Matches to Make After UFC on ESPN 28

By Brian Knapp Aug 1, 2021

Sean Strickland chose the right vocation.

The former King of the Cage titleholder continued his rapid rise through the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight ranks with a clear-cut unanimous decision over Uriah Hall in the UFC on ESPN 28 headliner on Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Scores were 50-44, 50-45 and 49-46—all for Strickland, who recorded his fifth consecutive win and improved to 4-0 since he returned to 185 pounds a little less than a year ago.

Hall was never afforded the opportunity to settle into a comfortable rhythm. Strickland met him with a punishing jab and overwhelmed the two-time Ring of Combat champion with output and aggression. He connected on a career-high 186 significant strikes in the 25-minute affair, 173 of them to the head. Strickland outlanded the Fortis MMA captain in all five rounds and completed four of his six takedown attempts, resulting in more than seven minutes of control time. It was a rout by any standard of measure.

In the aftermath of UFC on ESPN “Hall vs. Strickland,” here are five matches that ought to be made:

Sean Strickland vs. Derek Brunson-Darren Till winner: Primed for a breakthrough performance, Strickland capitalized on his first main event assignment in the UFC. The Syndicate MMA rep nearly finished Hall on multiple occasions and dominated “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 17 finalist in every phase of hand-to-hand combat, all but assuring himself of a Top 10 run at 185 pounds. Since he returned to the middleweight division in October, Strickland has beaten Hall, Krzysztof Jotko, Brendan Allen and Jack Marshman, upping his overall record to 24-3. Brunson and Till will collide atop UFC Fight Night 191 on Sept. 4.

Cheyanne Buys vs. Diana Belbita: Buys rebounded from a disappointing loss to Montserrat Ruiz on March 20 with a highlight-reel knockout of Gloria de Paula in the co-headliner. A head kick and follow-up punches from the Dana White’s Contender Series graduate brought it to a dramatic close 60 seconds into Round 1. Buys, 26, has rattled off five wins across her past six appearances and now seems to have her legs underneath her in the UFC women’s strawweight division. Belbita—who, like Buys, calls herself “The Warrior Princess”—last competed at UFC on ESPN 27, where she cruised to a unanimous decision over Hannah Goldy on July 24.

Jared Gooden vs. Mounir Lazzez: The toolsy Gooden stepped in as a short-notice replacement for Lazzez and blew off Niklas Stolze’s doors in the first round of their welterweight showcase. “Nite Train” countered and flattened Stolze with a right hand 1:08 into Round 1, winning for the first time in three starts inside the Octagon. It was the second-fastest finish of Gooden’s 24-fight career and provided him with some welcomed stability moving forward. Lazzez has not fought since he bowed to a body kick and follow-up punches from Warlley Alves at UFC on ESPN 20 in January.

Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Austin Lingo-Luis Saldana winner: Baghdasaryan raised his stock to new heights when he cut down fellow promotional debutant Collin Anglin with a head kick and punches in the second round of their featherweight feature. Anglin met his end 1:50 into Round 2. Prior to the stoppage, Baghdasaryan exploited a discernible speed advantage and tore into the Scorpion Fighting System with a series of surgical left hands. An intriguing addition to the 145-pound weight class, the 29-year-old Armenian has won six fights in a row, five of them finishes. Lingo will lock horns with Saldana at UFC on ESPN 29 on Aug. 21.

Jason Witt vs. Impa Kasanganay-Carlston Harris winner: Witt evened his record at 2-2, as he upset Bryan Barberena by majority decision in a three-round welterweight barnburner. Judges Mike Bell and Rick Winter struck 29-27 and 29-28 scorecards for the Glory MMA export, while Tony Weeks scored it a 28-28 draw. Witt raced out to two-rounds-to-none lead, withstood a ferocious comeback—Barberena outstruck him by a 44-18 margin in Round 3—from his determined counterpart and rode eight completed takedowns to victory. Kasanganay and Harris have been booked opposite one another at UFC Fight Night 192 on Sept. 18.
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