UFC 222 produced a pretty fun event in Las Vegas.
Here's ESPN's take on what should be next for the fighters of UFC 222.
Cris 'Cyborg' Justino, female featherweight champion
Result: Defeated Yana Kunitskaya via first-round TKO
Next: Amanda Nunes
This was the plan, originally: A female superfight between Nunes (the UFC's bantamweight champion) and Justino. But then the UFC needed a main event for UFC 222 and called on Justino. Which was fine. This title defense against Kunitskaya was a layup, and did not put that superfight at risk.
The question now: Will Nunes also defend her title, prior to the two facing off? Justino wants it to happen in July, on the UFC's blockbuster summer card. The UFC has looked at Nunes headlining an event in May, in Brazil, against Raquel Pennington. If that were the case, it'd be a lightning turnaround for Nunes.
My vote is to forego the Pennington title fight for now, and finalize this champion versus champion bout. Pennington deserves a title shot, but hasn't fought since November 2016 because of an injury. Whether or not the UFC agrees, we'll see. It is in need of a headliner in May, and Justino isn't yet sold on fighting that soon.
Brian Ortega, featherweight
Result: Defeated Frankie Edgar via first-round KO
Next: Max Holloway
Pretty easy call, here. It's the only fight to make, and UFC president Dana White has already said he intends to make it "immediately."
Holloway has looked pretty much unbeatable during a 12-fight win streak in the UFC. But heck, maybe Ortega is unbeatable. The man has never lost. I've been on the Ortega bandwagon for awhile, but even I didn't see him rolling through Edgar and Cub Swanson in a three-month span. Wow.
Frankie Edgar, featherweight
Result: Lost to Brian Ortega via first-round KO
Next: Ricardo Lamas
A fight I've always wanted to see is Edgar vs. Dominick Cruz. I just think stylistically, it doesn't get much better than that. Cruz is big for 135 pounds. Edgar is not a huge 145-pounder. Seems rather doable, and it's as good a time as any for it.
Cruz is still very much in bantamweight title contention, however, and Edgar has shown no interest in moving all the way down. So, Lamas makes sense. He's another very viable title contender, coming off a first-round loss. Another option is to run back the Chad Mendes fight. Mendes lost to Edgar in late 2015, and is set to come off a two-year suspension this summer. There's a case to be made for that one, but Lamas is probably the best option.
Sean O'Malley, bantamweight
Result: Defeated Andre Soukhamthath via unanimous decision
Next: UFC newcomer
What? Is a "TBD" answer acceptable for a What's Next column? I say it is.
Who should O'Malley be fighting? Someone you've never heard of. He's 23. He's shown a ton of promise and lots of potential. There's nothing wrong with a slow burn of that. The UFC likes him and obviously wants him under contract, but that doesn't mean he needs to go anywhere near its top talent yet.
Find him an opponent who was also on the Dana White Contender Series, where O'Malley's UFC roots are. I'm not suggesting poor fighters with 1-6 records. Just an appropriate challenge -- who preferably is high-paced and willing to go toe-to-toe here and there.
Mackenzie Dern, strawweight
Result: Defeated Ashley Yoder via split decision
Next: Kailin Curran
Similar to O'Malley, there's no need to rush Dern at all. Some were disappointed in her overall performance at UFC 222, but I was not one of those. I think we saw a young prospect who struggled to get the fight to the floor (where she's best), and found a way to win anyway.
Dern's standup wasn't always pretty on Saturday, but when push came to shove, she bit down on her mouthpiece and fearlessly went after Yoder, knowing there were counter punches coming. That's what you want to see out of prospects. Growth. Heart. A knack to win.
Like the 24-year-old Dern, Curran is young. She's 26 and on a four-fight skid in the UFC. Her bouts have been exciting though, and she's obviously motivated to get a victory. She's not overly dangerous in any one area, but she'd have an experience edge against Dern in the UFC.