From front to back, UFC 238 was one of the promotion's strongest cards of the year thus far. Henry Cejudo walked away with his second UFC title, Valentina Shevchenko retained her flyweight belt with a devastating knockout and Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan made their respective cases for the next bantamweight title shot.
With so much to process after a tremendous night of fights, our expert panel -- Ariel Helwani, Brett Okamoto, Marc Raimondi and Jeff Wagenheim -- is here to break down five of the biggest questions raised at UFC 238.
Up first is the state of the flyweights after Cejudo's win -- a division that UFC president Dana White said, during his post-UFC 238 news conference, would continue.
Did Henry Cejudo's impressive victory save or finish the flyweight division?
Helwani: I think he actually saved it. Cejudo is a star. Part of his star appeal is that he is now a two-weight world champion. If he is truly willing to defend both belts, like he says he is, then getting rid of the division is absolutely ludicrous. The UFC has been waiting for a draw to emerge at 125 ever since it opened the division seven years ago. It finally has that guy. This is not the time to abandon the division.
Okamoto: I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think he saved it. He actually did it. I have been saying all year -- the UFC's 125-pound division was all but dead. And no one can blame me for it. The UFC was releasing 125-pounders, and Cejudo was intent on chasing a second title at 135. It all pointed to "no more flyweights." But I think Cejudo has won over the UFC (specifically, White), and the UFC is willing to see if this new pound-for-pound candidate, cringe-embracing champion can make people care about the little guys. Cejudo really is the savior of the division.
Raimondi: It definitely didn't save the flyweight division. Just listen to what Cejudo said in his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan: He called out three bantamweights and expressed a desire to move up to featherweight and go for a third title there. Cejudo might not have just finished Marlon Moraes on Saturday night -- the flyweight division might be TKO'd, too.
Wagenheim: Conventional wisdom was that a Henry Cejudo win would spell the immediate end for the 125-pound division. No two-title champ to this point has managed to defend in two weight classes, and the UFC has already put the flyweight roster on a closeout sale. But Cejudo's star power is soaring after Saturday's victory, and I'm thinking the UFC will give the little guys a chance to shine amid the glow emanating from those two belts and the Olympic gold medal. It would seem a waste of wattage to turn out the lights after Saturday's glittering performance.
If you're Tony Ferguson, do you want Conor McGregor or the winner of Khabib-Poirier next?
Okamoto: You want the winner of Khabib-Poirier next. As much fun as McGregor would be (and it would be personal, too, as Ferguson has his feelings toward McGregor and perhaps some promises that weren't kept when they signed with the same management company years ago), the goal is the belt. It's not McGregor, who has fought only once since November 2016. Don't get me wrong, either would be great, but if I'm Ferguson, I want what's owed me -- and that's a title shot.
Wagenheim: Money talks, especially when there's an Irish brogue in the discussion. But it's not like a fight for the championship is going to be a peanuts payday, either. I suspect Tony Ferguson is old-school enough that, more than anything else, he wants that belt wrapped around his waist. If Khabib Nurmagomedov is still in possession of the strap following his Sept. 7 defense against Dustin Poirier, he will be 28-0 and the most dominant fighter this side of Jon Jones. What a feather in Ferguson's cap it would be to put a halt to that run. If I'm Ferguson, I'm going for the belt first, then waiting for the inevitable callout by Conor McGregor. Build a legacy as iron-clad as a bank vault, then fill it with a money fight's proceeds.
Raimondi: Most fighters would choose McGregor and that payday. Plus, "The Notorious" is arguably a less strenuous fight than the grinding wrestler Nurmagomedov. But Ferguson is the type of guy to go in the opposite direction of the grain. His main goal is proving he's the best lightweight fighter on the planet. If he hasn't done that already, fighting Nurmagomedov would be the best opportunity to do so.
Helwani: There's really no wrong answer here. I know I've said McGregor is bigger than the belt, but Ferguson needs to get his hands on that title once and for all. At the very least, he needs to at least fight for the belt. This is long overdue. And guess what? If he fights for it and then wins it, he finally controls his destiny. And what happens when you control your destiny in the UFC's premier weight class? You get to pick a fight with Conor McGregor.
What do you make of Tatiana Suarez's performance against Nina Ansaroff?
Wagenheim: Tatiana Suarez came in undefeated and heavily hyped. Too hyped? I'll say no and twist that around to acknowledge Nina Ansaroff as underhyped. Ansaroff entered the night on a four-fight winning streak and carrying some serious momentum. So her giving Suarez a tough test brings no shame. Tatiana didn't look as phenomenal as fellow strawweight Alexa Grasso did earlier in the evening, but Grasso was in with a fighter who had lost four of her past six, Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Suarez, by contrast, competed against someone who, like herself, was on the way up. Suarez is No. 4 in ESPN's 115-pound rankings, and the only roadblocks between her and a title shot are two ex-champs: Rose Namajunas, who might or might not want a rematch with new titlist Jessica Andrade, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, who has lost three of her past four. So I'd say Suarez is now well positioned to go for the belt.
Okamoto: I think it's the best thing that could have happened to her in some ways. The Suarez hype train was reaching max speed, as it should be. She's the "female Khabib," as some say. Her wrestling is overwhelming and a problem for anyone. But she's still a little green, and she could benefit greatly from experiences such as Saturday's fight, in which she couldn't take Nina Ansaroff down in the final round because her neck and arm were in severe pain. Suarez is destined for a title fight and (quite possibly) multiple title defenses someday, but even White told me after the bout, there's no need to rush it. Saturday was perfect for Suarez. It was a learning experience, but still a win.
