Tag: stipe miocic

RESULTS | UFC 252 – Miocic seals status as the heavyweight GOAT

STIPE Miocic confirmed his status as the consensus UFC heavyweight GOAT, after edging Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision in their epic trilogy decider at UFC 252. The Ohio native (20-3), who fought in his seventh-straight UFC title bout now has four successful defences to his name, and improves his ledger against Cormier to 2-1.

Having battled Miocic three-consecutive times, ‘DC’ conceded that this may be the end of his legendary career, with another championship opportunity unlikely to present. Two of his three professional losses have come at the hands of Miocic, with the third part of the former double-champs’ other famous rivalry with Jon Jones.

The ‘and still’ champion was made to endure a raft of sneaky right-hand punches from Cormier throughout, but managed to remain upright through all of his adversary’s power while landing some heavy boxing combinations of his own. After being stunned at the end of Round 1, Miocic got his own back in the closing stages of Round 2, with a significant eye poke closing up Cormier’s left side in the third.

While Cormier looked to push the pace across the championship rounds, he was controlled well by the bigger man, Miocic in clinch engagements, which proved vital in nullifying the Olympian’s wrestling. Almost every five-minute period was as tight as they come, though Miocic’s diversity of strikes and control of position ultimately earned him the nod.

What’s next? It has to be number one contender, Francis Ngannou. Although, light heavyweight champion, Jones has also put his hat in the ring for a potential move up to heavyweight.

>> SCROLL FOR FULL RESULTS

Jairzinho Rozenstruik could also be back on track for a shot at the heavyweight strap, after dispatching of former champion, Junior dos Santos in Round 2. ‘Bigi Boy’ was patient and respectful in his approach, but only required one clean combination to change the course of the fight.

The Suriname native swarmed on his seasoned opponent after dropping him with an uppercut and right hook, allowing him no time to recover as the referee duly stepped in. That’s now three-straight losses for ‘JDS’, while Rozenstruik (11-1) gains redemption for his punishing defeat to Ngannou in May.

The co-main event produced another banger, albeit if one of the competitors seemed to come away seriously compromised. Sean O’Malley was transported to hospital after potentially re-aggravating an old leg injury, which saw him stumble a couple of times during his fateful fight with Marlon Vera.

A clear underdog coming into the bout, Vera required just under five minutes to get the job done via TKO, pouncing on his flailing opponent and ending the show with some brutal elbows from top position. It remains unknown as to what exactly caused O’Malley’s leg to fail, as he was seen rolling his right ankle in the early stages. Despite that, the Ecuadorian pointed to his checking of O’Malley’s low kicks when queried in the post-fight interview.

Daniel Pineda was another to impress on the main card, halting the hype train of Herbert Burns with a second-round TKO victory. After six years out of the UFC octagon, Pineda made good on his return with an impressive performance on the mat against a renowned grappler. He ended the bout with some punishing elbows from the crucifix position, having proven much more active from top position than Burns.

RESULTS

MAIN CARD:

Stipe Miocic [C] Daniel Cormier [1] | Decision (unanimous) 49-46, 49-46, 48-47
Marlon Vera def. Sean O’Malley [14] | TKO (elbows) 4:40 Rd 1
Jairzinho Rozenstruik [6] def. Junior dos Santos [5] | TKO (punches) 3:47 Rd 2
Daniel Pineda def. Herbert Burns | TKO (elbows) 4:37 Rd 2
Merab Dvalishvili [15] def. John Dodson [12] | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-27

PRELIMINARY CARD:

Vinc Pichel def. Jim Miller | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-27
Virna Jandiroba def. Felice Herrig [15] | Submission (armbar) 1:44 Rd 1
Daniel Chavez def. TJ Brown | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28
Livia Renata Souza def. Ashley Yoder | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 30-27

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD:

Chris Daukaus def. Parker Porter | TKO (punches and knee) 1:28 Rd 1
Kai Kamaka III def. Tony Kelley | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28

 

State of Play: 10 UFC fights to book before the end of 2020

WITH over half the year already behind us and the leading mixed martial arts promotion back into the swing of things, we put on our matchmaking hat to bring you 10 fights the UFC should make before the end of 2020.

