Cole Henry, MMATorch Contributor

Cris Cyborg (photo credit Jason Silva © USA Today Sports)

With UFC 222 in the books, its time to look ahead at what is next for every fighter on the card.

(Main Card)

Cris Cyborg def. Yana Kunitskaya via TKO (Punches)

Cris Cyborg did what we thought she would, and walked away with her title in a one-sided fight. The overall theme of the fight was that Cyborg was able to hit her opponent hard, and often, and Kunitskaya just couldn’t offer much in return aside from the ankle pick takedown. It was clear that Cyborg’s power was more than Kunitskaya was used to, and though she did take a few good shots she eventually succumbed to strikes near the end of the first round.

What’s next for Cyborg is both clear and unclear. The logical opponent is Amanda Nunes, because at this point she seems like the only realistic challenger for Cyborg. The problem is that Nunes is the bantamweight champion and is currently scheduled to defend that belt against Raquel Pennington at UFC 224 in Brazil.

Cyborg could sit on the sidelines for a while and wait, or the UFC could just go ahead and remove Pennington and replace her with Cyborg. Of those two options, I think that she is likely to sit until Nunes is available, but I have seen claims that the UFC will remove Pennington so that wouldn’t be a big surprise either. Regardless of which route the UFC takes its clear that the next time Cyborg competes it should be against Amanda Nunes. If Nunes DOES compete first against Pennington and loses, then obviously everything changes but for now Nunes vs. Cyborg is the fight to make.

Fight to make next: Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes for UFC women’s featherweight championship

Yana Kunitskaya gave a valiant effort but was ultimately overmatched and was unsuccessful in her first attempt at UFC gold. She has been most successful as a bantamweight and has stated that she does intend to drop back down to that division for her next fight. Despite her relative inexperience (15 career fights) she has competed in title fights in each of her last 4 bouts, so she does have quite a bit of championship level experience. On top of that she is a former Invicta Bantamweight Champion, so she does have a championship to her name. The description I just used for her also fits well for Holly Holm. Holm has competed in 16 career bouts, and 4 of the last 6 were title fights. She is a former World Champion herself having defeated Ronda Rousey for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship. Holm has certainly had a tougher road than Kunitskaya but I still like this fight for both women.

Fight to make next: Yana Kunitskaya vs. Holly Holm

Brian Ortega def. Frankie Edgar via KO (Punch)

Brian Ortega is likely going to face Max Holloway for the UFC featherweight championship, and I think it’s a well-deserved title shot. Ortega has shown the ability to finish elite competition on the feet and on the ground, while becoming the first man ever to stop Frankie Edgar.

He has shown an ability to finish the fight in the later rounds and has managed to stay composed despite taking on the best that the featherweight division has to offer. I can’t think of a reason to keep him from a title shot. He is by far the best challenger for Holloway and I think that fight will be booked sooner rather than later.

Fight to make next: Brian Ortega vs. Max Holloway for UFC featherweight championship

Frankie Edgar is one of the all-time greats in MMA and I think had he managed his career a bit differently he could have potentially been a 3-division champion (155, 145, 135). Instead Edgar will most likely fall just short of winning his second title. He is a guy that was always hesitant to drop weight even though it seemed like it would be a benefit. That’s probably one of the reasons that Edgar is so loved though. His willingness to fight anybody despite being the smaller man, his willingness to fight even when facing a bad match up, and his willingness to fight even when he didn’t have to. That willingness to fight even when he didn’t have to cost him this time though.

It was surreal seeing Brian Ortega stop Frankie Edgar. It wasn’t surreal seeing the shot land, or seeing Edgar fall, but it was surreal when he didn’t get back up. I thought of all the shots he’d recovered from in the past and wondered how they were different.

Either way Frankie Edgar is now left without the title shot against Max Holloway that he had earned. He didn’t get that fight due to an injury to Holloway, but he chose to stay on the card against Ortega instead of just waiting for the champion to heal. That’s a very cool thing but it doesn’t change the fact that he now must start over yet again. It seems any time Edgar losses they give him a lesser opponent in his next fight, likely thinking the lesser fighter can make a name off Edgar. I think Darren Elkins is that guy. Elkins has been on a good run and deserves a top ranked opponent.

Fight to make next: Frankie Edgar vs. Darren Elkins

Sean O’Malley def. Andre Soukhamthath via Decision

Sean O’Malley continues to impress and looked very good in defeating Andre Soukhamthath. He did suffer a foot injury sometime during the fight but toughed it out and improved to 2-0 in the UFC. He is a guy that has a ton of personality and a flashy fighting style, so the UFC probably views him as someone that has the potential to be popular if his career goes well.

For that reason, I think he needs another opponent that shares the same experience level as him rather than a step up in competition. I don’t know much about Song Yadong, but he is undefeated in the UFC (1-0) and I think he makes as much sense as anybody for O’Malley to face next.

O’Malley has a ton of potential and is a fun follow on social media if you are into that sort of thing. I think he should be brought along slowly, and then maybe he can start looking at a ranked opponent after another couple of wins.

