12 UFC fights we need to see in 2022

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A UFC 273 star card this past weekend gave us a few things. We had a Match of the Year contender between Khamzat Chimaev and Gilbert Burns, potential new title contenders to watch out for in Chimaev and Mackenzie Dern, and another big pound-for-pound to consider in Alexander Volkanovski.

More importantly, UFC 273 gave us even more anticipation for the MMA year which includes two more title fights at UFC 274 on May 7. The UFC event schedule is mostly booked until mid-June. But that’s only half the year.

As for how to fill in the rest, we have a few ideas. Featuring the 12 fights we want to see in 2022, ranked in order of awesome potential.

12. Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera/Rob Font Winner

Rob Font and Marlon Vera will face off at the end of this month, both hoping to position themselves for an eventual title. What’s more likely is a future fight against a lower ranked opponent, but who can draw an audience. Enter “Sugar” Sean O’Malley. It’s time for “Sugar” Sean to step up the competition after three straight wins. Vera-Font’s winner would give us the perfect chance to see just how good the “Sugar Show” really is.

11. Marina Rodriguez vs. Mackenzie Dern

This is the easiest matchmaking on this list. Mackenzie Dern’s win at UFC 273 helped make the women’s strawweight division one of the most competitive in the UFC. With champ Rose Namajunas set to defend Carlos Esparza and Zhang Weili taking on Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a rematch of perhaps the biggest fight in women’s MMA history, a showdown between Marina Rodriguez and Dern would keep the ball rolling. division until the end of the year. Not to mention that Dern would be one of the most marketable stars in the UFC if she could keep winning.

10. Dustin Poirier vs. Colby Covington

If Poirier seemed more excited about a potential fight, he would move higher up this list. As things stand, he would go up in weight to take on his former teammate who no one but Kamaru Usman could figure out. Still, Poirier is one of the sport’s most beloved fighters, while Covington is perhaps the most hated. A fight against Nate Diaz or another confrontation with Conor McGregor may be worth more money for Poirier. But beating Covington would make him an international hero.

9. Max Holloway vs. Conor McGregor

Speaking of Conor McGregor… The Irishman has been calling out UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman lately seems like a death wish. Never put a UFC title out of the question for McGregor. He is still the most bankable star in the sport. But it’s more likely (or more appropriate) that McGregor will get an enemy he’s seen before. This could mean we finally see a third fight with Nate Diaz, who should probably be on this list. But I’m going to go a different route and give McGregor a fight against Max Holloway, who McGregor beat in 2013. Holloway may be looking for a third title fight against Alexander Volkanovski. But UFC president Dana White doesn’t seem too keen on the idea. McGregor gives Holloway a good paycheck while waiting for Volkanovski to cross someone else. There’s a chance that McGregor – after three losses in four fights – may not be in Holloway’s league anymore. But if there’s anything left for McGregor, this one could be a standing war.

8. Ciryl Gane vs. Tai Tuivasa

It’s not what Tai Tuivasa wants. But it’s probably his best path to a title shot. It looks like former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic will settle for nothing less than another title crack. Thus, Tuivasa will have to face Ciryl Gane, who has just lost to current champion Francis Ngannou. With Ngannou out of action (and possibly the UFC), everyone is scrambling for an interim title. There are four fighters and two fights that will get us there (more on the other in a bit).

7. Jose Aldo vs. Dominick Cruz

Two of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in MMA history. What’s not to like? Dominick Cruz and Jose Aldo are finally in the same weight class at bantamweight. And the beauty of a fight between the two is that they’re both still relevant when it comes to the title image.

6. Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara France

Despite the war of words between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno, we are sure to get the fourth fight of the UFC flyweight championship we all thought was a foregone conclusion a few weeks ago. Yet, if that fails, there is another option. The two named Kai Kara France as their next fight. Figueredo has the title. Moreno and France for the No. 1 contender spot makes perfect sense and would be one hell of a fight.

5. Petr Yan vs. TJ Dillashaw

Few expected Petr Yan to take an L in his rematch with Aljamain Sterling at UFC 272. But here we are. Yan needs a tough fight to get the division back together and TJ Dillashaw fits the bill. With all due respect to Sterling, a lot of people think they are the two most gifted fighters at bantamweight anyway. After an injury, Dillashaw may opt for someone less aggressive like, say, Jose Aldo. But Yan-Dillashaw would be the fight to see.

4. Brian Ortega vs. Calvin Kattar

Both Brian Ortega and Calvin Kattar are in a state of uncertainty. They are highly ranked at featherweight, but neither is likely to have a shot at the title any time soon. This list is not for title matches. These are fights we want to see. Ortega and Kattar are two warriors who would give their all. This has a Fighting Candidate of the Year written all over it.

3. Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev

Chimaev gave us an instant classic in his battle with Gilbert Burns at UFC 273. Still, I still don’t know how awesome Chimaev really is. The UFC is also not with the promotion leaning towards a fight between Chimaev and Colby Covington next. Makes sense. But it is better to strike while the iron is hot. Chimaev’s battle with Burns is fresh on everyone’s minds while Kamaru Usman needs someone to defend his welterweight crown.

2. Alexander Volkanovski vs. Henry Cejudo

I’m not opposed to seeing UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski take on Max Holloway for the third time. But former two-division champion Henry Cejudo has would have returned to the USADA test group with Volkanovski leading. Volkanovski teased a weight increase. But a victory against Cejudo would be quite a stamp on his CV. For Cejudo, the call is simple: to become the first three-division champion in UFC history. It’s a fight with historical implications.

1. Stipe Miocic vs. Jon Jones

Of course, that was going to be the first choice. Enough with the nonsense already. Jon Jones says he’ll be ready to make his heavyweight debut this summer. And with Francis Ngannou out of action for who knows how long, a fight against Jones would give Stipe Miocic what he’s wanted since his loss to Ngannou – a title shot. Miocic vs. Jones would be the greatest UFC heavyweight in history against the promotion’s greatest light heavyweight of all time. And that would be for the interim heavyweight title. Let’s do it.

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