With August and the end of the summer falling on fight fans, everyone’s asking, “What’s next?” International Fight Week 2022 is in the books, and a slew of potential massive fights lie on the horizon.
Amid the rumors, chatter, and saber-rattling, it can be tricky to distinguish the difference between a fight with actual wheels and interested parties trying to stay in the headlines. But with McGregor and Ngannou still on the mend, and Jon Jones’ heavyweight debut charging at fight fans like an Arctic glacier, what is there actually to look forward to in the remainder of 2022?
The truth is that the final PPVs of the year could be some of the deepest ever. Set to return to Las Vegas twice, Abu Dhabi, and New York, cities such as these typically host the biggest events in company history. Here’s a realistic guess as to how the remainder of the year could pan out, including champions defending their titles and top stars getting their next fight.
UFC is beyond skilled at pulling surprises out of nowhere (i.e., Chimaev vs. Diaz as a PPV headliner), and injuries, disputes over pay, and timing could disrupt many “Plan A’s”. This is life for MMA fans… With that being said, here’s how the remaining events of the year could stack up.
The UFC PPV Line-Up
September 10- UFC 279: Chimaev vs. Diaz (Las Vegas, Nevada)
This card is mostly full, and it currently appears pretty top-heavy with the wacky Khamzat Chimaev vs. Nate Diaz welterweight fight. However, on ESPN.com, the co-main event slot is marked as “TBA vs. TBA”. Expect a high-quality bout to fill this spot.
Why not add Rafael Fiziev vs. Justin Gaethje to this slot? Fiziev called for this fight after his win over Rafael dos Anjos last month. The fight would pair nicely with the guaranteed insanity of Chimaev vs. Diaz.
Other notable fights on the card:
Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson
Johnny Walker vs. Ion Cutelaba
October 22- UFC 280: Oliveira vs. Makhachev (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates)
This card seems likely to have its high-profile matchups set, and it’s a doozy. Of all the “Fight Island” cards in the past two years, this one may take the cake. Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev not only is a sensible main event for the region, but it’s one of the wildest fights to predict in recent memory. Charles Oliveira seems to be the perfect opponent for Makhachev…
In addition, Aljamain Sterling returns to Abu Dhabi to defend his bantamweight belt against former champion TJ Dillashaw.
Other notable fight on the card:
Sean Brady vs. Belal Muhammad
Petr Yan vs. Sean O’Malley
Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Lemos
Mateusz Gamrot vs. Beneil Dariush
Manon Fiorot vs. Katlyn Chookagian
Muhammad Mokaev vs. Malcolm Gordon
November 12- UFC 281 (New York City, New York)
Once in November, the future is less clear and left up to speculation. The UFC’s NYC cards always deliver, and there’s more than enough options to fill a card here.
After they shared the same high-profile PPV card on July 2nd, the storyline couldn’t work out more perfectly for Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira to finally meet in MMA. It wouldn’t be crazy to assume that he was brought into the promotion for the very purpose of challenging the man he beat twice in kickboxing. Set that as the main event of UFC NYC this year and let the bombs go off as they may.
Another fight suited for this card is the first title defense of Carla Esparza against Zhang Weili. Zhang earned a shot against the champ with a viral spinning backfist KO of Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 275, and immediately stated her interest to fight Esparza at UFC 280 in Abu Dhabi. The champ responded that this timing was a bit too soon, so perhaps a few weeks later in November would work out for both women.
A third title fight to add further guaranteed violence could be an interim title fight between Yair Rodriguez and Josh Emmett. With the champ Alexander Volkanovski healing from a broken hand last month sustained in his title defense against Max Holloway, Dana White has stated that an interim title fight could be possible.
Both Emmett and Rodriguez are coming off wins and are hovering near the top of the division, neither a clear advantage over the other. Five rounds of power shots and spinning attacks from these two would electrify Madison Square Garden.
Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler seems close to being added to this card, per a report from Ariel Helwani. Everything about this fight makes sense from a rankings and career-position standpoint. Chandler memorably went to war against Justin Gaethje at the MSG in 2021, and would further add depth and star power to the card.
To add even more sauce to the pizza, round things out with Jorge Masvidal vs. Gilbert Burns. This fight has also been rumored to be in the works for a while, and both men are at similar points in the division and in their careers.
