10 fights we want to see in 2022
As the UFC, Bellator, and other MMA promotions begin their 2022 campaigns, it's time to lay out some of our wishes for the new year. Here are 10 matchups we want to see - fights that aren't currently scheduled but are realistic.
Francis Ngannou vs. Jon Jones
This is the fight everyone wanted in 2020, and then it was the fight everyone thought was bound to happen in 2021. Yet it's 2022 and Jones is still on the sidelines. Hopefully this is the year Ngannou and Jones battle it out.
If Ngannou retains the heavyweight title against Ciryl Gane on Jan. 22, there's no bigger fight for him than Jones. It would pit the scariest heavyweight in UFC history against one of the best fighters of all time as Jones looks to enhance his legacy by winning a UFC championship in a second weight class. This one checks all the boxes.
Kamaru Usman vs. Khamzat Chimaev
Usman is the best fighter in the world - the pound-for-pound king. After his three wins in 2021, how can you argue? The scary part is that he still seems to be improving.
But Chimaev is special. His dominance is literally unprecedented. You know the statistics by now. If anyone can beat Usman in his current form, it's Chimaev. And if anyone can stop the Chimaev hype train, it's the well-rounded Usman. This could be a massive, massive fight.
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz 3
With McGregor coming off back-to-back losses and Diaz's UFC future up in the air, this is the year to book their highly anticipated trilogy bout.
McGregor-Diaz 3 has made sense since McGregor won the rematch in August 2016. It could've happened years ago. But with both men currently out of title contention, the UFC should seize the opportunity to have them finally settle the score.
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev
What makes this potential matchup so great is the fact that Oliveira, thanks to his elite jiu-jitsu skills, is the biggest stylistic challenge available for Makhachev, who has seemed rather unbeatable in recent years.
Of course, for this meeting to happen, Oliveira needs to get past Justin Gaethje in his next lightweight title defense, and Makhachev has to beat Beneil Dariush in what many are pegging as a No. 1 contender bout. If those outcomes occur, Oliveira-Makhachev could be one of the most fascinating fights of 2022.
Petr Yan vs. TJ Dillashaw
Yan is widely considered the best bantamweight in the world - and he might not even be in his prime yet. He's heavily favored to win back the UFC title in his upcoming rematch with Aljamain Sterling, and he may use the rest of 2022 to further separate himself from the rest of the weight class.
One man who could stop him from doing that is fellow ex-champ Dillashaw. He's probably the toughest opponent for Yan, and it would be a lot of fun to watch his crafty striking go up against Yan's impressive fundamentals.
Sergio Pettis vs. Kyoji Horiguchi 2
In Bellator, all eyes will be on the Bantamweight Grand Prix in 2022. And the fight that needs to happen at some point in the tournament is a rematch between Pettis and Horiguchi.
Pettis, the reigning champion, pulled off a candidate for Knockout of the Year and Comeback of the Year against Horiguchi in December. He lost every minute of his first title defense before nailing his foe with a spinning back fist late in the fourth round. In a rematch, we'd see whether Pettis can make adjustments and actually win rounds against Horiguchi, or if it is, in fact, Horiguchi's time to shine.
Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk 2
Jedrzejczyk plans to make a comeback in 2022, and she should do it against Zhang. The two slugged it out in a 2020 strawweight title bout, delivering the consensus Fight of the Year and the greatest contest in women's MMA history. That's the last time Jedrzejczyk stepped into the cage.
Zhang, meanwhile, is looking to bounce back after dropping the belt to Rose Namajunas and then narrowly losing a rematch. Both Zhang and Jedrzejczyk need to get a win before even thinking about a title shot, so a rematch makes a lot of sense.
Anthony Johnson vs. Yoel Romero
Johnson was scheduled to face Romero in the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2021, but the latter was forced out of the tournament for medical reasons.
Simply put, Johnson-Romero was - and still is - awesome matchmaking. Both men are former UFC contenders and absolute beasts in the cage. Even if the stakes won't be as high as they would've been if the fight was part of the grand prix, Bellator should find a way to rebook this one.
Jose Aldo vs. Dominick Cruz
Aldo and Cruz are two of the biggest names to emerge from the WEC. They are also arguably the greatest featherweight and bantamweight of all time, respectively. And now they find themselves in the 135-pound landscape.
How can you not book this matchup? It's got two legends squaring off in a fight that no one would have expected years ago because they were in different divisions. The timing would be fortunate too: Aldo and Cruz both returned to the winner's circle in 2021, proving that they still have a lot left in the tank.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Stephen Thompson 2
Masvidal and Thompson are both badly in need of a win. Masvidal has lost two in a row versus Usman and many have written him off as a title contender. The same can be said of "Wonderboy," whose best days appear to be behind him following two straight losses in 2021.
Thompson beat Masvidal in a 2017 bout, but a rematch could look a lot different. Plus, this matchup plays to both of their strengths: striking. They wouldn't have to worry about getting taken down or controlled like in some of their recent losses. Perhaps neither Masvidal nor Thompson will be a top contender again, but at least this would give one of them a chance to get back in the mix.