What’s next for the stars of UFC 296?

By Cole Shelton - December 18, 2023

The UFC closed out 2023 with a solid UFC 296 card from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada that saw two titles on the lines.

Leon Edwards, Colby Covington, UFC 296

In the main event of UFC 296, Leon Edwards was looking to defend his welterweight title for the second time as he took on Colby Covington. The co-main event saw Alexandre Pantoja searching for his first title defense against Brandon Royval.

Ultimately, it was Edwards who won a lopsided decision against Covington to defend his belt. In the co-main event, Pantoja won a clear-cut decision over Royval to secure his first title defense. Now, here is what I think should be next for the four fighters involved in the title fights at UFC 296.

Leon Edwards

Leon Edwards dominated Colby Covington for five rounds to defend his welterweight title for the second time.

Edwards was able to pick apart Covington but also was able to out-grapple the American, which was a bit of a surprise. Edwards stuffed eight of Covington’s 10 takedown attempts while also going 2-for-3 on his won takedowns to win a lopsided decision.

With Edwards not taking much damage at UFC 296, he should likely be able to return in the first quarter of 2023 and face Belal Muhammad. The two fought in 2021 with the fight ending in a No Contest due to an accidental eye poke, but since then, Muhammad has cemented himself as the number one contender.

Colby Covington

Colby Covington had an odd game plan at UFC 296 as he didn’t pressure Leon Edwards or throw many strikes as he usually does. He also didn’t start wrestling until later in the fight, but it was too little too late as he lost a one-sided decision.

With Covington now 0-3 in undisputed title fights, he will need to put together a winning streak if he’s going to get a fourth title shot. A logical next fight is the one that Covington called for which is against Stephen Thompson.

Both men are big names but are out of the picture, and makes sense for a Fight Night main event.

Alexandre Pantoja

Alexandre Pantoja, Brandon Royval, UFC 296, UFC, Results

Alexandre Pantoja defended his flyweight title for the first time in a one-sided decision against Brandon Royval at UFC 296.

Pantoja’s wrestling and grappling proved to be the difference. The Brazilian was able to get Royval down at will and control him on the mat to cruise to the decision win.

With Pantoja defending his belt for the first time, the next title defense should be against Amir Albazi if he beats Brandon Moreno. If Moreno wins, it’s uncertain if the UFC will book that fight again. If they don’t, that would then open the door for the winner of Manel Kape vs. Matheus Nicolau 2 to get a title shot.

Brandon Royval

Brandon Royval came up short in his first chance at gold at UFC 296.

Royval has now lost to Pantoja twice, so he will need to string together multiple wins to get another crack at him. A logical next fight for the American is to face the winner of Alex Perez vs Muhammed Mokaev. The winner would likely get a number one contender fight to earn a title shot.


Alexandre Pantoja Brandon Royval Colby Covington Leon Edwards UFC