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UFC Vegas 76, The Morning After: Sean Strickland exposes cheap UFC matchmaking

Here’s what you may have missed!

Remember a few months ago when there were several obvious Middleweight match ups to make? Top-ranked 185-pounders like Robert Whittaker, Sean Strickland, Khamzat Chimaev and Paulo Costa floated around unbooked. Whittaker ended up matched against Dricus du Plessis for God only knows what reasoning — a truly unprecedented decision from a promotion that loves marketable grudge matches — while Khamzat remains semi-permanently benched for similarly unknowable reasons.

None of that matters though, right, because UFC could still at least make the obvious booking of Strickland vs. Costa? After all, both were ranked within the Top 10. They both won their most recent fight. The style match up was an obvious home run, a high-volume striking battle between two men happy to deliver and absorb punishment as needed.

UFC passed.

Instead, the promotion handed Strickland a relative newcomer in Abus Magomedov, then did the same to Costa against another complete unknown in Iskram Aliskerov.

Let’s focus on the Strickland vs. Magomedov match up first. Magomedov tried to throw the entire kitchen sink at Strickland — statistically the best defensive fighter at 185 pounds — in the first five minutes. What’s especially hilarious about that awful strategy is that he barely touched Strickland’s face in the process! He kicked him in the leg a good few times and teeped his belly, but Strickland never looked the least bit perturbed by the mass of offense coming his way.

Magomedov, meanwhile, was exhausted before Strickland landed a significant punch. It was all too easy for Strickland to overwhelm him in the second, demonstrating why it’s unwise to book a seven-minute fighter in a 25-minute contest.

Back when Strickland vs. Costa was the only logical fight to make, UFC President, Dana White, offered an explanation, saying that UFC will book inexplicable match ups like this to “challenge” its athletes.

I would like to offer a counter explanation: UFC is cheap.

The promotion is cutting costs to increase the profit margins whenever possible. So, since Paulo Costa is now an expensive fighter to book, the latest UFC Vegas card wasn’t a worthy enough venue to foot his salary.

Think about it: Strickland versus a random Russian from Professional Fighters League (PFL) is (barely) enough to headline a UFC Apex event. Barely passable is passable in the Apex, where the viewer count doesn’t matter and tickets are only sold to a handful of the ultra rich. We’ll never know exactly how much Magomedov earned since the fight was in Nevada, but I can wholeheartedly promise it was significantly less than the check “Borrachinha” would’ve cashed.

Costa, meanwhile, helps bulk up UFC 291, a pay-per-view (PPV) card that’s relying more on name value than elite match ups. From UFC’s perspective, it’s killing two birds with one stone, cheaply taking care of a “Fight Night” card, while hopefully moving an extra stack of PPV buys.

Maybe if UFC Vegas 76 was held in Sao Paulo or Toronto or Los Angeles rather than the sport-killing Apex, the promotion would’ve sprung for the actually great main event match up.

For complete UFC Vegas 76: “Strickland vs. Magomedov” results and play-by-play, click HERE.

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