UFC on ESPN 40 went down on Saturday night in Las Vegas, and it was a fairly significant slate of fights.
In the main event, we saw more evidence of a changing of the guard at light heavyweight, as Thiago Santos, an established contender, was worn out and ultimately stopped by a much newer face in Jamahal Hill.
In the co-headliner, No. 13 ranked welterweight contender Geoff Neal disrupted the status quo in his division, scoring a late stoppage over Vicente Luque, who was ranked No. 6 heading into the fight.
Earlier in the night, two new Ultimate Fighter winners were crowned, as Juliana Miller stopped Brogan Walker at flyweight, and Mohammed Usman thumped Zac Pauga up at heavyweight.
And on the undercard, we witnessed impressive wins from a number of rising fighters, most notably Moldovan heavyweight Sergey Spivak, who took out a ranked foe in Brazil’s Augusto Sakai.
It was a night that opened the door to a host of exciting matchup options. Keep scrolling for the fights we’d like to see when everyone is healed up.
Jamahal Hill’s fourth-round TKO win over Thiago Santos in the UFC on ESPN 40 main event wasn’t as impressive as some of his previous wins, but it was far more valuable than another quick knockout would have been.
He struggled with Santos’ wrestling early in the fight, succumbing to five takedown attempts in Round 3 alone, but still found a way to win, proving that he is not just a flashy finisher but a determined and versatile contender.
Hill deserves a big reward for his win over Santos, who was ranked No. 6 heading into the fight. Post-fight, the rising contender called for a title shot opposite new champion Jiri Prochazka. He’s got a pretty decent case for that opportunity, but we’ve already thrown our support behind Magomed Ankalaev getting the next title shot, and we’re sticking to that.
So let’s give Hill what he seems to view as the next best option: a fight with former champion Jan Blachowicz.
“Everybody interests me at the top, but I want the shot at Jiri,” Hill said at the UFC on ESPN 40 post-fight press conference. “I’ve been calling for Jiri for two years now. I want him. I don’t care if he’s the champion. I got twice as many wins as he does in this organization.
“So I want him. I can’t get him? Give me the man that used to sit on that throne. I’ll take Jan. I’m hungry. I want gold. The lion is hungry for gold.”
It makes sense from a rankings standpoint, and Hill and Blachowicz’s shared propensity for vicious knockouts all but guarantees excitement. Throw it on a pay-per-view main card and give the winner a title shot.
Geoff Neal sent a shockwave through the welterweight rankings in the UFC on ESPN 40 co-main event, defeating a man ranked seven spots above him, No. 6-ranked contender Vicente Luque, by third-round knockout.
After the win, it would be great to see Neal matched up with No. 8 contender Jorge Masvidal, but we all know Masvidal is far too picky to accept a fight with anybody outside the division’s biggest stars. So instead, we’ll go with our second favorite option for Neal: a fight with No. 4-ranked contender Gilbert Burns.
Burns is a big step up for somebody like Neal. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if the fight didn’t interest the Brazilian, particularly after he risked his ranking against another relative newcomer in Khamzat Chimaev in his last fight.
But Luque is one of Burns’ best friends, and Neal just beat Luque. Burns doesn’t seem like the type to let his buddy go unavenged, so the matchup might not be as hard a sell as we think.
Neal, for his part, is definitely up for it, telling reporters it makes “perfect sense” at the UFC on ESPN 40 post-fight press conference.
At UFC on ESPN 40, welterweight champ Kamaru Usman watched his younger brother Mohammed earn a contract with the promotion, winning the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter with a vicious second-round knockout of Zac Pauga at heavyweight.
It’s a little early to go comparing Mohammed to Kamaru. We’ve seen the heavyweight lose before, most notably tapping to Brandon Sayles in the PFL cage. Still, he’s definitely got the skills and power to make some noise in the UFC, particularly in a division as thin on elite talent as heavyweight.
For his next fight, we’d like to see Usman matched up with Chase Sherman.
Sherman is anything but consistent. He has been cut from the UFC before and narrowly avoided being cut again in his last fight when he corrected a four-fight skid with a stoppage win over the also-not-great Jared Vanderaa.
Still, he seems like a decent test for Usman, who is still just 10 fights into his professional career. One way or the other, the matchup should give us a much clearer picture of where younger Usman bro belongs among the sport’s top big boys.
Mohammed Usman was not the only Ultimate Fighter winner to be crowned at UFC on ESPN 40. Earlier on the main card, Julianna Miller won the latest season’s flyweight tournament, defeating Brogan Walker by third-round TKO.
Miller definitely has promise but, like Usman, is still a little green to be heralded as a future champion or even a future contender. She is, after all, just 4-1 as a professional fighter.
Luckily, there’s no need to throw Miller to the wolves. The UFC flyweight division is home to several good-but-not-great fighters who should be capable of giving Miller a good test and giving us a better sense of where the new TUF winner really belongs in the 125-pound pecking order.
Our pick is a fight with Hannah Goldy, who, after a submission win over Emily Whitmire last year, was blown away to a stoppage loss by the rising star Molly McCann in her last fight.
It’s not the kind of fight that needs to be on a main card, but it makes sense for both women.
Moldovan heavyweight Serghei Spivac picked up a great win at UFC on ESPN 40, stopping No. 14-ranked contender Augusto Sakai with second-round strikes on the main card.
Spivac was unranked heading into the fight, but the win should earn him a spot somewhere just outside the Top 10. From there, he can look forward to a fight with one of the division’s top dogs.
Our pick is a fight with Chris Daukaus. Daukaus looked like he could be a future title challenger for a while, but then he ran into Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes—two of the division’s best-established contenders—and hit the deck both times.
He’s still got a lot of potential, but after his recent losses, he needs to justify his No. 10 spot in the rankings. A fight with a rising contender like Spivac would be the perfect opportunity to do so.
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