Now that his business with Ion Cutelaba has been settled, Magomed Ankalaev is on to the next one.
At UFC 254, Ankalaev and Cutelaba met in a rematch stemming from their controversial first meeting earlier this year at UFC Fight Night: Benavidez vs. Figueiredo, where Ankalaev stopped Cutelaba in just 38 seconds — a finish that was heavily protested by Cutelaba, who insisted he was alright after being wobbled several times.
It took five separate times for the rematch to come together as it was hit by multiple cancellations and reschedulings due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it finally happened this past Saturday.
The rematch lasted much longer, but the result remained the same as Ankalaev knocked out Cutelaba again in the first round. With the Cutelaba chapter of his career now closed, Ankalaev is ready for his next opponent and prefers someone who will be in the top five of the light heavyweight division.
“There’s a lot of guys I want to fight. [Mauricio] ‘Shogun’ Rua. Anthony Smith. Maybe any of the top five would be good, if they want to fight with me, of course,” Ankalaev told reporters after the fight (video by MMA Fighting).
“They’re veterans in the sport. They have fought many times and they’re well-known, so I’d like to fight with those guys. I think it will be good for me.”
It is important to note that neither Rua or Smith are currently ranked inside of the top five, but they do fall within the top fifteen of the division. The top five contenders list at light heavyweight right now is Thiago Santos, Dominick Reyes, Glover Texeira, Aleksandar Rakic and Jiri Prochazka — all of which are a big step up in competition for the surging Ankalaev.
Still, he thinks those names as well as the ones he called out specifically would be a great move for his career.
At this time, both Rua and Smith have opponents scheduled for upcoming cards, so it is likely Ankalaev will not get one of them in his next appearance inside the Octagon. Rua is set to fight Paul Craig for the second time at UFC 255 and Smith will be meeting Devin Clark at UFC on ESPN+ 43 in separate events in November.
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