UFC 249: What’s Next For Ngannou, Luque And Esparza?

UFC Francis Ngannou
Image courtesy of Essentially Sports

Now that the dust has settled on UFC 249, we take a look at the opportunities that the fighters have gained or lost on the back of their performances.

Francis Ngannou

Francis Ngannou demonstrated his freakish power once again when he slept Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just 20 seconds of the very first round.

The Parisian heavyweight contender recovered from a rough patch in 2018 and has now knocked out his last four opponents, all in under 90 seconds. His recent evolution as a complete MMA fighter is clear to see and he maintains an insane work ethic in preparation for his opponents.

Ngannou has now beaten all credible heavyweight contenders, including Curtis Blaydes and former champion Cain Velasquez. The division is however at a stalemate, as it awaits the trilogy fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. But with the champion sitting on the sidelines during the coronavirus crisis, the timeline for ‘The Predator’s’ next title shot remains unclear.

The 33 year old vented his frustrations about the situation during the post fight interview with Joe Rogan.

Realistically Ngannou should ride out the storm until his moment arrives but as a man who naturally loves to fight, this will be detrimental to him. The only fight that would make sense to remain active would be with Walt Harris.

Depending on how the heavy hitter performs during his return on May 16th against Alistair Overeem a fight night main event between the pair would be a must watch for fans of the sport. However, it presents a big risk for Ngannou because a loss or injury in an unnecessary fight would be a big blow.

Vicente Luque

Vicente Luque finished Niko Price in spectacularly violent fashion this past weekend with a world class striking display. The American-Brazilian went on a six fight tear in the welterweight division from 2017 to 2019, but then lost out to a fight of the night decision against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.

His performance against Price will have reminded the division that he is still a serious threat. Ranked number 13 in the UFC 170lbs rankings going into UFC 249, Luque will likely enter the top ten after his latest impressive outing to the Octagon.

One fiery 170lb fighter that will be hungry for an opponent once the current pandemic stabilises is the number eight ranked Michael Chiesa.

The ‘Maverick’ is on a three fight winning streak at the moment. As a submission wrestler, Chiesa would probably be capable of matching Luque on the canvas. He also possesses an increasingly dynamic striking arsenal which was demonstrated in his most recent fight with Rafael dos Anjos at UFC Rayleigh.

If the pair do match up and things go Vicente’s way, it could earn him an opportunity to attract a top five ranked fighter to close out the year.

Carla Esparza

Carla Esparza secured a split decision victory over Michelle Waterson in an uneventful three round fight. The pair failed to land more than 50 strikes each and Esparza only finished one short-lived takedown.

With elite fighters such as Jessica Andrade, Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejcyzk sitting above her in the rankings, the future looks uncertain for ‘The Cookie Monster’. Her lacklustre performance at UFC 249 will be unlikely to attract any attention from the rest of the female roster and her rank will likely remain similar this week.

A rematch with number six ranked Claudia Gadelha would give Esparza a chance to put on a better performance and avenge the split decision loss to the Brazilian two years ago at UFC 225.

It’s clear that the women’s strawweight division has evolved dramatically since Esparza was the champion and to receive another shot at belt, she will have to make a statement the next time she’s steps inside the Octagon.

Who would you like to see Francis Ngannou, Vicente Luque and Carla Esparza fight next?

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