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THIS yr was undoubtedly essentially the most testing interval the UFC has endured for an extended, very long time. However the ongoing coronavirus pandemic did not cease blended martial arts’ premier promotion from delivering some unforgettable fights.
The MMA chief spoiled us with a number of bouts that will probably be talked about for years to come back.
Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson placed on one of many fights of the yr at UFC 249Credit score: Getty
Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Weili Zhang went to conflict for 5 straight rounds at UFC 248Credit score: GettY
Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson’s showdown at UFC 249 – the primary pay-per-view card following the worldwide lockdown – is likely one of the contests that springs to thoughts when recapping one of the best fights of 2020.
Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s conflict within the co-main event of UFC 248 is one other bout that is nonetheless very a lot on the forefront of followers’ minds, in addition to Dustin Poirier’s light-weight dust-up with Dan Hooker.
And who can overlook about Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno’s war for the flyweight title earlier this month?
With 2020 now firmly within the rearview mirror, SunSport thought it might solely be proper to interrupt down seven fights that merely must occur by the top of 2021.
Take pleasure in, people.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Georges St-Pierre
This, for me, is the one struggle that may lure the recently-retired Khabib Nurmagomedov out of retirement.
At this juncture of his life, the indomitable Nurmagomedov will solely be tempted to return to the cage if he is given the chance to additional etch his identify into the fight sports activities annals by beating the person many regard to be the MMA ‘GOAT’.
And given all the things he is executed for the corporate over the previous few years, he needs to be granted the chance to achieve 30-0 in a legacy struggle with the Corridor-of-Famer.
Stylistically, Nurmagomedov vs St-Pierre is a captivating match-up that throws up a number of questions. Will a close to 40-year-old ‘GSP’ be capable to defend the takedown?
And if that’s the case, will Nurmagomedov be capable to dangle with the previous two-division champion on the ft? There’s just one method to discover out, people.
I, like many others, am hoping and praying UFC president Dana White can persuade ‘The Eagle’ to fly yet another time so we’re not left questioning what would possibly’ve been.
Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from MMA after beating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254Credit score: Getty
Conor McGregor vs Justin Gaethje
Barring a showdown between Nurmagomedov and St-Pierre, that is the tastiest match-up that may be made within the stacked light-weight division.
And one may argue it ought to’ve been made as an alternative of Conor McGregor’s UFC 257 rematch with Dustin Poirier, though I’ll admit I’m pumped for the second instalment of that rivalry.
McGregor vs Gaethje is a struggle many, myself included, have pined for. A lot of the intrigue surrounding the match-up initially stemmed from Gaethje’s kill-or-be-killed model, which he is deviated from within the final two years.
The previous interim light-weight champion is now a way more methodical and tactful fighter, though he is nonetheless able to drowning his opponents with relentless strain.
Like him or detest him, you need to admit McGregor is a grasp of house administration, timing and counter-striking – instruments which are a pressure-based fighter’s worst nightmare.
That alone makes a struggle with Gaethje a must-see affair, in addition to the very actual animosity between the pair.
If McGregor will get by way of Poirier, Gaethje is the person he ought to struggle in his second outing of 2021. No ifs, buts or maybes.
Conor McGregor is gearing up for his UFC 257 showdown with Dustin PoirierCredit score: Instagram @thenotoriousmma
Jon Jones vs Israel Adesanya
Previous head versus new child on the block. Respective talent units apart, that is maybe one of the best analogy for a super-fight between Jon Jones and Israel Adesanya.
One fast take a look at the pair’s back-and-forth on social media is all you should discern that Jones isn’t a fan of the assured and abrasive Adesanya.
The struggle itself, which the UFC are desperate to e book, is an attention-grabbing one as middleweight king Adesanya possesses a big putting benefit than the once-flashy and dynamic Jones.
Anderson Silva tops the listing for the largest UFC win streak
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is on a collision course with Jon JonesCredit score: Getty
Jones, nevertheless, has the benefit on the subject of the grappling, a side of blended martial arts former Glory standout Adesanya has but to battle with since his transition into the game.
