With mega cards like UFC 211 in Dallas and UFC 214 in Anaheim being the exceptions, Dana White and the UFC have had quite a difficult year so far compared to the record breaking years of 2015 and 2016. With main superstar Conor McGregor taking time out of his UFC career to take on arguably the best boxer of all time, along with iconic Ronda Rousey now possibly out of the picture following her brutal TKO defeat to Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 and Nate Diaz waiting on the sidelines for a big pay day, it appears to have taken its toll on PPV numbers and these star names have been dearly missed by the new UFC owners. Not to mention the numerous injuries, illnesses and weight-cut problems that have had it’s effects on PPV cards, especially title fights such as Khabib vs Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 and Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 213 being cancelled on fight week due to weight issues and illness (Khabib and Amanda Nunes).
There are a number of potential fights that MMA fans need to see in the next year and here is a list of possible match ups in each division that the fans would get excited about…
(C) Demetrious Johnson/#3 Ray Borg vs. #4 Sergio Pettis
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (26-2-1) is looking to set a UFC record of 11 consecutive title defences at UFC 215 in September where he takes on #3 ranked challenger Ray “The Tazmexican Devil” Borg (11-2) in the co-main event. This fight was eventually made after Mighty Mouse’s long dispute with Dana White when he refused to defend his title against former bantamweight champion T.J Dillashaw (15-3) in a super fight as he felt Borg was the rightful contender, even after previously stating he wanted to start making PPV points and headlining major events. There is no disputing though that Ray Borg is a worthy contender in the flyweight division, winning 5 of his last 6 fights in the UFC and training out of the highly respected Jackson Wink’s gym in Albuquerque. Nonetheless, Demetrious Johnson has beaten every challenger to defend his flyweight belt and shown no mercy or weaknesses in doing so, making him the #2 ranked P4P fighter in the UFC and a huge betting favourite coming into this fight.
I would like the winner of this fight to take on #4 Sergio Pettis (16-2), who put on another fantastic striking display to earn a unanimous decision win over #7 Brandon Moreno (14-4) this past weekend in the main event at UFC Fight Night 114. He once again proved he is a serious title contender after extending his winning streak to 4 and at the age of 23 years old, is the young exciting prospect that the division has been crying out for. If Mighty Mouse was to retain his belt again at UFC 215, I cannot think of another worthy contender in the division at the moment other than Pettis though if the Tazmexican Devil was to cause a major upset and win the belt, there are several names in the division including #1 Joseph Benavidez (24-4) and #2 Henry Cejudo (10-1) who would be after another title shot. If Demetrious Johnson does retain his belt at UFC 215 as expected, a showdown with Pettis would be a very intriguing fight for the fans and possibly the most interesting fight in the division’s recent history.
(C) Cody Garbrandt vs. #1 T.J Dillashaw
This fight is one of the most highly anticipated match ups in UFC bantamweight history and has the potential to be one of the most exciting and competitive fights in recent UFC history. This fight was originally scheduled for UFC 213 but fell through as Cody “No Love” Garbrandt (11-0) was forced to pull out due to a back injury that needed surgery, with recent rumours suggesting the fight will now take place at UFC 217, Madison Square Garden, New York. All of the bad blood that has been brewing in the past year between T.J Dillashaw (15-3) and his former team, Team Alpha Male and teammate Cody, who he left back in 2015 to work with striking coach Duane Ludwig in Colorado, is sure to play its part in promoting the fight. Not only that but recently on The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption, in which Garbrandt and Dillashaw were opposing coaches, tensions flared up even more including a memorable moment where Garbrandt grabbed T.J by the throat, nearly instigating an early scrap between the pair. Putting all of the bad blood and rivalry aside, these are arguably two of the best bantamweights in UFC history, with T.J Dillashaw winning the belt from Renan Barao (34-5) back in 2014 and going on to defend it twice before falling short in a close split decision defeat to Dominick Cruz (22-2) in 2016. He has then gone on to win two unanimous decision victories against top 5 calibre opponents in #4 Raphael Assuncao (25-5) and #5 John Lineker (29-8) since then to put himself firmly back in the title picture. Nonetheless getting his belt back is going to be no easy task as Garbrandt holds an unbeaten professional record, going from an unranked fighter in the UFC at the beginning of 2016 to becoming world champion by the end of the year, defeating Dominick Cruz in a spectacular unanimous decision victory back at UFC 207. With both fighters being looked at as the next generation of fighters, both quick, technical, accurate, powerful and exciting to watch, this fight has everything in the making to be one of the most highly competitive grudge matches in the division’s history and surpass others such as the classic Dominick Cruz/Urijah Faber rivalry. With both fighter’s having trained together before and Garbrandt’s coaches being Dillashaw’s ex-coaches, this makes for a very interesting fight with both fighters having a lot at stake and a lot to prove to one another.