Having done the same before Conor McGregor famously head-kicked (or shouldered) the year off in style, we know there are plenty of variables to play out yet, but think these are the matchups which will take fans’ minds most off the shambles we are currently experiencing amid a global pandemic.

Note: The proposed fights are ordered by weight class, working down from heavyweight.

>> UFC Rankings
>> UFC Pound-for-pound

Heavyweight | Stipe Miocic [C]/Daniel Cormier [1] vs. Francis Ngannou [2]

No, we’re not already looking past the trilogy fight between Miocic and Cormier, pegged as the UFC 252 headliner in August, but this is rather a point to say that Ngannou deserves a second title shot. The scarily powerful Cameroonian has been on a tear since late-2018, embarking on a four-fight run of first round KO/TKO finishes. Of his victims, former champion Junior dos Santos lasted longest – 71 seconds.

The guy is nuts, but if his latest victory (a 20-second KO over Jairzinho Rozenstruik) is anything to go by, the questions surrounding his technique, maturity, and avenues to victory remain. Miocic managed to thwart Ngannou last time out to retain his heavyweight belt, and Cormier didn’t seem overly impressed by his wild combinations while on comms, but we’re sure the number two ranked fighter has a point to prove. He only needs one shot, and hopefully doesn’t have to wait too long to get the chance to land it.

Middleweight | Israel Adesanya [C] vs. Paulo Costa [2]

Has it been made yet or not? Many media outlets have gone with the story, but UFC president Dana White insists the dotted lines remained unsigned. Even before dispatching of Yoel Romero in one of the more forgettable title fights of all time, Adesanya’s most worthy next opponent has long been Costa. Injury has kept the Brazilian on the sidelines for a while, and he has made no secret of the fact he is chomping at the bit to be given a shot at UFC gold.

It is the fight that makes the most sense, despite the UFC bizarrely querying on social media whether the winner of Robert Whittaker and Darren Till‘s Fight Island bout should be next in line for a crack at ‘Stylebender’. In an interesting quirk, which only adds to the intrigue of the matchup, it would be only the second UFC title fight between two undefeated men since Rashad Evans took on Lyoto Machida at UFC 98 in 2009. Make it happen.

Middleweight | Robert Whittaker [2]/Darren Till [5] vs. Jack Hermansson [6]

This one has only piqued the interest of late, and promises to keep things moving at middleweight. While Whittaker and Till will have their focus firmly fixed on coming out on top in their bout at the weekend, Hermansson has already made it known that he has eyes on the winner.

It makes sense too, with ‘The Joker’ fresh off a first round submission victory over former interim title challenger, Kelvin Gastelum, while the remaining pair in question are arguably the most deserving title contenders after Costa (see above). Hermansson’s grappling prowess promises to test the two polished strikers, with both also boasting terrific takedown defence. A good test all-round, but with parts still moving.

Welterweight | Colby Covington [2] vs. Jorge Masvidal [4]

MMA fans have an almost perverse obsession with the old ‘friends-turned-enemies’ storyline, so this fight promises to give all you sickos a fix. After ‘Gamebred’ stepped in on late notice to challenge Kamaru Usman for the welterweight belt, his stocks are as high as ever, even in defeat. Covington has a lot less admires, including former teammate and best buddy, Masvidal, but is right up there with the world’s best 170-pound contenders.

Both now have a common defeat on their records, and it narrative aside, need to bounce back from those losses. With the likes of Gilbert Burns and Leon Edwards also looming as fresh and worthy adversaries for Usman, these two will need to again prove that they belong in the title conversation. Of course, they could be playing us all with an act, but we’d still like to see them go toe-to-toe.

Lightweight | Khabib Nurmagomedov [C] vs. Justin Gaethje [IC]

Arguably the fight which seems most certain on this list is the one to unify the lightweight championship. The only factor which could possibly derail the plan of Gaethje earning his shot at undisputed glory, and rightly so, is the unexpected passing of Khabib’s legendary father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov. While the champ deserves all the time in the world to mourn and get back on track, if he decides to do so, this bout has been pitched for UFC 253 in September. Gaethje has also been offered Conor McGregor in the meantime, but… no.

