With UFC Vegas 75 in the rearview mirror, let’s look at the fighters who got wins on Saturday and who would be perfect opponents for their returns to the Octagon later this year.
Jared Cannonier vs. Paulo Costa/Ikram Aliskerov winner
Jared Cannonier finds himself in an awkward position in the UFC middleweight division. Odd matchmaking and the dominance of Israel Adesanya have put the entire weight class in a holding pattern with Cannonier among the several names in this purgatory. His dominant and exciting win over Marvin Vettori at least clears the field a bit.
Although the champion is currently without an opponent for his proposed appearance at UFC 293 in Australia, putting Cannonier back into a title fight just over a year after his failed attempt at UFC 276 seems premature.
That’s why the winner of Paulo Costa and Ikram Aliskerov might be the best option here. Costa, who withdrew from a scheduled main event opposite Cannonier in 2021, shares a fairly clear-cut defeat against Adesanya and a top-five ranking. If Aliskerov emerges with the victory, it makes sense for him to get another high-ranked opponent.
Costa and Aliskerov will meet on July 29th.
Arman Tsrukyan vs. Jalin Turner/Dan Hooker winner
After finishing Joaquim Silva at UFC Vegas 75, Arman Tsrukyan called his shot. He wants former Bellator champion Michael Chandler next. It’s hard to dislike that pairing. The two would undoubtedly offer a thrill ride for long as it lasts and leave an impression on the lightweight title picture.
In light of the recent controversy and his sporadic in-cage appearances in recent years, it’s reasonable to doubt that Conor McGregor will actually compete against his rival TUF coach. However, Chandler quickly moving on from what would be the biggest fight of his career to risking it all against a dangerous but largely unheralded Tsrukyan makes absolutely no sense.
Let’s see what the winner of Jalin Turner and Dan Hooker has to offer. It would allow Tsrukyan a top-10 fight and force someone to stand out in the crowded lightweight division.
Armen Petrosyan vs. Jun Yong Park/Albert Duraev winner
For all of the impressive array of kicks and acrobatic athletics that Christian Leroy Duncan offered, the meat and potatoes offense of Armen Petrosyan sealed the deal and led to a unanimous decision win at UFC Vegas 75.
An unranked fighter defeating another unranked fighter doesn’t warrant much movement. So let’s put Petrosyan against the winner of Jun Yong Park and Albert Duraev. There are plenty of options in the fringes of middleweight and with the compatible time frames, this one is as good as any.
Park and Duraev will meet next month at UFC Vegas 77.
Pat Sabatini vs. Nathaniel Wood/Andre Fili winner
There’s no nice way to put it. Pat Sabatini beat the brakes off of Lucas Almeida. While their records aren’t that far apart, a closer look reveals the much higher level of opposition Sabatini faced on his path to Saturday evening. The disparity in experience was apparent from the opening bell to the fight-ending arm triangle choke.
Sabatini should clearly be facing more seasoned featherweights. That’s why the winner of Nathaniel Wood and Andre Fili would be an appropriate opponent. Both men have seen a decent mix of prospects and contenders throughout their UFC tenures and would be far more competitive than Almeida.
Manuel Torres vs. Alex Hernandez
Maneul Torres’ first-round knockout of Nikolas Motta was well worth the Performance of the Night bonus. That elbow strike is likely to be brought up when it’s time to discuss some of the more spectacular finishes of 2023. It’s time to honor Torres’ 13 career opening-round wins with a name that can elevate his status and keep his tradition of action fights alive.
Let’s see if Alex Hernandez is up for the task. The five-year UFC vet has never shied away from his kill-or-be-killed mentality. Hernandez was last seen earning a decision win over Jim Miller in February.
Nicolas Dalby vs. Rafael Dos Anjos/Vicente Luque winner
Nicolas Dalby did exactly what he was supposed to do against Muslim Salikhov: entertain and get his hand raised. Constant pressure boxing kept the “King of Kung Fu” out of the win column and should boost Dalby to more recognized opponents.
With that in mind, the winner of Rafael Dos Anjos and Vicente Luque sounds right. As former lightweight champion Dos Anjos’s name carries a ton of weight and Luque is well known for his habit of throwing leather with reckless abandon. Despite those reputations, neither is really expected to make a late run into title contention. A win over either could give Dalby enough juice to enter the rankings and campaign for his own chance to climb the ladder.
Dos Anjos and Luque are scheduled for the main event of an August fight night.