Matches to Make After UFC Fight Night 232

The latest Ultimate Fighting Championship offering was a slim card, with precious few fights of significance. In the main event, Paul Craig clashed with Brendan Allen at middleweight. Craig was a long-time grizzled light heavyweight contender who had been soundly beaten many times but also authored some stunning submission wins, including a literal last-second comeback victory against Magomed Ankalaev in the Russian's UFC debut and a two-minute stoppage of future light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill in 2021. After back-to-back losses to Volkan Oezdemir and Johnny Walker, the 35 year-old decided to drop to 185 pounds. It paid off in his first appearance at the new weight, as he stopped Andre Muniz in the second round despite being a significant underdog.

However, he had a much taller order in facing Brendan Allen. Allen is one of the most talented middleweights on the planet, and at 27 years old, finally appeared to be realizing his potential, having won 5 straight fights, 4 of them by submission, since a shocking upset loss to Chris Curtis in late 2021. Not only is Allen a better wrestler and overall grappler than Craig, but he is a much better striker, too. Accordingly, he was a huge -400 favorite.

Allen certainly justified all those expectations. He out-struck Craig on the feet and repeatedly took him down, delivering devastating ground-and-pound and constantly attacking with a rear-naked choke. He opened up a huge gash with an elbow and then tapped Craig Early in Round 3 with the RNC.

In the co-main event, blue-chip prospect Michael Morales faced his toughest test in Jake Matthews. Morales is only 23 but was 15-0 as a pro, including 3-0 in the UFC, including knockouts of Trevin Giles and Adam Fugitt, as well as a hard-fought decision against Max Griffin. Matthews was a former top young prospect, having debuted in the UFC as a 19 year-old with an impressive submission win, but in the decade since, hasn't panned out. That's reflected in his most recent outings, alternating wins against the likes of Andre Fialho and Darrius Flowers with one-sided losses against Sean Brady and Matthew Semelsberger. Still, Matthews is a well-rounded fighter who can both strike and grapple, offering a stern test for the young, dynamic striker Morales. As it turns out, there was practically no grappling, with the two engaging in a competitive kickboxing contest. Morales was better, being faster and longer with his punches, and possessing a superior jab. However, he occasionally left himself wide open, eating some flush power punches, though Matthews lacked the power to hurt him. Morales won a clear unanimous decision.

Elsewhere, the talented but mercurial Amanda Ribas, once considered a top title contender but 2-3 in her last five, including two knockout defeats, returned to strawweight to fight fellow Brazilian Luana Pinheiro. Pinheiro won the opening round but Ribas soon found her rhythm and crashed through in tremendous fashion in the final frame, bashing her tired foe with a spinning wheel kick and then finishing her off with punches.

Related » UFC Fight Night 232 Round-by-Round Scoring

Here are three interesting fights following UFC Fight Night 232 that can be booked in 2024:

Brendan Allen vs. Marvin Vettori

Allen could be a serious title contender, but in order to prove that, he needs to face and defeat a top foe. A perfect gatekeeper in that regard is former title challenger Marvin Vettori, currently ranked No. 5. Vettori was decisively defeated by Adesanya, Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier, but has triumphed against lesser middleweights. His facing Allen would be a terrific battle, as both men are excellent grapplers possessing solid striking. Is Allen's striking good enough to surpass Vettori? Would he try his luck in the grappling despite Vettori's strength and wrestling prowess? This would be a major middleweight contender clash and significantly boost the winner's prospects. The loser would still remain a top 10 UFC middleweight, too.

Michael Morales vs. Carlston Harris

Morales is clearly a terrific talent, but he isn't quite ready to take on a top-ranked foe, still possessing notable weaknesses that he could shore up. Continuing his steady ascent against better opposition, I would love to see him face the 36-year-old Harris. Harris has solid striking, possibly able to take advantage of Morales defensively. However, the true test he provides is with his grappling, with 2 of his 4 UFC wins coming by anaconda choke. Would Morales win again, or would he taste defeat for the first time in his career? The latter wouldn't be a tragedy, given that he is 23 and will likely continue to improve for years. It would also be a fun fight, with many dynamic striking and grappling exchanges.

Amanda Ribas vs. Jessica Andrade

Despite some major setbacks, Ribas' days of being a serious contender aren't quite over, and she showed her talent in handing No. 9 ranked Pinheiro the first knockout of her career. I would love to see if she can finally break through into the elite, with former champion and current No. 5 Andrade being a wonderful foe. Not only would this be an important contender's bout, but it would be one of the most exciting fights possible in all of WMMA. Both Brazilians can grapple and deliver devastating knockout blows, but have holes in their defense and vulnerable chins. Andrade, for instance, has delivered 10 knockouts while being knocked out 5 times herself. Ribas now has 3 knockouts on her ledger against 3 knockout defeats. This could well be an amazing back-and-forth battle filled with knockdowns, tight submission attempts, and a crazy highlight ending.

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