2021 has already treated us to four UFC title fights. Luckily for us, the flow isn’t letting up. Five more championship fights are scheduled to take place by mid-May. As if we needed any more reason to be excited, perhaps the best one takes place this weekend.
In the UFC title scene, the year started with an emphatic defense of welterweight gold. Kamaru Usman proved himself to be one of the promotion’s most dominant champions with a TKO win over Gilbert Burns. Not that it ever needed saying, Usman’s win showed he’s not the “boring” champion many claimed him to be.
The UFC 259 triple-header brought us defenses of the light heavyweight, bantamweight and women’s featherweight belts. Jan Blachowicz took a step further to stardom by handing Israel Adesanya his first MMA loss. Aljamain Sterling became the only fighter ever to win a title in UFC via disqualification. Amanda Nunes did what she does best- destroying her opponent with ease.
With five more championship fights booked for the next two months (Covid-19 permitting), let’s take a look at which are set to be the most thrilling.
#5 Kamaru Usman (C) vs. Jorge Masvidal - UFC Welterweight Championship
It’s worth noting that all five of these title fights are incredible matchups and should deliver some blockbuster battles. Being fifth on this list does not change that, it simply means the other bouts are even more intriguing. With that said, how about this for a rematch? Everyone loves a grudge fight.
For the second time in 10 months, welterweight king Kamaru Usman will defend his belt against Jorge Masvidal. “Gamebred” made the long journey to Fight Island and endured a brutal weight cut for their first meeting last year. Masvidal went the full five rounds with Usman on just six days' notice.
Despite a unanimous decision loss, Masvidal has already found himself with a second title opportunity; this time with a full camp.
Animosity has always existed between the two stars. The confrontation at the Miami Beach Convention Center proved to be a boiling point. The post-fight call out in February by “The Nigerian Nightmare” has laid the foundations for what should be an intense build-up.
Usman and Masvidal will look horns once again on April 24. The UFC will be looking to better the 1.3 million PPV buys the pair's first clash brought in.
#4 Valentina Shevchenko (C) vs. Jessica Andrade - UFC Women's Flyweight Championship
Kyrgyzstan versus Brazil. Muay Thai versus Boxing. Former champion versus current champion. The stage is set for arguably the final legitimate challenge to Valentina Shevchenko’s dominant flyweight reign.
“Bullet” will be looking for her fifth consecutive title defense when she takes on Jessica Andrade at UFC 261. Since relieving Joanna Jędrzejczyk of the title, Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia have all fallen to Shevchenko.
Despite being the overwhelming favorite (as always), in “Bate Estaca”, the Kyrgyzstani might have her work cut out. For the first time, she’ll be defending her belt against a former champion. Andrade captured strawweight gold after an incredible slam against Rose Namajunas.
After dropping the championship to Zhang Weili in her first defense, the Brazilian made the move to flyweight, breaking onto the scene with a first round TKO win over Katlyn Chookagian.
Leading up to the fight, many have questioned what's next for Shevchenko should she win. First things first, let's not look past Andrade.
#3 Zhang Weili (C) vs. Rose Namajunas - UFC Women's Strawweight Championship
Does anyone constantly hear Daniel Cormier screaming "Thug Rose! Thug Rose! Thug Rose!" in their heads leading up to every Rose Namajunas fight? No? Just me? Moving on...
Namajunas will have to be a bigger thug than she's ever been before if she's to dethrone Zhang Weili. Since winning the championship, Zhang has shown exactly why she’s amassed a 20-fight winning streak.
Last March, “Magnum” defender her belt against former-champ Joanna Jędrzejczyk. It was the greatest women’s fight of all time and by my books, the 2020 Fight of the Year. Her next defense is just as enticing.
Aside from providing us with one of the greatest commentary reaction clips in UFC history, Namajunas' title coronation against "The Boogiewoman" established herself as one of the promotion's biggest names.
A stiff challenge awaits the 28-year-old, one she'll have to be at her best for if she is to add a second championship to her CV. If anyone can spring an upset, it's "Thug Rose."
#2 Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler - UFC Lightweight Championship
The UFC lightweight division will have a new champion for the first time since 2018. After months of uncertainty, the great Khabib Nurmagomedov has officially vacated the belt and retired. It’s time for a new chapter at 155 lbs.
The candidates with a chance to start this new chapter on top of the lightweight hill are Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler.
Putting aside the glaring omission of Dustin Poirier in the first title fight since Khabib's departure, this fight is as intriguing a fight as we’ll see this year. Oliveira [30-8] is riding an eight-fight winning streak. Victories over Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson established “Do Bronx” as a contender.
Chandler, 34, is 1-0 in the UFC after a debut win over Dan Hooker in January. “Iron Mike” looked about as good as a UFC debutant could. It was one of the most impactful debuts in history.
Colliding at UFC 262, it stands to reason the winner’s first defense will be against either Justin Gaethje or the winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor 3.
#1 Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou - UFC Heavyweight Championship
The 'biggest, baddest rematch', Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou 2 is finally here. At UFC 260 this weekend, a blockbuster clash between the greatest heavyweight of all time and the hardest hitter in MMA headlines a stacked card.
The pair first collided in 2018. Miocic won the bout by unanimous decision. Spurred by the defeat, Ngannou went on a tear. Leaving a trail of lifeless bodies behind him, “The Predator” has knocked out Blaydes, Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik in the three years since his first championship fight.
Whilst the Cameroonian worked explosively to re-establish himself as the number one contender, Miocic established himself as the greatest heavyweight of all time after a trilogy with Daniel Cormier.
The 38-year-old will look to combine his takedowns and high volume striking to neutralize the threat of Ngannou, as he successfully managed in their first clash.
Miocic’s place at the top of the food chain is on the line. Fights don’t get more must watch than this.