(C) Max Holloway vs. #2 Frankie Edgar
This is without a doubt, the next fight that the featherweight division needs. With Max “Blessed” Holloway (18-3) recently extending his winning streak to 11 and being crowned the unified world champion in a stunning TKO victory over UFC legend, Jose Aldo Jr. (26-3) in Rio De Janeiro at UFC 212, he has proved himself to be the best featherweight on the planet right now. But to use a common quote in MMA, ‘styles make match-ups’, and #2 Frankie Edgar (21-5) would represent a very difficult test for Holloway with the style that he possesses and is widely recognised as the toughest potential challenger that Holloway could yet face. This was proven in Edgar’s recent TKO victory over up and coming Mexican prospect #7 Yair Rodriguez (11-2) at UFC 211, where he completely shut down Yair’s striking game by repeatedly putting him on his back and brutally beating him up with elbows and punches. Frankie Edgar also represents a UFC legend and former UFC lightweight champion, who has the record for most time spent in the octagon (6hr27m) and already has a victory over a Hawaiian UFC legend in B.J Penn (16-12-2). Edgar is also desperate to finally capture featherweight gold and become only the 4th fighter to ever hold belts in 2 different weight classes, having previously lost to former champion Jose Aldo Jr. in his first attempt at UFC 156 and knows this would more than likely be his last chance to accomplish that goal. But with Max Holloway currently looking untouchable and clearly not afraid of anyone in the division, this is sure to be one hell of a fight and one that is very hard to call…
(C) Conor McGregor vs. #6 Nate Diaz 3
With the upcoming super fight between “The Notorious” Conor McGregor (21-3) and one of the greatest boxers of all time, Floyd “Money” Mayweather taking place on August 26th in Las Vegas, a lot of UFC fans are questioning whether “The Notorious One” will return to the octagon following the £100m+ payday that he’ll be earning from it. However, Conor McGregor and #6 Nate Diaz (20-11) along with every other MMA fan know that there is still unfinished business between the pair that must be settled somewhere down the line. With Nate Diaz’s memorable submission victory at UFC 196 shocking the world, McGregor became obsessed with the rematch, which eventually came at UFC 202, where he edged out Diaz to a majority decision in a Fight of the Year contender. Since then McGregor, went on to become the first fighter to hold two world titles consecutively by knocking out Eddie Alvarez (28-5) at Madison Square Garden to claim the lightweight strap. However, Diaz has not forgotten about his rivalry with McGregor and has since been making several jabs over social media to try and entice McGregor into the trilogy. With UFC 196 earning 1.5m PPV buys and UFC 202 setting a UFC record of 1.65m PPV buys, I’m sure that will be enough to tempt McGregor back into the octagon for the trilogy fight, along with the animosity between the pair that climaxed at the UFC 202 Press Conference where McGregor and Diaz were fined by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for throwing cans and water bottles at each other. Nate Diaz also seems adamant on waiting for McGregor to step back in the octagon meaning that no matter what happens on August 26th, it is currently 1 each and this is a story that needs a final chapter…
#1 Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. #2 Tony Ferguson
This is a fight that has been in the making for almost 2 years and has drove the hard-core MMA fans crazy, holding up the lightweight division along with the absence of Conor McGregor. This fight was originally scheduled for the Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale back in December 2015 where Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov (23-0) was forced to withdraw due to a rib injury with it being rescheduled to UFC on FOX 19, where on this occasion it was Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (23-3) who was forced out through injury. Not only that, but back in March at UFC 209, they were again scheduled to compete in the co-main event fighting for the interim lightweight title in McGregor’s absence. Again, Khabib was forced to pull out, this time on the day of the weigh-ins where he was admitted to hospital after having a re-occurrence of his well-documented weight cutting issues. I’m sure usually if Dana White is put in this position he would scrap the fight and move on to the next but in this case, it is the best match up in the division and they are both clearly the two best lightweights in the world, besides Conor McGregor. This is the match up that the division needs and a very interesting fight regardless of belts or rankings with Khabib having mauled all of his previous 23 opponents and Ferguson currently flying high on a 9 fight winning streak. And with the pair constantly trading remarks on social media over a new potential date of UFC 217 at MSG, the question is can Khabib make the weight and will both fighters show up on the night? It is a tricky situation for the UFC but regardless; the fans need to see this fight.
