Over the years, UFC has booked some of the biggest PPV events, solely because of the fighters involved in them. Be it Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey vs Holly Holm, or Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal, UFC president Dana White has always managed to put on a show.
But the UFC sometimes misses the nail too, booking fights that leave its fans waiting for action and Dana White waiting for buy-ins.
Let's look at 3 massive fights UFC is likely to book in 2021 that fans don't want to see.
#3 - Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson
UFC welterweights Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson have agreed to a fight at UFC 264 on July 10. The event will be headlined by the trilogy bout between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in the lightweight division.
Gilbert Burns' last fight came against UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman where 'Durinho' lost via TKO. Stephen Thompson defeated Geoff Neal in December 2020.
At 38 years of age, Stephen Thompson has presented himself as one of the best strikers in the UFC welterweight division. 'Wonderboy' is 3-3 in his last six fights and is being touted by fans for either a title shot or a rematch against Jorge Masvidal.
Stephen Thompson made a case for getting the title shot against Kamaru Usman, considering the kickboxer is the only fighter left in the top five of the UFC welterweight division who hasn't fought the champion.
Kamaru Usman has defeated Colby Covington, Gilbert Burns, and Jorge Masvidal in recent years. He also beat Leon Edwards back in 2015. At UFC 261, he is set to rematch 'Gamebred', who he defeated less than a year ago in July 2020.
Fight fans would have loved to see Stephen Thompson go against Kamaru Usman. Thompson is thought to be the only curve-ball that could cause problems for 'The Nigerian Nightmare'.
Thompson defeated Jorge Masvidal at UFC 241 in 2017 and the latter already wants a rematch. With two equally exciting fighting styles and an established history, 'Wonderboy' vs 'Gamebred' 2 would have been another PPV sell-out.
Gilbert Burns vs Stephen Thompson, meanwhile, can only make sense as a stepping stone for Thompson that takes him closer to a title-shot.
#2 - Francis Ngannou vs Derrick Lewis 2
Francis Ngannou became the hottest property in the UFC when he KO'd Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 to become the new heavyweight champion. With Jon Jones stepping forward and showing willingness to take on 'The Predator', the potential fight is already being backed to be one of the highest-selling PPV events in UFC history.
However, with Jon Jones and UFC falling into excessive negotiations and then an eventual deadlock, Dana White looked at Derrick Lewis as Ngannou's next challenge.
The number two ranked UFC heavyweight was pitted against Francis Ngannou at UFC 226. This fight was dubbed as one of the most boring events ever with only 31 strikes, but was won by Lewis via unanimous decision.
While it is understood that a rematch against Francis Ngannou could be one of Derrick Lewis' last fights ever, it still doesn't excite UFC fans. Explaining the logic behind the match-up, UFC president Dana White said on The Bill Simmons Podcast,
"We tried to work with Jon, and we eventually have to move on because realistically, and in all honesty, Derrick Lewis is the guy who deserves the fight. Derrick Lewis is a heavyweight, he beat Francis Ngannou, he’s looked good in his last couple of fights, he’s ranked in the top three, I think, and he deserves the fight. That’s the fight that should happen. We’ll just roll and do what we do. When Jon’s ready, he’ll let us know."
Derrick Lewis KO'd Curtis Blaydes in his last appearance and is coming off a four-fight win streak. Speaking on the Joe Rogan Experience, Lewis said he did not have any interest in the heavyweight belt, but just wanted the fight. Nonetheless, if or when the bout gets booked, he is not being backed as a winner.
#1 - Israel Adesanya vs Marvin Vettori 2
Three fighters were in the fray for a rematch against UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya; Robert Whittaker, Kelvin Gastelum, and Marvin Vettori. 'The Last Stylebender' defeated Marvin Vettori in 2018, followed by Whittaker and Gastelum in 2019. While Whittaker was the only fighter Izzy had KO'd in the process, the former champion was being viewed as the favorite to win a rematch against Adesanya.
With Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum set to go against each other in April 2021, it was believed that the winner would be the first to win a rematch against Israel Adesanya. However, Whittaker received a huge blow when UFC president Dana White booked Marvin Vettori for the prized title-shot.
The news disappointed UFC fans who were waiting for 'The Reaper', the number one contender, to have another go against Adesanya. The reason being given is that Israel Adesanya wants to fight in June, but Whittaker needs some rest and recovery time after his bout with Gastelum.
The bout between Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettori is likely to get booked at UFC 263, but details regarding the venue, etc. are still to be ironed out.