The UFC has displayed a lot of great fights through the last year, as rivalries have carried over into the new year. Here, we discuss the top fights the UFC community needs during the 2022 year:
Colby Covington vs Jorge Masvidal
Following his second consecutive loss to Kamaru Usman for the Welterweight Championship, Colby Covington (16-2 UFC) wasted no time in calling out former teammate Jorge Masvidal (35-15 MMA, 14-9 UFC).
“I’ll fight whoever it takes to get back to a title shot,” Covington said. “I think the most logical step is the heated rivalry with me and my old roommate ‘Street Judas’ Jorge Masvidal.”
Masvidal was scheduled to fight Leon Edwards on December 11 at UFC 269, but it was ultimately postponed. Both Covington and Masvidal spent time as sparring partners at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. When Covington relied on his ‘gimmick’ to advance his UFC career, the tension rose.
Neither contender has been a divisional champion, despite Masvidal defeating Nate Diaz for the ‘BMF’ title in November of 2019 at UFC 244. In the Welterweight division, Covington is ranked as the No. 1 contender, while Masvidal is No. 7.
Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier IV
At UFC 264, fans left with a sour taste in the trilogy fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor after McGregor suffered a stress fracture to end the bout in the first round. McGregor received surgery and has been rehabbing and training since.
Poirier has won each of the last two fights in the trilogy, with McGregor winning the original bout when both were contenders in the Featherweight division. There has been a healthy rivalry between the two, but most question whether McGregor has crossed the line during media frenzies in the heat of competition.
“There’s no holds barred with the trash talk, right? Poirier said. “But murder isn’t something you clown around with. There’s no coming back from that and this guy was saying he was going to murder me and all kinds of stuff.”
UFC President Dana White stated following UFC 264 that both Poirier and McGregor will fight again in the future. While no timeline is set, the imminent fight is centered around McGregor’s return and Poirier durability following his loss against Charles Olivieria.
Petr Yan vs TJ Dillashaw
UFC interim Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan is fresh off his victory against Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267, and took very little time to check on colleague TJ Dillashaw.
Dillashaw, who served a two-year suspension with the UFC, was previously one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in both the Bantamweight and Flyweight division.
Aljamain Sterling deserves his place in the conversation when it comes to the top fight to make in the Bantamweight division, but Yan versus Dillashaw has the tools for a classic bout. Dillashaw is currently ranked as the No. 2 contender in the division. After tearing several ligaments in his left knee against Sandhagen in July 2021, he is expected to return to action this year.
Kamaru Usman vs Khamzat Chimaev
After debuting in July of 2020, Khamat Chimaev has finished four straight opponents inside the first two rounds. While he would need more ranked fights for a potential leadup to Kamaru Usman, there are plenty of names on the table to propel Chimaev into the conversation.
In November of 2020, Diaz turned down the opportunity to fight Chimaev based on the Welterweight’s lack of experience. However, other names such as No. 2 Gilbert Burns and No. 8 Sean Brady could be on the table. At this time, Chimaev is currently ranked No. 11 in the Welterweight division.
During a UFC 268 media day, Usman took time to praise Chimaev. “As far as me [fighting him], you know I’m in a point in life to where I understand how much this takes from you,” Usman said. “I’ve been nine weeks now away from my daughter, and FaceTime does help, but it doesn’t do it justice, as far as being there each and every day. So obviously I don’t know how much longer I’m willing to do this. They have to make sense for me now. If he’s able to get there, then we’ll talk about it at that point.”
Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko III
UFC action in regards to the women’s divisions has been dominated by both Nunes and Shevchenko. Nunes specifically is a two-time Champion and has successfully defended the Bantamweight title on six occasions prior to a loss against Julianna Penna at UFC 269.
The trilogy isn’t as balanced as one would hope, as Nunes has won both encounters against Shevchenko in the past. However, there isn’t a “competitive” fight on the table at this time aside from an immediate rematch against Penna. In addition, in their latest bout, Nunes won via split decision.
White hasn’t been as receptive to the idea, but a fan-driven campaign could alter the narrative. “I would imagine if they wanted to do it bad enough and the fans wanted it bad enough, I would do it but I don’t see much point in it,” White said.