5 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ESPN 38

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IJune 27, 2022

5 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ESPN 38

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    UFC on ESPN 38 went down on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the event opened the door to some exciting new matchup options in some of the UFC's best divisions.

    The card was topped by a lightweight fight between former Poland's Mateusz Gamrot and Armenia's Arman Tsarukyan, the division's No. 12 and 11-ranked contenders, respectively. Gamrot, who previously held gold in KSW in Poland, ultimately won the fight by unanimous decision to take another big step up the lightweight ladder.

    In the co-main event, unbeaten Kazakh welterweight contender Shavkat Rakhmonov picked up the biggest win of his career, submitting the always-game Neil Magny in Round 2. The win all but guarantees him a fight with one of the division's biggest names.

    Other big winners of the night included Brazilian lightweight Thiago Moises, who choked out Christos Giagos in Round 1, and all-action middleweight Chris Curtis, who earned a workmanlike decision over BJJ ace Rodolfo Vieira. Israel Adesanya's teammate Carlos Ulberg also picked up a nice win on the card, knocking out Tafon Nchukwi in a little over a minute.

    Here are the fights we're hoping to see when everybody is all healed up.

Mateusz Gamrot vs. Dos Anjos-Fiziev Winner

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Mateusz Gamrot's UFC career got off to a rocky start, as he lost a decision to Guram Kutateladze in his promotional debut. But the former KSW champ has rebounded from that stumble in emphatic fashion, rattling off wins over Scott Holtzman, Jeremy Stephens, Diego Ferreira, and in the UFC on ESPN 38 main event, Arman Tsarukyan, whom he defeated by unanimous decision after five rounds.

    Gamrot is now living up to the expectations many hardcore fans had for him when he entered the UFC and is likely only a win or two away from a shot at the lightweight title.

    From here, we're hoping to see him matched up with the winner of a July 9 fight between Brazil's Rafael dos Anjos and Kyrgyzstan's Rafael Fiziev. dos Anjos, the former lightweight champ, remains one of the toughest fighters in the division, as evidenced by his No. 7 ranking.

    The No. 10-ranked Fiziev, who trains out of Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket, Thailand, is a comparatively new face in the division, but after winning his last five fights, looks like he could be a future champ.

    A win over either man would send Gamrot rocketing toward the lightweight Top 5, where fights with the likes of Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier and Islam Makhachev could await.

Shavkat Rakhmonov vs. Stephen Thompson

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Undefeated Kazakh welterweight Shavkat Rakhmonov kept his hype train on the rails in the UFC on 38 co-main event, walloping No. 10-ranked contender Neil Magny to a second-round submission victory. The win should push him into the Top 10 and will, at the very least, earn him a Top 10 foe.

    Rakhmonov put on his matchmaking hat post-fight at the UFC on ESPN 38 post-fight press conference, calling out Jorge Masvidal, Nick Diaz and Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson—all former welterweight title challengers.

    Masvidal is a cool idea, but he's been linked to a potential fight with Gilbert Burns and has been accused of aggravated battery and criminal mischief for his alleged attack of Colby Covington.

    Diaz is still a big name, but he hasn't won a fight since 2011, so a match with Rakhmanov makes no sense and would probably be so one-sided in the Kazakh's favor that most of us would regret watching it. A fight with Wonderboy, however, makes plenty of sense.

    The American karate specialist is one of the best welterweights of this generation. While he is riding back-to-back decision losses to Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad, he is still ranked No. 7 in the division and would be the toughest test of Rakhmanov's career to date by far.

    If the Kazakh passes that one, a title shot is probably only one more win away.

Thiago Moises vs. Renato Moicano

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Thiago Moises needed a win at UFC on ESPN 38, having been submitted by Islam Makhachev and TKO'd by Joel Alvarez in his last two fights. The Brazilian submission specialist ultimately got the win he sought, tapping out Christos Giagos in Round 1.

    There are a lot of options for a guy like Moises in a division like lightweight. Our favorite of the bunch is a fight with a fellow Brazilian submission specialist, Renato Moicano.

    After a hot-and-cold run at featherweight, Moicano looked like he had found new life as a lightweight, ratting off submission wins over Jai Herbert and Alexander Hernandez in his last two appearances. Then he ran into Rafael dos Anjos and was walloped to one of the most lopsided decision losses in recent memory.

    Moicano will soon be looking for the opportunity to move past that loss, and Moises would be a perfect dance partner. Throw it on a Fight Night main card and get the bonus checks ready.

Chris Curtis vs. Du Plessis-Tavares Winner

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    It's been great watching "The Action Man" Chris Curtis thrive in the Octagon after he got stiffed out of a UFC contract on a 2018 episode of Dana White's Contender Series.

    The middleweight picked up his third-straight Octagon victory on the UFC on ESPN 38 main card, weathering a tough first round to defeat Brazilian jiu jitsu juggernaut Rodolfo Vieira by unanimous decision.

    After that win, Curtis is ready for another big fight in the middleweight division. We'd like to see him take on Brad Tavares or Dricus Du Plessis, who fight at UFC 276 next weekend in Las Vegas.

    Tavares is ranked No. 12 in the middleweight division. Du Plessis is unranked but will probably land in the Top 15 if he pulls off the victory. Either way, Curtis will likely get a ranked opponent, and that's an opportunity he definitely deserves.

Carlos Ulberg vs. Khalil Rountree

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    Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

    Israel Adesanya stablemate Carlos Ulberg picked up his second Octagon win at UFC on ESPN 38, knocking out Cameroon's Tafon Nchukwi in just over a minute.

    It was a very impressive win from the New Zealander, but he is definitely a difficult guy to matchmake for. While he has some pro kickboxing experience, he is just 5-1 in MMA. He is still a definite newbie, and that is particularly pronounced in a division like light heavyweight, which is home to a long list of extremely experienced veterans: Glover Teixeira, Jan Blachowicz, Anthony Smith, et cetera.

    It would be nice to pitch Ulberg a few more fighters like Nchukwi, who is only 6-3, but there just aren't that many in the division. There's really no choice but to throw him to the wolves, and if we're going to do that, we might as well have some fun with it.

    From here, we'd like to see Ulberg matched up with fellow striking specialist Khalil Rountree. Rountree is on a definite hot streak after vicious knockout wins over Modestas Bukauskas and Karl Roberson, and he has shown he has no fear of striking with elite kickboxers in the past. Just ask the legendary Gokhan Saki, who he knocked out in 2018.

    Match him up with Ulberg and you can rest assured somebody is hitting the deck.

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