Lightweight | Dustin Poirier [2] vs. Tony Ferguson [3]

We’re all for keeping divisions moving, and what better way to produce the next lightweight contender than to have these two go at it. The two never produce boring fights, period, and have both been so close to the undisputed crown having held the interim strap at varying points in time. Remarkably, the perennial contenders have yet to meet in the octagon.

Poirier has made it clear that he wants either a big name or a title shot having edged Dan Hooker via decision last month, and Ferguson deserves the same treatment having only just had his 12-fight win streak broken by Gaethje in May. Of course, the pair could wait for the Khabib-Gaethje matchup to pan out, but the best way to stake your claim is always to add a big name to your resume. Fans will always yearn for Ferguson to fight Khabib, too, so this may provide an avenue to that bout at long last.

Featherweight | Brian Ortega [3] vs. Chan Sung Jung [4]

While these two seemed cordial in the build-up to their proposed bout in December of last year, it would be no surprise to hear them both quote Uncle Dana in saying the other “was never (their) friend”. Things turned sour between the pair after Ortega pulled out of that main event dig with a knee injury, and was only made worse after ‘T-City’ slapped up Zombie’s translator.

They have been going back-and-forth for a while now and, pandemic permitting, should settle the beef this year in what would be an incredible fight. The featherweight title was only recently put on the line, and Aussie champion Alexander Volkanovski needs a new number one contender. Both may thing they are worthy, but arguably remain a win off that honour alongside Zabit Magomedsharipov.

Bantamweight | Petr Yan [C] vs. Aljamain Sterling [2]

Alright, we understand if Yan wants to spend some time with his belt before even thinking of his first defence, but it seems as if the decision has already been made for him. The Russian himself even acknowledged Sterling as the clear, undeniable contender, and it would only makes sense to finally give ‘Funkmaster’ a well-earned shot at the belt. In reality, this should have been the matchup made at UFC 252 for the vacant title, but alas we may get to see it soon enough. Let’s have it, that 135-pound division is stacked.

Bantamweight | Cody Garbrandt [3] vs. Sean O’Malley [14]

We just told you the bantamweight division is stacked, and a matchup between these two would only confirm that. This potential bout already has some wheels, with the two indirectly going back-and-forth over social media. The former champion has been there and done that, but only now looks like returning to his former glory after a redemptive win over Raphael Assuncao last month. The undefeated ‘Suga’ Sean is fresh of an equally devastating KO victory on that same June night, and looks to be the next big thing among the 135-pound shark tank. The fans love it, and it seems both fighters will too.

W. Strawweight | Weili Zhang [C] vs Rose Namajunas [1]

Another fight which looks extremely likely to eventuate is that between these two strawweight queens. It’s the only female matchup on our list, but man is it a corker. Zhang is still riding the wave of her maiden title defence in what was a fight of the year contender against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and has already acknowledged the skillset of ‘Thug’ Rose.

The respect is clearly mutual, with a rejuvenated Namajunas enjoying the sound of this billed fight for the 115-pound strap, right after her entertaining decision win over Jessica Andrade. While Rose is arguably the most well-rounded fighter in the division, Zhang is a scary-good athlete with enormous power – a factor which wore on Namajunas in her most recent bout. It makes for an interesting stylistic matchup, and one we’re so keen to see.

UFC Rankings update: May-June 2020

THE UFC has resumed full-time operations and with it comes the ever-changing rankings landscape. Four events have gone down since the promotion’s emphatic return at UFC 249 on May 9, with the only belt to change hands that of the interim lightweight strap belonging to Justin Gaethje. Among the big winners have been Gilbert Burns, Glover Teixeira, and Alistair Overeem, while their opponents all suffered drops down the rankings. The full, updated UFC rankings can be found here, and pound-for-pound list, here with changes soon to come after the weekend’s event.

HEAVYWEIGHT (206-265lbs)

Augusto Sakai ⬆️ [10]
Blagoy Ivanov ⬇️ [15]

Sakai’s co-main event decision victory over Ivanov saw him jump three places into 10th spot, while the Bulgarian slid the same amount to number 15 as the last of the ranked heavyweights. A random shuffle saw former champion Junior dos Santos move down to fifth, leaving Derrick Lewis clear in the number four spot. Those ranked 11-14 also moved around the two active men, with the MMA community now eagerly awaiting a trilogy fight between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier at the top.


WELTERWEIGHT (170lbs)

Gilbert Burns ⬆️ [1]
Tyron Woodley ⬇️ [4]

The big story to come out of the welterweight division was Burns’ rise to number one contendership, leapfrogging his opponent in former champion, Woodley, and the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, and Leon Edwards. The Brazilian earned a title shot against Kamaru Usman with his dominant decision victory, and it remains to be seen whether Conor McGregor, who swapped places with Anthony Pettis down to number 15, will be removed upon his shock retirement.


LIGHTWEIGHT (155lbs)

Justin Gaethje ⬆️ [IC]
Beneil Dariush ⬆️ [14]
Drew Dober ⬆️ [15]

The big risers at 155 pounds were Darisuh and Dober, who each earned berths in the rankings of late. Most recently, Dober’s eye-catching TKO of former ranked lightweight Alex Hernandez earned him a spot, while stretching his win streak out to three. Random shuffles saw the aforementioned pair land at 14 and 15 respectively, while Donald Cerrone swapped places with Islam Makhachev to move to 12th, and the McGregor situation makes for some confusion at the top. Of course, Gaethje earned a title unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov after defeating perennial contender, Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.


FEATHERWEIGHT (145lbs)

Calvin Kattar ⬆️ [6]
Dan Ige ⬆️ [11]
Arnold Allen ⬇️ [12]

A couple of rising prospects made the most significant leaps at featherweight, with Kattar moving to number six after defeating Jeremy Stephens at a 150-pound catchweight, while Ige continued his impressive run by defeating former lightweight contender, Edson Barboza via split decision. Allen, whose last fight was in January, was level with Ige in 11th spot, but moved one down to 12th in a random restructuring. A rematch between champion Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway has also been marked for UFC 251.


BANTAMWEIGHT (135lbs)

There will soon be some division-defining movement at 135-pounds, with three massive bantamweight fights going down on the UFC 250 main card. Number two ranked Aljamain Sterling made yet another claim for his long-awaited title shot by submitting Cory Sandhagen in quick time, but it seems Jose Aldo [6] and Petr Yan [3] will scrap for the vacant belt. Former champ Cody Garbrandt [9] got back to winning ways with a massive knockout of veteran contender Raphael Assuncao [5], while Sean O’Malley pushed his case for a ranking with his own statement KO on the same night.


FLYWEIGHT (125lbs)

Brandon Royval ⬆️ [11]
Tim Elliott ⬇️ [12]
Mark De La Rosa ⬇️ [NR]

Royval is the new prospect on the block, debuting at number 11 in the flyweight rankings after defeating former title challenger, Elliott in a fight of the night scrap on the Woodley vs. Burns undercard. Numbers 12-15, including Elliott were shuffled down, with De La Rosa pushed out of his number 15 spot and thus, the rankings altogether. Alex Perez [9] will also be a big mover having defeated Jussier Formiga [4] on the latest card, with Joseph Benevidez and Deiveson Figueiredo set to rematch for the vacant title.

MENS POUND-FOR-POUND

Francis Ngannou ⬆️ [14]
Dominick Reyes ⬆️ [15]
Tyron Woodley ⬇️ [NR]
Henry Cejudo ⬇️ [NR]

WOMEN’S POUND-FOR-POUND

Nina Ansaroff ⬇️ [15]


WOMEN’S DIVISIONS

There has been no movement in any of the women’s divisions, but that may be soon about to change as flyweights Jessica Eye [1] and Cynthia Calvillo [10 SW] headline the promotion’s upcoming Fight Night. Amanda Nunes of course successfully defender her featherweight belt against Felicia Spencer in the latest PPV event, while number two flyweight Katlyn Chookagian dismantled Antonina Shevchenko [12] in their bout, and Angela Hill was denied a berth in the rankings after losing a tight decision to Claudia Gadelha. Carla Esparza and Sijara Eubanks were other ranked winners, and Mackenzie Dern may find herself among the strawweight numbers after submitting Hannah Cifers in quick time.

Combat Hat – 20 UFC fights to make in 2020

THE return of Conor McGregor at UFC 246 is set to kick 2020 off in style, with his big game in and out of the octagon often sending fans into a spin in trying to predict who will be next in line for the ‘money fight’. But there are plenty more potential match-ups not including the Irishman which will draw eyes to the leading promotion, with the task of matchmaking looking a little easier in the near future. Note, fighters who feature multiple times are not expected to have every bout eventuate, these are simply the best match-ups to be made.

