The Octagon has seen some truly epic clashes take place inside it this year. There’s been Justin Gaethje versus Michael Chandler at UFC 268, in which Gaethje cracked Chandler with an uppercut that reverberated around the world. The Featherweight title battle between Brian Ortega and the champ, Andrei Volkanovski, at UFC 266 was also memorable for those submission attempts by Ortega, as was the brutal contest between Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka in the light heavyweight division at UFC Vegas 25, which ended with Reyes landed unconscious on the floor after a spinning elbow from Prochazka.
So it’s been a good year for the UFC in terms of matchups, and when the organization enters 2022, it will treat fans to more thrilling cards. Below are some of the big battles to look forward to.
Francis Ngannou vs Ciryl Gane (UFC 270)
On Saturday, January 22, Francis “The Predator” Ngannou and Ciryl “Bon Gamin” Gane will meet in the center of the Octagon at the Honda Center, Anaheim, California. There they’ll be contesting the Heavyweight championship. Ngannou, from Cameroon, returns to the UFC cage as the undisputed champ.
Ngannou has experienced frustration this year in the UFC, following the announcement of an interim title bout only three months after “The Predator” had knocked out Stipe Miopic for the title at UFC 260. He’d cruised to the win, determined not to make the same mistakes he made against Miopic at UFC 220, in which Miopic had used some impressive grappling to help him to victory against Ngannou.
The Predator’s opponent, Gane, who hails from France, could prove a much tougher challenge. The interim champion is currently undefeated in 2021. He’s looked in mean form this year, having beaten Alexander Volkov and Jairzinho Rozenstruik both by unanimous decision, whereas in his interim bout with Derrick Lewis he left no doubts about who the winner was with a dominant performance that culminated in a technical knockout in the third round.
This good form continues from 2020, during which he stopped Junior dos Santos in the second round of their clash at UFC 256, beat Tanner Bose by split decision at UFC Fight Night and Raphael Pessoa Nunes by first-round submission at UFC Fight Night in Uruguay.
The UFC betting markets will undoubtedly find this one a close call, but we’re expecting Gane to be the slight favorite. Ngannou has had just one fight this year, which he lost, whereas the Frenchman has stayed sharp. Not only this, but Ngannou may already be taking his eye off the ball. It’s no secret that he’s long wished to fight Jon Jones, a prospect that is reported to have been at the back of his mind in the run-up to this fight.
Brandon Moreno vs Deiveson Figueiredo (UFC 270)
The Heavyweight title isn’t the only title that will be on the line at UFC 270. In the Flyweight division, the champion “The Assassin Baby” Brandon Moreno and Deiveson “Deus da Guerra” Figueiredo will be going head to head for the third time.
The two fighters first met at UFC 256 in 2020, and the hard-fought contest ended in a majority draw with one judge scoring Figueiredo as the winner. In June 2021, Moreno made sure there was a clear winner, becoming the champion by putting on a dominant performance and submitting Figueiredo with a rear-naked choke in the third round.
It’s been the Mexican’s only fight of the year so far, and when the time comes to defend his championship in January, he may be a little rusty. His last loss was in May 2018 at UFC Fight by decision, which went to opponent Alexandra Pantoja.
Loss in the UFC is something with which Figeuiredo is especially familiar either. He has only one other loss in the organization, which he suffered in March 2018 at the hands of Jussier Formiga in Nashville.
When it comes to rematches, Figueiredo has a respectable record in the cage. Although he may have lost his title to Moreno in their second battle, he’s gone up twice against Joseph Benavidez and come out on top. In their first Octagon tear-up, in March, he won with a straight knockout, and in their second encounter, in July, he ended the contest by submitting Benavidez.
Jared Cannonier vs Derek Brunson
At UFC 270, the Middleweight title will also be disputed, with Jared “Tha Killer Gorilla” Cannonier going up against Derek “The 1” Brunson.
Cannonier has fought just once this year, which he did against Kelvin Gastelum, and emerged victorious with a unanimous decision. Gastelum had displayed fast hands and speedy footwork, but “Tha Killer Gorilla” Cannonier dished out the punishment in the form of power punches and managed to drop Gastelum early in the fight. The two would go back and forth, leaving the result in the hands of the judges.
Brunson, has fought twice this year, defeating another “gorilla”, this time Brit Darren “The Gorilla” Till, by submission in September and Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland in March. His last loss was in November 2018 and was to “The Last Stylebender” Israel Adesanya by a humiliating technical knockout in the first round.
The UFC delivers excitement every year. This year has been no different, and neither will 2022 be. The fighters in the matchups above will be hoping to get their 2022 campaign off to the best start possible with a win. If some fight well enough, they could even leave the cage as a champion at the end of their first fight of the year.