The UFC put on some MONSTER cards in 2015, highlighted by the final two pay-per-view events of the year that each broke a list of records.
McGregor vs Aldo was the most anticipated fight in the division’s history, while Rousey and Holm broke all time attendance records.
All eyes will be on the largest MMA organisation in the world as they try to match it in 2016.
Below are ten fights I would love to see happen this year. All fights are contests I consider possible (i.e. Lesnar vs Fedor for instance has not been considered) although while some are certainties to happen, others are more unlikely.
10. Demetrious Johnson vs Henry Cejudo
“Mighty Mouse” Demetrious Johnson has almost completely cleared out his division enroute to becoming the top pound for pound fighter in the organisation. Henry Cejudo, at 10-0 is the opponent that makes the most sense, despite all four of his UFC bouts going to decision. Cejudo has never been taken down in the UFC and has proven he can grind out a win. Johnson has beaten the top opponents in his division, in most cases more than once. The flyweight division is crying out for a credible challenger and although he’d enter as a massive underdog, the undefeated Cejudo looks to be the best bet.
9. Mark Hunt vs Alistair Overeem
This is a fight I’ve wanted to see since Hunt’s rise in the UFC. Both men are coming off huge wins over world class opponents, both via stoppage due to strikes. This could be a similar fight to the original Hunt/Bigfoot clash and may headline UFC’s return to Brisbane if Overeem is willing to back up so soon after his huge win. I’m a fan of heavyweight slug fests and that is exactly what this would be. Overeem may look to take this to the floor to avoid Hunt’s heavy shots, but the Super Samoans takedown defence has improved out of site. My money would be this ending inside the distance.
8. Luke Rockhold vs Yoel Romero
A Rockhold/Romero fight probably won’t be on the top of most fan’s “must see” lists but this is a contest I want to see. Romero is an absolute beast and would pose a physical challenge to Rockhold he may not have faced before. Rockhold is a cardio machine and may present a pace that would place the muscular Romero under pressure he may not be able to withstand. There are so many questions in this one. The only way to find out the answer to those questions is to match them up. Weidman has a fair argument for an immediate rematch but after being dominated by Rockhold, may be better off taking a fight in between.
7. CM Punk’s Debut Match
I know it’s not cool but I admit I am very curious to see how Phil Brooks, otherwise known as former WWE Champion CM Punk fares in the octagon. Brooks became known in the WWE for his outspokenness and his all action style in the ring. Wrestling fans will tune in either to see how their man goes, or in hope he is beaten, while he will be able to talk himself into a huge audience from those who doubt him. Plenty have written him off as a “just another wrestler trying to fight for real” but he has a great work ethic and has been training hard. I’ll be tuning in no matter who he is matched up against.
6. Robert Whittaker vs Tim Kennedy
I admit this is purely due to the fact that Whittaker is Australia’s most exciting prospect in regards to a potential big fight. His win over Uriah Hall places him just below the top echelon of the middleweight division so he probably hasn’t earned a shot against the likes of Belfort or Machida just yet. Tim Kenney is ranked number six in the UFC and can be considered a gatekeeper of sorts. A win over Kennedy guarantees Whittaker a fight against a top five opponent, and within touching distance of a world title shot.
5. Max Holloway vs Chad Mendes
All the talk in the welterweight division is about the champion right now, however Max Holloway has quietly put together an eight fight winning streak since his 2013 loss to McGregor. Chad Mendes is in a strange situation. He has come up short against the three top fighters in the division yet seems a step above the rest of the chasing pack. A win over Holloway would put him back within striking distance of a title shot. A win for Holloway would cement him as a genuine star in the division and put him within a fight of a rematch with McGregor.
4. Holly Holm vs Ronda Rousey rematch
Despite McGregor’s knockout win over Aldo, I still place Holly Holm’s win over the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey as the MMA moment of 2015. A potential rematch would either headline, or co-headline UFC 200 and would be one of the most anticipated rematches in history. Rousey’s loss will either motivate her to be even better, or will end her mental advantage over opponents and see her come back to the field. Holm is still improving and has NOTHING to fear. Rousey will approach this fight differently after her attack at all costs plan in the first fight did not work. This will be huge and I cannot wait.
3. Connor McGregor vs Jose Aldo rematch
By the time McGregor and Aldo stepped into the ring to face each other at UFC 194 the MMA supporting world were foaming at the mouth in anticipation. Although the fight ended within the first 15 seconds, a rematch between the two would generate almost as much interest as the first fight. Surely McGregor could not repeat the 13 second knock out over the former pound-for-pound king. Or could he? It’s been thought Jose Aldo has been struggling for motivation prior to the McGregor fight, however a chance to avenge the biggest loss of his career would have the Brazilian training the house down.
2. Daniel Cormier vs John Jones rematch
The return of John Jones is arguably the UFC’s biggest story in 2016. He looks incredible, better than ever during his dominant run as champion, but will time away from competition due to suspension lead to ring rust? Daniel Cormier has won two title fights since his loss to Jones so it’s fair to infer that he has improved as a fighter. Cormier only took one round of Jones a year ago, but the circumstances for this potential rematch are far different. The build up to this fight will be amongst the best as neither man is shy in expressing their dislike for the other.
1. Connor McGregor vs Nate Diaz
Truth be told, I can’t see this fight happening in 2016. Nate Diaz has only won two of his past five fights and isn’t ranked in the top five in his weight division, let alone at featherweight. That being said, the trash talk in the lead up to this fight would be absolutely incredible. This would likely follow the Sonnen vs Silva format in that a massive underdog’s trash talking would sell a monster amount of pay-per-views to see if he can upset the highly fancied champion. McGregor is the biggest start in the sport right now and will be ready for at least three huge fights in 2016. If Diaz puts together two big wins early in the year, who knows?