGregor has made his name available as a short-notice replacement already. If Nurmagomedov gets past Ferguson – and that’s a major ‘if’ that many are overlooking, the correct fight money, and spectacle-wise for the promotion is that bad-blooded rematch.
Ferguson is also a hugely intriguing potential opponent if he can hand Khabib his first defeat, and, another name McGregor has dropped during the approach and after last night’s bout with Cowboy.
Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis II:
Before we had McGregor vs. Cowboy – we were lining up for Cowboy vs. Pettis II. Roufusport head coach Duke Roufus spoke about the almost signed rematch late last year; but, he spoke too soon.
Cerrone and Pettis have shared the Octagon before. All the way back in 2013, former WEC and UFC lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, handed Cerrone his first professional loss via strikes – via a liver kick in the opening round.
Both men have experienced vastly altered careers since – and both men dropped stoppage defeats last night.
Opening up the main card portion of UFC 246, Pettis returned to lightweight against surging Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace, Diego Ferreira – losing via a second-round rear-naked choke. A sticking point may be the weight at which this potential rematch is contested.
Cerrone made the return to a welterweight limit for this bout with McGregor – and Pettis returned to 155-pounds after a decision defeat to Nate Diaz in August. It’s the right fight to make at this stage of both men’s illustrious careers.
Donald Cerrone vs. Nate Diaz II:
Another potential opponent for Cowboy – is previous foe and tormentor, Nathan Diaz. The Stockton fan-favorite has been campaigning for a BMF championship rematch against Jorge Masvidal ever since his November defeat to the Floridian – but let’s sort out this rematch first. In 2011, Diaz became the first opponent to overcome Cerrone in the UFC – in a heated affair.
I’ve documented the matchup before. Diaz knocks Cowboy’s, cowboy hat off during a pre-fight face-off, with a now emotionally invested Cerrone launching his gameplan out the window come fight night. It’s surely a fight Cerrone wants to get back, and a victory for Diaz brings some much-needed stock to his name once more.
After Diaz returned triumphantly against the aforementioned Pettis, I spoke of how he should have issued a callout to Conor McGregor for their rubber-match, rather than Jorge Masvidal. A victory for Diaz brings around that momentum once more and with McGregor’s plea of, “Let’s go Nathan” at yesterday’s post-fight press event – there could be considerable fuel to reignite this feud in the future.