Last year the UFC staged some of the biggest and best fights in its prestigious history. Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier resumed hostilities in two separate fights, Poirier winning both times, though the latter coming as a result of a freak leg injury to McGregor.
There was also the all-time classic between lightweights Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler, who tore chunks out of each other over three breathtaking rounds.
Kamaru Usman defended his welterweight crown multiple times – including a highlight-reel knockout of Jorge Masvidal – while Rose Namajunas stunned Zhang Weili to become world champion and then outpointed her in the immediate rematch.
In plenty of these fights, UFC betting odds were upended and expert predictions were made a mockery of. No upset, however, was more shocking than Julianna Pena’s submission win over Amanda Nunes.
So, a rematch between the pair seems likely for 2022. Nunes was a huge betting favorite over Pena heading into their December meeting, however ‘The Lioness’ looked off from the start.
She was unable to get her shots off and Pena was hurting her on the feet. Then, when the fight went to the mat in round two, Pena managed to gain top position and submit Nunes to claim the women’s bantamweight title.
While Nunes still holds the featherweight crown, she is likely to want to try and avenge her loss to Pena and right what she will likely see as a temporary hiccup. For Pena, a rematch with Nunes is undoubtedly the biggest option out there for her.
Sticking with rematches, UFC fans came tantalisingly close to getting a trilogy fight between featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and former champ Max Holloway. Though the Australian has already twice beaten Holloway, they were incredibly close fights and there are some who felt Max was hard done by on the scorecards.
Plus, since those losses to the champion, Holloway has proven himself the number one contender in the division with impressive wins over the likes of Calvin Kattar and Yair Rodriguez.
Volkanovski-Holloway 3 was a reality for a short while when it was confirmed for later this year, only for Holloway to be forced to withdraw due to an injury. Chan Sung Jung – AKA ‘The Korean Zombie’ – has stepped in to face Volkanovski in April while Holloway recovers.
Should Alexander keep hold of his title, we could then see him square off with his old rival once again.
With Francis Ngannou recently defending his heavyweight crown against Ciryl Gane, talk has resumed about a potential fight with former light-heavyweight champion and all-time great Jon Jones.
‘Bones’ has not fought since February 2020, when he defeated Dominick Reyes on a contested decision, but since then announced his intention to finally move up to heavyweight.
He has posted updates of himself in the gym packing muscle onto his physical frame, though as of yet has not come close to booking a fight in the banner division. However, now that Ngannou’s schedule is once again clear, many fans are interested in Jones stepping straight in with the champion.
Despite not winning in the octagon since January 2020, Conor McGregor still remains the most marketable fighter on the UFC roster and could have his pick of a few different fights in 2022.
First, there would be a surprising shot at currently lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. The Brazilian won the title last year and then defeated Poirier in his first defence, soon after which he tweeted about his desire to fight McGregor.
While Conor has not yet earned another title shot, he is undoubtedly the biggest opponent Oliveira could take at this point, which is why Charles is so keen on the fight.
However, should the UFC decide McGregor cannot jump the lightweight queue, he could still face Nate Diaz in a trilogy bout. The pair are tied at 1-1 after two tumultuous meetings in the past and their rivalry is one of the most famous in UFC history.
Then there is the prospect of a fourth fight with Poirier. Though he is 2-1 down against the American, McGregor is eager to prove himself against Dustin after losing their third fight through injury.
Welterweight king Usman also looks set to defend his title against former victim Leon Edwards. Kamaru defeated the Brit back in 2015, before he won the title, but ‘Rocky’ is on an unprecedented unbeaten run and even has the backing of UFC President Dana White as Usman’s next opponent.
With some excellent matchups already confirmed for 2022, the UFC is on course for another terrific 12 months and there are plenty of other fights that could be made to add further excitement for fight fans.