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Monday MMA Round-Up: Happy New Year

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 11: A general view of the Octagon prior to the UFC 269 on December 11, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up. This week’s edition is going to be a little bit different, as I sit here in my hotel room on a Saturday night in Green Bay, Wisconsin, ready to enjoy my beloved Green Bay Packers play the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night. Normally, I would start the column off looking back at what happened in the week of mixed martial arts, but, this was a unique week in the sense that nothing really happened. There wasn’t much, if anything, in the way of news, with no major shows happening, and there were a few fight announcements. With that said, I want to kick off my column this week giving you a list of ten fights I want to see in 2022.

Ten fights I want to see in 2022

  • Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones: I really thought we were going to see this fight in 2021, but, alas, the year ended with it not happening, with Ngannou in line to fight Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 in a couple of weeks, and Jones sitting the year out. It was Jones’ choice to sit the year out, as he wants to be fully prepared for his move to heavyweight. If Ngannou gets by Gane and comes to terms with UFC on a new contract, I fully expect to see this fight by July.
  • Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal: This is a fight that was well on the way to happening in 2021, but other plans ended up coming to fruition with fans returning to the arenas in April, and UFC needing Masvidal for a big rematch with Kamaru Usman. With Covington also having a rematch with Usman in 2021, and both losing, the time is now perfect for them to finally square off this year. Have them coach The Ultimate Fighter against each other, and you’ll have quite the build-up.
  • Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje: This is an obvious fight that is going to happen, and could possibly happen as soon as April when the Octagon returns to Brooklyn for UFC 273. Even if it’s obviously happening, it doesn’t mean I want to see it any less. This has the potential to be the most exciting fight of the year, and it’s two men who are going to give it their all. This is just such a dream match-up.
  • Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev: I admit that I’ve fully come around on the Khamzat Chimaev hype train here recently. I do think he still needs at least two wins before he’s ready to challenge Usman, as long as Usman remains the champion. If Chimaev looks impressive in the lead-up to a potential showdown with Usman, then that is going to be one hell of a fight.
  • Petr Yan vs. TJ Dillashaw: No offense to Aljamain Sterling, Jose Aldo, Cory Sandhagen or anyone else at 135 lbs., but I feel these are the two best bantamweights in the world right now. The styles of each man is also just such a clash, as Yan has that tremendous boxing, while Dillashaw is a well-rounded kickboxer with incredible movement. They should bring out the best in each other, and it’s a match-up that could lead to more future showdowns in rematches.
  • Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira: This might be more of something that could possibly happen in 2023, but if Adesanya gets by Robert Whittaker and Pereira finishes Bruno Silva in March, there is that possibility it could end up getting fast-tracked to possibly happen this year. Pereira is still the only man to ever knock Adesanya out, doing so when they fought in professional kickboxing, and also the only man to have multiple wins over Adesanya during their combat sports careers. We know Adesanya would want his revenge, and with it being under a different set of rules, it makes it just even more intriguing.
  • Glover Teixeira vs. Jiri Prochazka: We know this fight is happening in 2022, with my best guess being it happening in May in Brazil. Even with it knowingly happening, it doesn’t make me want to see it any less. Teixeira’s storybook and remarkable turnaround is a story made for movies. I’ve been extremely high on Prochazka, even predicting he was going to end 2021 as the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. He didn’t get his shot this past year, but he’s getting it for sure this year, and I hold on to that prediction.
  • Max Holloway vs. Chan Sung Jung: I’ve wanted to see this fight for years, and whether there’s a title on the line or not, it feels like 2022 could be the year. Both men are right in the title mix, with Holloway being the obvious deserving contender. However, if Alexander Volkanovski doesn’t want to fight Holloway again right away, and Holloway needs another fight, that opens the door for a title eliminator, and Jung would be as good of an opponent as any. They are also two of the most popular fighters in the sport, and with the quality of fights both have been in, how can a fight between them be anything but exciting.
  • Rose Namajunas vs. Marina Rodriguez: There aren’t a lot of female fights I have interest in that are possible this year (2023 is more like it for a few reasons), but this one has all sorts of intrigue to me. Namajunas will have to get by Carla Esparza first, and Rodriguez has a fight booked for March as well. If they both win, it is likely they’ll be next for each other, and the styles clash and potential battle on the feet could be one of the best fights the strawweight division has ever seen.
  • Conor McGregor vs. Tony Ferguson: This is another fight I’ve been wanting to see for years, and the timing may just finally be right for this one. McGregor is going to need an opponent when he’s ready to return. Do they want to risk putting him in a fight he’d likely lose, or do they want to give him a fight that he would be favored in? Ferguson has clearly lost a step, but he’s always wanted the McGregor fight, and it’s a fight that could get him back in a little bit of a groove, even if for just one night. It just feels like maybe, just maybe, the stars are a little more aligned for this to happen in 2022.

Fight announcements

Here are the fights that were announced over the past week:

  • Alexis Davis vs. Julija Stoliarenko — UFC Fight Night — February 5
  • Ilir Latifi vs. Alexandr Romanov — UFC Fight Night — February 19
  • Ryan Spann vs. Ion Cutelaba — UFC Fight Night — February 26
  • Marina Rodriguez vs. Yan Xiaonan — UFC 272 — March 5
  • Sabina Mazo vs. Mandy Bohm — UFC Fight Night — March 12
  • Irene Aldana vs. Aspen Ladd — UFC 273 — April 9

Coming up this week

There are no major MMA events taking place this week. Enjoy another week off, because things will really ramp up here in the middle of January.

This week in MMA history

Strikeforce Challengers, 2011

There isn’t a lot of MMA history when it comes to early January, but a show that sticks out now, far more than when it took place, was an event that took place on January 7, 2011 under the Strikeforce banner, more specifically the Strikeforce Challengers banner. It came in front of 2,631 fans in Nashville, Tennessee, but they witnessed several fighters who would go on to become major stars.

The show featured three future UFC champions, two of them who would become two-division champions, a future Strikeforce champion, a future Bellator champion, a future UFC title challenger and a future Bellator title challenger. In the main event, future UFC Welterweight Champion Tyron Woodley would score a unanimous decision win over future Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Tarec Saffiedine, who also had a solid UFC career before calling it quits.

Also on the card, future two-division UFC champion Daniel Cormier would score a decision over Devin Cole, future two-division UFC champion Amanda Nunes would knock out future Bellator champion Julia Budd in 14 seconds, and wins would also be scored by Ovince Saint Preux, John Salter and Dustin Ortiz.

You can watch Strikeforce Challengers: Woodley vs. Saffiedine on UFC Fight Pass here.

In The Clinch

This week on In The Clinch, we will bring you the first part of something fun we’ll be doing over the course of several shows, as it will be the beginning of the In The Clinch 2022 Global MMA Draft, a unique format where myself and Paul Fontaine will draft fighters we want to start a promotion with. Tune in to find out how it goes and what fighters we choose to build a promotion around. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. We also have a Patreon page to help support all of our shows.

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