The dream fights UFC boss Dana White should make in 2021…

The UFC consistently make the fights fans want to see and have done since day one. 

This year has been salvaged despite the challenges posed by a global pandemic with a number of huge fights going ahead. Daniel Cormier’s trilogy against Stipe Miocic and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s massive win over Justin Gaethje will live long in the memory. 

So with cautious optimism that 2021 might see a return to some normality, what are the big fights Dana White has to make? 

Dana White has a great reputation for making the big fights - a trend that must continue in 2021

Dana White has a great reputation for making the big fights – a trend that must continue in 2021

Colby Covington vs Jorge Masvidal 

A grudge match for the ages. There’s nothing fans love more than when the beef is real and there is genuine bad blood between these two. 

Masvidal and Covington used to be team-mates, even close friends but the split has been acrimonious to say the least. 

The pair lived together for a time but the relationship has completely deteriorated with ‘Gambred’ saying Covington is too scared to show his face back at American Top Team. 

Masvidal (R) and Covington (L) used to be friends but the relationship has turned sour

Masvidal (R) and Covington (L) used to be friends but the relationship has turned sour

Masvidal is coming off a defeat by Kamaru Usman but took the fight on short notice

Masvidal is coming off a defeat by Kamaru Usman but took the fight on short notice 

Regardless of the ready-made narrative, the timing could not be more perfect for this fight in terms of the welterweight division. 

Masvidal just lost to champion Kamaru Usman on short notice and Covington bounced back from his own defeat by the the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ by beating Tyron Woodley. 

Both men are desperate for another shot at the 170-pound king and a victory would put them back within touching distance once more. 

The build-up would be brilliant entertainment and both men have emerged in recent years as pay-per-view stars so would fill the UFC’s coffers too.  

Stipe Miocic vs Jon Jones 

It has been a strange year for Jon Jones. He was unconvincing in his solitary fight against Dominick Reyes but kept hold of his light-heavyweight crown, just. 

What followed was a protracted dispute over pay with the UFC. Essentially, Jones felt he was not being paid what he deserved given his status as one of the greatest fighters of all time. 

The UFC dug their heels in and resisted, as traditionally Jones has not been a massive pay-per-view star despite his infamy and talent. 

But then Jones announced he was vacating the light-heavyweight belt to move up to heavyweight. 

Jon Jones has dominated the light-heavyweight division for so long and is now moving up

Jon Jones has dominated the light-heavyweight division for so long and is now moving up

This has long been talked about but finally ‘Bones’ is piling on the muscle to go and play with the big lads.  

The ultimate ambition for Jones is to prove beyond doubt that he is the UFC’s greatest. Miocic underlined his status as the best heavyweight ever by beating Daniel Cormier in their trilogy fight so Jones sees a route to immortality. 

This would be a fight for the ages. Miocic could be the first man to beat Jones (ignoring the DQ on his record) and Jones could become a two-weight champion, cementing his legacy. 

Dana White has spoken about Francis Ngannou being next in line so this fight may have to happen towards the end of 2021 or possibly in the summer.  

Stipe Miocic is regarded as the greatest heavyweight ever after beating Daniel Cormier again

Stipe Miocic is regarded as the greatest heavyweight ever after beating Daniel Cormier again

Jon Jones vs Israel Adesanya 

Could this be the biggest year of Jones’ career? Imagine if he beat both Miocic and Adesanya…

The verbal sparring has been going on for months between the pair and fans are already buying into it. 

Jones takes exception to the fact that Adesanya is seen as the new breed, the next big thing and is taking some shine off him. 

And the Nigerian-born New Zealander remains unbeaten, looking even sharper with every passing fight. The way he picked apart Paulo Costa was something to behold. 

The problem here is that Jones is moving up to heavyweight and is already the bigger man physically. 

Israel Adesanya's stock has risen even further with the win over Paulo Costa

Israel Adesanya’s stock has risen even further with the win over Paulo Costa 

It remains to be seen what weight the fight could take place at, perhaps at a catchweight as a one-off event if the UFC are on board.  

It would be a fascinating scrap. Would Jones be too strong for Adesanya, make use of his wrestling pedigree and physical strength or would ‘Stylebender’ be too quick and precise?

Both men seem to want it, there’s no reason why the UFC wouldn’t jump on board but we may have to wait until 2022 for this one if Jones cuts a swathe through the heavyweight division. 

Justin Gaethje vs Conor McGregor  

This one was thought to be in the pipeline earlier this year but never came to fruition. 

