2019 has been one hell of a year so far in the world of mixed martial arts but these last four or five months could prove to be amongst the most important in the history of the sport.
Nate Diaz’s UFC 241 return against Anthony Pettis
No matter which way it goes down, there will be quite a lot of eyes on this fight. For the winner, the prize could well come in the form of a showdown with either the sitting welterweight champion or the returning Conor McGregor by the time 2020 comes around.
Three years removed from his last octagon appearance, we’re going to learn alot about Nate’s drawing power once all is said and done on August 17 and if he can overcome the in-form Showtime Pettis, one of the biggest fights in UFC history could well await him.
Daniel Cormier’s final sprint towards his ultimate goal
Stipe Miocic is going to be one helluva tough fight for DC, make no mistake. If he is successful, there’s no doubt that a third showdown with Jon Jones is going to happen.
Jones is fast running out of worthy contenders at 205lbs and while I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if the trilogy bout happens at the end of the year, either way, 2020 is going to look very, very different once these two put their rivalry to bed once and for all.
Of course, if Stipe can earn the win next week he will throw an almighty spanner the works.
Khabib’s date with The Diamond in Abu Dhabi
If you have any doubts about Khabib’s status as a superstar, expect them to be put to bed in emphatic fashion once he makes that walk to the octagon in front of a pro-Eagle crowd in Abu Dhabi next month.
After a run of consistency that saw him fight three times in the year between his wins over Edson Barboza and Conor McGregor, suspension has slowed his ability to capitalise on his newfound fame, but if he can impose the same level of domination on the title-challenger Dustin Poirier at UFC 242, expect super-fights galore for Nurmagomedov once next year rolls around.
Bobby Knuckles and the Stylebender’s dance down-under.
UFC president Dana White has described this fight as one that has the potential to be the biggest in UFC history. Not, of course, in terms of its prestige, but instead due to the fact that it will take place in the Melbourne’s massive 55,000-seater Marvel Stadium.
Not only is this fight a clash between two of the most electric fighters on the roster, but it’s also a showdown between a Nigerian-born New Zealander and a New Zealand-born Australian. And these two do not like each other.
This one will be a star-maker and the winner could well pull off the victory on the biggest stage in UFC history.
Conor McGregor’s attempt at a rebound
And, of course, we couldn’t leave out the seemingly inevitable return of the sport’s most divisive attraction.
Conor’s coming back, there’s no doubt about it. The question, of course, surrounds whether or not he will make his comeback before the year is out. We’re willing to bet he will and no matter which way the fight goes or no matter who it is he fights, 2020 is going to stand as perhaps the most important year in the fighting career of the Irishman.
Either way, McGregor-mania is going to drift over the MMA world once again by winter-time whether we like it or not.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena