Mixed martial arts fans have quite a lot of fantastic action to look forward to over the course of the next few months, here’s our pick for the top-10 matchups on the horizon for early 2019.
Israel Adesanya vs. Anderson Silva: UFC 234 – Feb 10
James Vick vs. Paul Felder: UFC Pheonix – Feb 17
Derrick Lewis vs. Junior dos Santos: UFC Wichita – Mar 9
Leon Edwards vs. Gunnar Nelson: UFC London – Mar 16
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Dominick Reyes: UFC London – Mar 16
#10 – Stephen Thompson vs. Anthony Pettis: UFC Nashville – Mar 23
Indeed it was odd upon its confirmation but in essence, what we have here is a showdown between two of the most dynamic strikers in the history of mixed martial arts. At this point, we may as well just sit back and prepare to enjoy whatever goes down on March 23.
#9 – José Aldo vs. Renato Moicano: UFC Fortaleza – Feb 2
Aldo recently spoke of his plans to retire after three fights in 2019 and in Renato Moicano, he will come up against one of the featherweight division’s most in-form contenders. A fantastic stylistic clash featuring two of the best Brazilians on the roster.
#8 – Jon Jones (c) vs. Anthony Smith: UFC 235 – Mar 2
Many are writing Anthony Smith off before the octagon doors even close – which as we know, is a very dangerous thing to do. With that being said, though, there aren’t many people picking against Jon Jones – which keeps this contest relatively low on our list. Love him or hate him, there’s no show like a ‘Bones’ show.
#7 – Tyron Woodley (c) vs. Kamaru Usman: UFC 235 – Mar 2
Powerful welterweights collide as Kamaru Usman looks to bring the Woodley era of the 170lb division to a crashing halt at UFC 235. It’s a pretty underrated contest, to be fair. Usman will challenge Tyron on a physical level in a manner that very few fighters can and one would assume that there’s enough power on the table to expect a finish from either man.
#6 – Robert Whittaker (c) vs. Kelvin Gastelum: UFC 234 – Feb 10
Whittaker’s time at the top of the middleweight pile has been about as memorable as one could have hoped and after closing off his rivalry with Yoel Romero at UFC 225, he takes on Kelvin Gastelum, a fighter who has been completely reborn since jumping up to 185lbs. Both guys are young but entering their respective primes. Expect an absolute barnburner.
#5 – Darren Till vs. Jorge Masvidal: UFC London – Mar 16
The last time Till headlined a fight-card in his home country of England, the reception he received was as good as any we’ve ever seen and now, he finds a dance-partner, in Jorge Masvidal, who will not be as methodical in his approach as Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson. A headliner of the highest quality and the perfect opportunity for both guys to get their names into the title-mix.
#4 – Jeremy Stephens vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov: UFC 235 – Mar 2
Zabit, to many, is the finest prospect in the sport of mixed martial arts today – mixing phenomenal grappling and submissions with creative, loose, and dynamic striking. In Jeremy Stephens, however, he will come up with one of the game’s biggest powerhouses – a man who can shut your lights out with either hand – something he proved when facing off against Zabit’s fellow up-and-comer Doo-Ho Choi last year.
#3 – Robbie Lawler vs. Ben Askren: UFC 235 – Mar 2
One of the biggest what-if’s in MMA history will be answered on the phenomenal UFC 235 main-card as Ben Askren finally gets his opportunity to shine on the biggest stage. They could have thrown him in there with anyone and it would have been appealing but with the legendary Robbie Lawler to contend with, things could violent very, very quickly.
#2 – Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez: UFC Pheonix – Feb 17
So many questions surround this fight making it impossible to leave out of the top-3. Cain Velasquez, one of the greatest fighters to ever do it, returns to the octagon after a period of inactivity brought about by a string of injuries. In his path, though, comes perhaps the hardest hitter in the sport today, Francis Ngannou, a man who bounced back from a two-fight streak of losses with a thunderous KO of Curtis Blaydes late last year.
#1 – Edson Barboza vs. Justin Gaethje: UFC Philadelphia – Mar 30
Do you like violence? Hell, if you like MMA to any degree you’re likely going to enjoy what Barboza and Gaethje bring to the table in March. Both guys are proven finishers with a penchant for the spectacular and both own more Performance Of The Night bonuses in their last handful of fights than most acquire in their entire career. A masterful piece of matchmaking.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena