Last weekend, we saw Israel Adesanya defend his UFC middleweight title versus Robert Whittaker. While Adesanya has now stacked up his self-proclaimed “fifth” title defense, it’s possible he could reign as the middleweight king for the foreseeable future. “Izzy’s” next opponent is seemingly going to be Jared Cannonier, who scored himself a vicious knockout of Derek Brunson. With Cannonier’s recent win, he’s clearly established himself as the #1 contender. But what about the rest of the division? Let’s put on our Sean Shelby/Mick Maynard hat and matchmake the top 8 middleweights in the UFC.
Matchmaking the UFC Middleweight Division
(Champion) Israel Adesanya vs. (#2) Jared Cannonier
As mentioned earlier, this one is pretty clear cut. Adesanya’s next opponent has been all but confirmed. Based on Adesanya’s hunger to fight a few more times this year, we can expect a rather quick turnaround. It appears the UFC schedule is mostly booked through May, so do not be surprised if we see Adesanya vs. Cannonier headline UFC 275. Although Adesanya will likely go in as the heavy favorite, do not sleep on Cannonier. The guy simply does not go down easy and I expect him to come out guns blazing versus Adesanya. The MMASucka podcast crew discuss this possibility on the latest episode:
(#1) Robert Whittaker vs. (#3) Marvin Vettori
This seems almost too obvious. Whittaker is coming off of a loss but because he’s been defeated by Adesanya twice, he’s going to need to defend his #1 ranking. Who better to defend it against than Marvin Vettori, who was also defeated by Adesanya twice. Vettori is coming off of a decision win versus Paulo Costa, which went down as a light heavyweight win due to Costa’s insistence on not making weight for a middleweight bout. Whittaker and Vettori are in a weird limbo as they’ve both lost to the current champion twice, but need fresh meat to fight. Let’s make this a 5 round main event for a fight night in 2022.
(#4) Derek Brunson vs. (#7) Jack Hermansson
Brunson stated that he only wanted to fight twice and retire, prior to losing to Cannonier. With that said, it means he will only have one fight left. Let’s match him up against Jack Hermansson, who is also coming off of a loss. Both fighters are elite grapplers and while Brunson will retire, Hermansson has a chance to catapult himself back into the top 5 with a win against Brunson. This seems like another no brainer.
(#5) Sean Strickland vs (#6) Paulo Costa
The buildup to this fight would be ELITE entertainment. Sean Strickland has manifested his own unique persona as he’s been running through the division with six straight wins. Although Dana White has said Costa will never fight in the middleweight division again, Costa is still currently in the rankings. This may mean his days as a middleweight aren’t over just quite yet. Costa needs to redeem himself after his latest loss against Vettori and what better opponent to face than Strickland. This one just seems too perfect and let’s would hope UFC matchmakers feel the same way.
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