Fantasy UFC 281 card:
Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira
Carla Esparza vs. Zhang Weili
Josh Emmett vs. Yair Rodriguez
Dustin Poirier vs. Michael Chandler
Jorge Masvidal vs. Gilbert Burns
December 10- UFC 282 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
For the year’s final PPV, bring out the big guns, the fight that might be too good to be true: Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic for the interim heavyweight championship. Rumors had this fight taking place as early as September, but needed more time. Best to give it all the time it needs and set it at the end of the year.
Of course, if Francis Ngannou’s recovery is going faster than expected, and the UFC comes to terms with the Cameroonian and resigns him, it’s not totally out of the question to see him return for that last PPV. Unlikely, but there’s still plenty of time between now and then to sort things out.
To further bolster the return of Jones at heavyweight, a co-main event for UFC 282 could be a rematch between Glover Teixeira and new champion Jiri Prochazka. The two left everything in the cage at UFC 275 in June, with both men nearly finishing the other multiple times before Teixeira conceded to Prochazka in the fifth round. Much of the fanbase stated their desire for an immediate rematch, and the fighters have seemed interested in pursuing it as well.
A third title fight to add to the mix could be another rematch from UFC 275, Valentina Shevcheko vs. Taila Santos. While the fight wasn’t the surging electric current that Prochazka-Teixeira was, Santos shocked many by scoring several rounds against the champ, leaving viewers unsure of winner as the judges tallied their scorecards.
Shevchenko won that fight by split decision, and an immediate rematch would not be surprising for the champ’s toughest test at flyweight. Shevchenko has no other clear contenders ready to fight, so this is her most logical next fight within the division.
Two other fights that could round out the main card (if not serve as Fight Night main events themselves) are Curtis Blaydes vs. Sergei Pavlovich and Dominick Reyes vs. Aleksandar Rakic.
Fantasy UFC 281 card:
Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic
Jiri Prochazka vs. Glover Teixeira 2
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Taila Santos 2
Sergei Pavlovich vs. Curtis Blaydes
Dominick Reyes vs. Aleksandar Rakic
UFC Fight Nights
Beyond the PPV cards of 2022, here’s the schedule of UFC Fight Night cards for the remainder of the year:
August 6th (Las Vegas, Nevada)
August 13th (San Diego, California)
September 3 (Paris, France)
September 17 (Las Vegas, Nevada)
October 1st (Location TBA)
October 15th (Location TBA)
October 29th (Las Vegas, Nevada)
November 5 (Location TBA)
November 19 (Location TBA)
December 3 (Location TBA)
December 17 (Location TBA)
As for the remaining locations for these events, it’s likely a few end up taking place at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Other locations thrown out there by Dana White and other UFC fighters have included Atlanta, Seattle, Boston, and Stockholm, Sweden.
The UFC will also hold a Road to UFC event on October 23rd in Abu Dhabi (the day after UFC 280), set to showcase the semifinals of the tournament. The finals are likely to take place on that final December 17th UFC Fight Night.
Who is available to fill the remaining headliners for these Fight Night shows? Here’s a few worthy options:
Chan Sung Jung vs. Bryce Mitchell– This could be a classic up and comer vs. veteran fight, and a bizarre clash of cultures as well. Mitchell called for this fight earlier this year, and if the fight hit the ground, the only two men to ever hit a Twister submission in the UFC could grapple it out to see whose Twister twists harder.
Magomed Ankalaev vs. Jan Blachowicz- If Glover Teixeira receives an immediate rematch with Jiri Prochazka, a number one contenders fight at 205lbs seems fitting. Magomed Ankalaev tore through Anthony Smith last Saturday at UFC 277, and seems to be one fight away from a title shot. Former kingpin Jan Blachowicz hasn’t fought since a win over Aleksandar Rakic last May, so his time could be due for a big fight.
Calvin Kattar vs. Arnold Allen– In another veteran vs. up-and-comer fight, put young Brit Arnold Allen against the shredder from New England, Calvin Kattar. Kattar has also recently called for this fight to happen and would be a big win for either man. The fight keeps featherweight moving with the logjam at the top and gives a chance for a new contender to emerge.
Shavkat Rakhmanov vs. Stephen Thompson- Rakhmonov has shrouded the welterweight division with fear after four straight finishes opening his UFC run. After choking out Neil Magny in June, the Kazakh called for a fight with former title challenger Stephen Thompson. Shakvat is ready for the shine of a UFC main event and a fight with Thompson would show if he’s ready for the welterweight top-five.
With all these potential blockbusters approaching, which fights are you looking forward to the most? Let us know in the comments below.