Friday, January 5, 2018

UFC: 5 Fights That Need To Happen In 2018

By Pat Luhta, @PLuhta

2018 is now here as we get set for a big year in the octagon. The UFC has hit a milestone as it welcomes it’s 25th year of existence, to look back at what it was in 1993 to where it is now is nothing short of impressive and it seems that the sport is nowhere near it’s peak yet. With the company still growing and evolving, expectations are high for this year and there are some highly anticipated fights that could(and should) take place this year. Let’s take a look here at 5 fights that haven’t been booked yet but need to take place in 2018.

– This one is obvious, these 2 have to meet up with the lightweight title on the line. They were originally scheduled to meet at UFC 209 but a weight cut that went sour for Khabib forced him out. Since then, Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee for the “interim” title(the interim tag should soon be lifted and Ferguson will be declared the champ) while Nurmagomedov recently defeated Edson Barboza at UFC 219. That puts these 2 on a collision course once again, and this fight will be extremely anticipated. Ferguson has only lost 1 fight in the UFC and that was over 5 years ago while Khabib has an unblemished professional record, both are balanced fighters as well so stylistically this matchup is very even as well. UFC fans just have to hope for health, which has been Nurmagomedov’s issue throughout his career, and we should get this matchup sometime this year, hopefully sooner rather than later.

2. NICCO MONTANO VS SIJARA EUBANKS – The 2 finalists from “The Ultimate Fighter: A New Champion” never got to meet up due to a bad weight cut by Eubanks(something she struggled with during the show.) Instead, MMA veteran Roxanne Modafferi took Eubanks’ spot in the title fight and Montano won a thrilling 5 round fight over her to become the first ever women’s flyweight champ. I get that Eubanks’ issues with making weight fall squarely on her, but she ran through the ultimate fighter tournament and earned a shot at the title and she should get that chance to fight for it still. The flyweight division is still fresh and there are a number of competitors waiting for a chance at the Montano and the title, first shot should go to Sijara though to officially have the TUF finale for the belt.

3. DANIEL CORMIER VS ALEXANDER GUSTAFFSON – Daniel Cormier has an upcoming title fight against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220 later this month, but regardless of the outcome his next fight should be against Alexander Gustaffson. The two met back in 2015 with Cormier successfully defending his title by split decision, after that fight Gustaffson decided to take some time off rather than get a rematch, which we all expected to happen. After a year off, Gustaffson cemented his place as the #1 contender by defeating Jan Blachowicz and Glover Texeira, which sets him up for the next title shot. Cormier will turn 39 this year and has hinted that this may be his last year as a fighter(especially since he has a comfy announcing gig waiting for him as he’s a natural as both calling fights and in-studio analysis) so before he hangs up the gloves, the long awaited rematch between him and Gustaffson needs to happen. If Cormier loses the title then that may change things as Gustaffson could just sit and wait for a title shot, but I’d hate to see these two never get a chance to fight again.

4. CRIS CYBORG VS MEGAN ANDERSON – At this point, the UFC is just throwing names out there to see who can compete and actually defeat Cris Cyborg. The women’s featherweight champ lost her first ever fight way back in 2005 and has gone on to win her next 19 and establish herself as the most dominant woman on the planet. She’s so dominant that the inaugural women’s featherweight champ, Germaine De Randamie, decided to forfeit the title rather than fight her, that’s the respect and fear that she commands. In order for someone to defeat Cyborg, they will need to be a true featherweight with a reach advantage that has good hands and knockout ability, which perfectly describes Megan Anderson. Anderson, who is the Invicta featherweight champ, stands 6 feet tall while Cyborg is 5'8" and she has nearly a 10 inch reach advantage(Anderson has a 77.5 inch reach compared to Cyborg's 68 inch reach). Of her 8 professional wins, she has won 2 by decision, 2 by submission and 4 by TKO, showing that she has some balance in her fighting ability with stand up being her bread and butter. At this point it's tough to envision Cyborg losing but if the UFC wants to find a true competitor for her then a match with Megan Anderson needs to happen.

5. TYRON WOODLEY VS GEORGES ST. PIERRE - I'm aware that GSP may not be "deserving" of a title shot since he hasn't had a welterweight fight in years but hear me out. The division needs some flare added to it, Woodley's 2 title defenses were a lackluster fight against Stephen Thompson and a decision win against Damian Maia that went down as one of the most boring title fights in history. So not only does Woodley want his legacy to be remembered as the best welterweight ever(something he has continuously brought up) but also some intrigue needs to be injected into his title defenses. He can kill two birds with one stone here by defending his title next against GSP, while Rafael Dos Anjos(who is likely the #1 contender) can fight Stephen Thompson to see who gets the next title fight after Woodley and Georges St. Pierre square off.

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