Arnold Allen: Who’s Next & When
By Harry Jensen
The UFC 145 lbs division boasts a wide array of talent, ranging from pound-for-pound greats to exciting prospects with a chance to break into the division’s elite in the near future.
One of these prospects goes by the name of Arnold Allen, fighting out of Ipswich, England. His win last Saturday against the then-ranked 11 ‘Super’ Sodiq Yusuf has given him a competitive ranking of 8, and puts him in a good position to call some shots in the featherweight division against a game opponent, but who will it be? And when will we see him back in the Octagon?
Some fighters we can cancel out are Calvin Kattar and Josh Emmett, both #6 and #7 ranked. Kattar is off the back of a dominant loss against Max Holloway, and is still lingering over the effects of ‘Blessed’s supreme striking: “He’s kind of still going through concussion protocols. He’s not concussed but they’re just babying him right now”, says Rob Font, Kattar’s New England Cartel teammate.
Emmett is also recovering from injuries such as an ACL tear, and MCL sprain, and a fractured femur to name a few. He claims to want to return late in 2021 at the earliest, and even then it’ll only be against a top 5 contender, so unfortunately, we’ll have to wave goodbye to the mouth-watering Emmett vs Allen match-up for now.
Allen has made it clear that he’s aiming for a productive year, and would “like to get back in August… or summer”, but the majority of the division seems to be booked up for then.
However, there are some top-ranked fighters without a fight who could be looking to break the Brit’s 7-fight winning streak if he does take a fight for this summer.
One of these would be the number 4-ranked Yair Rodriguez, who is yet to fight since his rivalry with Jeremy Stephens a year and a half ago. He has since been plagued with injuries and a USADA ‘whereabouts’ ban after being unavailable for testing.
Rodriguez is always a fun watch for any fan of fighting, and those who saw his ‘Fight of the Year’ contender vs Chan Sung Jung and the brutal knockout thereafter can attest to this. Who knows, maybe a fight against Allen can be the way to entice ‘el Pantera’ back into the cage.
Another interesting match-up for the Brit would be the 3rd ranked Dagestani Zabit Magomedsharipov, whose most recent fight was a decision win in March 2020 against Calvin Kattar. Although, his cardio did get tested and it seemed as if he was slowing in the third round, not too dissimilar to Allen against Yusuf last Saturday. Both fighters are also very technically impressive, as Allen put on display with his takedowns and knockdowns last weekend.
UFC President Dana White has mentioned that he would like to get Zabit a fight early this year, and with Allen currently recovering from a small hand injury, it looks unlikely that we will see these two go at it in the near future.
If Allen can’t get an adversary for summer, he may have to wait for some other match-ups to be settled to take on winners or losers to up his stock in the featherweight division.
The biggest fight in 145lbs is the champion Alexander Volkanovski defending his title against the number two ranked contender Brian Ortega at the end of their ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ season, but these two are way ahead of Allen in their careers, therefore neither of these men are a consideration for his next opponent.
Another fight is Shane Burgos vs Edson Barboza this May, both ranked #11 and #14 respectively. Whilst Allen has made it clear that he wouldn’t want to fight “backwards”, and only wanting to “fight guys above” him, an impressive performance from either of these fighters could be enough to encourage UFC matchmakers to book Allen vs Burgos/Barboza if any match-ups from #8 and up can’t materialise.
The most significant fight for Allen’s future opponent will undoubtedly be Chan Sung Jung, ‘The Korean Zombie’ vs Dan Ige which is touted to headline the UFC Fight Night event on June 19. The winner of this fight will definitely be #5 ranked, as it is ‘Zombie’s current ranking, and would pose a great challenge to the 27-year-old Brit who has said about facing the winner of the summertime match-up, saying “maybe the winner of that fight in the future if they’re above me in the rankings, that’s something that would be cool.”
So what if the betting-favourite Chan Sung Jung ends up the winner? Allen has vocalised his preference to fight ‘Korean Zombie’, saying “accidentally I’ve studied him my whole life and he’s flat footed, he doesn’t move great, he doesn’t deal with someone moving around him and I move very well.”
If these two do end up clashing, it’ll ruin Allen’s plans of fighting this summer as he’ll likely have to wait until autumn, but fans of the Brit will be grateful to see him fight twice a year regardless, something he has managed once in his 5-year tenure in the UFC.
Allen’s impressive footwork was put on display last weekend, and his ability to escape an early submission scare coupled with his takedowns showed that he is technically capable in both wrestling and grappling in a division of elite fighters. His adept striking led to knocking down a game Yusuf, and his intelligent shot selection has allowed him to out-point his way to victory in his past 4 fights.
Allen boasts a healthy mix of 5 knockouts and 4 submissions in his 9 wins by finish to further prove his ability to mix his martial arts, and it will be exciting to see how he matches up with the featherweight elite, and sooner or later in 2021 we can hopefully find this out.