McGregor jumped in with Donald Cerrone and Gaethje then went on to batter Tony Ferguson for his title shot against Khabib, in which he was well beaten. 

The match-up with McGregor would be a crucial one for the lightweight division with Khabib retired and could well decide who is the next 155-pound champion. 

On paper, team McGregor fancy the match-up too as they feel stylistically Gaethje is tailor made for the counter punching ability of the Irishman. 

Justin Gaethje is looking to bounce back from the Khabib Nurmagomedov defeat

Justin Gaethje is looking to bounce back from the Khabib Nurmagomedov defeat 

McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh previously said: ‘I think the Gaethje fight is probably the best fight I could imagine because he has the style that really matches well with Conor.

‘Gaethje likes to march forward. He sits down on his shots, he throws heavy shots. He doesn’t seem to care about being hit.

‘And he likes coming forward. Conor’s always done very well as a counter fighter. Although he does walk forward, he responds to people’s attacks very well.’

But Gaethje is a dangerous animal, particularly when wounded and coming off a loss. McGregor may not have faced anyone with leg kicks as savage as the American before and it would almost be guaranteed to be an entertaining contest. 

With McGregor in action against Dustin Poirier in January and Gaethje still the No 1 contender in the rankings, it would be a surprise if Gaethje vs McGregor doesn’t come to fruition next year at some point. 

The pair have traded barbs online in the past and although it isn’t a fully fledged grudge match, Gaethje has enough of a following and popularity to ramp up the hype.  

Conor McGregor will fancy his chances of reclaiming the lightweight belt in 2020

Conor McGregor will fancy his chances of reclaiming the lightweight belt in 2020

Alexander Volkanovski vs Zabit Magomedsharipov 

The featherweight champion from Down Under was so impressive in beating Max Holloway for a second time, so what’s next for him? 

Probably Brian Ortega. And that will be a brilliant encounter but if Volkanovski comes through it, there’s a decent chance he could face phenom Magomedsharipov next year. 

That is a fight fans can get incredibly excited about as Magomedsharipov has been talked up as the next big thing in the 145-pound division for some time now. 

His coach, Mark Henry, has been speaking about him in those terms for years now and he is unbeaten inside the UFC. 

Alexander Volkanovski is looking to launch a long reign as featherweight champion

Alexander Volkanovski is looking to launch a long reign as featherweight champion 

The flashy striker seems to have a full arsenal of weapons to choose from and is the polar opposite in stature to the champion. 

His rangey, long-limbed striking would meet Volkanovski’s squat, powerful frame and it would be a fascinating encounter. 

Magomedsharipov is ranked No 3 at the moment but Holloway is above him and has already been beaten by Volkanovski twice, so there’s little chance of that happening again for a while. 

And once Ortega has his shot, providing the Californian falls short, the path would be clear. 

Zabit Magomedsharipov is regarded as the next big thing by plenty of MMA fans

Zabit Magomedsharipov is regarded as the next big thing by plenty of MMA fans

Magomedsharipov, 29, has not fought this year and would probably need to fight again before earning a title opportunity. 

Yair Rodriguez, the next man down, has recently been banned for six months after missing three drugs tests, so the Russian could even have his chance without doing anything at all.

Of the challengers to Volkanovski’s belt, Magomedsharipov looks the most dangerous and could be the biggest test in 2021.  

Zhang Weili vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk  

Anyone who watched the first fight between these two will remember it for a long, long time. 

It was a major contender for Fight of the Year and the 25-minute extravaganza left both strawweights bloody and battered at the end. 

Jedrzejczyk’s head looked ridiculously swollen by the end and the Chinese champion, who defended her belt, knew she’d been pushed to her very limit. 

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (right) and Zhang Weili (left) put on an incredible show back in March

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (right) and Zhang Weili (left) put on an incredible show back in March

In three of the five rounds, both women landed exactly the same number of strikes as each other, which in itself is astonishing. 

Over five rounds, they each landed 58 leg kicks and 96 head strikes. 

Weili could well face Rose Namajunas next, and if she comes through that one, a rematch with Jedrzejczyk is definitely on the cards. 

Their first encounter will almost certainly be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and there’s a fair bit of pressure on the second one. 

But given how closely-matched both women are and how they love a scrap, it is a rematch that has to be made next year.  

The strawweights will surely have a rematch given the quality of their first encounter

The strawweights will surely have a rematch given the quality of their first encounter