Opinion: What next for Anthony Smith and the other UFC Hamburg main card winners?

With nine fights needing the judges to declare a winner, if you didn’t catch it live, you’d be forgiven for thinking that UFC Hamburg was a boring card.

You’d be forgiven, but honestly, you’d be wrong. Hamburg played host to some cracking contests, with a pair of relatively new faces staking their claim as top five contenders in the light heavyweight division and a number of promotional debutantes proving they belong in the big leagues.

Let’s take a look at what could be next for Nasrat Haqparast, Danny Roberts, Marcin Tybura, Abu Azaitar, Corey Anderson and Anthony Smith following their respective victories on the main card in Hamburg.

Nasrat Haqparast (9-2-0)

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In just his second UFC appearance, Nasrat Haqparast thoroughly dominated Marc Diakese on his way to earning a lopsided decision victory.

In the immediate aftermath of the fight, more appears to have been said about the disappointing performance of Diakese rather than the impressive performance of Haqparast which I feel does the 22-year-old a disservice. It was a mature display from the German prospect, who out performed the much more experienced Diakese in every aspect of the fight.

Oh and he looks like Kelvin Gastelum, but nobodies really talking about that…

So what next for the young man from Germany? Perhaps someone like Clay Guida (34-18-0) would provide Haqparast with a stiff test for his next trip to the octagon. Guida is a 12 year UFC veteran who has forced his fair share of promising fighters to hit the breaks during the course of his 52 fight professional career.

Guida is 3-3 in his last six UFC appearances and his last appearance came at UFC 225 where he was submitted by Charles Oliveira in the opening round. The Team Alpha Male stalwart will be eager to get himself back into the win column at the earliest opportunity and a match up against a relatively untested Haqparast would no doubt be an appealing match up for ‘The Carpenter’.

Danny Roberts (16-3-0)

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In a fight which was deservedly recognised as fight of the night, Danny Roberts earned a hard fought split decision against KSW standout and UFC debutant, David Zawada.

In a thoroughly entertaining back and forth contest, both fighters put on an incredible display of technique and durability over the course of 15 minutes and I don’t think many people would have argued had the judges handed the win to either fighter. In the end, Roberts picked up the victory to give him his first pair of consecutive wins since 2016.

Post fight, Roberts called for a match up with Neil Magny. While I respect him shooting his shot, I don’t believe the UFC will throw him a top 10 opponent in his next fight.

A more reasonable expectation would be someone one at the lower end of the top 15. Alex Oliveira (19-5-1) is ranked at number 14 and hasn’t fought since his short notice, second round submission win over Carlos Condit last April. ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira is 5-1-1 in his last seven UFC appearances and would be a true test of Roberts’ readiness to make the next step in his UFC career. If he can emerge victorious, then a top 10 call out for his next fight would make a lot more sense to a lot more people.

Marcin Tybura (17-4-0)

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If you enjoy watching a large man take down a giant man many, many times – oh boy, was this the fight for you.

At the end of a rather uneventful fifteen minutes, Marcin Tybura had his hand raised, Stefan Struve went to the hospital to have a rather large cut under his bottom lip taken care of and we all got to move on to the next fight in the hope that it would have something more to offer than this match up.

Putting this bout firmly in the rear view mirror, Alistair Overeem (43-17-0) would perhaps offer a more entertaining challenge for Mr Tybura. Overeem hasn’t fought since suffering his second consecutive vicious KO loss, this time courtesy of rising heavyweight star Curtis Blaydes.

A match up with Tybura offers ‘Reem’ the chance to get back into the win column and maintain his status as a top tier heavyweight. For Tybura, it is a chance to elevate himself into the top end of the division by taking advantage of a fading MMA legend who may well have little left following two brutal losses in quick succession.

Either way, it has the potential to be a great fight.

Abu Azaitar (14-2-1)

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German native Abu Azaitar made his UFC debut in Hamburg, picking up a solid unanimous decision win over Brazilian Vitor Miranda. Undefeated since 2012, the well traveled 32-year-old put on a solid display, despite finding himself on the back foot at times and surviving more than a few scares along the way courtesy of Miranda’s strong ground game.

There are a multitude of options available for Azaitar’s next UFC appearance. Personally, I’d like to see him face a natural striker, someone who will provide the 32-year-old with the opportunity to fully showcase his stand up skills.

37-year-old UFC veteran Tim Boetsch (21-12-0) may be approaching the twilight of his career but still has the power and ability to test Azaitar should the two meet. Boetsch has shared the octagon with some of the very best the sport has to offer during his ten year UFC career and with 11 of his 21 career wins coming via KO/TKO, he has the right style to potentially bring out the very best of Azaitar.

Corey Anderson (11-4-0)

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In the co-main event, Corey Anderson earned the biggest win of his career to date, dominating Glover Texeira from start to finish on the way to picking up a unanimous decision win.

With the notable exception of being caught in a tight guillotine 10 seconds before the end of the opening round, Anderson never really looked troubled by anything the Brazilian had to offer. The younger man dominated the fight with sharp striking and superior wrestling, leaving Texeira appearing frustrated at times.

Anderson looked every bit a top 5 contender and with this win, he has fired himself into the conversation at the very top of the UFC light heavyweight division.

Despite being 2-2 in his last four fights with losses to Jimi Manuwa and Ovince St Preux, Anderson will likely leapfrog both men in the rankings with his win over Texeira. Ilir Latifi (14-5-0) was the man originally slated to face Texeira in Hamburg and would make an excellent next opponent for Anderson. The man they call “The Sledgehammer” is recovering from the injury which forced him to withdraw from the Hamburg card but once fit, would be an interesting challenge for Anderson.

At just 5’8″ tall, Latifi has a huge frame for a light heavyweight, making it extremely difficult to drag him to the ground. Anderson will need every bit of fight IQ he has to out fox the 34-year-old in what has all the potential to be a classic stand up battle between two heavy handed contenders. The winner likely positions themselves as the number one contender once the current title picture has cleared up.

Anthony Smith (30-13-0)

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Anthony Smith, take a bow. Stepping in at short notice to take on an MMA legend, saving the Hamburg card in the process and going on to brutally KO his opponent inside 90 seconds. Impressive work, even more so considering Smith came into the fight unranked, fighting at 205lbs for only the second time in his career.

Admittedly there were reports of Shogun being injured in the lead up to the fight but even so, Smith’s performance was ruthless, dispatching the former champion without really breaking a sweat.

As many people expected, Smith called for a fight with Alexander Gustaffson at UFC 227 in his post fight interview with Dan Hardy. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old, with reports of ‘The Mauler’ being injured and off the 227 card, he may have to focus his attention elsewhere.

Jimi Manuwa (17-4-0) was cage side in Hamburg for Smith’s swift destruction of Shogun and I expect he’d be interested in taking on Lionheart in his next fight. Manuwa last stepped into the octagon when the UFC visited London earlier this year, finding himself on the wrong side of an extremely entertaining unanimous decision against Jan Blachowicz. The loss in his hometown left Manuwa nursing a two fight losing streak for the first time in his career and the prospect of facing a fellow striker in Smith should seem enticing for the 38-year-old.

For Smith, the fight gives him the opportunity to prove he truly belongs in the upper echelons of the light heavyweight division and would give him a platform to make a somewhat surprising run at the title.

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