B/R Staff Roundtable: Blockbuster UFC Fights We Want to See in 2020

Kelsey McCarsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2020

B/R Staff Roundtable: Blockbuster UFC Fights We Want to See in 2020

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    Conor McGregor returns on Jan. 18 at UFC 246.
    Conor McGregor returns on Jan. 18 at UFC 246.John Locher/Associated Press

    The UFC kicks off its blockbuster 2020 pay-per-view schedule in less than two weeks with Conor McGregor’s long-awaited comeback bout on Jan. 18 against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246 in Las Vegas. 

    But while the MMA world is buzzing about the imminent return of the “Notorious One” in what will likely turn out to be one of the highest-selling UFC PPV event of the year, the Bleacher Report MMA crew has been anxiously bantering back and forth with each other all day over the idea that the UFC might be set up for one of its biggest and best years ever. 

    Because not only is McGregor-Cerrone on the way later this month, but Jon Jones also returns on Feb. 8 for his next UFC light heavyweight title defense against undefeated phenom Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in Houston.

    On top of that, the first-quarter UFC schedule has the audacity to feature UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s epic clash against Tony Ferguson on April 18 at UFC 249 in Brooklyn.

    Are you kidding me?

    Could things really get any better over the rest of the year than that? 

    Well, we think it could, and that’s why we gathered the crew together this time to talk about.

    Hey guys, what blockbuster UFC fight beyond the awesome ones already scheduled do you want to see most during 2020?

Taylor: Khabib vs. GSP

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    Does GSP have one more big fight on his mind?
    Does GSP have one more big fight on his mind?Jeff Bottari/Getty Images

    Tom Taylor: Poor, poor Georges St-Pierre.

    The former UFC welterweight and middleweight champ has been trying to retire for what seems like an eternity, but we just won’t let him.

    Every time it seems like he has successfully crept out of the limelight, one of his coaches or training partners will hint that he is still training or still feeling competitive, and the next thing you know he’s being called out by Khabib Nurmagomedov or Kamaru Usman, and the entire combat sports world is talking about it. It feels increasingly like the sport that made him a star is holding him hostage.

    And here I am contributing to the problem.

    If St-Pierre’s competitive fire really is still burning, and if he really is keeping the door ajar for a comeback, then I would absolutely love to see him fight the reigning lightweight champ Nurmagomedov.

    At welterweight, at a 165-pound catchweight, at lightweight… it doesn’t matter.

    It’s hard to imagine a more compelling matchup. On the surface, it’s a clash between two of the biggest stars in MMA history—a riveting enough angle on its own. Yet there are so many additional variables to consider.

    Who is the better grappler?

    How would Nurmagomedov deal with St-Pierre’s size and strength advantages?

    How would St-Pierre look after such a long period away from the cage?

    How would Nurmagomedov fair if St-Pierre forced a striking battle?

    At 38, is St-Pierre on the wrong side of his competitive prime?

    The only way these questions can be answered is if the pair fight. The only way the pair will fight is if Nurmagomedov gets by Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April, and St-Pierre decides the unbeaten Russian is an alluring enough challenge to end his retirement for.

    The realist in me says it’ll never happen.

    But damn, I hope it does. 

Fitzsimmons: McGregor vs. Masvidal

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    Lyle Fitzsimmons: Let’s start by stating a few facts.

    Our man Kelsey was spot-on in his intro. There are huge fights already on the books and a ridiculous number of big ones that could be just an email or a phone call from getting nailed down.

    And I’ll concede that a good collection of them may be better – based on styles, significance or other competitive criteria – than the one I most want to see before the ball drops on 2020.

    But it doesn’t make me want Conor McGregor vs. Jorge Masvidal any less.

    In case you’ve lived in an internet-unfriendly cave since this time last January, the UFC’s most notorious villain announced recently that he’ll return after spending all of 2019 on the shelf. And the Miami-born Masvidal, who’d lost four of seven heading into last year, recast himself as the promotion’s reigning badass with consecutive stops of Darren Till (KO 2), Ben Askren (KO 1) and Nate Diaz (TKO 3).

    In other words, it’s a match made not just in heel heaven… but in timely heel heaven.

    And when it’s signed and sealed, just imagine the fun that press conferences with Masvidal will deliver.

    Creative curse words to be unveiled. Entourages to be involved. A scuffle to more than likely follow.

    All the stuff a live editor's dreams are made of.

    Where Jon Jones defending a pound-for-pound pedestal and Khabib Nurmagomedov prolonging an unbeaten reign of terror are certainly worthy of attention, there’s simply no fight – short of maybe Floyd Mayweather meeting Amanda Nunes in a cage (hey Dana, remember who suggested it!) – that’ll move the hardcore/mainstream/casual sports fan needles more than McGregor-Masvidal.

    And given all the page views, click-throughs and freelance windfalls it’s bound to prompt, perhaps Kelsey, Tom and I will team up on introducing our own brand of whiskey – or at the very least installing a jacuzzi in the MMA staff pool at the palatial B/R headquarters.

    Last one in’s a rotten journalist, boys.

     

McCarson: Jones vs. Ngannou

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    Is it times for Jones to move up to heavyweight?
    Is it times for Jones to move up to heavyweight?Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Kelsey McCarson: What a great assortment of fights Tom and Lyle have suggested. Honestly, I can’t believe someone over at the UFC offices hasn’t noticed all the great ideas we always have over here and tried to lure us away to become superstar UFC matchmakers. 

    Seriously, though, Khabib vs. GSP and McGregor vs. Masvidal would both be outstanding fights, and my favorite thing about those two picks, in particular, is that both have the potential to actually happen during 2020.

    I think my pick might be the same. 

    Because UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has been the best fighter in the world for what seems like forever now. While I get that he’s not done cleaning out the 205-division just yet with undefeated phenom Dominick Reyes still on deck, after UFC 247 is over I would assume Jones would feel like he’s gone up and down that contenders list enough by now to feel like he’s ready for something else. 

    With that in mind, there’s no better thing for him to do after assumedly beating Reyes next month in Houston than moving up to the heavyweight ranks. I’m on record for preferring Jones go after UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic for historical purposes, but it looks like Miocic is intent on getting a third fight with Daniel Cormier.

    Besides, Jones beat the brakes off Cormier enough times already at 205 pounds for me to get on board with the idea that suggests that since Cormier can defeat Miocic as he did in their first fight, then Jones could probably do it, too. 

    But terrifying heavyweight monster Frances Ngannou is another story completely.  

    The 34-year-old is a giant of a man hosting soul-stirring power in each of his limbs. There’s a large part of me that’s simply terrified for every single opponent he faces and also their families in every one of his fights. 

    He's that scary. 

    I might be even more scared for Jones, who has likely never faced such a hulking behemoth in his life. 

    But if Jones could pull off the win? That would be a huge feather in the American’s cap.

    Honestly, that’s a bold thing to say about a fighter who was easily the most dominant MMA athlete of the last decade, but it’s also totally true. 

    For me, Jones vs. Ngannou would add even more amazing intrigue to an already stacked 2020. Let’s hope that fight, as well as the other great fights Tom and Lyle put forth, get added to the UFC’s mix.