Last Saturday, Jack Hermansson earned an impressive victory over the surging Joe Pyfer. With the division constantly evolving and a bit of deadlock at the top, Middleweight desperately needs new, exciting matchups. Today, we'll look at five potential future matchups in the Middleweight division.
Michel Pereira has proven to be one of the most fascinating fighters in the Middleweight division. Upon his arrival, he was a wild, extremely unorthodox fighter, going as far as to perform flips during fights. While he experienced some success with this ridiculous style, two consecutive bizarre losses led him to adjust his approach. He's embarked on a six-fight win streak using a much more measured, precise style while still incorporating a good bit of flash. He's proven to be a top-level fighter with wins over established names like Santiago Ponzinibbio and Niko Price. Despite this win streak, the UFC seems a bit weary of pushing him into the rankings, making Gregory Rodrigues a perfect matchup for him.
Similarly, while facing a few challenges in his UFC career, Rodrigues hasn’t been perfect but has proven incredibly tough and well-rounded. He was an experienced grappler upon his entry into the promotion but has shown he’s just as dangerous on the feet. Possessing an excellent chin, power in both hands and a never-ending willingness to throw down, he’s starting to acquire momentum, riding a two-fight KO streak. This fight would be a fascinating clash of styles, especially in striking exchanges, unpredictable precision taking on brutal power. With both men looking to crack the top 15, a win in this matchup would likely be enough to propel them to ranked status.
Chris Curtis had a long journey to the UFC but has made the most of his opportunity now that he’s finally arrived. Following an appearance on the Contender Series and a handful of fights in the PFL, Curtis made a splash in the UFC with a first-round knockout of Phil Hawes. Using a powerful boxing style, Curtis worked himself into the rankings, consistently facing high-level opponents since. He's constantly improving and earned himself two performance bonuses in his last four fights. After an unfortunate no-contest against Nassourdine Imavov, he’s put himself back into the win column and is looking to keep climbing the ranks. Roman Dolidze, another fighter who’s quickly established himself in the promotion, is just four spots ahead of him.
Also landing a first-round knockout in his debut, he’s proven to be an absolute marauder, always coming forward and throwing bombs. Dolidze went on a tear in 2022, earning himself three knockout victories and three performance bonuses. Riding a wave of momentum, he’d earn himself a top-five matchup with Marvin Vettori but would lose a unanimous decision. Following another hard-fought loss to Nassourdine Imavov, he needs a big bounce-back performance. With both men possessing an exciting, striking-based style, we’d likely see them meet in the middle and slug it out. Both would benefit from a victory of this magnitude, likely projecting themselves much closer to the title picture.
After some frustrating setbacks, Nassourdine Imavov has truly arrived in the UFC following his impressive defeat of Roman Dolidze. An exceptionally well-rounded fighter, Imavov has shown he can do it all while still actively improving. Utilizing a technical kickboxing style on the feet and smothering top control on the ground, he presents a tough challenge for any opponent put in front of him. The UFC has shown confidence in the 28-year-old, having awarded him two Fight Night Main Event slots in his brief tenure with the promotion. Despite scoring a solid victory, I think he’d benefit from gaining more experience before diving into the deep end of the Middleweight division.
Sitting just two spots behind him is the ever-present Jack Hermansson, who has once again proven he deserves his place in the rankings. With the public seemingly overlooking him again before his matchup with Joe Pyfer, he proved his doubters wrong with an impressive decision victory over the surging prospect. Yet again, he showed his toughness and resolve, weathering an early storm to outwork and defeat his opponent. Like Imavov, he’s comfortable wherever the fight lands and is always willing to go toe to toe. When fighters with similar styles and skills match up, the fight becomes an absolute war. That’s precisely what I’d expect with this matchup: both men utilizing all aspects of MMA and leaving everything they have in the cage. With both men coming off victories, a win in this matchup would significantly propel them forward in the rankings.
Arguably one of the most intimidating fighters in Middleweight history, Jared Cannonier is the only top-five fighter in the division on a winning streak. In his most recent outing, he scored a Fight of the Night victory over Marvin Vettori and earned a win over former champion Sean Strickland preceding this. Cannonier entered the UFC in 2015 as a Heavyweight, eventually moving down to Light Heavyweight the following year. He’d spend the next two years in the division, trading wins and losses before moving down again and finding his permanent home at Middleweight. Since then, he’s gone 7-2 in the division, defeated two former champions, and firmly rooted himself as a perennial title contender. Now looking to earn another crack at the title, he finds himself in a unique spot; he’s already faced every other fighter in the top five of Middleweight.
Despite inconsistent activity, it’s widely agreed that the best fighter outside the top five is Khamzat Chimaev. Making one of the most high-profile entrances in UFC history, he’d score three finish victories in three months, absorbing just one significant strike across all three fights. Following two more impressive victories, he’d get caught up in one of the most prominent controversies in recent history when he massively missed weight at UFC 279, forcing the entire main card to be rearranged at the last minute. Since then, health issues have prevented him from remaining active, although he scored an enormous victory over former Middleweight champion Kamaru Usman in 2023. Based on his slugfest with Gilbert Burns at welterweight, I’d imagine this matchup would play out very similarly. This bout would be a true “unstoppable force meets an immovable object” matchup.
In seemingly no time, Sean Strickland has quickly risen to be one of the most popular fighters in MMA, let alone the Middleweight division. Through a combination of bold trash talk and an uncompromising style, he’s built a fascinating aura around himself. Following tough losses to Alex Pereira and Jared Cannonier, he seemed to reinvigorate his career, earning impressive wins over Nassourdine Imavov and Abus Magomedov to find himself fighting for a title. Against all odds (and public expectations), he put on a clinic against then-champion Israel Adesanya. He was crowned the Middleweight champion, with his popularity soaring to an all-time high. In his first defense, he was matched up with the incredibly dangerous Dricus Du Plessis.
Yet to taste defeat in the UFC, he’s quickly risen to the top via dominant victories over established contenders such as Derek Brunson and Robert Whittaker. With devastating power, great wrestling, and an underrated gas tank, he’s proven too much for every opponent the UFC has offered him. It would be a closely contested, 5-round bout when they finally faced off, with both men battering their opponent to the final bell. Ultimately, the judges would award the fight to Du Plessis, crowning a new champion. Despite this, many fans still feel that Strickland won the fight, and it was undoubtedly close enough to warrant a rematch. With the majority of the division either already booked or on a losing streak, no one deserves another shot at the title more than Strickland.