All that continues to be for the struggle to come back to fruition is for Adesanya to get rid of light-heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz, which will probably be no straightforward feat.
But when he does and subsequently turns into a two-weight world champion, the UFC ought to do their utmost to e book the grudge match, which one may argue is the largest struggle remaining for Jones.
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman/Gilbert Burns
Let’s get one thing straight, folks: Leon Edwards has already executed greater than sufficient to earn a title shot.
The person has received eight in a row and shut down a former world champion with ease in his final foray to the cage.
If meritocracy have been nonetheless alive within the promotion, ‘Rocky’ would’ve earned a crack on the welterweight crown twice over.
Birmingham’s Leon Edwards is on an eight-fight win streakCredit score: Getty
Alas, we’re now in an period the place a fighter’s physique of labor is ignored in favour of trash speaking and social media engagement.
The UFC will not, nevertheless, be capable to overlook the satisfaction of Birmingham ought to he get previous the undefeated Khamzat Chimaev.
Ought to that occur, the promotion has to do proper by the soft-spoken and respectful Edwards by giving him dibs on the winner of Kamaru Usman’s title defence towards Gilbert Burns.
Leon Edwards will face Khamzat Chimaev on Combat IslandCredit score: UFC
Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk II
I do know it was some time again and that we’re all responsible of falling sufferer to recency bias, however Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s conflict at UFC 248 was 2020’s ‘Combat of the Yr’. Anybody who thinks in any other case can be at liberty to debate me.
These women went to conflict for 5 straight rounds and placed on what was arguably the best struggle within the historical past of girls’s MMA.
I am actually baffled the UFC opted to not e book this rematch for early 2021. However I am much more bamboozled by the matchmakers’ resolution to provide Carla Esparza the following crack on the strawweight throne.
Do not get me incorrect, I am not in any manner, form or type saying former 115lb champ Esparza is not worthy of a title shot. She is.
I simply firmly consider given the shut nature of their first assembly, the technical whizzes ought to run it again. And I believe the vast majority of MMA followers internationally will agree with me.
The UFC must run again Weili Zhang vs Joanna JedrzejczykCredit score: Getty
Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington
All of us like it when former team-mates and coaching companions grow to be enemies.
Chuck Lidell versus Tito Ortiz, Jon Jones versus Rashad Evans and Tj Dillashaw vs Cody Garbrandt are simply three of essentially the most memorable team-mate-turned-rival match-ups we have seen within the UFC.
However a grudge match between former American High Group colleagues and roommates Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington would trump (See what I did there?) the lot of them.
What was as soon as a bromance has descended right into a bitter feud that reveals no signal of coming to an finish.
That feud, which was contributing issue to Covington leaving ATT, is cash within the financial institution for the UFC.
A bonafide star in Masvidal taking over a controversial and divisive determine in Covington is a house run of a pay-per-view headliner.
Regardless of the delay in reserving the struggle, the will for the match-up hasn’t dissipated. The UFC know this and are possible preserving it of their again pocket till after Usman faces Burns.
Hopefully, they will not go away it too lengthy and can get pencilled in earlier than Worldwide Combat Week in July.
TJ Dillashaw vs Jose Aldo
I have to confess, this was a struggle I hadn’t even considered till Jose Aldo known as for it following his win over Marlon Vera earlier this month.
And I am unable to assist however agree with Aldo’s evaluation that it is the good bout for the pair at this stage of their respective careers.
TJ Dillashaw wants a powerful win over a big-name opponent following his two-year suspension for deliberately utilizing EPO.
Former males’s bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw will probably be eligible to compete in JanuaryCredit score: Getty
Jose Aldo confirmed he is nonetheless the most effective on this planet towards Marlon VeraCredit score: Getty
Likewise, Aldo, who continues to silence his doubters once they’re most vocal.
The matchmakers can be giving us manna from the gods by reserving this struggle, which, stylistically, is likely one of the most entertaining within the bantamweight division.
Let’s hope they provide us a much-needed 2021 deal with by reserving this potential barnburner.