5 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ESPN 34April 18, 2022
5 Fights We Need to See After UFC on ESPN 34
The Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad II card went down Saturday night in Las Vegas, and while the event was decidedly lacking in terms of big names, it still opened the door to some interesting matchups.
The card was headlined by a clash of welterweight contenders, as the No. 6-ranked Belal Muhammad took on No. 5-ranked Vicente Luque. The bout was a rematch of a 2016 fight that Luque won by first-round knockout. The second time around, Muhammad evened the score, outwrestling his Brazilian foe to an impressive unanimous-decision triumph.
Beyond the main event, one of the biggest winners of the night was Portuguese welterweight Andre Fialho, who picked up a career-changing knockout win over the dangerous Miguel Baeza in the first round.
American light heavyweight contender Devin Clark also picked up a nice win, knocking out the ridiculously powerful William Knight in Round 3. So, too, did Clark's countryman Drakkar Klose, who returned from a two-year layoff to knock out Brandon Jenkins in Round 2 at lightweight.
Keep reading for the fights we're hoping to see.
Belal Muhammad vs. Gilbert Burns
Belal Muhammad earned one of the biggest wins of his career over Vicente Luque.
He's now on an eight-fight unbeaten streak—a run that also includes triumphs over the likes of former title challengers Demian Maia and Stephen "Wonderboy" Thompson.
Muhammad should land in the welterweight top five, but he will probably have some waiting to do before he contends for the title currently held by Kamaru Usman.
Usman is recovering from surgery and is expected to fight Leon Edwards when he's healthy. Beyond that, the winner of a yet unscheduled fight between Colby Covington and Khamzat Chimaev will seemingly be next.
So Muhammad will most likely need to take at least one more fight in the meantime.
We're hoping he'll be matched up with Brazil's Gilbert Burns. Burns, who previously fought for the welterweight title, was last in action at UFC 273 earlier this month, when he lost a narrow decision to Chimaev.
While it wasn't the result he wanted, it reaffirmed his status as one of the sport's top welterweights and just the kind of opponent Muhammad needs to beat as he looks to take another big step toward a title shot.
Vicente Luque vs. Geoff Neal
Vicente Luque had a four-fight win streak derailed versus Belal Muhammad after recent triumphs over the likes of Michael Chiesa and Tyron Woodley.
It was a tough L for a guy who has long looked like a future title contender, but it is not the end of the road.
From here, we'd like to see The Silent Assassin matched up with Geoff Neal, another all-action striker who has struggled to make the final push into title contention.
Neal is riding a razor-close decision win over Santiago Ponzinibbio and will be looking for the opportunity to build on that victory in the near future.
Match him up with Luque to see who belongs where in the jam-packed welterweight top 15, and rest assured it would be an excellent fight.
Andre Fialho vs. Daniel Rodriguez
Belal Muhammad wasn't the only welterweight to score a career-changing victory. Earlier on the broadcast, Portugal's Andre Fialho picked up one of his best wins to date, knocking out the dangerous Miguel Baeza.
The win separated the 28-year-old Sanford MMA product from a decision loss to human-highlight reel Michel Pereira, and it should set him up for another big opportunity at 170 pounds.
Our pick for his next opponent is Daniel Rodriguez, who has become of the most delightful welterweight fighters to watch over the last few years.
Rodriguez, 35, is riding a trio of victories over "Platinum" Mike Perry, Preston Parsons and Kevin Lee.
Like Fialho, he's trying to set himself up for a fight with a top-15 opponent. Pit them against each other to see who's really ready for that opportunity.
Devin Clark vs. Khalil Rountree
Devin Clark would undoubtedly lose a bench-pressing competition against William Knight, but he has his fellow American light heavyweight beat in the fighting department.
Clark defeated Knight by third-round stoppage at the event, rebounding from a pair of tough losses to Anthony Smith and Ion Cutelaba in the process.
On the heels of the victory, we'd like to see him booked against knockout artist Khalil Rountree, who, after back-to-back losses to Ion Cutelaba and Marcin Prachnio, has gotten back on track with a pair of vicious second-round stoppages over Modestas Bukauskas and Karl Roberson.
Drakkar Klose vs. Jim Miller
Drakkar Klose scored an impressive second-round stoppage win over Brandon Jenkins, and his performance was made all the sweeter by the circumstances.
Klose had been out of action for over two years. Much of that layoff was thanks to the grievous injuries he suffered after he was senselessly shoved by his would-be opponent Jeremy Stephens in 2021. We've already shared our thoughts on the 35-year-old toddler Stephens, so we'll leave it at that for now.
The point is that Klose is back in the win column after a period of tremendous adversity, and he deserves a nice opportunity next time out.
Our pick is a fight with ageless wonder Jim Miller, who, despite being one of the most experienced fighters in UFC history, is still fighting and winning in 2022—at 38 years old!
It makes sense as far as the lightweight hierarchy is concerned, and it would probably be a lot of fun to watch.