I believe 2018 is going to be a huge year for the sport. There’s the potential for us to see champions from different divisions square off and to finally get closure in the divisions that have been marred by the cursed interim belts.
Also on this list are some fights we’ve been expecting to see for some time and that have fallen through for whatever reasons.
Well fight fans, a new year is upon us and 2017 set us up for some big fights in upcoming months. None of these fights are official yet, but I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see each one at some point this year.
These are bouts that can solidify legacies, crown new champions and give the fans what they want and deserve to see.
These are the top five fights we need to see in 2018.
#5. Michael “Venom” Page Vs. Paul “Semtex” Daley
British welterweights Paul Daley and Michael Page have been trading barbs on social media for the better part of a year now. The fight was rumored to be happening at Bellator 179 in London but did not come to fruition. Instead, we saw Daley take on recent Bellator signee Rory Macdonald in Macdonald’s Bellator debut. Page was set to take on Derek Anderson at the event but was forced pulled out due to injury a week before. Page was stil cageside at Bellator 179, and after Daley lost to Macdonald, Daley not only called out Page in his post-fight interview but also charged “Venom” in the crowd.
Both men are technical strikers with different approaches and styles in the cage. Daley is more of a traditional kickboxer with one of the nastiest left hooks in the game. Page comes from a taekwondo background and is known for his dazzling and flashy kicks. This would be a bout between two of the biggest stars in not only Bellator but in all of British MMA. Brash and with big power, this is a fight that sells itself and would not only pack out an arena but also guarantee strong TV ratings and give the fans what we’ve been asking for some time now.
#4 Cris “Cyborg” Santos Vs. Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes
Cris “Cyborg” Santos has had a career that’s left many fans feeling unsatisfied. With the women’s featherweight division being basically non-existent, UFC has had to search high and low for fighters to take on the preeminent champion. So far, she has stayed active by beating up blown-up bantamweights and taking on the occasional import from other organizations.
Amanda Nunes, on the other hand, has been fighting high-level competition but is currently out of opponents for the time being. She was recently linked to a fight with Raquel Pennington but it was canceled almost immediately after it was announced due to Pennington breaking her leg in a car accident. For now, “The Lioness” is without prey.
Invicta featherweight Megan Anderson was allegedly going to take on Cyborg before a visa issue sidelined the bout. But that fight doesn’t really excite me much. While Anderson is a legit featherweight at 6’0” ft tall, I’d like to see her have at least one fight in the UFC before going after the queen of the division. Let Anderson make her debut against whoever the UFC can scrape up and let Nunes and Cyborg go at it for the first women’s super fight in the promotion.
Nunes is a big bantamweight, who hits hard and has a very solid ground game. Her style meshes well with Cyborg’s on the feet and her jiujitsu could be what it takes to upset the champion should the fight go to the mat.
#3. Colby “Chaos” Covington Vs. Tyron “T-Wood” Woodley
Tyron Woodley hasn’t exactly thrilled fans in his last couple of matchups. His fight with Demian Maia was a one-sided affair that saw Maia desperately shooting for 25 minutes and Woodley stuffing his shots and occasionally landing a strike. His bout with Stephen Thompson before was basically a staring contest between the athletes. I’m not saying this to bash “T-Wood”. I honestly think he’s one of the most talented guys in all of MMA. But I do feel what he needs is someone to light a fire under his ass, so to speak.
I know Rafael Dos Anjos is supposed to be next in line for Woodley after his dismantling of Robbie Lawler at UFC on FOX last month. But hear me out here – the UFC brass would be idiots not to make Woodley vs. Covington next.
Covington has rebranded himself as public enemy number one since his thrashing of Demian Maia and the ensuing tirade against the Brazilian fans. He’s the man everyone is talking about lately. His fans would tune in to hopefully see him win the belt, and everyone else will tune in hoping to see Woodley smash his face in. The pressers would produce great sound bytes and help hype the fight even more. I also believe his trash talk and in-cage style would force a fight from Woodley and show us all the champion we know he can be.
So while I hope to see Dos Anjos fight for the belt in the near future, the UFC shouldn’t waste this opportunity to cash in. Welterweight is full of killers and it’d be a shame for Covington to take on another top guy, possibly lose, and deprive us of this fight. Allow Dos Anjos to wait for the winner if he wants and strike while the iron is hot, UFC.
#2. Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson Vs. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov
Fourth time’s a charm?
Yeah, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson have been scheduled to face each other three times already. So I understand if the mere mention of these two in the same sentence makes your palms a little sweaty. But I feel we can all agree, this fight has to happen.
“The Eagle” just decimated Edson Barboza at UFC 219 and showed that even with the layoff, he’s one of the scariest fighters in the business today. 25-0 and riding a 9 fight win streak in the UFC, nobody has even come close to causing problems for the Dagestani destroyer in the cage. He’s proven himself to be leaps and bounds over most in the division and needs to face off against the only guy with a longer win streak than himself.
“El Cucuy” picked up the interim lightweight belt after submitting Kevin Lee at UFC 216 in October. He’s on a ten fight win streak and possesses one of the most unorthodox styles in the division. He’s super busy off his back and has a diverse array of strikes on the feet. Many feel that’s the type of style you need to deal with a grappler with the pressuring top game of Nurmagomedov.
Understand I’m writing this assuming Conor McGregor either doesn’t come back to MMA or takes another super fight and is stripped. Assuming one of these things happens (I feel there’s a good chance it will), Ferguson and Nurmagomedov absolutely have to meet in the octagon. Otherwise, of course, McGregor vs. Ferguson is the obvious fight to make here, and in that case, Nurmagomedov should wait for the winner. Conor aside, this is the clear number 1 and number 2 guy in the division and the fight that needs to happen this year.
#1 T.J Dillashaw Vs. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson
Newly crowned bantamweight champ, T.J Dillashaw has been very vocal about wanting a piece of the dominant flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. Johnson, undefeated at flyweight, has torn through everyone the UFC has placed before him in the division. He’s cleared out the flyweight and is more than likely going to face off against Henry Cejudo again should he not fight Dillashaw. While Cejudo has looked very good in his last two outings, myself and many others want to see a new combatant take on Mighty Mouse.
The only criticism people can actually lob at Johnson is the strength of his competition. Personally, I disagree with much of it and feel the guys he is beating are generally very skilled; he’s just that much better. So is there a better way to quell criticism, get himself in a position for a big payday and cement his legacy as an all-time great than accepting a bout with Dillashaw?
Of course not.
Though Dillashaw has yet to defend his belt, Johnson needs/ deserves a big fight. Also, don’t pay attention to those saying Johnson is scared of Dillashaw. Johnson is just trying to make sure he’s going to be paid his worth, and I don’t blame him.