Well, it’s the end of an era. The close to a chapter. The finality of a decade.
2019 has been a year of new champions, new dynasties, and, more oddly, new belts. When is the last time that this many belts changed hands in a single calendar year? How would have predicted that Ben Askren would get knocked out in five seconds by Jorge Masvidal? Who would have thought the UFC would literally make a “BMF” title, and that Masvidal and Nate Diaz would be the ones fighting for it? Who would have guessed that the UFC run of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino would come to an end with a crushing knockout courtesy of UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes? Not many. However, hindsight is no longer 2020. Instead, 2020 is right in front of us.
Let’s look into the Crystal Ball and see what could be in store for next year…
1. Tony Ferguson finally fights Khabib Nurmagomedov… and wins!
Dustin Poirier was onto something when he fought Nurmagomedov, but he wasn’t able to finish the submission attempt. Ferguson will not make that same mistake. He’ll make the necessary adjustments to submit the currently unbeaten Dagestan native. Ferguson will get the D’Arce choke victory late in the third round, and an immediate rematch will not be booked due to the painstaking circumstances that led to this fight happening in the first place. It was said in last year’s Crystal Ball that Ferguson would submit Nurmagomedv, and nothing has changed.
2. Stipe Miocic defends his belt against Daniel Cormier and remains heavyweight champion.
Let’s start with the fact that Miocic-Cormier III is not good for the division. The understanding that a rubber match is needed to “settle the score” is a nice way to sell the fight, but it’s not the fight that really needs to happen. Yet, it will. The biggest issue comes if Cormier wins the belt and retires. This would leave the heavyweight title vacated for the first time since Frank Mir was stripped of the belt in 2005 due to inactivity caused by a motorcycle accident. That’s 15 years, folks. No other division can say that it has gone that long without a vacated or stripped title. The fight to make right now is Miocic against Jon Jones, which brings us to the next prediction.
3. Jon Jones defeats Dominick Reyes and challenges for the heavyweight strap.
This is inevitable. Jones has cleared out the light-heavyweight division, and it’s only natural that he eventually moves up to further test himself. It’s safe to say Jones’ speed and size will be welcomed into the division. Once Jones is gone from the light-heavyweight division, new stars will continue to emerge and prevent another GSP-esque era, where it seemed that the only way to become the champion was to wait until the champ was gone.
4. A rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway is booked mid-to-late 2020. Holloway recaptures his belt.
The Holloway that fought Volkanovski earlier this month was not the same fighter the world had seen over the prior few months. It’s safe to say that the Poirier loss did a lot more to Holloway’s fight game than he will ever admit, being the humble guy that he is. No disrespect to Volkanovski at all, though. He came in and executed his game plan flawlessly and did what he had to do to win. However, as the old saying goes, lightning rarely strikes twice. Holloway will be riding the “Blessed Express” as a champion once again.
5. Dan Hardy makes a successful return to MMA.
This one is the toughest out of the bunch. Hardy was diagnosed with Wolff-Parikinson White Pattern in 2013, which caused his exit from the MMA world. Since then, Hardy has been an incredibly popular color commentator for the UFC and has really brought a new level to the role he is in. He announced in April 2019 that he had re-entered the USADA testing pool, so his MMA return seems imminent. Look for a brand-new style from Hardy, who has been front and center for the upcoming talent that each division has brought forward. Don’t be surprised to see Hardy at lightweight instead of his previous home at welterweight.
Amanda Nunes defends both her bantamweight and featherweight titles successfully.
Yoel Romero defeats Israel Adesanya, but misses weight again and is forced to move to 205 pounds. That’s where the pair eventually meets again.
Conor McGregor is Conor McGregor.