What’s next for the stars of UFC 249?

Justin Gaethje
Image Credit: @ufc on Instagram (photographer not listed)

Dana White had been adamant the UFC would be the first sports organization back from the COVID-19 pandemic and he was right. UFC 249 went down this weekend, where the main event saw Tony Ferguson battle Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title. The co-main event saw Henry Cejudo look to defend his bantamweight belt against Dominick Cruz.

In the end, it was Gaethje who pulled off the betting upset as he TKO’d Ferguson in the fifth round. The co-main also saw surprised many as Cejudo TKO’d Cruz in the second round and then proceeded to retire from the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.

Now, following UFC 249 here is what we think should be next for the four competitors involved in the title fights.

Justin Gaethje

Entering this fight, many thought if this fight went past the second round, it would Tony Ferguson’s fight to lose. Yet, that was far from the case as Gaethje dominated the scrap the entire time and was up 40-36 on one judges scorecard entering the fifth round.

Gaethje was landing fight-ending shots over and over again but Ferguson stayed up, somehow. But, in the fifth, after rocking “El Cucuy” again, ref Herb Dean stepped in and stopped the fight.

Now, after winning the interim lightweight title, Gaethje already has his next fight booked as he will take on Khabib Nurmgomedov later this year. It’ll be an interesting fight where “The Highlight” opened as a sizeable underdog.

Tony Ferguson

You have to feel bad for Tony Ferguson here. El Cucuy was on a 12-fight winning streak in arguably the best and deepest division in all of MMA without fighting for the undisputed title. He didn’t have to take this fight against Gaethje but did so anyway, opting to not wait for Nurmagomedov later this year.

Ultimately, in the fight, Ferguson just couldn’t get going and even Dana White said he looked off and slow.

Now, following the loss, El Cucuy should look to take time off, perhaps the remainder of 2020 and look to work his way back up to a title shot next year.

Although Ferguson lost, he’s still one of the best lightweights in the world and a logical next opponent would be against Dustin Poirier. The pair have yet to fight and the bouts winner would be right back in title contention.

Henry Cejudo

Henry Cejudo, Dana White
Image via @ufceurope on Instagram

Henry Cejudo fought a great fight against Dominick Cruz and capped it off with a second-round TKO win. “Triple C” used leg kicks to try and slow down Cruz’s movements then landed a perfectly placed knee that dropped the former champ and he followed it up with ground and pound shots to end the fight.

Although some think the stoppage came early, Cejudo still got the job done. But, after the fight, the 33-year-old announced his retirement from MMA. Triple C left wrestling early, and at the top, and appears to be doing the same with MMA.

If this is the end of Cejudo’s career, it was a phenomenal one where he became a champ-champ and beat the likes of Demetrious Johnson, T.J. Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes, and now Cruz. Yet, if he does come back a title defense against Petr Yan has to be next as the Russian deserves the shot to fight for the belt.

Dominick Cruz

Dominick Cruz returned for the first time in three and a half years and came up short, to which he says was from a bad stoppage. Now, the major question facing the former champ, is does he stick around?

Cruz has been open that he doesn’t want to climb the ladder again to a title shot. So, there is a chance he doesn’t fight again, but if he does there are a few logical opponents. The UFC could make Cruz vs. Jose Aldo as a Fight Night main event, but there is another scrap that makes more sense and that is the rematch against T.J. Dillashaw.

Dillashaw will return from suspension in January, and the two have a rivalry, and both coming off TKO losses to Cejudo. It could headline a card, where the winner would be right back at the top of the pecking order at bantamweight. It’s also a big fight for both men, as the first fight was super close and many believe it should’ve been Dillashaw who got his hand raised.

What do you think should be next for the stars of UFC 249?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 5/11/2020.