5 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ESPN 29

Tom Taylor@@TomTayMMAContributor IAugust 23, 2021

5 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ESPN 29

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    UFC on ESPN 29 went down Saturday night in Las Vegas. Like many other recent UFC Fight Nights, it was short on big names, but it made up for that deficit with plenty of memorable action.

    The card was headlined by a middleweight contender clash as the No. 3-ranked Jared Cannonier locked horns with the ninth-ranked Kelvin Gastelum. Cannonier won the fight by unanimous decision, reasserting himself as one of the division's best fighters in the process.

    Beyond the main event, the most important bout of the night occurred in the main card opener, when Brazil's Alexandre Pantoja seemingly earned a crack at flyweight champion Brandon Moreno with a second-round submission defeat of Brandon Royval.

    Other highlights of the card included impressive wins from prospects such as Mark O. Madsen, William Knight, Josiane Nunes, Ignacio Bahamondes and Ramiz Brahimaj.

    It was a very entertaining event, and the kind that will keep fans talking over the course of the coming days. As ever, one of the recurring topics of conversation will be what's next for the card's biggest stars.

    The UFC matchmakers work in mysterious ways, but here are a few of the fights we're hoping to see after UFC on ESPN 29.

Jared Cannonier vs. Darren Till-Derek Brunson Winner

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    Jared Cannonier got back to winning ways in the UFC on ESPN 29 main event, rebounding from a decision loss to Robert Whittaker with a decision win over Kelvin Gastelum. The victory moved the Texan to 4-1 as a middleweight and cemented his status as one of the division's top contenders.

    From here, Cannonier has two options: wait for a crack at the winner of an upcoming championship rematch between Israel Adesanya and Whittaker or take another fight in the interim. Given that he confessed to being "broke" in his post-fight interview with commentator Daniel Cormier, the latter option seems more likely.

    In a perfect world, he'd be matched up with somebody like Paulo Costa or Marvin Vettori, but those two are scheduled to fight each other on October 23. That date is still a ways off, so Cannonier's best bet might be a fight with the winner of a September 4 contest between Darren Till and Derek Brunson.

    Till hasn't fought since a decision loss to Whittaker in summer 2020, but he remains one of the middleweight division's top contenders and biggest stars. Brunson, meanwhile, is on a four-fight streak and has long stood out as one of the best middleweights in the UFC. 

    Defeating either man would make Cannonier's claim to a title shot almost undeniable.

Kelvin Gastelum vs. Brad Tavares

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    After losing to Jared Cannonier in the UFC on ESPN 29 main event, Kelvin Gastelum finds himself on unstable ground. While he's clearly still one of the best middleweights out there, he's now lost five of his last six fights, and unfortunately, there's just no substitute for victory in mixed martial arts. 

    Given his recent struggles, the 29-year-old is probably due for a bit of a step down in competition. Somebody such as Brad Tavares would be just that, while still representing a credible challenge.

    The Hawaiian has been on the cusp of middleweight title contention for what feels like centuries, and after recent wins over Antonio Carlos Junior and Omari Akhmedov, he's due for another crack at a top-10 foe.

    Match him up with Gastelum on an upcoming Fight Night card and see which man can justify his position among the middleweight division's top fighters.

Brandon Moreno vs. Alexandre Pantoja

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    By submitting Brandon Royval on the UFC on ESPN 29 main card, Alexandre Pantoja seemingly earned himself a shot at UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno.

    While it's possible the next flyweight title shot could go to somebody else—namely Deiveson Figueiredo or Askar Askarov—the Brazilian is helped by the fact that he already holds two wins over the champ: a submission win on The Ultimate Fighter in 2016 and a decision win in the UFC in 2018.

    Pantoja also strengthened his case for a title shot by calling for a crack at Moreno, who was in the building for UFC on ESPN 29, in his post-fight interview. 

    For his part, Moreno seemed interested and nodded confidently as Pantoja challenged him to a December fight, which is not surprising given that he lost his first two encounters with the 31-year-old.

    It's not the only option for Moreno's first title defense, but it feels like the most compelling of the bunch. Book it.

Josiane Nunes vs. Jessica-Rose Clark-Joselyne Edwards Winner

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    Brazilian bantamweight prospect Josiane Nunes made her UFC debut on the UFC on ESPN 29 undercard and couldn't have made a much bigger splash, leveling Bea Malecki with a first-round punch.

    The win pushed the 27-year-old newcomer's overall record to an impressive 8-1, with all but one of those wins coming by way of knockout. 

    Nunes' impressive debut and fan-friendly style should earn her a big test in her next fight. She has plenty of options in that regard, but we'd like to see her matched up with the winner of an October 23 fight between Jessica-Rose Clarke and Joselyne Edwards.

    Edwards is currently 1-1 in the UFC, with a decision win over Yanan Wu and a decision loss to Karol Rosa. Clarke, on the other hand, is riding a stoppage win over Sarah Alpar, which pushed her promotional record for 3-2. Both women would present a tough challenge for Nunes, and both seem likely to engage the Brazilian finisher in a fun fight. 

Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Guram Kutateladze

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    Chilean lightweight prospect Ignacio Bahamondes gave us a 2021 Knockout of the Year contender on the UFC on ESPN 29 undercard, shutting the lights out on Roosevelt Roberts with a third-round wheel kick. It was the kind of win that will appear on highlight reels for years to come. 

    As one of the hottest young prospects in, arguably, the UFC's deepest division, the 23-year-old has an expansive list of options for his next fight. Our vote is for a matchup with Guram Kutateladze. 

    The Georgian, 29, made a huge splash in his UFC debut last October, picking up a hard-fought split-decision win over former two-division KSW champion Mateusz Gamrot.

    Kutateladze has been sidelined by a string of visa issues and injuries since then, but he'd make an excellent test for Bahamondes once those hurdles are cleared. With 17 finishes combined, it also seems all but guaranteed that the two lightweights would put on a show.