Fights to Make After UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje

The final event at Fight Island for 2020 delivered on its much deserved hype, with many finishes and fast-paced firefights! All but three fights ended inside the distance, with an all out night of action capped off by one of the all-time greats laying his gloves down for good.

Afterwards, we’re stuck asking ourselves… what’s next for the victors? Well I’m here to try to play matchmaker for our main card winners and see what fights could (and should) be on the horizon!

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Bear 2 (LW)

Khabib Nurmagomedov once again dominated, this time choking Justin Gaethje unconscious in the second round with a beautiful mount-set triangle. His striking was on full display int he first round as well, as Gaethje reacted heavily to Khabib’s pressure and takedown threat. He shocked those viewing by laying his gloves down and promising this was his last fight. This caught me off guard, as I along with others believed he was pursuing a 30-0 record to retire at. Nevertheless, 29-0 with an unprecedented level of supremacy, losing just one round in his entire career, Khabib’s impression on the sport has been nothing short of inspiring. Of course, I’m being facetious when I say he should rematch the bear from his childhood, but we are all wishing him the best in retirement.

I’m not sure where the Lightweight title will go from here. Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier are slated for a rematch in January and I would not at all be surprised if Dana decided to toss a belt on the line there. That said, I think many of the hardcore fans would love nothing more than a chance for Justin Gaethje to get back in there, so there is plenty of prospective matchmaking to think about. 

Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya (MW)

Robert Whittaker put a striking clinic on Cannonier, using his movement and combination striking to outwork the former Heavyweight and even knock him down in the third round. This is two straight wins for Whittaker after losing his title, and he is now the clear number one contender. I firmly believe that Whittaker deserves another shot at the title, given his dominance in the division. Israel Adesanya knocked out Paulo Costa last month to once again defend his title, and I would love to see a Whittaker rematch next.

Alexander Volkov vs. Alistair Overeem (HW)

Alexander Volkov put Walt Harris away in the second round with a picture perfect liver kick, crumpling the power puncher. Volkov once again proved the technical advantage he holds in striking over nearly anyone, dismantling the offense of Harris and leaving him gassed even by the end of the first round. This puts Volkov back on the right track after a decision defeat to Curtis Blaydes, and I like a bout with Alistair Overeem next. Overeem is a fellow veteran with a lengthy kickboxing record, who most recently pounded Augusto Sakai out in the fourth round and is desperate for one last title run.

Phil Hawes vs. Anthony Hernandez (MW)

Phil Hawes stormed into the UFC with an eighteen second knockout in his debut over Jacob Malkoun. Hawes has long been touted as a top prospect and he is showing just that, but has stood out in recent fights with his improved striking arsenal. I am hoping we can see Hawes back in there quickly, and I like a bout with fellow Contender Series alum Anthony Hernandez. Hernandez has not competed since a TKO loss to Kevin Holland back in May.

Lauren Murphy vs. Cynthia Calvillo (FLW)

Lauren Murphy proved how game she is by accepting a short-notice bout with Octagon newcomer Liliya Shakirova after her original opponent in Cynthia Calvillo was forced out due to COVID-19. Murphy dismantled Shakirova and finished her in the second round with a rear naked choke too pick up the very first submission of her pro career. Riding a four get win streak, Murphy is just outside title contention and with champion Valentina Shevchenko defending next month against Jennifer Maia, Murphy will need another win to secure that spot. I would like to see her original bout with Calvillo rebooked, as Calvillo’s wrestling game presents a great challenge to test the improvement of Murphy.

Magomed Ankalaev vs. Nikita Krylov (LHW)

The long awaited rematch between Ankalaev and Ion Cutelaba ended without controversy, as Ankalaev finished the Moldovan in brutal fashion to earn a first-round KO. I estimated Cutelaba would emerge with a first-round storm, but Ankalaev absorbed nearly no damage while rocking Cutelaba multiple times. He is surging towards contention in the Light Heavyweight division, and I like a bout with Nikita Krylov. Krylov was forced out of his scheduled bout with Volkan Oezdemir and allows Ankalaev a shot to move further up the rankings.

 

Next weekend, we are back in Vegas with a card on Halloween night, capped off with the final fight in the storied career of Anderson Silva as he takes on Uriah Hall.

Until next time, Freaks!

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