Home MMA NewsLatest News Hot Takes: What’s Next for Alexander Volkanovski, Sean Strickland’s Title Hopes, and Highlights from UFC Vegas 76

Hot Takes: What’s Next for Alexander Volkanovski, Sean Strickland’s Title Hopes, and Highlights from UFC Vegas 76

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UFC Vegas 76 Analysis

Greetings, fight fans!

It’s that time again, where I tackle your questions and provide some answers. UFC Vegas 76 is officially in the books, and now our attention shifts to UFC 290 and the much-anticipated International Fight Week. In this edition, we’ll discuss the futures of Sean Strickland, Kevin Lee, Alexander Volkanovski, and touch on the PFL controversy. Let’s dive in!

Alexander Volkanovski:

First off, let’s talk about Alexander Volkanovski. While Kevin Lee may be a topic of discussion later on, for now, we focus on the main event. If you believe Volkanovski will emerge victorious against Yair Rodriguez, then there’s a 50 percent chance he’ll face Ilia Topuria next. However, the reasoning behind this potential match-up goes beyond what you might expect.

Volkanovski is eager to have an active year, and Topuria is undeniably the next top contender, as Volkanovski himself has indicated. In an ideal scenario, Volkanovski secures a decisive win and takes some time to recuperate. This sets the stage for a clash at Madison Square Garden in November, where we could witness Volkanovski versus Topuria.

But can Volkanovski achieve all that? It’s not so certain.

There’s a realistic possibility that even if he wins, Volkanovski will face an arduous battle to come out on top. Yair’s past opponents have found him to be a formidable challenge, with the exception of Max Holloway, who secured a win but endured considerable damage. Even if Volkanovski emerges victorious, he won’t escape unscathed. Recovery time will be needed. This means there’s a chance Volkanovski might squeeze in a title defense against Topuria towards the end of the year, but I wouldn’t bet heavily on it. Champions rarely fight three times in a year. If he does win, my prediction is that Volkanovski will defend his title early in 2024.

Moreover, let’s not underestimate the possibility of Yair Rodriguez pulling off an upset. Due to Volkanovski’s dominance at featherweight, people tend to overlook Yair’s chances. Yair possesses the kind of dynamic and offensive threat that could pose a real danger to Volkanovski’s defensive skills. Yair’s kicking game, length, and overall aggression present a legitimate challenge for the champion. Considering Volkanovski’s age (almost 35) in a weight class where youth is preferred, I see a path for Yair. Whether he walks that path remains to be seen, but the possibility is certainly there. If that happens, Volkanovski may never face Topuria.

Sean Strickland’s Title Aspirations:

Following UFC Vegas 76, one of the most talked-about topics is whether Sean Strickland has earned a title shot by defeating Abus Magomedov. As much as I’d like to dismiss such thoughts as nonsensical, I can’t entirely do so. Strickland might have indeed positioned himself for a title opportunity.

In isolation, beating Magomedov doesn’t hold immense significance. It’s not necessarily the best win of Strickland’s career and might not even crack his top five. However, not all title shots are created equal. Some go to fighters who have built undeniable winning streaks against top competition, demanding a title shot (e.g., Jon Fitch). Others go to fighters who secure one notable victory and possess enough name recognition and fan support to warrant a title opportunity (e.g., Michael Chandler). Most often, title shots are granted to deserving contenders on winning streaks, next in line for a shot. However, occasionally, a title shot is simply given to a reasonable contender who is available (e.g., Patrick Cote).

Strickland may have found himself in that last category.

As things stand, the UFC plans to hold a pay-per-view event, UFC 293, in Sydney this September. The obvious choice for the headliner would be Israel Adesanya. However, due to the unfortunate decision to pit Dricus du Plessis against Robert Whittaker at UFC 290, it’s highly unlikely that the winner of that bout will be ready for a title shot in just nine weeks. This leaves us with Strickland summing up the situation as Adesanya being “on repeat” in the division. Let’s be honest: Nobody is clamoring for Jared Cannonier to get another crack at Izzy.

There’s still a chance that the UFC alters its plans and decides against making it a pay-per-view event. If Dricus du Plessis emerges victorious this weekend, I would bet that the UFC postpones the Adesanya match-up until a later date. However, if Robert Whittaker wins, Strickland legitimately emerges as the next viable contender. He’s on a winning streak, ready to engage in verbal warfare with Adesanya, and likely to provide an exciting fight that showcases Adesanya’s skills. Not long ago, Adesanya faced criticism for being labeled “boring” much like Anderson Silva once was. Strickland has the potential to be Izzy’s Forrest Griffin, and that’s at least a solid pay-per-view draw.

Kevin Lee:

Now, let’s briefly touch on Kevin Lee, even though you didn’t mention him directly. Despite getting dismantled by Rinat Fakhretdinov at UFC Vegas 76, there are still believers out there who claim Lee is “too big for lightweight but too small for welterweight!”

The reality is quite simple: If Lee is too big for lightweight, then he belongs in the welterweight division. And if he fails to find success there, it’s on him, not some imaginary five-pound weight difference that would miraculously transform him into a world-beater. Lee isn’t the smallest welterweight by any means, yet he continues to struggle and has even delivered lackluster performances against fighters well past their prime, like Diego Sanchez.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the appeal of Kevin Lee. Six years ago, he appeared to be a lock for future title contention. With immense talent, athleticism, a keen fashion sense, and impressive microphone skills, he seemed like the complete package. But sometimes, sure things miss their mark. Sometimes, talent and effort alone aren’t enough. The annals of combat sports are filled with individuals who “could have been contenders,” and it seems Lee has joined their ranks. To be honest, I have no clue why this happened to him. It seemed like a mental block initially, but now it appears to have affected him physically as well, as if he’s fighting with the body of a much older man. Whatever the reason, it certainly has nothing to do with a mere five pounds.

