UFC Saudi Arabia Winners Matchmaker

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In a landmark debut show in Saudi Arabia, the Ultimate Fighting Championship brought a slew of exciting fights to the Middle East. On the main card, we had the return of Russian kickboxer Shara Magomedov, a pivotal clash between ranked heavyweights Sergei Pavlovich and Alexander Volkov and former middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker taking on Ikram Aliskerov. Now, let’s take a look at who the main card winners should fight next. 

UFC Saudi Arabia Winners Matchmaker

Volkan Oezdemir

Extending his first round finishing streak to two, Volkan Oezdemir took home a sensational knockout performance against the towering Johnny Walker with an uppercut that shut the Brazilian’s lights off in dramatic fashion. The win now puts the Swiss just a little bit closer to the title that he has been striving to fight for since his unfortunate 2018 loss to then light heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier.

Fights to make: Jan Blachowicz or Jamahal Hill 

Following the conclusion of his fight, Oezdemir (20-7 MMA, 8-6 UFC) had two names in mind for his next trip to the Octagon, and both just happen to be former 205 lbs champions: Jan Blachowicz (29-10 MMA, 12-7 UFC) and Jamahal Hill (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC). Both competitors could make for fantastic dance partners for “No Time”, however, considering both fighters are currently sidelined due to injuries, there is no telling when we will see Oezdemir take to the squared circle again this year. Either way, both bouts would serve as the ideal opportunities to further the 34-year old’s aspirations of fighting for light heavyweight gold once again.

Shara Magomedov

After his original opponent was removed from the card, Russia’s Shara Magomedov came to blows with an extremely short-notice replacement in Antonio Trocoli. Throughout the contest, “Bullet” pieced up his Brazilian foe with a wide array of kicks to the legs, body, and face, out landing “Malvado” 75% to 47% before eventually finding the knockout finish halfway through round three. 

Fight to make: Edmen Shahbazyan 

So far in both his UFC outings, the undefeated Magomedov (13-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has looked very impressive on the feet, emerging as one of the Middleweight divisions most promising young talents, as of late. And though the 30-year-old is already getting call outs, Xtreme Couture product Edmen Shahbazyan (13-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) would prove to be the right test to see if “Bullet” is prepared to climb to the next level of the 185 lbs class. The bout would also be a way for “The Golden Boy” to demonstrate that he still has the potential to regain his place amongst the best in his division, but also to go beyond and claim a world title for himself, as Ronda Rousey once said he would. 

Kelvin Gastelum

Last Saturday, Kelvin Gastelum defeated Daniel Rodriguez by unanimous decision, putting himself back into the winner’s circle after being dominated by Sean Brady in his last UFC appearance. The win wasn’t without controversy, though, with Gastelum coming under heavy fire for his need to have the fight take place at 185 lbs (his former weight class) despite it originally being scheduled for 170 lbs. While he did officially make weight for his clash with Rodriguez, this marks the third time that Gastelum has failed to make the Welterweight limit in his career, leaving him at a difficult crossroads as to what his next steps will be. 

Fights to make: Geoff Neal (Welterweight) or Anthony Hernandez (Middleweight) 

Depending on what division Gastelum (19-9 MMA, 13-9 UFC) fights in next, he has several options at both 170 lbs and 185 lbs. At 170, a striking battle with the heavy-handed Geoff Neal (15-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC) could spell an electrifying spectacle (provided Gastelum is able to make weight). But should he choose to remain at middleweight, the up-and-coming submission specialist Anthony Hernandez (12-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is in need of a big name to further his own climb up the division’s stacked top 15.

The MMASucka podcast broke down Kelvin Gastelum’s weight miss on this week’s podcast, which can be found here:

Alexander Volkov

With six first round knockouts on his UFC resume, Sergei Pavlovich easily stands out as one of the promotion’s most feared Heavyweights today. However, after an excellent display of distant management and striking defense, Alexander Volkov made the power-punching juggernaut look all too human. Throughout their co-main event fight, “Drago” fought the near-perfect fight by out striking Pavlovich over the course of 15 minutes while avoiding almost all of his countryman’s big shots. He ended up capturing the unanimous decision win while leaving the former boogeyman of the 265 lbs class a bloody and battered mess.    

Fight to make: Ciryl Gane 

Back in 2021, Volkov (38-10 MMA, 12-4 UFC) crossed paths with future two-time heavyweight title challenger, Ciryl Gane (12-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) in the main event of UFC Vegas 30, where the Russian lost a unanimous decision to the Frenchman. But with his win streak now standing at four in a row, with three finishes, the time has come for “Drago” to have another crack at “Bon Gamin”, and should he come out on top, Volkov could easily be staring down his first shot at UFC gold. 

Robert Whittaker

Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker may very well have punched his ticket to another chance at reclaiming his throne at the top of the 185lbs mountain. In the main event of UFC Saudi Arabia, “The Reaper” claimed his first stoppage win since April 2017 by flatlining short notice replacement Ikram Aliskerov with a devastating right uppercut in the very first round. Funnily enough, the knockout was Aliskerov’s first defeat since suffering his lone career loss to Whittaker’s original opponent, Khamzat Chimaev, in 2019 by, coincidentally, a right uppercut.

Fight to make: Nassourdine Imavov

With his victory in the Middle East behind him, Whittaker (26-7 MMA, 17-5 UFC) is looking ahead to potentially serve as the backup fighter for the main event of UFC 305 which will see Dricus Du Plessis defend his Middleweight strap against a returning Israel Adesanya. With even UFC CEO Dana White seemingly on board, we may be seeing “The Reaper” fighting for gold before the summer ends. However, should his need to fill in for either competitor end up not being necessary, a victory over the streaking Nassourdine Imavov (14-4 MMA, 6-2 UFC) would surely cement Whittaker’s position as the next clear title challenger.       

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Hank has been a professional writer for three years. He has covered major tournaments for competitive video games like the Super Smash Bros. series and writes for two different esports teams. He just recently graduated from Hamline University with a Bachelors in Fine Arts in Creative Writing and as a member of Phi Betta Kappa.