While 2020 still has many exciting title fights on the horizon, there are many unannounced championship fights that seem almost inevitable. Here are our picks for the three title fights that absolutely need to happen in 2021.
Miocic vs Ngannou 2
Since their first meeting in early 2018, Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou have always teased a second meeting. Despite a rather dominant performance by Miocic in their first fight, Ngannou has opened up as a sizeable favourite over the champion in the proposed rematch. This is mostly due to the fact that Ngannou’s last four performances have all ended by avicious knockout in less than three minutes total. This is even more impressive when you look at the names Ngannou disposed of in such a short amount of time.
Former champions Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos were among the four who were defeated by Ngannou in such impressive fashion. With the only other deserving contender being Curtis Blaydes, a man Ngannou finished twice, it is quite clear who’s next to challenge Miocic for the throne.
While Ngannou found major success, Stipe faced a ton of adversity as he was finished by then light heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier, in the first round of their meeting in 2018. Miocic would be forced to wait a year for an immediate rematch, and didn’t fail to disappoint as he finished Cormier in the fourth round via T.K.O. He then went on to fight Cormier in a trilogy bout where he received a competitive, but clear unanimous decision victory.
Ngannou claims to have made many improvements since their first encounter, specifically in the grappling department. However, Miocic insists the rematch will be nearly identical to their first fight. UFC president, Dana White, has recently stated that the two heavyweight giants will collide in March, 2021.
Volkanovski vs Ortega
After Brian Ortega’s phenomenal victory over the Korean Zombie, there finally seems to be some clarity in the featherweight title picture. It appears that Brian Ortega will be next to challenge UFC Featherweight Champion, Alexander Volkanovski.
Since a controversial split decision victory against Max Holloway in July, many have questioned who Volkanovski should fight next. Some argued Holloway should get a third shot at Volkanovski, considering 18/27 media outlets scored the fight in Max’s favour. Others disagreed and suggested that Volkanovski fight Zabit Magomedsharipov, a man many believe to be the future of the division. However, due to Zabit’s lack of five round fight experience and Holloway’s back to back loses to the champion, it appeared that the winner of the recent main event between Ortega and the Korean Zombie would become the number one contender.
Ortega hadn’t fought since losing his first championship fight to Max Holloway nearly two years ago. Many doubted him, as Ortega came into the fight as a +170 underdog. Despite this, Ortega looked as good as ever, outpointing the Zombie on the feet, and surprising audiences as he had previously been known as a Jiu-jitsu specialist. Ortega’s time off seems to be greatly effective and can possibly pose a serious threat to Volkanovski’s title run. Volkanovski recently called for the fight on social media, stating “February sounds good!”
Zhang vs Namajunas
The UFC’s straw-weight division is currently the promotion’s most stacked female division. It consists of names such as Rose Namajunas, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Carla Esparza, and the current queen, Zhang Weili. As China’s first UFC champion, Zhang has not only gained much recognition in her home country, but around the globe as well. Since knocking out former champion, Jessica Andrade, in just 42 seconds to win the UFC straw-weight championship, Zhang has looked unstoppable.
While her first title defence against Joanna Jedrzejczyk didn’t display complete dominance, it still managed to capture the eyes of many, due to her sheer will and unbelievable toughness. That fight is the current front runner for “Fight of the Year”, and truly put Zhang on the map. With two victories over the division’s elite in Andrade and Jedrzejczyk, there is only one clear contender for the current champion. That title belongs to former straw-weight champion, “Thug” Rose Namajunas.
Namajunas first bursted onto the scene in the twentieth season of the reality television show, The Ultimate Fighter. Namajunas progressed to the finals where she faced Carla Esparza for the inaugural Straw-weight title. Namajunas lost the bout by rear-naked choke in the third round. Since that loss, Namajunas has looked spectacular, picking up wins over Jessica Andrade, Tecia Torres, Michelle Waterson, Angela Hill, and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (x2) to win the straw-weight title.
After avenging her most recent loss to Jessica Andrade at UFC 251 in July, Rose has made it clear that she is the rightful challenger for Zhang Weili. However, Rose suffered some injuries in her last fight requiring multiple surgeries before being able to compete. Dana White said he hopes to book the bout in early 2021, but that depends on how Rose is healing. Whether or not the fight is booked early or late next year, there is no doubt in my mind that this is the fight to make and can potentially live up to Zhang’s last contest against Jedrzejczyk.