Opinion | Fights to make after UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Strickland

UFC Vegas 66

UFC Vegas 66 concluded the year for the UFC with the promotion taking a break over the festive period and returning in mid-January. Middleweight contenders headlined the card as they looked to end their years on a high and set themselves up for a promising 2023.

For the final time this year, let us put on our matchmaking caps and suggest what could be next for the winners from UFC Vegas 66.

Jared Cannonier

Jared Cannonier etched out an extremely close decision victory in the main event of the evening. Two judges scoring the bout in his favor was enough to see the former title challenger secure a victory.

With a large portion of the top middleweight contenders either having recently fought or being scheduled to fight, Cannonier may have to look down the rankings for his next opponent. Next for Cannonier, I would like to see him take on a rising contender and undefeated UFC fighter, Dricus Du Plessis.

Arman Tsarukyan

Arman Tsarukyan took down one of the highly-rated new contenders in the lightweight division with his victory over Damir Ismagulov. Tsarukyan is a highly touted prospect himself and I would not be opposed to seeing him jump the ladder and fight one of the higher-ranked lightweights in the division. That is why for his next matchup I would like to see him take on former title contender, Michael Chandler.

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Amir Albazi

Amir Albazi scored a late KO victory at UFC Vegas 66 to see off short-notice opponent Alessandro Costa. For his next matchup, I would like to see him take on the man one spot above him in the rankings at the time of writing, Matt Schnell.

Alex Caceres

Alex Caceres delivered a perfectly executed head kick to dispatch Julian Erosa inside the first round. I would like to see Caceres get a shot at someone in the rankings and who better than for him to take on the always-game 14th-ranked Edson Barboza?

Drew Dober

Drew Dober delivered dynamite in his final outing of 2022 as he knocked out fan-favorite Bobby Green. Dober himself made this call extremely easy for me when he asked for Jalin Turner, and I believe he should be granted his wish early in the new year.

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Michał Oleksiejczuk

Michał Oleksiejczuk made quick work of Cody Brundage as he picked up his second finish since dropping down to middleweight. The Poland native called for Chris Curtis in his post-fight interview and similarly to Drew Dober that is a fight I can fully get behind.

Fights To Make Following UFC Vegas 66

Cory McKenna

Cory McKenna scored a decision victory over Cheyanne Vlismas in the 7th matchup of the evening. Two victories in 2022 to close out her year should see her earn a shot at someone with a number next to their name.  Next for McKenna, I would match her up against 13th-ranked strawweight, Emily Ducote.

Matthew Semelsberger

Matthew Semelsberger knocked down Jake Matthews three times in their bout en route to his unanimous decision victory at UFC Vegas 66. For his next fight, I would like to see him take on a man he shared the card with who will be looking to bounce back from a defeat in Bryan Battle.

Said Nurmagomedov

Said Nurmagomedov was able to secure a ninja choke over Saidyokub Kakhramanov after being dominated in the opening round of their UFC Vegas 66 matchup. Having just earnt a ranking himself it is time for him to attempt to ascend up the bantamweight table and therefore I would like to see him take on ‘El Guapo’, Chris Gutierrez.

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Rafa Garcia

Rafa Garcia battled through a cut artery to secure himself a victory over Hayisaer Maheshate at UFC Vegas 66. Despite the bout being contested at a catchweight after Maheshate missed the 155-pound limit. I believe Garcia’s gutsy performance should earn him a crack at someone in the rankings. Dan Hooker currently sits 11th in the rankings and would make for a fascinating opponent for the 28-year-old.

Rinat Fakhretdinov

Rinat Fakhretdinov set a record for the most control time in a 3-round fight as he cruised to a decision victory over Bryan Battle. This man has all the makings to cause serious problems in the welterweight division. Given his dominant performance, I would like to see him too face someone in the rankings, and believe Li Jingliang would make for an excellent opponent.

Manel Kape

Manel Kape styled on David Dvorak and was unlucky to not secure a finish in the cards’ second bout of the evening. A threat from all areas Kape has looked better with every outing since signing with the UFC. 30-fight veteran Tim Elliot is without a scheduled matchup, and I feel would be a fine choice of an opponent as Kape looks to ascend the flyweight division in 2023.

Sergey Morozov

Sergey Morozov opened the card at UFC Vegas 66 and called upon his wrestling to secure a decision victory over Journey Newson. Back-to-back victories to close out 2022 for Morozov. Next for the Kazakhstan native should be Montel Jackson as the two men both look to etch themselves closer to a spot in the bantamweight rankings.

That concludes the final ‘fights to make column’ of 2022. As always be sure to let me know whether you agree or disagree with any of the matchups I have suggested. Leave your opinion in the comments below and also share what you thought of UFC Vegas 66 itself.

We shall return to play matchmaker in the new year following the promotions opening card which will see Nassourdine Imavov attempt to take down former title challenger, Kevin Gastelum.