With the UFC on a temporary hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans are anxiously waiting to hear when the promotion will resume its regular operations. UFC President Dana White has thus far managed to salvage UFC 249 on April 18, and he’s talked about hosting future fights on a private island. However, there’s still plenty of uncertainty around how these plans will hold up. While we wait to hear what the UFC has in store in the coming months, let’s explore some of the most anticipated match-ups that will surely take place once the UFC is all systems go.
Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal
Whether you are a hardcore MMA junkie or a casual fight fan, you’ve surely heard the name Jorge Masvidal in the last 12 months. After compiling a 9-6 UFC record since his Octagon debut in 2013, Masvidal took a 16-month layoff from the fight game to compete on a reality TV show. The Miami native returned to the Octagon in March 2019 when he entered enemy territory to face up-and-coming British striker Darren Till. After being pressured and dropped in the first round, Masvidal quickly recovered and landed a stunning overhand left that sent Till crashing to the canvas. Masvidal quickly followed Till to the ground, where he threw one more powerful left hand before the referee rushed to call an end to the bout.
Masvidal followed up this perfect performance with a five-second flying-knee knockout at the expense of Ben Askren that shocked everyone. He went on to face and defeat Nate Diaz in November via doctor’s stoppage at the end of the third round for the BMF title. Masvidal used his crisp boxing and excellent control of distance to dominate Diaz for three straight rounds while opening multiple cuts on the Stockton native’s face. The cut over Diaz’s right eye was deemed critical by the cageside physician and he was rendered unable to continue.
There is only one thing left to achieve for Masvidal: UFC gold. To do so, Masvidal will have to face and defeat current UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Ever since winning at The Ultimate Fighter 21 Finale in 2015, Usman has amassed an 11-fight winning streak in his UFC campaign. The Nigerian fighter has defeated several notable welterweights, including Demian Maia, Tyron Woodley and Colby Covington on his path to the belt. Usman has performed masterfully in his Octagon appearances by effectively shutting down his opponent’s offense with his accurate striking and elite wrestling. After successfully defending his title against Covington in December, Usman’s next hurdle is expected to be the ever-popular Masvidal in a match that was initially targeted for the eve of UFC International Week.
Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier 3
When it is all said and done, Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier will go down as one of the greatest rivalries in MMA history. The reason? Respect. Miocic and DC have the utmost respect for each other, and this has ultimately led to a prolific rivalry and two incredible fights. It’s no secret that the UFC intends on making Cormier’s final Octagon appearance a rubber match with Miocic for the UFC heavyweight championship. Both of the pair’s previous fights have ended in stellar finishes, with each fighter taking one victory. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the UFC was reportedly working on finalizing a third and final fight between the two formidable rivals sometime in late Q2/early Q3 of 2020.
There is little reason to argue against a third fight between the two elite heavyweights. Miocic is regarded as the greatest UFC heavyweight champion ever based on having the longest and most dominant title run in the division’s history. He also recaptured the title after defeating Cormier in August. On the other hand, Cormier is one of the only fighters to hold the title of champ-champ and has been able to dominate both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight divisions effectively throughout his career. A third bout is necessary to cement who is the better fighter prior to Cormier’s retirement.
”The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov
The thought of Chan Sung Jung darting across the cage to sling one of his signature right hands as Zabit Magomedsharipov tries to counter with a spinning elbow sounds nothing short of extraordinary. Ever since his return to the UFC featherweight division after a three and a half year layoff, “The Korean Zombie” has been nothing short of brilliant. Despite a last-second loss to Yair Rodriguez in 2018, Jung has looked sharper than ever while rattling off three knockouts at the expense of Dennis Bermudez, Renato Moicano and Frankie Edgar. Now, the Korean superstar has set himself up yet again for a big fight that could potentially land him another shot at UFC featherweight gold.
Magomedsharipov has undoubtedly taken the UFC’s featherweight division by storm since he signed with the promotion in 2017. The Russian striking phenom, who holds an 18-1 career mark, has compiled an impressive 6-0 record in the UFC that includes wins over Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar. The No. 3-ranked featherweight is currently averaging an impressive 6.23 takedown average per bout and 4.53 significant strikes per minute. He uses his unorthodox movement, crafty striking, and excellent control of the distance to fluster and pepper his opponents with crisp and creative combinations. Add to that an above-average wrestling base and you have yourself a very dangerous contender.
A showdown between the two men will no doubt set up the victor for a well-deserved title shot.
Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa
If you have been craving the ultimate grudge match where neither love nor respect exist, look no further than the highly anticipated UFC middleweight championship bout between current kingpin Israel Adesanya and top contender Paulo Costa.
Ever since his UFC debut in February 2018, Adesanya was clearly going to be something special. Two years later, the 30-year-old Nigerian kickboxer has already achieved everything he had hoped to accomplish and more. Adesanya is currently riding a 19-fight winning streak which includes a perfect UFC mark through eight fights. After compiling a 5-0 UFC record that includes wins over Derek Brunson and Anderson Silva, the surging contender was awarded an interim middleweight title bout against Kelvin Gastelum. In what is regarded as one of the greatest fights of 2019, Adesanya won a closely contested unanimous decision that earned him not only an interim championship, but a shot to unify the belts against Robert Whittaker. Adesanya blasted through Whittaker with a second-round knockout to become the undisputed middleweight king on Oct. 6, 2019.
While Adesanya was busy becoming champion, Costa was quietly building a winning streak of his own in the hopes of one day challenging for the belt. Costa is currently 13-0 in his MMA career and 5-0 in the UFC. His winning streak includes triumphs over Garreth McLellan, Oluwale Bamgbose, Johny Hendricks, Uriah Hall and, most recently, a “Fight of the Night” display against Yoel Romero. Costa uses his incredible power, physically imposing stature, and accurate striking to pressure his opponents against the cage with vicious head and body strikes. The Brazilian is currently averaging an extraordinary 8.83 significant strikes per minute and an 82 percent takedown-defense rate.
A potential match-up between the two best middleweights in MMA today will no doubt see Costa looking to advance and pressure while Adesanya tries to use his range and reach to counter the physically stronger challenger with accurate and crafty strikes.
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