Helwani: Tatiana Suarez was her usual dominant self Saturday night. She controlled the entire fight. However, I felt she needed to make a splash to secure her spot as the No. 1 strawweight contender, and I'm not sure that happened. The crowd certainly didn't react that way. She will fight for the belt very soon, but I get the feeling the UFC will now give Michelle Waterson the shot because of the roll she's on and her popularity. The coronation will have to wait.
Raimondi: Lackluster, but you have to wonder how much her neck injury early in the fight played into that. Suarez is at her best when she's shooting for takedowns and implementing chain wrestling to get opponents down. She couldn't do that against Ansaroff in the third round, for the first time in her career. Suarez is actually human, which was hard to believe until now. She'll certainly be a tough challenge for champion Jessica Andrade, but we found out Saturday that there is a path to victory against her.
Which bantamweight performance impressed you the most?
Helwani: This was the hardest question to answer because I thought both Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan fought very well tonight. But I'll go with Sterling, whose striking looked better than ever. In fact, Sterling landed more strikes in the first two rounds of the fight (110) than he had in any of his previous UFC fights. He's come a long way from the grappler who was once deemed afraid to engage and get hit.
Okamoto: Aljamain Sterling. Full disclosure, I'm basically a Sterling mark at this point. I am so impressed with what he's done over the past year or so. I think he's entering his peak, in terms of his fight IQ, experience and confidence matching his physical tools. He looked as good as any bantamweight in the division early against Pedro Munhoz, and even though Munhoz found some ways to slightly turn the tide, it was Sterling's fight. I loved Yan's performance, and Yan told me straight up he thought Sterling looked slow and beatable. I think we'll see them match up at some point. For now, Sterling impressed me the most.
Wagenheim: All three 135-pound winners impressed me a lot. Henry Cejudo put on a show, but considering that he walked into the Octagon as a champion already, I can't say I was shocked by his performance. Petr Yan had a strong win, too, but I thought he was losing both of the first two rounds before dropping Jimmie Rivera late in each one to sway the judges. So the bantamweight I'm going to single out for my accolades is Aljamain Sterling. He took it to Pedro Munhoz, who was coming off a first-round KO of ex-champ Cody Garbrandt. Munhoz is a dangerous dude, and Sterling lit him up while using footwork to minimize any damage coming his way. He looks ready for his shot at the new champ.
Raimondi: Aljamain Sterling. The improvements he has made over the past few years in striking have been extremely impressive. There is no way Sterling from 2½ ago could stand and win a striking battle with Pedro Munhoz. He might have gotten knocked out or, at the very minimum, outpointed. Not this "Funkmaster." He's unorthodox, has great head movement and keeps foes honest with his superlative grappling. That was a tremendous performance over someone who just knocked out Cody Garbrandt.
What was the biggest surprise of the night?
Raimondi: Just how darn good Alexa Grasso looked in piecing up Karolina Kowalkiewicz. In 2015, White was in attendance for Grasso's Invicta FC win over Mizuki Inoue. White came away extremely impressed by the then-21-year-old blue-chipper. A year later, Grasso was in the UFC but hadn't quite put it together as the top prospect everyone thought she was. Well, the Mexican striker seemed to be every bit of that Saturday night at 25 years old. Grasso beat an established perennial contender in Kowalkiewicz and put the rest of the strawweight division on notice that she has shaken the injury bug. In the process, she has become a real force to be reckoned with.
Wagenheim: I thought Calvin Kattar was in for a rude awakening stepping up in competition against veteran featherweight Ricardo Lamas, but instead, Kattar put Lamas to sleep in the first round. That gets a "Wow!" from me. And so does Katlyn Chookagian, who despite being No. 4 in the ESPN women's flyweight rankings had pretty much flown under the radar to this point. She certainly should draw attention with her gritty win over No. 5 Joanne Calderwood in the very first bout of the evening. Now, having a meeting of two top-five fighters open the prelims was a surprise in itself, but I'm citing Chookagian here more for opening my eyes to her as a 125-pound contender.
Helwani: I'm shocked Cejudo fought as well as he did with a severely sprained ankle. Cejudo injured his ankle on Wednesday while training at the hotel in Chicago. Apparently, according to his team, the mats weren't taped properly, and he rolled his ankle. That's why he wore two ankle sleeves during the fight. When I heard about the injury, I feared he would lose his speed and agility, and during the first round, I was wondering if that was, in fact, the case. But he rebounded beautifully in the second round en route to the TKO win in the third. It wasn't quite Kurt Angle's "broken freakin' neck," but it was close.
Okamoto: Tony Ferguson's dominance of Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. That's right, I'll call it dominance. That's nothing against Cerrone, who turned in a strong effort, and the fact he wanted to continue fighting even as his right eye looked like it required a long hospital visit is truly admirable. Cerrone is a legend, and Saturday's fight proved that for the billionth time. But the fact is, Ferguson clearly won this fight. After everything he had been through, going against one of the hottest fighters in the division, I expected Ferguson to have some troubles. He really didn't. This was a spectacular, non-controversial win, even considering what happened at the end of the bout when Cerrone's eye injury forced an unpopular stoppage.