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Former UFC middleweight champ Luke Rockhold’s (16-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) quest to regain UFC gold suffered a blow in Saturday’s UFC 221 main event. Yoel Romero (13-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) knocked him out in the third round in the featured pay-per-view main card at Perth Arena in Australia.
In addition to Rockhold’s definitive defeat, Mark Hunt (13-12-1 MMA, 8-6-1 UFC), Cyril Asker (9-4 MMA, 2-3 UFC), Li Jingliang (14-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC) and Saparbeg Safarov (8-2 MMA, 0-2 UFC) all fell short in their bouts.
After every event, fans wonder whom the losing fighters will be matched up with next. And 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 221’s losing fighters.
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Should fight: Marcel Fortuna
Why they should fight: After a layoff of more than 14 months, Safarov finally resumed his UFC career with a bout against Tyson Pedro, but it didn’t go very well for him.
Safarov was put on the highlight reel in the form of a first-round submission loss, and he didn’t show much before the fight-ending kimura. Although he got a “Fight of the Night” bonus in his UFC-debut loss to Gian Villante, Safarov hasn’t done much to inspire confidence he’ll be a longstanding member of the UFC roster.
Despite his performances, Safarov’s place in the UFC is likely secured by the thin nature of the light-heavyweight division. But if he can’t hold his own against someone such as Fortuna (9-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC), his spot could be in jeopardy.
On top of the defeat, “The Leech” received criticism for his blatant eye-gauge in the fight. It probably didn’t earn him many new fans, but aside from the foul, Jingliang once again lived up to his reputation as an exciting fighter.
Jingliang is a contender for “Fight of the Night” every time he enters the octagon. He got another one for the fight with Matthews, and Silva (19-9 MMA, 7-8 UFC) is a welterweight who provides similar action when he competes.
Should fight: Marcelo Golm
Why they should fight: Asker found out why UFC matchmakers have been hard-pressed to find willing opponents for Tai Tuivasa when he suffered a first-round TKO loss to the heavyweight prospect.
Asker simply couldn’t get anything going in the contest, and though he hung tough against Tuivasa’s early offense, he couldn’t survive. The Frenchman has now alternated wins and losses over his five-fight UFC career.
If Asker wants to be considered more than division fodder, he needs to get some momentum going. His next fight would be a good time to start, and after taking tough bouts, Golm (6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) would be an appropriate but winnable matchup for him.
Should fight: Loser of Fabricio Werdum vs. Alexander Volkov at UFC Fight Night 127
Why they should fight: Hunt’s defensive grappling couldn’t hold up against the wrestling of Curtis Blaydes, and it resulted in a unanimous-decision loss.
Hunt delivered his best shots in the opening round. When he couldn’t get the knockout, his opponent’s grappling pressure wore down Hunt and led him to his first career decision loss.
“The Super Samoan” is still a capable fighter, but with his 44th birthday just around the corner, it’s clear he’s beginning to slow down. Hunt said he intends to complete the final two fights on his UFC contract and then end his career in a different organization. If that’s the case, it’s unlikely the promotion is going to give him any favorable matchups on the way out the door.
Hunt has been pursuing a rematch with Werdum (23-7-1 MMA, 11-4 UFC) since he was knocked out by the former champ at UFC 180 in November 2014. If the Brazilian loses his scheduled headliner against Volkov (29-6 MMA, 3-0 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 127 in March, it would be the perfect time to run it back with Hunt. And if Volkov loses the fight, giving him a name like Hunt would be a good bounce-back opportunity.
Should fight: Kelvin Gastelum
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Rockhold should fight Gastelum (14-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) next.
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