UFC Fight Night 237 matchmaker: What’s next for key winners and losers in Mexico City?

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next.

With another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 237’s key winning fighters.

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Brandon Moreno

Manel Kape
Manel Kape

Should fight: Manel Kape
Why they should fight: It’s time for Brandon Moreno to take a bit of a step back from the flyweight title picture. Every fight he’s been in for the past several years has been a championship fight, interim title fight or title eliminator, and there’s definitely a growing sentiment of fan fatigue seeing him in those spots.

I’m not suggesting he drop too far down, though. Kape (19-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC) is someone a few notches lower than him in the rankings, but also has some stuff to prove on his end. Kape has won his past four bouts, but repeated issues with fight cancellations and making weight has badly slowed his progress.

If Kape can show up for a fight with Moreno properly prepared and on weight, the upside of that win would be immense. And for Moreno (21-8-2 MMA, 9-4-2 UFC), it would give him a fresh opponent to fight, which would be welcomed since he’s fought just four names in his past eight bouts.

Brandon Royval

Brandon Royval vs. Alexandre Pantoja
Brandon Royval vs. Alexandre Pantoja

Should fight: Alexandre Pantoja
Why they should fight: I am far from moved by the idea of Royval making a nine-week turnaround to challenge Pantoja for the title at UFC 301 in Brazil on May 4, but there might not be any better options.

Pantoja (27-5 MMA, 11-3 UFC) has made it clear he wants his next flyweight defense to come on home soil in Rio de Janeiro, and he doesn’t care about the opponent – even if it’s Royval, whom he just convincingly defeated at UFC 296 in December.

There’s really no reason to do Royval vs. Pantoja 3. The first two fights weren’t all that competitive, and though Royval will claim otherwise, there’s not a ton of reason to think he’s evolved enough in the five months between fights to make it interesting.

With all that said, this might still be the direction. Muhammad Mokaev could maybe bump Royval from the top of the queue if he beats Alex Perez on Saturday, but right now, it seems like another title shot offer might just come Royval’s way.

Yair Rodriguez

Aljamain Sterling
Aljamain Sterling

Should fight: Winner of Calvin Kattar vs. Aljamain Sterling at UFC 300
Why they should fight: Yair Rodriguez is going to feel the sting of his submission loss for some time, especially when it seemed like he essentially had a win in the bag throughout his first-round drubbing of Brian Ortega.

Things quickly changed in the second, however, and Rodriguez (15-5 MMA, 10-4 UFC) was submitted in the third round. He suddenly finds himself on back-to-back losses and must be careful when plotting his next move. Rodriguez still is a viable contender and capable of being one of the most exciting fighters in the sport, but he’s now pushed back to a bit of a rebuilding phase.

The winner of the UFC 300 matchup between Kattar (23-7 MMA, 7-5 UFC) and Sterling (23-4 MMA, 15-4 UFC) would be a good challenge for him. It’s a slight step back in terms of rankings, but certainly not name value. Kattar is a perrenial contender who would love nothing more than to test his boxing against Rodriguez’s dynamic style, while Sterling, the former bantamweight champ, would test Rodriguez’s grappling progress from this fight.

Either way, it’s a big fight for Rodriguez and one that could help get him back into the mix of serious title contenders, because given his heat with champ Ilia Topuria, it might not take much to convince UFC to make that fight.

Brian Ortega

Movsar Evloev
Movsar Evloev

Should fight: Movsar Evloev
Why they should fight: As much of a feel-good moment as it was to see Brian Ortega turn in a vintage come-from-behind effort to submit Rodriguez in their rematch, the idea of him getting a title shot next against current 145-pound champ Topuria feels a little bit ludicrous.

This was Ortega’s (16-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) first win since October 2020, his first finish since March 2018, and brought him out of a slump that consisted of three losses in four fights. The performance against Rodriguez minimizes some of those resume blemishes, but not completely – and certainly not to the point at which Ortega should immediately jump multiple more deserving people.

The realistic way the division should play out is that Topuria should rematch Alexander Volkanovski, assuming the former champ is healthy and in a good state to fight after his back-to-back knockout losses. If not him, then Max Holloway has earned another chance at the belt. After that, Evloev (18-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) is undefeated, highly ranked and has never got a title shot. His style has a lot to do with that, and it’s likely he’ll need another win.

It’s an obvious booking to put Evloev and Ortega together, and the winner would have a legitimate case to challenge for UFC gold.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 237.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie