With 2021 almost done and dusted, we look at some of the most intriguing UFC bouts we’d like to see in 2022 - that are yet to be made. There’s plenty of options given the level of competition throughout the promotion, and some do feel some way off, but it’s a wish list. So we’re allowed to have some fun …
Kamaru Usman v Khamzat Chimaev
The sport’s No 1 pound-for-pound athlete against the hype train currently motoring with most momentum? Yes please. Usman is working his way towards “greatest of all-time” status, unbeaten in 15 UFC appearances and now lapping the welterweight division as champion. Chimaev, meanwhile, burst on to the scene in Abu Dhabi last year, won again 10 days later, and has overcome Covid-19 to vault to 4-0 in the company. His win against Li Jingliang in the capital in October was as terrifying as it was impressive.
Conor McGregor v Nate Diaz 3
One of the biggest rivalries in UFC history, with the series level at 1-1? What’s not to like? McGregor and Diaz met twice in five months in 2016, with the former two-division champion losing the first by submission and then winning an epic rematch on points. OK, it’s five years since – soon to be six – and both are coming off successive defeats, but this remains the most money-spinning fight the UFC could make. Surely, it will happen at some stage.
Charles Oliveira v Justin Gaethje
Unquestionably the fight to make in the lightweight division. Oliveira is coming off a stunningly successful first title defence against Dustin Poirier this month, and Gaethje picked apart Michael Chandler in November in a Fight of the Year contender. UFC president Dana White says this will be next, with the two potential rivals since exchanging barbs. The talk is Brazil in May, with Gaethje openly wanting to go into Oliveira’s back yard to take the belt. Guaranteed fireworks.
Francis Ngannou v Jon Jones
Granted, heavyweight champion Ngannou has a blockbuster matchup next month with the fast-rising Ciryl Gane, but get through that and a mouth-watering meeting with Jones more than whets the appetite. Jones has yet to compete at heavyweight having ruled the light-heavyweight division for years, and is regarded by many as the greatest of all-time. Ngannou, meanwhile, is frighteningly powerful. Dispatch No 1 contender Gane at UFC 270, and welcoming Jones into the big-boys domain must be next.
Alexander Volkanovski v Max Holloway 3
OK, so a 2-0 series doesn’t exactly scream trilogy, but that’s looking past the previous two bouts. Volkanovski defeated then-champion Holloway by unanimous decision in December 2019, then again in Abu Dhabi last year – this time a controversial split decision. Both have since put on brilliant performances: Volkanovski against Brian Ortega and Holloway against Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez. So a third clash, with the champ versus the No 1-ranked contender, would be absorbing – and extremely lucrative.
Julianna Pena v Amanda Nunes 2
This month’s shock victory for Pena could lay claim to represent the greatest upset in UFC history. Pena, a huge underdog going into UFC 269, stunned the two-division champion in the second round, winning by rear-naked choke to take the bantamweight title. Was it a fluke? Did Nunes, unbeaten in 12 fights going back seven years and widely considered the greatest female of all-time, underestimate her opponent? Now a mother, has she lost focus? The MMA world would certainly love to see how Nunes responds.
Colby Covington v Jorge Masvidal
A friends-to-foes rivalry that’s been bubbling for years ticks all the boxes, even if Covington has lost two of his past three and Masvidal his past two. All four losses, though, were dished out by Usman. What’s more, the beef between these former roommates is said to be as real as it gets. Covington ranks as the No 1 welterweight challenger and is incredibly skilled. Facing off against a huge fan favourite, underpinned by genuine enmity, is a script that writes itself.