Christmas came around once again for MMA fans this past weekend with the return of UFC action.
The leading organisation in combat sports hosted its first card of the year on Saturday after three weeks off over the holiday season.
Fans were treated to a stellar main card full to the brim of memorable moments.
Max Holloway stole the show with his unbelievable performance in the main event. Honestly it was one of the best individuals’ showings I’ve ever seen.
Further down the card, both Joaquin Buckley and Santiago Ponzinibbio were brutally knocked out.
While the Prelims were less than impressive, we still had a fun heavyweight contest between Carlos Felipe and Justin Tafa on there.
UFC In 2021
The UFC hit the ground running with its first show of 2021 and this is just the beginning. Even away from UFC 257, we have so much to look forward to in 2021 from the UFC.
Fights like Stipe Miocic vs Francis Ngannou, Jan Blachowicz vs Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski vs Brian Ortega are just some fights announced for this year that us fans are chomping at the bit to see.
Even away from big title fights, Leon Edwards vs Khamzat Chimaev, Dan Hooker vs Michael Chandler, Derek Brunson vs Kevin Holland and Curtis Blaydes vs Derrick Lewis are just some fights that have major intrigue going into them.
Due to the fact us MMA fans are greedy, blood thirsty so and so’s, already this isn’t enough. We all have other fights in mind that we just need to see in 2021 and here is some of mine.
I’ll try and change things up a bit from previous articles.
In the past I talked about my desire to see Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko vs Jessica Andrade on numerous occasions, so that doesn’t bear repeating.
I really struggled keeping this down to five. So, I want to throw out some quick honourable mentions before we begin.
Ryan Hall vs Bryce Mitchell, Darren Till vs Paulo Costa, Zabit Magomedsharipov vs Yair Rodriguez and Deiveson Figueiredo vs Brandon Moreno II are just some fights I need hooked up to my veins.
5. Conor McGregor vs Nate Diaz III
In the year 2021 it can be a hard task to openly admit you’re a Conor McGregor fan here in Ireland.
No fear here from this fan, I would love to see him remain active this year.
Obviously, his big fight with Poirier is priority numero uno, but he has plenty of good options for later down the line.
The big one being the trilogy fight with Nate Diaz we all desperately want to see.
Diaz is negotiating a return to lightweight with Dana White. I’m sure it’s going to have to be worth his while and nobody can draw a crowd like Conor McGregor.
The pair are level in their two-fight series at 1-1, leaving them with some serious unfinished business.
Now, this could be difficult to do if McGregor finds himself in possession of that lightweight title this year. As I wouldn’t want to see someone in that stacked lightweight rankings get overlooked just because Diaz is making his return.
With McGregor failing to beat Poirier at the weekend, that fight becomes even easier to book.
If the circumstances are right, McGregor and Diaz should write the final chapter on their long spanning rivalry in 2021.
4. TJ Dillashaw vs Cody Garbrandt III
Yes, another trilogy fight, but the fact nobody is mentioning this is criminal.
I understand it’s a harder sell than McGregor vs Diaz after TJ beat Cody twice. Really, every previous high profiled win of Dillashaw’s career is rightly coming into question.
TJ will be eligible to compete once again this month, after serving his two-year ban from the sport for testing positive for the ban substances erythropoietin, or EPO.
Dillashaw needs to return to bantamweight and prove he belongs after such a public fall from grace.
While he could face the likes of Jose Aldo, a fight against his old rival on the rise is the more compelling.
Fans know about their long history together. Plus, Cody understandably not taking to kindly when Dillashaw was handed his ban back in 2019.
Recently, Garbrandt has had a change in fortunes with a savage knock out of Raphael Assuncao. During that fight back in June, Cody showed his excellent boxing skills, hight level speed and most importantly a calmness he never had before.
Garbrandt looks an overall better version of himself and I couldn’t think of a better man to welcome TJ Dillashaw back to active competition.
3. Jon Jones vs Israel Adesanya
It goes without saying, I want to see Jon Jones face the winner of Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou too.
However, with Israel stepping up to light heavyweight, you simply can’t leave this fight on the table.
The pair have been throwing personal barbs at each other for over a year now. While they could be playing us fans like a fiddle, there seems to be a genuine disliking for each other.
Jones planned move up to heavyweight really throws a spanner in the works to this fight.
It all depends on what he wants to do. Adesanya is stepping up to the division Jones ruled over. It could be as simple as Jon scrapping his heavyweight goals for now if Adesanya is successful against Blachowicz.
Unfortunately, this one has an air of uncertainty around it and we seem to be getting further away from the prospect of Jones vs Adesanya in 2021.
Damn, it would be a legitimate dream fight to make in 2021 and one every fan of the sport would kill to see.
2. Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington
Another low hanging fruit as everyone and their mother wants to see this fight.
Again, another duo that has storied history together.
The pair were once training partners, housemates, and great friends, but once success came knocking that all fell by the wayside.
The two have been at each other’s throats for quite a while now and 2021 is the year to settle the score.
Both men take completely opposites approaches leading up to fights and the build-up alone would-be money.
Covington and Masvidal want to get back into title contention and find themselves in the top five. Not only are you giving the fans what they want, but it also seemingly makes sense going forward in the division.
With the champion Kamaru Usman scheduled to fight number two ranked, Gilbert Burns and Leon Edwards also tied up. That just leaves us with two common denominators in the welterweight top five rankings.
1. Amanda Nunes vs Valentina Shevchenko III
If I had it my way, 2021 would be the year of the trilogy fight.
While I have talked about my desire to see this fight in the past, this has been my answer every time I was asked about fights, I want to see this year.
Both women are dominating as champions in their own divisions. With Amanda Nunes as the bantamweight and featherweight double champion and Shevchenko ruling the flyweight division.
Shevchenko does have the prospect of fighting Jessica Andrade, but the same can’t be said for Nunes.
Realistically, this is the biggest fight Nunes can hope for in 2021.
Nunes is desperately running out of creditable challengers for her title, as is Shevchenko. So, the pair need to meet again in 2021, no matter what.
Nunes holds two decision wins over Shevchenko at bantamweight.
However, the last fight easily could have went to Valentina.
Since then, both have improved extraordinarily well and have become some of the biggest stars in MMA today.
Due to their rise in stock, this would be one of the most highly anticipated fights of any year and it needs to happen in 2021.