It is shaping up to be another thrilling year for MMA fans in 2022.
A host of exciting title fights are already confirmed including an all-French heavyweight showdown in January between Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane in California and even more exciting contests on the horizon like Leah McCourt v Sinead Kavanagh in Dublin.
After such an unpredictable past year, BBC Sport writers look into the crystal ball to pick out the clashes they want to see in 2022.
Manvir Rai’s picks
Israel Adesanya v Kamaru Usman
I know, I know, they are friends, and they are both Nigerian born, but this is the fight to make. Prior to headlining UFC 268, Usman said if the money was right, he and Adesanya would fight.
Usman has cleared out the welterweight division, Adesanya has cleared out the middleweight division, so there’s nobody left for either fighter in their respective weight class.
It makes sense – and would genuinely be a super fight at middleweight.
Usman is a huge welterweight, so the 15lb jump to middleweight has potential. Then there’s the fighting styles – one of the best wrestlers in MMA against one of the best strikers.
It has all the ingredients for a classic. Sign me up.
Tony Ferguson v Conor McGregor
It should have happened in 2017 but now makes sense to do it next year.
There’s a lot of bad blood there and plenty of back and forth on social media but, most importantly, both men are in need of a win. Stylistically too, the pair like to stand and fight.
McGregor is the biggest attraction in the history of MMA and we all know what he’s done for the sport.
But he’s 1-3 in his last four fights, whereas Ferguson has lost his last three. This fight will be career defining and receive huge attraction.
A win for McGregor will see him back in contention for a title shot. With Ferguson, it’s a little different. Victory would set up another big contest – and I’d love to see Ferguson v Michael Chandler. A loss for the 37-year-old, however, would see fan favourite Ferguson with limited options moving forward.
Something has to give.
Coral Barry’s picks
Nate Diaz v Khamzat Chimaev
Diaz has already thoroughly shut down this fight, but I’ll continue to dream.
Chimaev is, admittedly, probably a few more fights off taking on someone like Diaz. Before Covid-19 forced him to take over a year out of action, the 27-year-old fought three times in 2020.
It is not inconceivable Chimaev could win his next two fights and take on Diaz at the end of 2022. Diaz might even regard Chimaev as a worthy opponent should he put together impressive performances against top 10-ranked fighters.
Both men are incredibly unusual characters. Diaz has carefully cultivated an image of a rogue fighter who answers only to himself, while Chimaev is keen to build his persona as the welterweight division’s grim reaper.
The build-up would be phenomenal and the fight even better, considering how both like to show off in the octagon.
Cris Cyborg v Kayla Harrison
Free agent and two-time Professional Fighters League champion Harrison has some decisions to make in 2022. Will she stick with the PFL or sign up with the UFC or Bellator? Personally I’d like to see Harrison in Bellator and take on featherweight champion Cyborg.
Cyborg is in need of a serious challenger in Bellator and, with Amanda Nunes losing her bantamweight belt in the UFC to Julianna Pena in one of the biggest title upsets, Harrison signing with Bellator makes sense.
She is 12-0, a judo specialist and a match-up with expert striker Cyborg would make for a fascinating bout. It’s a difficult one to call with Cyborg on a roll, a proven champion and Harrison having spent most of her pro career steamrolling opponents in the PFL.
But there’s no better way to prove you are the best than to take on the best and, with Nunes likely tied up for the foreseeable in a Pena rematch, Harrison should start her attempted takeover tour in Bellator.
Paul Battison’s picks
Yaroslav Amosov v Michael ‘Venom’ Page
Not since Liam McGeary in 2015 have we had a British Bellator champion but, after avenging his 2019 defeat to Douglas Lima in a rematch earlier this year, Page is now in pole position to fight for the welterweight title.
Bellator president Scott Coker is expected to make the fight. Page will have to do what nobody has done before and beat Amosov.
The 28-year-old Ukrainian is undefeated in 26 bouts and on an eight-fight winning streak in Bellator. Amosov’s superior wrestling would make him favourite against Page, but the 34-year-old Londoner has made a career out of producing spectacular knockouts.
Could MVP end Britain’s six-year wait for a Bellator world champion? Stranger things have happened…
Jorge Masvidal v Colby Covington
A grudge match which makes perfect sense.
Not only are Masvidal and Covington both coming off defeats to UFC welterweight champion Usman, the fighters are friends-turned-enemies who appear to hold a genuine dislike for each other.
While team-mates at American Top Team, the two were inseparable – training together, living together and documenting their lives on YouTube.
It’s a friendship which would soon turn sour, resulting in Covington splitting from the same gym in 2020 as a result of rifts between the fighters. Both have been publicly outspoken on their detest for one another and have called for the fight to be made numerous times.
There’s been speculation the UFC could face them off as adversaries on their reality TV series Ultimate Fighter, with the pair meeting inside the octagon for the season finale.
Whatever route they go down, this fight has to happen in 2022.
|AJ McKee v Patricky Pitbull|
|Amanda Nunes v Kayla Harrison|
|Derrick Lewis v Tom Aspinall|
|Sinead Kavanagh v Leah McCourt|
|Anthony Smith v Paul Craig|
|Dominick Cruz v Sean O’Malley|
|James Gallagher v Kyoji Horiguchi|