Unlike boxing, the UFC and MMA in general tend to deliver fights that fans crave without going through the politics of cross-promotion wars and network television clash. Of course, there has been many marquee fights within MMA that haven’t ever come to fruition, but generally we can count ourselves thankful that the ‘big fights’ more often than not get made.
Here are my top fights that absolutely MUST happen in 2017…
Francis Ngannou v Cain Velasquez
The rapid rise of Francis Ngannou has seen him highlighted but Dana White as a future heavyweight champion and the Cameroonian-French destroyer has been building up a large following. Realistically, Ngannou is 1 or possible 2 fights away from a title shot. One man who Ngannou mentioned as a possible opponent is Cain Velasquez; Cain is currently returning from back surgery following on from a cancellation to a no.1 contender bout with previous rival Fabricio Werdum. Should this fight go ahead, it has it all: two very scary and talented ‘monsters’, a rising contender versus an established veteran and a true acid test in Ngannou young MMA career to truly see if the hype is real? For Cain it’s an opportunity to silence any doubts that his body hasn’t given up on him just yet and to vanquish an opponent that carries a similar mystique he once brought into the octagon.
Nick Diaz v Jorge Masvidal
This fight has recently been brought up as the rumours have been going wildfire that Diaz is returning once more and seeking a fight that makes sense to him in terms of name and financially. Whilst Masvidal isn’t the ‘name’ Diaz is necessarily looking for, he does provide the style that could prove to be a fight of the year contender. Masvidal’s recent wins against Jake Ellenberger and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone have proven that when everything clicks into place, he is a phenomenal fighter and has arguably some of the best boxing in the welterweight division. Much like the Ngannou/Velasquez fight this would be a true indicator fight for both men and make no mistake; this would be a real test of both fighters’ mettle.
Conor McGregor v Khabib Nurmagamedov
Yes, Conor wants the Mayweather fight, but this is THE FIGHT to make at 155 lbs. A unique clash of fighting styles, personalities and an opponent style that neither man has experienced yet. Despite Conor’s team doubting Khabib’s worthiness as a marquee name for the his return, Khabib has been slowly building his brand stateside, but is a giant superstar back home in his native Russia. McGregor v Nurmagamedov hosting a debut PPV in Russia would be huge both financial terms and growing the UFC into a brand new market. It’s an interesting match up; Nurmagamedov has pretty much been flawless in his 24-0 career, no one has been able to handle his sambo style and he has dominated everyone he has faced in the UFC so far. For McGregor, bar a blip against Nate Diaz, he has defeated everyone who has stood in his path. How would he handle Khabib’s sambo wrestling? How would Khabib take a McGregor left hook? This fight is truly fascinating and a win for either man would be one of the most crowning achievements on either man’s resume.
Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson v Cody Garbrandt
Might Mouse Johnson is the consensus P4P king and is likely to surpass Anderson Silva’s record for most title defences; with his legacy cemented DJ deserves money making fights and what better fight to make than a superfight with newly crowned bantamweight champion Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt. Cody is likely to have his hand full with TJ Dillashaw in the summer, but this match is an absolutely fun fight to make and provide an interesting puzzle for either man to work out.
Anthony Johnson v Jon Jones
I predict ‘Rumble’ Johnson to beat Daniel Cormier at UFC 210, which should set up a meeting between Jon Jones towards the end of summer. The 205 division has long proved to be the UFC’s flagship division, with the likes of Liddell, Ortiz and Couture ruling the weight class years gone by. In recent years the division has lost it’s way and is on something of a reboot mission these days, but this fight provides 2 of the best in the entire sport. Anthony Johnson is one scary man, Jon Jones is arguably the G.O.A.T. and his desire to obtain the title he never lost offers fans the opportunity to witness a fight that harks back to days gone by.
Nate Diaz v Conor McGregor 3
Do I really need to explain this one?
Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone v Robbie Lawler
As Mr. T’s character ‘Clubber Lang’ said in Rocky 3 “My prediction? PAIN” – this one offers up beautiful violence and both men would likely bring out the best in one another. You could see this one on a par with Lawler’s war with Condit, as a 5 round battle ensues, but likewise if either man were to finish it early no one would be surprised.
Yair Rodriguez vs Max Holloway
When Nate Diaz uttered the words “Ninja Sh*t” when discussing his plans for his UFC 196 bout with Conor McGregor a viral hit went wild across social media – Rodriguez vs Holloway offers Ninja Sh*t level 11. This would be a phenomenal fight against 2 budding superstars and I could see this one being a ‘fight of the ages’, given both men’s age I could also see the start of fantastic trilogy series on a par with some of the best trilogy fights in the company’s history.
image credit – Esther Lin/MMA Fighting