Monday, May 20, 2024

UFC 301 fight fallout: Next fights for Jose Aldo, Alexandre Pantoja after successful homecomings

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UFC 301 was a welcome return for two kings of Rio. UFC flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja and UFC Hall of Famer Jose Aldo had successful showings in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday. UFC 301 is behind them and more fights await.

Pantoja delivered a typically gritty performance to turn back title challenger Steve Erceg. The champ called for a hard-earned break after completing 15 championship rounds in the last 10 months. One flyweight contender stands out as most deserving when Pantoja is ready to return.

Speaking of champions, former featherweight king Aldo turned back the clock in a phenomenal performance this weekend. Aldo looked sharper, hit harder and moved faster than a UFC-ranked bantamweight seven years his junior. The world is his oyster having fought out his UFC contract. Should Aldo choose to stay, a dream match against a fellow former champion comes to mind.

Take a look below at the best fights to make following UFC 301.


UFC flyweight championship — Alexandre Pantoja (c) vs. Amir Albazi: It’s not the biggest fight at flyweight but, candidly, there are no big fights in the division at the moment. Bradon Royval is ranked No. 1 by UFC, but Pantona dominated him five months ago. Brandon Moreno (No. 2) is coming off two losses and taking a sabbatical. That leaves third-ranked Albazi. The Iraqi-born fighter is on a six-fight winning streak and was scheduled to fight Moreno before getting injured. Albazi has taken down all five of his UFC opponents so it’d be interesting to see how he matches up with Pantoja. If Albazi and Pantoja negate each other, perhaps we see them slug it out.


Jose Aldo vs. Dominick Cruz: For the sake of conversation, let’s assume Aldo re-signs with UFC instead of embarking on a potential boxing match on the Jake Paul vs. Mike Tyson undercard. Aldo didn’t miss a beat against Jonathan Martinez despite a 20-month MMA layoff. Aldo claims to have the bantamweight title in sight. It’s not farfetched that he cracks the top five but I’m not sold that he’s winning a world title at 37. Aldo previously said he was in talks to fight Dominick Cruz (No. 11) before an injury paved the way for Martinez (No. 12). Aldo and Cruz will be similarly ranked come Monday. It’s not a fast track to one last title shot but it’s a dream match between two former champions that makes sense meritocratically. If at first you don’t succeed, try again.

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