#1 Stephen Thompson vs. #4 Jorge Masvidal
This is a very fun fight, which would be sure to get the fans excited, and makes a lot of sense to the division at the moment. With #1 Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (13-2-1) falling short in back-to-back 5 round title fights with current welterweight champion, Tyron “The Chosen One” Woodley (18-3), one being judged a majority draw at UFC 205 and then a majority decision at UFC 209, he will be looking to bounce back and remind the fans why he is the rightful number 1 contender in the division. #4 Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal (32-12) is also looking to get back to winning ways after losing a close split decision victory to #3 Demian Maia (25-7) back at UFC 211 and called out Thompson on numerous occasions over social media in which Thompson respectfully accepted, with the fighters then coming face to face at a UFC Q&A session during UFC Fight Night: Singapore, where they both showed respect and were playful when receiving questions about their potential upcoming fight. This would be such a great match-up considering Wonderboy’s awkward karate stance and unpredictable kicks matched up with Masvidal’s illusive footwork and technical striking, making this a very difficult fight to call. And with Woodley recently retaining his title at UFC 214 in Anaheim against Demian Maia, I’m sure Masvidal sees this fight with Wonderboy as his way to a title shot, with Thompson finding himself in a strange situation if he wins this fight, granted Woodley is still champion, as he may need to wait it out and put in some good performances against top 10 contenders before potentially being given his 3rd shot. So if the fighters want this fight and so do the fans, I don’t see why this can’t happen within the next year.
(C) Michael Bisping vs. Georges St. Pierre
This is a fight being made purely for the fans, with UFC legend and former welterweight champion, Georges “Rush” St. Pierre (25-2), making his long anticipated return to the octagon after almost 4 years and taking on the current middleweight champion, Michael “The Count” Bisping (31-7). Recent reports suggest that GSP has signed a contract for the fight to take place at UFC 217 in November, weeks after Dana White stated “the ship had sailed” in regards to the fight after previously hosting a press conference back in March, claiming GSP was keeping him waiting. In the meantime, #1 Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker (20-4) beat #2 Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero (12-2) to claim the interim middleweight title at UFC 213, in which Bisping entered the octagon in the aftermath to call out Whittaker. Unfortunately after the fight Whittaker needed surgery on a knee injury, which meant that GSP’s returning fight with Bisping could be back on the cards and which it now certainly is. This is an intriguing match up with many critical factors for both fighters, including GSP’s long time away from the sport; his move up in weight and his controversial final fight back at UFC 167 against Johnny Hendricks (18-7) where he won via split decision, a decision which not many, including Dana White, agreed with. In regards to Bisping, he has not fought since defending his belt back in October last year against a retiring Dan Henderson (32-15) in a difficult unanimous decision victory and has had knee surgery in the meantime, leading to many top middleweights getting upset with the champion and his current antics in holding up the division where he has made it clear he is willing to fight anyone but also wants to make big money. Although GSP is a hall of famer and has won all of his last 12 fights in the UFC, Bisping has a lot to trouble him in the way of incredible cardio, technical striking and a wealth of experience, including being ahead of GSP with the most ever wins in the UFC (20). This is definitely a fight with many possible outcomes and needs to be officially scheduled soon to get people excited about it.
(C) Jon Jones vs. #1 Alexander Gustafsson 2
After Jon “Bones” Jones (23-1) made his sensational return to the octagon at UFC 214 by finishing #1 Daniel “DC” Cormier (19-2) in the third round of their rematch to reclaim his light-heavyweight crown, he decided to call out former UFC heavyweight and current WWE superstar Brock Lesnar (6-3) in the hope of persuading him into a super fight, making his intentions of earning big money clear in the process. Although that would definitely be an intriguing fight for the ages and capture the fan’s attention, the reality of it happening is very slim due to the new USADA testing pools that require 6 months of testing before the fight, with Lesnar still making no attempt to enter the pool. This means that if Jon Jones is waiting for that fight, he is going to be waiting a long time and there is only one fight that makes sense in the meantime… the rematch with #2 Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (18-4). Back at UFC 165, both fighters went to war in an epic battle that saw Jones retain his title by the narrowest of margins, still claiming it to be the toughest fight of his career. Although Gustafsson has gone on to lose important fights since, including his last title fight against Daniel Cormier at UFC 192 in a close decision and a first round KO loss to Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6) in his hometown, he has won his last two fights including an incredible striking display against veteran #4 Glover Teixeira, winning by knockout in the 5th round in his hometown of Stockholm. He proved against Jones in the first fight that his reach, movement and striking ability can give him major problems that no one else has before, but Jones looks invincible and has gone straight back to being the P4P best fighter on the planet. With both fighters coming into their prime and both looking for their next fight, surely this is the one to make?
