The UFC is on course to make 2021 one of its most standout years to date. Already, we have seen unforgettable events and breathtaking fights and there are still more in the schedule before the year is out.
Who can forget UFC 261 back in April when Kamaru Usman held onto his welterweight title by flattening Jorge Masvidal in the main event, while Rose Namajunas stunned Zhang Weili with a head kick to win the women’s strawweight title for a second time.
We’ve had two fights between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor, plus Francis Ngannou finally becoming heavyweight champion after knocking out Stipe Miocic. Then there are barnburners like the clash we just saw between Marvin Vettori and Paulo Costa, or Alexander Volkanovski’s win over Brian Ortega a few weeks ago.
With just a couple of months left in the calendar year, the UFC are clearly intending to close 2021 with a bang. On November 6, Usman will headline again at UFC 268 in Madison Square Garden when he looks to defend his title against old rival Colby Covington.
The pair first met in 2019 after an incredibly heated build-up and ended up producing one of the greatest fights in UFC history. The entire contest was fought on the feet, with Usman eventually finishing Covington in the final round.
If you follow the sports news today, you’ll see that the bad blood between them hasn’t cooled, suggesting we’re likely to get another bitterly-fought encounter. It will be fascinating to see if either man decides to try and use their excellent wrestling skills, or whether another unspoken agreement will be made to remain standing and produce another classic.
The UFC 268 card, on paper, might be the best of the year. In the co-main, Namajunas and Weili will meet in an immediate rematch for the strawweight strap. ‘Thug’ Rose, one of the most popular fighters on the roster, pulled a head kick out of nowhere to relieve Weili of her title and crown Namajunas’ comeback since first losing it herself a few years ago.
Prior to losing to Rose, Weili had earned some dominant and eye-catching wins as a UFC fighter, including her all-time great clash with Joanna Jedrzejczyk last year. She has shown she has the tools to give Namajunas a rough night, but whether she can bring it all together – especially after being so viciously knocked out – will remain a mystery until fight night.
On that same bill, lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler will meet in a matchup which can only go one way – chaos. They are two of the most explosive and aggressive fighters in the entire UFC, let alone the 155lb division, and they’ve also proven themselves at the top level.
A week later, former featherweight champion Max Holloway returns against the exciting Yair Rodriguez. Though ‘Blessed’ is a comfortable favourite, Rodriguez is a stern challenge on paper and a win would likely set Holloway up for a much-anticipated trilogy fight with current champion Volkanovski.
Rob Font and Jose Aldo will kick off December in an intriguing contest, but it’s one of the fights on the undercard that has grabbed a lot of fans’ attention. Lightweights Rafael Fiziev and Brad Riddell might not be two of the most well known fighters in the UFC, but they’re familiar to hardcore fans who praise their entertaining styles and high-level skill.
The winner will propel themselves into potential contender status and their clash of styles
seemed destined to create a thrilling fight. What it lacks in star power will be made up in drama.
Later that same month UFC 269 will land at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with Poirier challenging reigning lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. Despite not holding the title, Poirier is considered by many to be the best fighter at 155lbs and now has a chance to definitively prove that.
Oliveira, a UFC veteran, is enjoying a standout run of form having beaten Tony Ferguson and then Chandler earlier this year for the vacant belt. In the co-main, Amanda Nunes – the greatest female fighter on the planet and perhaps of all time – will defend her bantamweight title against Julianna Peña.
Though Nunes is, rightfully, expected to win, Peña comes with unwavering confidence and a level of toughness that few of Nunes’ opponents have displayed to date. That could make for a fun fight.
From elite-level title fights to guaranteed crowd-pleasers, the UFC schedule for the remainder of 2021 is packed with plenty for fans to look forward to. As ever, there’s also likely to be plenty of surprises along the way, making things even more dramatic.
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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