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After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next.
With another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC on ESPN+ 8’s key winning fighters.
That includes Jack Hermansson (20-4 MMA, 7-2 UFC), who earned a unanimous decision victory over Ronaldo Souza (26-7 MMA, 9-4 UFC) in the main event at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., as well as Greg Hardy (4-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC), Mike Perry (13-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC), Glover Teixeira (29-7 MMA, 12-5 UFC) and Cory Sandhagen (11-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC).
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Should fight: Cody Garbrandt
Why they should fight: Sandhagen validated himself as a true threat in the bantamweight division when he outworked one of the most terrifying fighters in the division in John Lineker to a split decision.
The pre-fight confidence shown by Sandhagen aligned with the performance, and now it’s hard to look at him as anything other than a true rising contender. The waters only get deeper and more challenging going forward, though, and Sandhagen said he embraces that as he attempts to make a push toward 135-pound gold.
In order to make that push, fighting a man who used to hold the belt would only strengthen Sandhagen’s resume. Garbrandt (11-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) fits that description, and after suffering three consecutive losses, “No Love” is looking to come back later this year and return to winning form. Stealing the momentum of a surging prospect would be a stellar way for Garbrandt to reinsert himself, while beating the Alpha Male MMA product would do wonders for Sandhagen’s career.
Should fight: Johnny Walker
Why they should fight: In what had to be one of the more satisfying victories of his career, Teixeira silenced the brash and abrasive Ion Cutelaba with a second-round submission victory to show that at 39, the former UFC title challenger still has plenty left in the tank.
Once the fight hit the mat, Teixeira’s ground game was far too much for his opponent. Suddenly the Brazilian has won three of four and is a name that can’t be forgotten when discussing the top light heavyweights. He just took out one of the division’s rising threats, and if he can do that one more time, perhaps inviting Teixeira back into the title discussion would be in order.
That would certainly be the case if he were to be matched up with Walker (17-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who after three consecutive first-round knockout wins to begin his UFC career, is being touted as a future potential title challenger. He’s beaten some good names in his exciting run, but Teixeira is on an entirely different level and would be the true test. There’s major upside for both Teixeira and Walker in this potential booking, and it makes sense given the 205-pound landscape.
Should fight: Darren Till
Why they should fight: Perry’s unanimous decision win over Alex Oliveira may have been the best overall performance of his career and said a lot about his maturity and evolution inside the octagon in terms of fighting smarter and more maturely.
After the fight, Perry called for a showdown with Till (17-2-1 MMA, 5-2-1 UFC), which would be a solid matchup with a backstory dating more than a year. The major roadblock in making that fight happen, though, appears to surround the Brit, who recently found himself in some legal troubles in the Canary Islands.
Till is also still reeling from a brutal knockout loss to Jorge Masvidal at UFC on ESPN+ 5 in March. If he gets everything right in the coming months, though, a matchup with Perry would give “The Gorilla” good odds to get back in the win column and return some momentum to his career. And for Perry, of course, it could serve as his launching pad into a top-10 position in the welterweight rankings.
Should fight: Juan Espino
Why they should fight: The effort of his opponent definitely took something away from the outcome, but nevertheless, Hardy is officially a winner under the UFC banner, and he appears to believe the building blocks are in place for a significant run through the heavyweight division.
After his debut went haywire in January, Hardy beat up an overmatched and intimidated Dmitrii Smoliakov on Saturday for a first-round knockout. The former NFL player was pleased about his performance afterward and said he’s ready for whatever the next challenge is for him.
It should absolutely be someone more legitimate than Smoliakov, and after winning Season 28 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series, Espino (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) fits the mold. The Spanish fighter is a grappling specialist, which is something Hardy has yet to encounter. His power with striking is going to cause a lot of problems to others and gives Hardy a chance in any fight where he’s trading blows, but if he has something to show on the ground, as well, that would make him a far bigger threat.
Espino hasn’t competed since winning “TUF 28” in November due to injuries. He’s targeting a comeback this year, though, and Espino would surely relish the chance to fight Hardy, who on paper is a novice on the mat.
Should fight: Kelvin Gastelum
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Hermansson should fight Gastelum (15-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) after his main event victory.
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