What’s next for Ikram Aliskerov after UFC Saudi Arabia?

MMA: UFC 288 - Hawes vs Aliskerov
Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC Saudi Arabia, we saw a big time matchup in the middleweight division. Former champion Robert Whittaker (26-7) took on rising contender Ikram Aliskerov (15-2) who was getting the opportunity of a lifetime.

Whittaker was originally supposed to face Khamzat Chimaev in the main event. However, Chimaev had to pull out of the fight a week before with an illness which forced the UFC to scramble. Aliskerov was scheduled to face Antonio Trocoli the week prior in a co-main event at The APEX but was approached about taking the Whittaker fight. Aliskerov said yes without hesitation.

It was an extremely tall order for the rising contender. Going from a three-round fight against Trocoli to a five-round fight against Whittaker is like going from hiking up a local hill to climbing an extremely tall mountain. However, Aliskerov dared to be great and showed up at UFC Saudi Arabia ready to jump right into the title picture.

Unfortunately, it proved to be too tall of a task. Whittaker rocked him with a huge straight right about 90 seconds into the first round and finished him off with a brutal uppercut. The loss was Aliskerov’s first loss since 2019 which came against Khamzat Chimaev.

What’s next after UFC Saudi Arabia?

Let’s be clear, Aliskerov lost nothing from this fight. Sure, he lost the opportunity to leap frog the entire division and jump to the top of the rankings, but he didn’t lose his current standing. In fact, he gained more than he lost. He gained the experience of being in there with a former world champion and he gained a ton of good favor with the UFC.

Because of that, I expect the UFC to reward him for his efforts and I could see them even giving him a ranked opponent. Aliskerov was supposed to face Anthony Hernandez earlier this year but had to pull out of the fight. I could see that being a fight that they look to rebook.

Another potential matchup could be against Chris Curtis who is coming off a close split decision loss against Brendan Allen. Joe Pyfer and Marc-Andre Barriault fight this weekend at UFC 303 and the winner of that fight could be another guy that they look to for Aliskerov. Either way, I’d expect Aliskerov to either get someone near the back end of the rankings or someone right near them in his next fight.

Mentioned in this article:

More about: