4 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ESPN 28
Even at its best, UFC on ESPN 28 never looked like a great card on paper. By the time it had been whittled down to just nine fights by a series of last-minute shake-ups, it was the kind of card many fans probably chose to skip altogether.
That being said, those who opted to tune in were treated to a pretty memorable night. What the card lacked in big names, it made up for in action, with a number of impressive performances and upsets.
In the main event—the only bout on the card involving ranked fighters—No. 11-ranked middleweight contender Sean Strickland picked up, arguably, the biggest win of his career, outboxing former training partner Uriah Hall, the division's No. 8 contender, to a lopsided unanimous-decision win.
In the co-main event, Contender Series product Cheyanne Buys scored her first UFC win, walloping Gloria de Paula to a first-round TKO victory.
Elsewhere on the card, we witnessed big wins from the likes of Jared Gooden, Melsik Baghdasaryan, Jason Witt, and Jinh Yu Frey.
As always, one of the biggest talking points in the wake of the event will be the next moves for its biggest stars. Without further ado, here are a few fights we're hoping to see when the dust settles.
Sean Strickland vs. Jack Hermansson
Sean Strickland was the picture of dominance in the UFC on ESPN 28 main event, thumping longtime contender Uriah Hall with a boxing-heavy attack for all five rounds en route to a unanimous-decision win.
That victory improved Strickland to 24-3 overall, 19-0 as a middleweight and 7-0 as a middleweight in the UFC. It's also likely to earn him a spot inside the division's top 10, where a bevy of dangerous matchups await.
From here, the 30-year-old could be matched up with any number of tough foes, but given that many of the UFC's top middleweights are already booked up, the most likely option seems to be a fight with No. 6-ranked grappling specialist Jack Hermansson.
After a late 2020 loss to Marvin Vettori, the 33-year-old Scandinavian recently got back on track with a clear-cut decision victory over Edmen Shahbazyan. Like Strickland, he'll soon be looking for another big fight in the middleweight division.
Match these two up on a pay-per-view main card and see who rises to the challenge.
Uriah Hall vs. Kevin Holland
At this point, most fans will agree there are two versions of Uriah Hall: the one who deals in highlight-reel knockouts and the one who fails to show up mentally for his fights.
On Saturday, we got the latter version.
While Hall had his moments against Strickland, he just didn't seem to have his head in the game. Instead, he looked unenthusiastic and frustrated for the majority of the contest, and it ended up costing him a win.
As the 37-year-old looks to bounce back, he should be matched up with No. 15-ranked middleweight contender Kevin Holland, who has also shown a habit for both highlight-reel finishes and head-scratching failures to perform up to his ability.
The Californian, 28, is slated to fight rising contender Kyle Daukus on October 2. Whether he wins or loses that fight, a matchup with Hall makes sense.
Pit them against each other on a future main card and see who can justify their spot among the middleweight's best. In fact, it's entirely plausible they could be fighting for their jobs with the promotion.
Cheyanne Buys vs. Jinh Yu Frey
Cheyanne Buys, a product of Dana White's Contender Series, stumbled in her UFC debut, losing a decision to Mexico's Montserrat Ruiz. In Saturday's fight with Gloria de Paulo, which was promoted to co-headlining honors after a series of last-minute fight cancellations, she got back on track in emphatic fashion.
Buys corrected her course with a first-round knockout win. The performance was impressive enough to earn her a life-changing $50,000 post-fight bonus. It will also set her up for another big opportunity in the UFC's packed strawweight division.
While Buys has no shortage of options in terms of her next fight, we suggest she's matched up with Jinh Yu Frey, who picked up a hard-fought win over Ashley Yoder on the UFC on ESPN 28 undercard.
Frey, a former Invicta atomweight champion, is now on a two-fight streak and would be an excellent litmus test for Buys. And because they both fought on the same card, they're on similar fight schedules. There's no reason they couldn't be matched up before the year is out.
Jared Gooden vs. Mickey Gall
Jared Gooden needed a win in his UFC on ESPN 28 welterweight fight with Niklas Stolze. After losing to Alan Jouban and Abubakar Nurmagomedov in his first two bouts with the promotion, he might well have been cut had he failed to perform.
Luckily for the 27-year-old Alabama native and his fans, things couldn't have gone much better in the cage, as he leveled his foe with a right cross just over a minute into the first round.
With his job now safe, Gooden can shift his focus toward building a win streak, and he should get the opportunity to do so against Mickey Gall.
Gall began his UFC career with a pair of headline-dominating wins over former WWE star CM Punk and eternally chipper Ken Doll clone Sage Northcutt. Since then, though, he's struggled with consistency, going 2-3 with losses to Randy Brown, Diego Sanchez and Mike Perry.
That being said, the 29-year-old recently picked up a crucial win of his win, submitting Jordan Williams a little over a week ago. He and Gooden are now in similar situations and on similar schedules. It's the only option available for the two welterweights, but it's a good one.