"Surprise, surprise, the king is back," - Conor McGregor at UFC 202
Every dog has its day and every king has his reign. However, with every reign there is always someone waiting in the wings - a king can be usurped at any moment.
With a mediocre MMA record over the last few years, it would be fair to say that Conor McGregor’s kingship is on the wane. A second loss in a row to Dustin Poirier may just be the final nail in the coffin for the Irishman.
Let’s have a look at five UFC stars who could potentially take over from the ‘champ champ’ if he falls to Poirier.
A man who knocked out his last ten opponents, Jiri ‘Denisa’ Prochazka, has already proved he is a force to be reckoned with in the UFC. Emphatic victories over Volkan Oezdemir and Dominick Reyes may mean that a shot at the light-heavyweight title is next for the Czech native.
Prochazka’s fighting style is unique as he maintains a low guard and uses unorthodox lateral movement - making it very difficult for an opponent to predict his strikes.
This makes his fights very exciting to watch. With the help of an entire nation behind him, he could potentially be as big as Conor McGregor in the near future.
While 2021 hasn’t gone according to plan so far for Israel Adesanya, ‘The Last Stylebender’ can be forgiven for attempting a very ambitious fight against light-heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz. It is this sort of ambition that makes Adesanya a fan favorite.
The Nigerian-born fighter has dominated the UFC's middleweight division for over three years, with impressive knockout victories over Paulo Costa, Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson.
His matrix-style fighting stance has already earned Adesanya a huge following, and he is only a few more highlight finishes away from being the biggest star in the UFC.
Most UFC fighters are happy enough just to win inside the Octagon, but not Sean O’Malley. ‘Sugar’ consistently seeks a highlight-reel knockout - he could have easily claimed a first-round victory over Thomas Almeida at UFC 260 but decided to let Almeida recover and eventually finished his opponent with a walk-off knockout.
Although O’Malley is not even in the top 15 of the UFC bantamweight rankings yet, he certainly has a bright future ahead of him. However, regular podcasts and Twitch appearances have helped him grow a huge fanbase.
He may even have a bigger ego than Conor McGregor himself - whether he achieves it or not, superstardom is definitely O’Malley’s goal.
A lot has been said about Khabib Nurmagomedov and Jon Jones in the past year. Although both are currently inactive, they are often mentioned as the greatest MMA fighters of all time. However, "The Nigerian Nightmare" Kamaru Usman may be the first active UFC fighter to seriously challenge for the G.O.A.T. status.
Since he joined the UFC in 2015, Usman has won all 14 of his fights - the last four of those saw him successfully defending his welterweight championship. Usman is a phenom who has consistently dominated elite fighters in the Octagon.
A potential superfight with Israel Adesanya or Khabib Nurmagomedov would definitely give Usman the chance to become a bigger star than Conor McGregor.
From fighting off rats in order to have a meal to becoming UFC heavyweight champion, Francis Ngannou’s story is nothing short of incredible. ‘The Predator’ also packs a punch - the most powerful punch ever recorded, to be precise - so it isn’t hard to understand why so many fans are drawn to the man.
Conor McGregor has a small country behind him, but Francis Ngannou has the whole of Africa behind him. His victory over Stipe Miocic has already made him a superstar in the continent. If he can avenge his loss to Derrick Lewis and then set up a superfight with Jon Jones, he could become the biggest UFC star of all time.
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