The UFC will promote its first occasion of the 12 months this Saturday, placing an finish to a four-week lull. Saturday’s occasion, an under-the-radar Fight Night headlined by featherweight contenders Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze, isn’t precisely a blockbuster. However it would kickstart UFC 2022, which has a packed schedule of fights that doubtless received’t decelerate till this time subsequent 12 months.
As MMA followers the world over look ahead to the UFC’s hectic calendar to get underway, we determined to place collectively a fast primer for the 12 months forward. Right here’s all the things you have to know concerning the UFC this 12 months.
UFC 2022 Preview: What to Watch This 12 months
The UFC promoted 43 occasions in 2021, together with 13 star-studded pay-per-views. By the point the 12 months was achieved, UFC president Dana White was proclaiming it the perfect within the firm’s historical past.
“It was the perfect 12 months we ever had,” White told the Las Vegas Overview-Journal earlier this month. “We’re popping on each metric you may think about. Sponsorship is thru the roof. Social media, our numbers on pay-per-view, our numbers on tv, area data. This enterprise is on fireplace.”
Now the stage is about for an thrilling 2022. The UFC has twelve divisions: eight for males and 4 for ladies. These divisions are presently dominated by twelve undisputed champions and two interim champions. (You may view the total rankings on the UFC website.)
Rising Stars to Watch
The UFC’s champions may be those driving pay-per-view gross sales, but it surely’s the up-and-comers who preserve the promotion’s product fascinating 12 months after 12 months. The UFC 2022 roster is filled with intriguing prospects, and a few are already being hailed as future champions. Listed below are a couple of rising stars to regulate.
Eire’s Ian Garry (8–0) is already drawing comparisons to a different Irishman you will have heard of: former two-division UFC champ Conor McGregor. In actual fact, after successful his UFC debut with a first-round knockout of Jordan Williams at UFC 268 in November, Garry really borrowed considered one of McGregor’s most well-known soundbites.
“A clever Irishman as soon as stated earlier than me—he stepped on this very cage and he stated, ‘We’re not right here to participate, we’re right here to take over,’” Garry informed Daniel Cormier in his post-fight interview. “That is the takeover half two.”
Brazilian middleweight Alex Pereira (4–1) generated a ton of hype heading into his Octagon debut at UFC 268 in November. The 34-year-old is an skilled kickboxer, and he even holds a knockout victory over reigning UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya in kickboxing competitors.
To say Pereira lived as much as the hype can be an understatement. The Brazilian ended up giving us among the finest knockouts of 2021 as he decimated his opponent, Andreas Michailidis, with a second-round flying knee.
Pereira is probably going nonetheless a ways from a title shot, but it surely seems like solely a matter of time earlier than he’s in that dialog.
The ladies’s flyweight division is presently residence to a number of promising younger fighters, however none of them have a brighter future than 22-year-old Erin Blanchfield (8–1). After a profitable run via Invicta, an all-women’s MMA league, she made a profitable UFC debut in September by defeating the extra skilled Sarah Alpar in a unanimous determination. Blanchfield then picked up one other win earlier than the 12 months was out, dominating fellow prospect Miranda Maverick to a powerful unanimous determination triumph.
Blanchfield has but to debut within the flyweight prime 15 however will in all probability accomplish that if she wins her subsequent battle. From there, she’ll be just some wins away from a showdown with dominating flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.
Paddy Pimblett (17–3) has been a favourite amongst hardcore battle followers for a years, however he didn’t make his UFC debut till September 2021. The 27-year-old British light-weight couldn’t have made a louder assertion in his debut, as he weathered some early adversity to show the lights off on Luigi Vendramini with a swarm of first-round hooks.
Pimblett beforehand received the Cage Warriors featherweight championship in Europe. It received’t be straightforward to repeat the feat within the UFC light-weight division—arguably the hardest division within the sport—however many consider the Brit can pull it off.
Storylines to Watch
Conor McGregor’s Crossroads
Conor McGregor (22–6) stays the most important star in MMA, however his credibility is hanging by a thread. The Irishman is driving back-to-back stoppage losses to Dustin Poirier, the second of which left him with a damaged leg. He’s now right down to 2–3 in his final 5 fights.
McGregor’s superstardom means he can take extra losses than most fighters. Even so, he’s not proof against the consequences of a chronic shedding streak. If the 33-year-old hopes to stay a authentic participant within the sport that made him well-known, he must win his subsequent battle.
