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