HEAVYWEIGHT | Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou 2

While we have plenty of love for Daniel Cormier, that is perhaps exactly why we do not want to see him getting the next heavyweight title shot. Having reached the pinnacle of the sport and coming off a KO loss at the age of 40, ‘DC’ has nothing left to prove. That is not the case for Ngannou, whose hype train was halted at the hands of current champion, Miocic in 2018. A rematch seems fitting with Ngannou coming off three-consecutive first round T/KO wins, and Miocic reclaiming his crown in 2019. The question will be whether Miocic can again quell the power of Ngannou over five rounds, and if the 33-year-old Cameroonian has indeed found the right level of maturity in his game. Let’s have it.

HEAVYWEIGHT | Stipe Miocic vs. Jon Jones

What better way to prove you are the greatest mixed martial artist of all time than jumping up a weight division to claim the mantle of baddest man on the planet. It would be the cherry on top of an unmatched career for Jones, but is of course pending how he fares in his February match-up with Dominick Reyes. It seems a touch unlikely given Jones’ unwillingness to move up, arguing that the weight difference between him and some of the bigger heavyweights is much more stark than the 20lbs gap to middleweight for say… Israel Adesanya. Miocic, of course will have contenders coming, but another superfight would be hard to pass up.

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT | Jon Jones vs. Israel Adesanya

These two are already going back and forth and while a fight looks unlikely for as soon as this year, it seems inevitable that they will eventually meet in the octagon. Jones, a generational martial artist is in need of a new challenge and rivalry, and the “freshman” on the block in Adesanya is sure to give him exactly that. ‘Stylebender’s’ two-year rise to the top of the UFC middleweight division makes it easy to forget that he is only two years the junior of Jones, and is a terrific match-up for him on the feet given his storied kickboxing career. But having looked a touch below his absolute best of late, this fight could well provide ‘Bones’ with the right kind of motivation to show exactly why he is the pound-for-pound number one. But again, he needs to get past Reyes first.

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Israel Adesanya vs. Yoel Romero

Perhaps not the ideal next title fight at middleweight given Romero has lost three of his last four bouts, but is a match-up which tempts the newly-crowned champion. Adesanya has gone on record saying he would prefer to prove doubters of his grappling prowess wrong, and a win over Romero would logically go a long way to proving his status as a well-rounded martial artist. With the rightful number one contender, Paulo Costa out of action and former champion Robert Whittaker already booked, it is almost the only fight left to make. For Romero, another shot at UFC gold would be impossible to pass up, and he is the youngest (scariest)-looking 42-year-old of all time.

MIDDLEWEIGHT | Robert Whittaker vs. Darren Till

England vs. Australia, a rivalry rich in history across all sports. So, why can’t we have Liverpool’s Till vs. Australia’s first ever UFC champion, Whittaker? Whittaker was swiftly booked to fight Jared Cannonier at UFC 248 just as rumours pitting these two against each other began to grow, but a future bout between them is not out of the question. Till remains on the hunt for a worthy opponent, with Costa injured and Romero set to claim the next middleweight title shot, so may even wait on other results before being booked. Nonetheless, do it in either nation and the people will come to see these much-loved fighters do their thing.

WELTERWEIGHT | Tyron Woodley vs. Colby Covington

The top of the welterweight division is arguably the most intriguing across the entire promotion, and poses a ton of potential match-ups. This fight may not be at the forefront, but was poised to happen when Woodley held the welterweight strap and Covington was on his come-up. The two American Top Team (ATT) teammates have history at the famed gym and simply do not like each other. Given they also share the unfortunate title of having lost to Kamaru Usman in championship bouts, it would be a perfect match-up to settle the score. Plenty has been and is yet to be said, with fireworks set to ensue if this goes down.

WELTERWEIGHT | Conor McGregor vs. Jorge Masvidal

We could not have a fights to make piece without ‘The Notorious One’, and the McGregor is intent on remaining active in his soon-to-start 2020 “season”. While a loss to Donald Cerrone at UFC 246 would put a huge spanner in the works of a lot of potential match-ups, McGregor seems to be back in the right mindset. That said, the short-lived BMF title hype could come up again here as McGregor looks to snatch all the belts, and Masvidal has admitted he would be game to opt for this fight over one for the welterweight title. Add to that the Irishman’s wish to stay at 170lbs, and this could be the next logical match-up.

