What’s next for Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman following their bout at UFC 286? Justin Gaethje vs. Dustin Poirier 2?

The plans for Edwards vs. Covington are in action, and a follow-up to Gaethje vs. Dustin Poirier are free to proceed.

Leon Edwards is still the UFC welterweight champion, Justin Gaethje is still a serious contender, and Kamaru Usman is for the first time in four years outside the title picture. There are many issues to resolve when UFC 286 on Saturday night is picked up the pieces.

After their trilogy is over, Edwards and Usman go their separate ways. In the Saturday night main event from London, Edwards used outstanding defensive wrestling and superior striking to win the series. Colby Covington, who weighed in as the backup fighter on Saturday, isn’t the only one waiting for a shot at the title.

Gaethje, meanwhile, set the clock back with a tough performance against Rafael Fiziev as he pursues one final chance to capture the UFC lightweight world title. Marvin Vettori also maintained his standing in the middleweight hierarchy.

Let’s explore all the matchmaking options following UFC 286.

Welterweight Division

Leon Edwards vs. Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns: As Edwards and Usman have finished their trilogy, the welterweight division is seriously lacking in undisputed contenders. Covington hasn’t competed since March 2022 and won after suffering a defeat. In his most recent bout, Khamzat Chimaev almost missed the welterweight limit and has since vanished, despite plans to go up to middleweight. Although Belal Muhammad has the greatest current record, he has not yet defeated any of the top five competitors. At UFC 287 in April, Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal will square off. Last but not least, Shavkat Rakhmanov is a contender in the division but isn’t exactly a title challenger yet.

At the post-fight presser on Saturday, UFC president Dana White announced that Edwards vs. Covington would be the next fight. It’s alright. Alternatively, if Burns defeats Masvidal easily, he will have a stronger case than most. If Masvidal defeats Burns, the UFC may capitalize on the animosity between Edwards and Masvidal that resulted from a fight onstage in 2019. Yet after Covington recently defeated him, it is absurd to give Masvidal the chance to defend his title.

Kamaru Usman vs. Belal Muhammad: Muhammad’s matchup with one of the top welterweights has been long overdue. Usman has squared up against Covington and Masvidal two times each. Usman will also probably avoid battling his friend Burns following their world title bout. Usman takes a slight but necessary step backward in Muhammad vs. Usman as Muhammad earns a well-deserved big name. Usman vs. Chimaev is another matchup that is really intriguing and has name value, but until we know Chimaev’s long-term goals, I’m cautious to match him up at welterweight.

Lightweight Division

Justin Gaethje vs. Dustin Poirier 2: Gaethje is in an odd circumstance. The winner of Charles Oliveira vs. Beneil Dariush will likely be the next top challenger for the UFC lightweight championship held by Islam Makhachev. He recently defeated Michael Chandler, a competitor on “The Ultimate Fighter” and Conor McGregor. Gaethje may be compared to the previously successful Mateusz Gamrot, although Gaethje just defeated a competitor ranked below him in the official UFC rankings. Gaethje’s only fight that makes sense is a rematch of his legendary battle with Dustin Poirier from last year. Both men are towards the top of their division and do not have a specific challenger in sight. The victor will be able to call out the winner of Makhachev vs. Dariush or Oliveira with style and star power.

Rafael Fiziev vs. Mateusz Gamrot:  Gaethje’s defeat is nothing to be ashamed of. Throughout the duration of two and a quarter rounds, Fiziev had a great performance. He moves at an incomprehensible speed, and he has more power than most lightweights. Against Gaethje, he demonstrated incredible tenacity, and he still poses a serious threat to everyone in the division. Gamrot is ranked directly after Fiziev in the UFC. They are both young, hungry members of the lightweight elite. It’s a classic matchup between skilled strikers and grapplers. Who is prepared to challenge the top once more?

Middleweight division

Marvin Vettori vs. Dricuss du Plessis:  Dolidze was beaten by Vettori by a razor-thin margin in a battle that could have gone any way. Without much room to advance, Vettori is likely to maintain his No. 4 position in the UFC middleweight standings. Two of the three contenders listed above him, Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker, have defeated him a total of three times. You might match Vettori with Cannonier (No. 3), who just defeated Sean Strickland in a difficult split decision match. Regrettably, there is currently no interest in either of the titles. So let’s take advantage of this chance to perhaps introduce a new face to the division. Heavy-handed du Plessis should be teamed with Vettori. The two aspects of du Plessis’ game that are most troubling are his stamina and his aggressive defense. Vettori would undoubtedly pick up the tempo, and Cannonier is capable of doing significant harm. Before moving du Plessis into the title picture, let’s give him one last test.

Roman Dolidze vs. Sean Strickland:  Dolidze benefits from strength, power, and a potent submission game. If he wants to seriously challenge for the top spot in the category, his offensive wrestling and endurance require the most improvement. Strickland recently lost against Cannonier in a split decision. The winner of Dolidze vs. Strickland is set back on track and has legitimate Fight of the Night potential.