Another UFC Fight Night card has passed us by and with it comes a host of possibilities moving forward for both the victors and the unfortunate fighters who were defeated.
The UFC was once again back at the Apex facility for this card, which came after a strong few weeks for the promotion. Despite having to follow some memorable cards and not boasting a lineup as strong name-wise as previous ones, UFC Vegas 33 provided great matchups throughout and provided some of the best fights of the year so far.
In the main event, Sean Strickland jumped into contention with a comfortable five-round victory over perennial contender Uriah Hall. Despite being one of the most depleted cards in UFC history following 11 withdrawals and alterations, a number of debutants, prospects and fighters lower down the divisions delivered some incredible fights and moments. Impressive performances from Jason Witt, Cheyanne Buys, Melsik Baghdasaryan, Zarrukh Adashev and Chris Gruetzemacher made the event one to remember.
So, what are the next steps we should see after some of those results? Here are three fights that should be booked following the events at UFC Vegas 33.
#3. Melsik Baghdasaryan vs. Steven Peterson - UFC featherweight
Welcome to MMA's biggest stage, Melsik Baghdasaryan. I was looking forward to the Armenian's debut all week leading into UFC Vegas 33 and he couldn't have delivered in a more emphatic fashion. With four first-round knockouts in 2019, which remarkably saw him in action for just over a minute, he was always going to look for an explosive start to his UFC career, especially after being taken the full 15-minute distance when he secured a contract from Dana White on DWCS last year.
Against Colin Angllin in a bout that was boosted to the main card following a plethora of withdrawals, Baghdasaryan looked utterly and totally dominant. On the feet he was speedy and slick and his powerful left hand was always there as an option for him. 'The Gun' looked close to a finish in the opening round after stunning Angllin early on. But the 29-year-old was made to wait until the second round to find his memorable stoppage, but it was worth the wait. A vicious left head kick put a brutal stop to the contest..
A Khabib-esque interview showed that, as well as being an exciting prospect and striker, the Armenian has a great personality. Baghdasaryan could become a real player in the featherweight division. But who should await him for his second appearance in the octagon?
Given his new arrival in the promotion, there are quite a few options for Baghdasaryan. If the UFC matchmakers think highly enough of him, perhaps they'll pair him up with Mike Grundy, who's coming off a loss to Lando Vannata. Although that matchup could be incredible, the UFC might be hesitant to match him with a fellow featherweight powerhouse like the Englishman.
Instead, Steven Peterson is a likely option. The 31-year-old has fought six times for the UFC and would represent a step up in opposition for Baghdasaryan. Defeating an accomplished name like Peterson would certainly help propel the Armenian up the 145-pound ladder. 'Ocho' is also in good form. He'd be riding a two-fight winning streak into a clash with Baghdasaryan. A spinning back fist knockout against Martin Bravo in 2019 shows he has the ability to challenge the newcomer on the feet, and handing Chase Hooper his second loss in MMA at UFC 263 shows he's capable of stopping prospects in their tracks.
Quite frankly, Baghdasaryan could be matched up against anyone with a few UFC wins and it would be worthwhile, as long as it means we get to see him in action again soon.
#2. Uriah Hall vs. Brad Tavares - UFC middleweight
Uriah Hall has always been a puzzling figure. He's been one of the most promising middleweights since he entered the promotion and yet right when it matters he seems to fall short. That trend continued against Sean Strickland in the UFC Vegas 33 main event.
A victory over 'Tarzan' would have helped Hall climb closer to title contention. In the end, 'Prime Time' was comfortably beaten and dominated across five rounds. He was close to being finished and perhaps on another day Hall wouldn't have been allowed to reach the final horn.
At 37 years old, it seemed like his winning streak prior to this past weekend was his final run for a shot at UFC gold. Wins against Bevon Lewis, Antonio Carlos Junior, Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman had placed the Jamaican-American in position to secure a fifth straight win and join the group of middleweight contenders. Instead, he's watched Strickland leapfrog him while he remains in limbo in the bottom half of the rankings.
So where does Uriah Hall go from here?
With the latest update to the rankings, Hall finds himself down at No.10 and likely taking a fight lower down the division next time out. So how about he faces a man going the opposite way?
After consecutive losses to Israel Adesanya and Edmen Shahbazyan, Brad Tavares sat out the whole of 2020 but has returned in style this year. Decision wins against Omari Akhmedov and Antonio Carlos Junior have begun a winning streak for the 33-year-old and brought him to No.13 in the 185-pound rankings. He's certainly earned a fight with a man ranked above him and given Hall's setback this past weekend, a matchup between the two makes the most sense.
#1. Sean Strickland vs. Jack Hermansson - UFC middleweight
Sean Strickland's form since his return to action has been truly remarkable. At UFC Vegas 33, his rise towards 185-pound title contention was expected to hit a sizable block in the form of perennial contender Uriah Hall. Instead, 'Tarzan' looked as good as ever and certainly didn't let the pressure of his first UFC main event affect him.
In just the second five-round fight in his career and his first since 2013, Strickland looked dominant. He controlled the bout throughout and looked like he could have finished the top 10 middleweight at any time if he'd stepped on the pedal more. It seems like people are finally beginning to notice Strickland's credentials.
The 30-year-old has only lost to the best. At welterweight, he lost to Santiago Ponzinibbio and current champion Kamaru Usman. Aside from that, a spinning wheel kick knockout against Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is the only other blemish on his impressive record.
After a two-year layoff following a motorcycle accident, Strickland returned to middleweight in 2020, defeating Jack Marshman, highly-touted rising star Brendan Allen and top Polish 185-pounder Krzysztof Jotko. Having now extended his winning streak to five and climbed into the top 10, Strickland will be expecting another big name opposite him when he next enters the octagon.
That name should be Jack Hermansson. 'The Joker' has been inconsistent since the end of 2019, picking up two wins and two losses. After building a four-fight winning streak that included victories over David Branch and Jacare Souza, the 33-year-old tasted defeat against Jared Cannonier and Marvin Vettori. A first-round submission win against Kelvin Gastelum in-between the losses showed he is still one of the top names at middleweight.
Most recently, the Swedish-born Norwegian grinded out a decision win against Edmen Shahbazyan. The future star made a rapid rise into the top 10 and while victory over him was crucial for Hermansson, it's probably not earned him a top-ranked opponent. Instead, a clash with the No.8-ranked Strickland makes the most sense. The bout will represent a chance for both men to secure a top-five opponent soon after.