WELTERWEIGHT | Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3

Say McGregor does not emphatically beat ‘Cowboy’ on Sunday, there is another certain lightweight-cum-welterweight who could be next on the agenda. McGregor has long been open to the idea of a trilogy bout with Diaz, but the American has been notoriously selective of his bouts since overcoming the Irishman in 2016. A third bout to settle the score makes sense at any point, so why not now if nothing else can be reached. The pair are two of the UFC’s biggest pulls, and given the legendary status of the first two bouts, this one would again be massive. No promotion needed, it sells itself.

WELTERWEIGHT | Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal

Taking a leaf out of the book which poses Covington against Woodley, a fight with Masvidal would pit another pair of former-ATT teammates against each other. While their relationship now is a far-cry from their former self-admitted friendship, the two know each other very well and there is some serious heat between them. Masvidal is game for anyone and has quickly broken into the mainstream, as well as the title picture, so taking down everyone’s favourite fighter to hate would take him to another level. For Covington, a win would keep him well within the title picture and potentially open up a bunch of other match-ups at the top end of the division, even serving as a title-contender eliminator.

WELTERWEIGHT | Jorge Masvidal vs. Leon Edwards

Alright, this is the last time we will mention Masvidal, but the possibilities are seemingly endless when it comes to the UFC’s BMF. While Edwards looks likely to be booked against Woodley, and Masvidal is either next in line for the title shot or one at McGregor, these two have already landed blows on each other – albeit out of the cage. They met after featuring in the main and co-main events of UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal, and seemed likely to settle the beef inside the octagon right after the infamous altercation. Now both top five welterweights, this bout still makes sense as both have their eyes on the ultimate 170lbs prize.

LIGHTWEIGHT | Kevin Lee vs. Islam Makhachev

Yes, the lightweight division is stacked and yes, a Khabib vs. Connor fight has been widely spoken of should the two win their upcoming bouts, but this is the 155lb match-up that intrigues us most. Both men have been ramping up their pursuit of each other, seemingly ready to go whenever the UFC wants to make it official. A teammate and long-time friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev could well serve as a sighter for Lee on his way to getting that lightweight strap. But the Russian is no joke, often unable to find a match-up due to his 18-1 record and crushing sambo style. But Lee is game, and very smart, putting himself in the line of fire when few others have dared to. If it goes the other way, Makhachev could prove himself as the next big thing at 155lbs with a massive step up in competition.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway 2

Not much to say about this one, an immediate rematch only seems fitting for the consensus greatest featherweight champion, Holloway. Having only just claimed the title at UFC 245 in December, Volkanovski was immediately faced with the idea of granting Holloway a second chance given the Hawaiian did the same for Jose Aldo upon his first title win. It makes sense, and presents the opportunity for Volkanovski to dispel any doubts about his decision win – not that there is much. For Holloway, a chance to get his belt back and overcome one of the rare opponents to have defeated him is only fair.

FEATHERWEIGHT | Zabit Magomedsharipov vs. Chan Sung Jung

Two of the scariest and most well-rounded fighters across all divisions, and perhaps the next two in line for the featherweight belt. Magomedsharipov has seamlessly broken through against dangerous ranked opponents on his way to climbing to third spot in the 145lb division, and a win over the ‘Korean Zombie’ would only prove his title credentials. With newly-crowned champion Volkanovski poised to face Holloway in an immediate rematch, why not have these two killers battle it out to become next in line? Of course, Sung Jung was poised to face Brian Ortega in a similar line of thinking, but instead accounted for Frankie Edgar within a round. Hardcores would love this match-up, with so many ways to win on either side.