It stays to be seen when he’ll battle subsequent, however he not too long ago told his Twitter followers that he hopes to be sparring by April and again within the Octagon quickly thereafter.
Francis Ngannou’s Future
UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou (16–3) is about to headline UFC 270 on Jan. 22. He’ll be taking up the division’s interim champion Ciryl Gane—who occurs to be his former coaching associate.
Each UFC title battle is necessary, however this one is especially important for Ngannou. The 35-year-old French-Cameroonian is within the midst of a heated contract dispute with the UFC, and he’s angling for extra money and the liberty to moonlight as a professional boxer.
If he defeats Gane, his negotiating energy will skyrocket. If he loses, he can wave goodbye to the contract he’s hoping for. He’s playing on himself, and time will inform if it pays off.
Redemption for Amanda Nunes
Amanda Nunes (21–5) regarded invincible till UFC 269 in December, when she bumped into Julianna Peña. Regardless of coming into the cage as a gargantuan betting favourite, the 33-year-old Brazilian was battered to a second-round submission loss, surrendering the UFC bantamweight title within the course of. It was a surprising finish to probably the most dominant championship reigns in UFC historical past.
The excellent news for Nunes is that she’s anticipated to get an opportunity at redemption in opposition to Peña quickly. Her earlier dominance all however ensures her that chance. Since UFC 269, there was rampant hypothesis that Nunes wasn’t at her greatest that night time—even UFC president Dana White contributed to the rumors. Peña, in the meantime, is adamant that she’s Nunes’s superior.
The rematch ought to reply these questions somehow.
Khamzat Chimaev’s Rise
Chechen-born Swede Khamzat Chimaev (10–0) took the MMA world by storm in 2020 and 2021 with 4 seemingly easy victories throughout the middleweight and welterweight divisions. His final, a first-round submission defeat of Chinese language welterweight contender Li Jingliang, was significantly spectacular, and it earned him the No. 11 spot within the welterweight rankings.
At this level, it feels inevitable that Chimaev will find yourself difficult for the UFC welterweight title, which is presently the property of Kamaru Usman. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Chimaev contend for the middleweight title someday thereafter. In fact, each of these issues rely on his continued success within the Octagon.
Is Chimaev the true deal or a flash within the pan? 2022 ought to inform us rather a lot concerning the UFC’s latest celebrity.
Fights We Hope to See This 12 months
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz III
Conor McGregor (22–6) and Nate Diaz (20–13) have been tied with a win apiece since 2016. Followers have been clamoring for a tie-breaking trilogy battle ever since McGregor received their second encounter by majority determination, but the UFC has to date stored it off the schedule.
In the beginning of 2022, the trilogy makes as a lot sense as ever. McGregor is driving back-to-back losses to Dustin Poirier. Diaz got here up quick in opposition to Leon Edwards and Jorge Masvidal in his final two fights. Each guys are in determined want of a win and low on choices. Why wait any longer?
Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway III
UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (23–1) is 2-0 in fights in opposition to Max Holloway (23–6), the division’s former champ, however each victories had been very aggressive selections. The second was significantly shut—in truth, it was downright controversial.
Right now, it’s abundantly clear that Volkanovski and Holloway are the 2 greatest featherweights within the UFC. What isn’t clear is which ones is healthier. A 3rd battle would reply that query.
The UFC really tried to ebook that bout for UFC 272 on March 5, however the battle fell via after Holloway was injured. Hopefully the promotion takes one other stab on the matchup as soon as the previous champ is recovered.
Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones
There was a interval in early 2021 when all indicators pointed to a titanic showdown between Francis Ngannou and Jon Jones. Ngannou, arguably the toughest puncher in fight sports activities right now, had simply captured the UFC heavyweight title with a star-making knockout of Stipe Miocic. Jones, essentially the most dominant fighter in mild heavyweight historical past, had not too long ago vacated the division’s throne with ambition to maneuver as much as heavyweight.
Sadly, the battle fizzled out earlier than it ever received off the bottom. Contemplating Ngannou’s ongoing contract dispute with the UFC and Jones’ legal troubles outdoors the cage, it’s uncertain they’ll battle one another any time within the close to future. But when we’re actually fortunate, we’d simply see it earlier than the 12 months is out.
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