Every new year in MMA brings us a little something different. And early on into 2020 … that would appear to be fighters coming off of losses competing for UFC titles!
Yes, don’t get it twisted, it’s still incredibly early as it’s only the second month of the calendar year now. However, the possibilities for what could be in store down the line could have quite a pinch of ridiculousness sprinkled over them.
What we know for sure
The next middleweight title fight is on. Israel Adesanya’s first career title defense has been made official and he’ll be defending against Cuba’s “Soldier of God,” Yoel Romero at UFC 248 on March 7.
Romero, a man who’s fought for a title on one occasion, currently rides a two-fight losing streak. In totality, Romero has been scheduled to vie for UFC gold three times. Unfortunately, those most recent two bouts saw him miss weight and be made ineligible to earn the strap with a W.
Undeniably, the Cuban Olympic silver medalist in wrestling is a perpetually entertaining and dangerous opponent despite his age of 42 years old. But if we’re going to be logical about things, his fourth title opportunity is quite an absurd one.
Then let’s head on down to the bantamweights. The 135-pound weight class is arguably the most stacked out of all divisions right now worldwide. Many of the very best reside atop the UFC’s roster. There are great contenders lined up such as Aljamain Sterling, Petr Yan, and Cory Sandhagen … Yet none of them have their names attached to the bout that is reportedly in the works for UFC 250.
Per Combate, current bantamweight titleholder Henry Cejudo is planned to get his wish as a bout between himself and Jose Aldo is in the works for the May 9 date.
Aldo, the former featherweight king, dropped down to 135-pounds for his last time out when he met Cejudo’s last opponent in Marlon Moraes. In what was a closely contested affair, it would be Moraes who came out on top via split decision. Therefore meaning Aldo is winless at bantamweight and coming off a loss.
Now, for bantamweight, it might be the home of the most nonsense or shall we say unexpected title bouts in 2020. Because if we look at the overall spectrum, Cejudo has made it clear what he wants now that he’s accomplished what he has. And that’s big-name fights that will get him paid. You can’t really blame him for that but that doesn’t mean the divisional wrinkles will all get ironed out anytime soon.
Spoken into existence?
Prior to the thought of an Aldo fight, Cejudo had Dominick Cruz’s name escaping his lips. With Cruz planning to make his return here in the first half of 2020, that gives him time to pick up a win over presumably – and hopefully – a top-ranked guy. Thus launching him ahead of the pack.
But hey, if we follow the trend here he could have a better chance of getting the shot if he were to come back and lose in the meanwhile that Cejudo vs. Aldo takes place. The point is, don’t be surprised if it happens.
Directly above the bantamweight division is the 145-pound featherweight division. To close out 2019, we saw the title change hands as Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski dethroned Max Holloway.
The three-time defending champ in Holloway would lose the fight by unanimous decision with two 48-47s and a 50-45 on the scorecards. Having reigned since June 2017, Dana White now is planning to give the Hawaiian an instant rematch with Volkanovski. Meaning … another fighter coming off a loss challenging for a title.
Regardless of whether or not that is the right choice because of Holloway’s status, it could put him in quite an interesting position.
For starters, let’s note that all losing champions with the exception of Stipe Miocic and Randy Couture have lost their immediate rematches with their successors. And even in the cases of those two men, Miocic’s successor in Daniel Cormier had a fight in between his Miocic bouts. Couture, on the other hand, initially lost to Vitor Belfort via a 47-second cut.
So if Holloway was to lose again to Volkanovski, immediately, he’s then dropped two losses to the new champion and is 1-3 in his last four. The one that started that patch coming in a lightweight interim title bout thus further potentially limiting his options.
A little crazy
Speaking of Cormier and Miocic … that’s another fight we’re expected to get. This one being the trilogy that sees Cormier coming off the loss in the rematch. However, there’s still speculation as to whether or not Miocic will be healthy anytime soon due to a nagging eye injury. As a result of that, it could lead to everyone’s favorite interim title situation.
And in that case, Cormier might not even end up being involved in that as he’s possibly only going to fight Miocic next. Think back to when Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira won the interim title while Brock Lesnar skipped over him to fight the aforementioned Couture who was the undisputed champion. There were literally two heavyweight champions at the same time in 2008. Frank Mir would actually end up taking Nogueira’s interim title to get his rematch with Lesnar for UFC 100. If you ever want to talk about a bizarre time in MMA … 2008 has you covered.
Continuing on with the topic of interims in 2020, let’s jump back down to featherweight. But this time on the women’s side of things.
Yeah, that’s right. We’re discussing potential interim titles for a division of six fighters.
Amanda Nunes currently holds the titles at bantamweight and featherweight. The latter of which she has never defended since earning it at the end of 2018. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s hard to know if she ever will.
In the immediate following months after winning the featherweight title, Nunes seemingly joked about not planning to fight in the division anymore. And so far that has been true.
This isn’t to say that she has no challengers what so ever in the weight class. But there are much more obvious ones at her general home of 135-pounds.
With two of featherweight’s best in Megan Anderson and Felicia Spencer competing in separate bouts at UFC Norfolk at the end of the month, we’ll have to see what the vibe is then. Currently, at 135 though, there’s a hungry Irene Aldana chomping at the bit to get her crack at Nunes after a phenomenal knockout win.
Because of that, what’s to stop the UFC from making an interim between some featherweights? Perhaps that might even be more ideal for them from a marketing standpoint as they could sell a titleholding Anderson or Spencer vs. the double champ in Nunes … That’s assuming no one plays spoiler at bantamweight. And in that case, then you can practically guarantee a featherweight interim title.
Last but not least in the lineup of ridiculousness is, of course, a rematch between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Believe it or not, this fight along with the last that was mentioned actually doesn’t have a recent loser involved. That doesn’t make it any less silly though.
This is the fight that the UFC and Dana White want. It’s been made painfully clear since the Irishman’s return in mid-January. In said return, McGregor picked up his first win since losing to Nurmagomedov in October 2018 as well as his first win since November 2016.
But it came at welterweight against a Donald Cerrone on a two-fight losing streak.
This, apparently, is enough to warrant another lightweight title shot for “The Notorious.” Whether that’s against Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson who the Russian still has to worry about in April.
Either way, 2020 looks to be one interesting year in the UFC.