(C) Stipe Miocic vs. #3 Cain Velasquez
At UFC 211, Stipe Miocic (17-2) confirmed himself as ‘the baddest man on the planet’ by defending his title for the second time in style by KO’ing #4 Junior Dos Santos (18-5) in the first round. With 5 knockout victories in his last 5 fights against top 5 calibre heavyweights, he looks unstoppable at the moment and is looking to break the record for most title defences in heavyweight history in his next fight. However, the one match up that every fan is screaming out for right now is Miocic vs. Velasquez, with both fighters tipped as the best to ever do it in the heavyweight division of the UFC. With #3 Cain Velasquez (14-2) being a two-time UFC world champion and one of the most ferocious athletes in the sport, many people believe he would be Stipe’s toughest test due to his wrestling credentials, grinding style and never-ending cardio. Not to mention the only fights he has lost in his professional career are title fights to Junior Dos Santos and #2 Fabricio Werdum (21-7). The only problem being, we do not know how long we will be made to wait for this fight as Velasquez is still recovering from back surgery and hasn’t fought since defeating #14 Travis “Hapa” Browne (18-7-1) back at UFC 200, over a year ago. Regardless, all MMA fans know that this has to be the next title fight in the heavyweight division and could decide the best heavyweight in UFC history…
(C) Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. #3 Rose Namajunas
With Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-0) looking to defend her belt for the 6th consecutive time and extend her legacy as the greatest women’s strawweight ever, it is rumoured that she will get her chance to do exactly that at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden where she is potentially fighting #3 Rose “Thug” Namajunas (7-3), who many believe could be her toughest opponent yet. Although she only made her professional debut in MMA back in 2014, Namajunas has climbed up the ranks to #3 in a short space of time, winning 4 of her last 5 fights including her win over #6 Michelle “Karate Hottie” Waterson (14-5) via rear-naked choke back in April. Nevertheless, she is going to have to bring her A-game if she is to compete with muay-thai specialist Joanna, who Dana White has previously stated is “one of the best strikers in the UFC” and demonstrated that in her previous unanimous decision victory at UFC 211 against a very durable #4 Jessica Andrade (16-6). We all know that Joanna needs a real challenger in the strawweight division right now and Namajunas is looking like the perfect contender to do so but can she can compete? Hopefully we can find out by the end of this year…
(C) Amanda Nunes vs. #1 Valentina Shevchenko
After the turmoil of UFC 213 with Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (14-4) falling ill just hours before she was meant to defend her world title against #1 Valentina “Bullet” Shevchenko (14-2) meaning the fight was removed from the card, the UFC have recently rescheduled the bout to take place at UFC 215 in Edmonton. This rematch between these two fighters is happening at the perfect time with both in the prime of their career and both believing they are the best in the world. Since Nunes won their first bout via unanimous decision back in 2015, she went on to capture the world title at UFC 200 with a convincing win over Miesha “Cupcake” Tate (18-7). After that, Nunes shocked the world when she defeated the superstar of women’s MMA, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey (12-2) in a shocking 48 second TKO stoppage to defend her belt at UFC 207. Meanwhile, Shevchenko seems to have used that previous loss to Nunes to her advantage by claiming two impressive back-to-back victories over #2 Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm (11-3) and #3 Julianna Pena (9-3) to cement herself as the number one contender. Although Nunes did win the last fight unanimously, Shevchenko appeared to be pushing the pace in the final round and with this fight being 5 rounds; this could be an interesting factor heading into the rematch. With Shevchenko’s elite Muay Thai game and Nunes’ spectacular boxing and punching power, this makes for a very interesting fight and one of the most significant fights in women’s bantamweight history.
(C) Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm
At UFC 214, Cris Cyborg (18-1) as expected, defeated Tonya Evinger (19-6-1) to finally become the UFC women’s featherweight champion via TKO in the third round. This is after originally expecting to fight Megan Anderson (8-2), who pulled out due to personal reasons, and following all of her previous controversies with the UFC including Dana White’s reluctance to unveil the women’s featherweight division and a potential USADA doping violation that held her back. And although she has just been crowned the champion, she has certainly been the most feared woman in MMA for a long time, with former featherweight champion Germaine “The Iron Lady” De Randamie (7-3) giving up the belt in order to avoid fighting her. Ironically, it was Holly Holm who was defeated by De Randamie back at UFC 208 in a controversial decision following illegal blows after the bell. Since then, “The Preacher’s Daughter” got back to winning ways with a thunderous 3rd round KO of Bethe “Pitbull” Correia (10-3) in her return to bantamweight. After UFC 214, Cyborg has admitted Holm to be her preferred opponent for her first defence of the belt and with Holm coming close to becoming the first woman in the UFC to hold two belts previously, I’m sure she would relish a 2nd shot to add to her legacy. With her aggressive style and Holm’s technical kickboxing, this is sure to be a far more competitive match-up for Cyborg on paper and definitely one that would catch the fan’s attention.
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