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Dana White explains why top-ranked Middleweights are fighting unranked opponents: ‘We challenge people’

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — UFC President, Dana White, has explained the somewhat random matchmaking that is going on in the Middleweight division.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) matchmaking is a tough job — there’s no question. When the matchmakers have to deal with injuries, timing, personalities, contracts, etc., it can get very tricky ... and some odd matches can get made as a result.

That happened with No. 5-ranked Middleweight, Paulo Costa, and No. 7-seeded, Sean Strickland.

Both fighters made it apparent that they wanted to fight each other, and with their respective rankings, it made sense. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

Costa recently got paired with Ikram Aliskerov, who made his Octagon debut at UFC 288 earlier this month with a knockout of Phil Hawes (watch highlights). Strickland, meanwhile, got matched up with Abus Magomedov, who made his promotiona; debut last year against Dustin Stolfuz, knocking him out in less than 20 seconds (watch highlights).

Both prospects are undefeated (1-0) in the promotion, defeating opponents with losing records in UFC; however, they got matched up with Top 10-ranked opponents.

During UFC Vegas 73’s post-fight press conference (watch it), White explained the reason(s) Costa and Strickland are fighting the two prospects.

"Costa hasn't fought in a long time, you know what I mean?” White told “Strickland has been fighting a lot. So yes, we like to bring guys in and see where they're at and see how they do. Obviously, the dude that Paul Costa is fighting is tough as nails. You don't know how good some guys are until you get them into the Top 15. When we're in the matchmaking room, we think some guys are ready for that step, and some guys we don't know, so they might fight No. 15 or No. 14.... But, you know, both of these guys are fighting tough guys that aren't ranked.

"It's like tonight, I'll give you a perfect example,” White continued. “Mackenzie Dern I think is ranked No. 8 in the world and is taking on No. 14 Angela Hill, who has like a 15-13 record, right? Dangerous fight for her, dangerous fight. Angela Hill is 15 and 13 because those 13 fights that she lost were exactly like tonight, and she fought all of the baddest women in the world. But, for Mackenzie to take that risk, I mean, that's what this is all about. That's really what goes on here. We challenge people. And, you know, No. 8 doesn't always fight No. 6 or No. 5 — it's just not the way it works."

While it kind of makes sense that UFC wants to see both Magomedov and Aliskerov get a step up against ranked opponents, one could wonder if the two fighters got an extra push because they are both Dagestani ... a bountiful market UFC (and MMA, in general) has struck gold on.

Strickland faces Magomedov on July 1, 2023, in his third consecutive main event inside UFC Apex, while Costa takes on Aliskerov at UFC 291 on July 29, 2023, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For complete UFC Vegas 73 results, coverage, and highlights click HERE.

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