W. FEATHERWEIGHT | Amanda Nunes vs. Claressa Shields

This one is a little fanciful, we admit, but who the hell else is Nunes going to fight at 145lbs? Cris Cyborg swiftly exited to Bellator after their bout, and is set to face Julia Budd (who Nunes KO’d in 14 seconds), while PFL champion Kayla Harrison seems quite content winning millions of dollars there. The two have already spoken to the idea, with Nunes adamant that a fight would only ever happen in MMA because, well she is an MMA fighter. Shields, a two-time Olympic boxing champion who holds all four major world titles, is open to the idea – albeit if she needs more than a year to train for the bout. Nunes is quite confident she would “wrestle the s**t” out of Shields, so let’s have her prove it – Dana White is not opposed.

BANTAMWEIGHT | Henry Cejudo vs. Petr Yan

‘Triple C’ Cejudo does not seem keen on simply taking on the number one contenders in his quest to become the MMA GOAT, instead looking to take out challengers to that throne in Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo. But let’s be real here, this is the fight that makes the most sense and Petr Yan is as deserving as any contender across the UFC. Three impressive wins in 2019 have put the Russian right in the title frame, and this seems the right match-up for Cejudo to defend his bantamweight belt given he is set to lose his flyweight one. Talk aside, the fight promises to be an intriguing one, with Cejudo levelling up his striking to go with his wrestling pedigree and undeniable heart, with Yan constantly pushing his opponents into deep water. Do the right thing, Henry.

W. BANTAMWEIGHT | Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko 3

These two champions are fast running out of worthy contenders having emphatically accounted for each one to have come their way thus far. And that is just the thing, Nunes is 2-0 up against Shevchenko in the UFC – both wins via decision – but the rivalry is still alive given the closeness of both bouts. Neither fighter is booked for 2020 as of yet, and with Maycee Barber looking like pushing into number one contender status at flyweight, Nunes could face Aspen Ladd at bantamweight if things go the American’s way this year. But in the meantime, with no clear number one contender at either weight, this could be the superfight that the women’s divisions need.

FLYWEIGHT | Henry Cejudo vs. Joseph Benavidez 2

An unlikely match-up given Benavidez is set to fight for the soon-vacant flyweight title, but would have been ideal if Cejudo was interested in actively defending both of his belts. After Benevidez takes on Deiveson Figueiredo and Cejudo accepts a challenge for the bantamweight strap, a second meeting between the two would be feasible. In their previous meeting in 2016 post a heated Ultimate Fighter series, Benevidez got the better of a raw Cejudo via split decision and would relish the chance to do the same against his rival.

W. FLYWEIGHT | Valentina Shevchenko vs. Maycee Barber

This is another fight pending upcoming results, and even more in the case of Barber. The 21-year-old wrecking ball is impatiently climbing the flyweight ranks, proving too physical for many of her opponents. In a rush, she aims to beat out Jones and become the youngest ever UFC champion, so 2020 could be her year with Roxanne Modafferi her first opponent. But Shevchenko, who does not have many clear challengers at the moment, is as dominant a champion as the promotion has and will be a tall order for the youngster. If she does not pursue a third fight with Nunes, Shevchenko could well find herself coming up against ‘The Future’.

W. STRAWWEIGHT | Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 3

The UFC women’s strawweight division is tight at the top, with plenty of moving parts in play during 2020. Jedrzejczyk is already booked to fight for the strawweight crown, and if she wins could have her first defence against one of the two woman to beat her (twice), Namajunas. That also depends on whether Namajunas exacts her revenge on Jessica Andrade, but the two could meet either way. Now both former champions, either fighter could reclaim their title this year and this may well be one of the avenues. Given the intense build-up of the first two bouts and how close the second fight was, a third would be a barnburner.

W. STRAWWEIGHT | Zhang Weili vs. Tatiana Suarez

Suarez is widely touted as the next in line for the strawweight title, dominating each of her opponents on her way to an 8-0 record. No one has yet found an answer for her smothering wrestling, with but the power of Zhang Weili could well take it out of the equation entirely. The champion’s early finish of Andrade makes this an interesting stylistic match-up, but again depends on whether she can hold on to her crown. Suarez looks poised to wait for the next title fight either way, and already has the look of a champion.

Stiff to miss:

Cormier vs. Miocic 3
Cormier vs. Jones 3
Adesanya vs. Costa
Masvidal vs. Diaz 2
Nurmagomedov vs. St. Pierre
Poirier vs. Hooker
Poirier vs. McGregor 2
Gaethje vs. McGregor
Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor
Aldo vs. Cruz