After a star studded 2018, the UFC took a step back in 2019 in terms of “big fights.”
Yes, there was a load of amazing bouts such as Yair Rodriguez vs Jeremy Stephens II, Tony Ferguson vs Donald Cerrone, Dustin Porier vs Max Holloway II, and, of course, Kamaru Usman vs Colby Covington.
However, these fights did not even come close to touching the Pay-Per-View numbers that the previous year did.
Despite that, 2019 played a huge part in setting up the UFC for another “boom” year.
With star fighter Conor McGregor making his return to the octagon, a multitude of potential matchups have begun to appear for him in the lightweight and welterweight divisions.
After his 40 second TKO defeat over Cerrone this past January, McGregor made noise and sparked the interest of fighters in both divisions.
Current Welterweight Champion, Usman, referred to a potential fight versus McGregor as “red panties night,” which ties back to when McGregor used the phrase to describe a matchup with him as being one that can change any fighter’s life financially.
A matchup with Usman, seems unlikely after a brawl over Super Bowl weekend nearly broke out between Usman and Masvidal.
With the matchup almost agreed upon, McGregor’s next match is all but confirmed to be in the lightweight division.
According to UFC President, Dana White, the best business decision for the UFC is to matchup McGregor versus his rival of 2018 and current Lightweight Champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The two previously broke Pay-Per-View records in their last matchup that saw Khabib beat McGregor by submission via a rear-naked choke in the fourth round.
There is one major issue with a potential rematch occurring – Khabib is scheduled to defend his title versus Ferguson in April at UFC 249.
Ferguson is believed by many to be Khabib’s toughest opponent to date. If Ferguson were to beat Khabib, this would most likely mean Ferguson versus McGregor would happen at some point in the fall.
The UFC is in many ways relying on Khabib to win his fight so that they can start advertising Khabib vs McGregor II as soon as possible.
Let’s then think about what happens if Khabib were to beat Ferguson. Due to his religious beliefs, Khabib will not be able to fight until at least the end of the fall or early winter as he will be observing Ramadan.
Is it worth keeping McGregor waiting until the end of the year to fight, when he said himself, he wants to fight right away?
McGregor is truly not ready for someone like Khabib. He just had his first fight in over a year and it lasted under a minute. Without fighting against a proven grappler or wrestler, McGregor would be stepping into the lion’s den against Khabib.
Fortunately for McGregor, two possible fights for him are against Nate Diaz and Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje and McGregor have no history. The only reason for this fight to actually happen is to keep McGregor in the spotlight while giving Gaethje an opportunity to rise in popularity and enjoy “red panties night.”
Diaz and McGregor have a long history with each other and a trilogy between the two is something UFC fans have been salivating about for a long time. They split their previous matchups and a deciding fight seems almost inevitable. The only question is, will it happen in 2020?
Moving away from lighter divisions, it’s time for the heavyweights to shine again.
Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic is at the top of the mountain and it seems like the UFC has one major name that they want to be thrown into the conversation for a championship bout versus Miocic. Jon “Bones” Jones, the current Light Heavyweight Champion, has been eyeing a move up into the heavyweight division for a couple of years now.
The only thing stopping this fight from being scheduled is Jones being more interested in another opponent, Israel Adesanya.
Despite having a fight against Dominick Reyes this Saturday at UFC 247, Jones seems more preoccupied with hilarious Twitter beef with Adesanya, who was recently scheduled to defend his middleweight championship against Yoel Romero.
If Jones does not make the move up, fan favorite Francis Ngannou could present himself as a serious contender versus the current Heavyweight champion. Previously, Ngannou was defeated by Miocic back in 2018 at UFC 220.
Ngannou has put himself back into the spotlight with ferocious knockout wins in his last three fights.
According to UFC.com, Ngannou is currently ranked as the third best heavyweight and will look to make his resume more eye-catching as he is scheduled to face against the man who almost blew up Alistair Overeem’s face, Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC on ESPN 8.
An interesting approach for the UFC is to have Ngannou face off against Daniel Cormier, the man who Miocic beat for the championship.
The issue with booking this fight is that Cormier has been mulling retirement for a while now, and it seems like the only fights that have him excited for a return is a trilogy match against either Miocic or Jon Jones.
The matchup versus Jones seems more unlikely as Cormier did not come close to beating Jones in either of the two contests.
Cormier does, however, have a win over Miocic. The future of the heavyweight division is bright, as it will be very hard for the UFC to mess up any booking decisions since the top-heavy division consists of all amazing possibilities.
Moving on to what unfortunately could be a lowpoint of the UFC in 2020, the female fighter divisions could be in some trouble.
Flyweight Champion, Valentina Shevchenko, is set to defend her title this weekend at UFC 247 against Katlyn Chookagian. Shevchenko might be the most dominant fighter in the UFC that many non-hardcore fans do not know about. Despite two losses to the best female fighter in history, Amanda Nunes, Shevchenko has been pretty unbeatable.
This presents a problem for the UFC. If Chookagian cannot beat Shevchenko, then UFC will be in limbo with the flyweight division. It’s a situation that is eerily similar to that of Jon Jones and the lightweight division. Both fighters have basically beaten anyone there is to beat in their respective divisions.
The only fight that might be left for Shevchenko is a trilogy match versus Nunes. Nunes has been on a run that has led many to call her the best female fighter of all-time. The UFC, however, might be reluctant to schedule this fight as a losing result could put Shevchenko and the rest of the flyweight division in a negative light.
If she could not beat Nunes, then it would cause fans to lose interest in her and the rest of the division, despite her being the dominant champion she is. The UFC would be in a lose-lose situation. because they would have a champion who fans don’t care about and would have a hard time finding someone who can beat her. The situation is very likely to occur because the Flyweight title would not be available for Nunes to win.
A lot of pressure is in the hands of Chookagian. If she does not beat Shevchenko, then a year of possible excitement for the flyweights might turn into a nightmare fast.
The one saving grace for the UFC when it comes to female matchups in 2020, is Nunes.
The double-champ is a big-name superstar that will cause big Pay-Per-View numbers no matter who she goes up against.
Many UFC fans are hopeful because Dana White has been very public about his projections for 2020, and they have everyone excited for what could transpire.