Fight to make next: Sean O’Malley vs. Song Yadong

Andre Soukhamthath has suffered several losses in UFC career, but he always brings it and I think he will get another shot. He had a decent performance against Sean O’Malley but ultimately, he seemed to struggle with O’Malley’s unorthodox style and he lost for the third time on his last four fights. He desperately needs a win to stay in the UFC and he will have to pick it up against Mark De La Rosa if wants to stick around.

Fight to make next: Andre Soukhamthath vs. Mark De La Rosa

Andrei Arlovski def. Stefan Struve via Decision

Andrei Arlovski is like a cat with nine lives. He seems to always claw his way back from the jaws of death and it seems like he’s managed to do it again. After 5 straight losses it seemed like the Pitbull was probably finished, but he is now on a two-fight winning streak and is talking about fighting his way back to the title.

While it might seem unlikely, the fact that he is even able to be speaking about such a thing is incredible considering the recent string of losses. He will need several wins in a row to become a legitimate title challenger, but he wasn’t far just a couple of years ago so it is certainly possible that he could get there again.

Heavyweight isn’t exactly deep, so anything is possible. First though, he needs a quality win. Derrick Lewis is no can, and certainly won’t be an easy win for Arlovski but it is certainly a fun fight that is almost guaranteed to include a KO finish. It would be a big win for Arlovski’s career resurgence, but it would be just as valuable a win for Lewis who could add yet another notable scalp to his growing collection.

Fight to make next: Andrei Arlovski vs. Derrick Lewis

Stefan Struve sure seems old considering that he is just 30. That’s no knock on his skills but it seems that he has been around forever. It is hard to say where he is in his career right now. Does he still have a bright future and is just currently dealing with a rough patch? Or have we seen the best of him already? He has been knocked out quite a few times, and just hasn’t seemed like the same fighter as of late.

I’ve always thought that he should consider training at Jacksons because they could probably help him better utilize his reach, but I’ll stay in my lane. For his next opponent I like Marcin Tybura. They are two of Europe’s top heavyweights, and both are skilled on the ground as well as on the feet. They probably won’t be fighting for a roster spot, but they will be fighting for relevancy. Both fighters are facing the prospect of a third straight loss and that’s no fun for anybody.

Fight to make next: Stefan Struve vs. Marcin Tybura

Ketlen Vieira def. Cat Zingano via Decision

Ketlen Vieira has gone from a relative unknown to a title contender in little time. She is 3-0 in the UFC and now has back to back wins over former title challengers and can’t be far from getting one of her own.

Her next opponent is not an easy one to figure out. Vieira arguably has a claim to a title shot now, but likely isn’t going to get it. For starters Raquel Pennington is already booked against the current champion and even if that fight gets cancelled, Vieira may still be without a title shot. If the rumors are true and Cris Cyborg does get Raquel Pennington’s spot, I think that Pennington should then be booked again Vieira in a title eliminator.

If Pennington does end up getting her shot, then I think the best opponent for Vieira is Germaine de Randamie. De Randamie has been MIA since vacating her featherweight championship so I am not sure of her status but if she can fight soon this is the fight to make.

Fight to make next: Ketlen Vieira vs. Raquel Pennington or Germaine de Randamie

Cat Zingano’s last three wins are over Raquel Pennington, Miesha Tate, and Amanda Nunes. That win over Nunes was her last and it came all the way back in 2014. Since then Zingano has dealt with some injuries as well as some personal issues and those could possibly be reason for the fact that she is 0-3 since that win over Nunes.

She didn’t show much against Vieira and I think it’s fair to wonder where she stands in the current landscape of the 135-pound division. It’s a much different place than it was when she was winning, and though she does have a win over the current champion I think it’s fair to say that fight would probably go a bit different today. I am basing that mostly off Zingano’s recent performances which have been rough, but hopefully she can get things back on track.

Sara McMann is another fighter that was once a title contender but currently finds herself in a steep decline. Both fighters desperately need wins and for that reason this should be a fun fight.

Fight to make next: Cat Zingano vs. Sara McMann

(Fox Sports 1 Card)

Mackenzie Dern def. Ashley Yoder via Decision

Fights to make next:

Mackenzie Dern vs. Nadia Kassem

Ashley Yoder vs. Chan-Mi Leon

Alex Hernandez def. Beneil Dariush via KO(Punch)

Fights to make next:

Alex Hernandez vs. Carlos Diego Ferreira

Beneil Dariush vs. Marcin Held

John Dodson def. Pedro Munhoz via Decision

Fights to make next:

John Dodson vs. Cody Stamann

Pedro Munhoz vs. Joe Soto

CB Dolloway def. Hector Lombard via Disqualification (Strikes after the bell)

Fights to make next:

CB Dolloway vs. Rashad Evans

Hector Lombard should be cut. He has lost 5 straight and his latest loss won’t do him any favors. His post-fight comments on the DQ won’t endear him to anybody either.

(UFC Fight Pass)

Zak Ottow def. Mike Pyle

Fights to make next:

Zak Ottow vs. Sean Strickland

Mike Pyle has announced his retirement

Cody Stamann def. Bryan Caraway

Fights to make next:

Cody Stamann vs. John Dodson

Bryan Caraway vs. Thomas Almeida

Jordan Johnson def. Adam Milstead

Fights to make next:

Jordan Johnson vs. Khalil Rountree

Adam Milstead vs. Paul Craig 

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