The Rest of UFC Vegas 76:

While UFC Vegas 76 may not have been the strongest card in recent memory, there were some notable highlights, particularly in the lightweight division. Lightweight remains the premier weight class in MMA, and we were treated to some promising prospects and established top-25 fighters. That alone made the event worthwhile, and the fights delivered.

Regarding your question, Grant Dawson was the one to keep an eye on. While I also had an affinity for Damir Ismagulov and Guram Kutateladze, Dawson has been my personal favorite. I’ve been touting him as the next “great-but-not-quite-elite” fighter for some time now, and it seems others are beginning to take notice. He possesses the potential to vie for a title one day, but even if he falls short, expect him to be a consistent presence in the lightweight top 15 for the next five years. It’s a shame that he and Mateusz Gamrot are training partners since a match between them would undoubtedly provide electrifying scrambles.

As for Brenner, I hadn’t held high expectations for him initially, but I’m starting to change my tune. At just 25 years old, he continues to improve and showcase tremendous heart. Being reminiscent of a knockoff version of Charles Oliveira doesn’t make him any less dangerous. If Brenner continues on his current trajectory, he could become a fighter worth watching closely.

Finally, I’d like to give a shout-out to Benoit Saint-Denis, even though you didn’t mention him. The French lightweight fighter remains undefeated in his division, albeit against less formidable competition. Nevertheless, he has shown promise during his time in the Octagon. On Saturday, he convincingly defeated Ismael Bonfim, a highly touted opponent. At the age of 27, Saint-Denis has significant room for growth and already possesses a strong skill set. I’m excited to see what the future holds for him.

PFL Controversy:

In case you missed it, PFL suspended fighters Natan Schulte and Raush Manfio after their lackluster performance in what can only be described as a glorified sparring session at PFL 6. As a result, Schulte was dropped from the playoffs, and the PFL replaced him with high-profile free agent signing Shane Burgos. This decision has generated considerable criticism.

It may come as a surprise, but I believe that all parties involved share some blame in this situation. There are no winners here. However, I do believe that the end result is justifiable.

Let’s start with the optics, which are undeniably negative for the PFL. It’s entirely reasonable for people to question whether the organization displayed favoritism towards a high-profile free agent signing at the expense of a fighter who may not have done anything wrong. This tarnishes the PFL’s reputation, especially since they have emphasized being a fighter-centric organization.

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that Schulte and Manfio willingly engaged in a foolish game, and they now face the consequences. When fighters sign up for a $1 million tournament, they must understand that they might have to face their friends, whether in the opening rounds or the finals. We don’t live in a fantasy world where pals can both reach the finals and split the prize money. At the very least, Schulte and Manfio were aware of the potential consequences when engaging in their lackluster performance. The responsibility falls on them.

Furthermore, let’s address the argument that perhaps they were genuinely fighting and giving their best effort. Come on, do we need to entertain this? While we can’t be 100 percent certain, it’s far more likely that Schulte and Manfio were not giving their all. We don’t have to deceive ourselves. Considering that the contracts fighters sign often include a provision stating they must “use their best efforts,” the PFL is well within their rights to make this decision.

Lastly, even if the PFL is technically at fault (though I don’t believe they are), they must handle this situation immediately. Fight fixing is a severe offense and can tarnish a promotion’s reputation. The PFL needs to send a clear message to future fighters about the consequences of competing alongside teammates and ensure that this remains an isolated incident. Ideally, they should avoid putting teammates in the same season moving forward to eliminate any potential impropriety.

Thank you for reading, and a special thanks to everyone who sent in their tweets! If you have any burning questions related to combat sports or even somewhat related topics, feel free to send your Hot Tweets to me, @JedKMeshew, and I’ll do my best to answer the most interesting ones. Let’s have some fun!

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What topics are covered in the analysis of UFC Vegas 76?

The analysis of UFC Vegas 76 covers a range of topics including Alexander Volkanovski’s future, Sean Strickland’s title aspirations, highlights from the event, Kevin Lee’s performance, and the PFL controversy.

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fightlover123 July 4, 2023 - 8:43 pm

ufc vegas 76 was kinda weak, but those lightweight fights were fire! dawson is a beast, and brenner is starting to impress me. lightweight division always brings the action. can’t wait for more!

ask4myopinion July 5, 2023 - 3:40 am

great breakdown of the event! loved reading about volkanovski’s chances and strickland’s title aspirations. and those lightweight fighters, they always deliver. keep up the good work!

mmafan87 July 5, 2023 - 5:15 am

hey, this was a great read! loved the analysis of UFC vegas 76. volkanovski’s future and strickland’s title hopes are def interesting. can’t wait for the next fights!

champchaser July 5, 2023 - 7:11 am

pfl controversy got me thinkin. if you sign up for a tournament, you gotta play by the rules. no sparring sessions allowed! pfl did what they had to do. gotta keep the integrity of the sport.

ko_king July 5, 2023 - 11:47 am

man, i been sayin it, kevin lee needs to figure out his weight class. welterweight, lightweight, just pick one already! dude’s got potential but can’t seem to get it together. tough break.


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