What’s Next: UFC Vegas 66 Losers

Sean Strickland, UFC Vegas 66
Sean Strickland, UFC Vegas 66 weigh-in Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

The final UFC event of 2022 has come and gone. UFC Vegas 66 was a triumphant night for some, a frustrating night for others, and had definite impact on a couple of divisions in the promotion.

Sean Strickland came up short in the main event opposite Jared Cannonier, and would later blast the judges (more on that later), while Bobby Green was stopped by the heavy hands of Drew Dober. What’s next for those two key players and other fighters who fell short on Saturday? Let’s take a closer look.

Sean Strickland

For two fights in a row now, Strickland’s bite has not matched his bark. That’s the danger of promoting yourself as a loose cannon: if you’re going to make wild, zany, off-the-wall statements, you need to back them up. The level of crazy outside the cage needs to be matched inside it, in other words. In July, ahead of UFC 276, Strickland stole the show at the pre-fight press conference, jawing with then-champ Israel Adesanya, then stood in front of Alex Pereira with a puzzling game plan (or lack thereof) that resulted in being knocked out inside of a round.

Ahead of UFC Vegas 66, the nature of Strickland’s crazy talk was more directed at the media, so this loss doesn’t sting quite as much. Making fun of the media gallery is easy enough; we’re required to act professional and aren’t about to face fighters in the cage down the line. Beyond that, losing to Jared Cannonier by decision at UFC Vegas 66, Strickland didn’t fight a bad fight, but didn’t heed his own corner’s advice, and it cost him in a close split.

Either loss on its own wouldn’t matter so much as the two back-to-back. Strickland went ahead and blamed the judges, not surprisingly after the Doug Crosby fiasco a week ago. But that handy scapegoat won’t be producing any milk this time out: the scoring for Cannonier vs. Strickland wasn’t bad. It was just a close fight.

What Strickland needs now more than anything is a win over a notable name. He’s gone 1-2 in main events, and if he wants to keep getting those, well, you have to win more than you lose. Until recently, he had been doing that, so he clearly has the talent. The question is, what comes next? Darren Till recently suffered another loss, and Strickland vs. Till would be all kinds of fun — but Till may be on the shelf for a while. Nassourdine Imavov fights Kelvin Gastelum atop the first UFC card of 2023, and the loser of that could be an option — because coming off two losses, Strickland is likely fighting down in the division anyway.

Strickland’s next fight: Imavov vs. Gastelum loser

Damir Ismagulov

Arman Tsarukyan had plenty of praise for UFC Vegas 66 co-main event opponent Damir Ismagulov following their lightweight fight. That was very sporting of him, but the fact remains, Ismagulov lost a one-sided decision, his first setback in the UFC thus far.

Thus ends the former M-1 champ’s 19-fight win streak. At 31, he still has a few good years ahead of him, and he’ll likely remain in the top 15 of the division (currently Ismagulov sits at #12).

Next up, a fight with Grant Dawson makes sense. He’s ranked at #14, and like Ismagulov prior to Saturday, has never lost in the UFC. Dawson last fought in November and doesn’t appear to have a fight booked yet; March or April sounds about right.

Imagulov’s next fight: Grant Dawson

Alessandro Costa

Alessandro Costa didn’t last long against Amir Albazi at UFC Vegas 66, but that’s not the point. Costa showed up on short notice, and made weight. In these situations, that’s really what’s being asked of any fighter. A win would have been icing on the cake, but Costa now has his foot in the door, after being denied a UFC deal despite winning on the Contender Series.

Next up for Costa should be a newcomer, or someone who recently entered the promotion. Carlos Candelario is 0-2 in the organization and last fought in November. He’s in must-win territory; the winner here gets their first UFC victory.

Costa’s next fight: Carlos Candelario

Julian Erosa

“Juicy J” has become a popular figure with fans in recent years, but he will forever live on as part of Alex Caceres’ highlight reel after a picture perfect head kick KO on Saturday.

Ouch. The loss snapped a three-fight win streak, and after some time off, Erosa will hopefully be right back in the swing of things.

Alexander Hernandez recently came up short against Billy Quantillo in his featherweight return. Hernandez is 5-5 in the UFC. Erosa is 6-6. Both are coming off losses in the month of December. One of these talents gets back to their winning ways paired up in Spring of 2023.

Erosa’s next fight: Alexander Hernandez

Bobby Green

Bobby Green is as game as they come and looked great in the opening round against Drew Dober at UFC Vegas 66. Then came the well-placed knockout blow that put him down in the second. In a game of inches, Green had come up just short.

That’s two losses in a row for Green, but losing to Dober, and current champ Islam Makhachev on extremely short notice, is nothing to be ashamed of. He should still land a sizeable name next — the question becomes, who is suitable who Green hasn’t already fought?

We’re going left field with this one: Tony Ferguson. “El Cucuy” has lost five straight fights. He’s somehow holding onto a #15 ranking, but realistically hasn’t won since 2019. This one just feels like a fun fight, that gets one man a win, and is high-profile enough to be a co-main event. And the talk ahead and during the fight would be wild.

Green’s next fight: Tony Ferguson

Cody Brundage

Cody Brundage stepped in to replace Albert Duraev against Michal Oleksiejczuk at UFC Vegas 66. The move did not pay off. Brundage wound up stopped in the first, victim of a violent KO that halts a two-fight win streak.

Brundage is now 2-2 in the promotion, and could be a good foil for “Ugly Man Joe” Joseph Holms. He’s coming off a late-October loss of his own.

Brundage’s next fight: Joseph Holmes


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