UFC in 2022: Four Burning Questions Around the Biggest Octagon Stars to End the Wild Year

After years of setting back-to-back records, the UFC is set to launch things this week in 2022. The first fight card of the year means it’s time to see where things stand in this game and many champions have already booked for title defense. But there are still many unanswered topics on the table as Dana White and company seek to break more records for the third year in a row.

Although we don’t know exactly how things will turn out next year, CBS sports experts sat down to answer some burning questions before the 2022 UFC calendar began. Read on to see our thoughts on how the year will go for some of the biggest stars in the game.

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Let’s take a look at the questions and predictions of “Morning Kombat” host Brian Campbell as well as staff writers Brent Brookhouse and Shakiel Mahjouri.

Who finishes 2022 as the Lightweight Champion?

Brian Campbell: Islam Makhachev

If UFC Brass finally rewards him for his dominant 10-fight winning streak, the answer is Islam Makhachev. The UFC has the closest thing to the successor of retired legend Khabib Nurmagomedov’s student and longtime training partner “The Eagle”. Makhachev also offers a uniquely disturbing style matchup for champion Charles Oliveira’s dangerous theatrics. Although Makhachev can certainly handle himself on the ground in a way that is comparable to that of Nurmagomedov, he is a much more advanced striker and seems to have the mental strength to climb a 155-pound mountain. And has intangible abilities.

Brooke House, Exile: Charles Oliveira

Oliveira still has a funny skill. He can face absolute killers and avoid damage before taking advantage of the opponent’s weakness. Dangerous on foot and on the ground, they have become an incredibly difficult puzzle to solve. Oliveira Conor is fighting with McGregor and the UFC is likely to like the idea, as it is ridiculous that it is being considered that McGregor has a 1-3 record from 2018 and that he has three. Recently lost light weight competitions. McGregor could have won the fight on his feet, but he is incredibly sensitive to submission and has serious gas tank problems, which only get worse if he loses as much muscle in his frame. Adds Assuming Oliveira vs. McGregor is the direction things go, I have to support Oliveira. – Brooke House

No one can deny Oliveira’s greatness. Its two-pronged offense of dynamic strikes and dangerous submissions has overwhelmed almost every UFC lightweight champion in the last five years, including interim title holders. Only two men he has never met are left: Khabib Nurmagomedov and Connor McGregor. There are currently three viable challengers: Islam Makhachev, Benel Dariush and McGregor. Makhachev’s top control and McGregor’s accurate power are reasonable risks, but Oliveira leads in more aspects of the game. Dariush threatens to combine with Knockout Power and Fight of the Knight trends but is not as skilled as Oliveira. -.⁇ مہجوری⁇ n

Will English aggression continue?

Campbell: These are clearly the glorious days of MMA’s decorated history in the United Kingdom, like those of former Middleweight King Michael Bisping, thanks to his past achievements. But today the pool of emerging fighters from the area is only growing, including welterweight title contender Leon Edwards and emerging heavyweight Tom Spaniel, who appear to be closing in on their own shots in UFC Gold. But could the current attack lead to a permanent pipeline of top talent in the UFC? In this case, the wait-and-see approach is a more serious decision. Both Paddy Pumblett and Molly McCain can be more bark than bite, no matter how well captivated the crowd on either side of the pond. And while it has been fun to see the UK MMA grow in recent years, it is nowhere near the impact that Russia – particularly Dagestan – has had on the game at the same time.

Important: Spaniard and Arnold Allen are England’s best hopes for another world champion. Spaniel has passed every test in the UFC with flying colors. He set the record for the shortest route to five UFC wins by defeating five opponents in 14 minutes and 24 seconds – less than a full three round fight. His combination of crisp boxing, aggressive wrestling and submission CV will upset most heavyweights. Alan Featherweight is ready to fight the big contenders but he has to prove that he can hang out with the division’s elite. Pumblett and McCain’s charismatic duo are great helpers, but they have a lot of developmental potential. At the moment, it feels less like an attack and more like a covert operation. Aspinall hits the front door while Allen hides from behind.

What happens in the inverted heavyweight division?

Campbell: Trying to cripple the UFC’s future in heavyweight is incredibly difficult, largely due to unknown people about the return of defending champion Francis Ngano. Not only is Ngannou recovering from knee surgery at the age of 35, but he is also a free agent who has stated on record that he will not re-sign the promotion until he has boxed Tyson Fury. Not allowed. The possible entry of longtime lightweight heavyweight champion John Jones adds to the excitement and uncertainty of the future. If Ngannou is to run, the Jones-Stipe Miocic contest for the interim title will be the most historically relevant match that can be made in the game today. Add Searle Gain and Spaniel as those waiting for the next crack and reason to believe that Ngannou’s UFC return is certain. The UFC has the potential to turn Ngannou’s star into Jones, who is still considered by many to be MMA’s GOAT, despite a long vacation and constant anxiety outside the cage.

Brooke House: The UFC’s heavyweight division has always been dominated by at most one or two personalities. This is still the case but it is in a very strange place. Ngannou is injured and has problems with management. Jones still has to fight heavyweights and Miocic has only one fight since August 2020. Miocic vs. Jones is a sensible, money-making interim title fight while all of Ngannou’s problems are solved – or not. Aspinall can come along and shake things up, but unless Jones fights in the division and we know what’s going on with Ngannou, the division’s identity is still somewhat blurred. It is hoped that the end of 2022 will provide an explanation and establish a more defined roadmap for the future.

Important: Ngannou is in a unique position with UFC Brass. The heavyweight champion and his administration remained steadfast in their desire for a more equitable deal. UFC President Dana White and company rarely come to the negotiating table. The return of John Jones vs. Stipe Meuk Ngano feels closer to reality. Unfortunately, the recurring problems in Jones’ personal life have always cast doubt on his struggling future. Aspinall and Tai Tuivasa can take the lead with victories over Curtis Blaydes and Ciryl Gane, respectively, but both find themselves in a tough match-up. I think Jones and Mayo will reach an agreement to fight this year as the division finds itself a new number. 1 of Aspinall or Gane competitors.

The race for the best fighter of the year accelerated

Campbell: While the second half of 2022 could take everything from featherweight champion Alexander Volkanowski to the newly crowned 205-pound king Jerry Prochazka, do not sleep on the ability of bantamweight champion Aljamin Sterling to do so. Working on the deepest division of the game, Sterling eroded Paria’s reputation for winning the controversial ineligible title, leading him to persuade Peter Yan in his April rematch. If Sterling is to do the same against another former champion at TJ Dillashaw this fall, it will be difficult to dismiss Aljo as the most impressive year in the game.

Important: Charles Oliveira is less than Kamaro Usman in the list of CBS Sports 2021 Fighter of the Year (sorry Brent Brock House) but he cannot be denied a second time. Oliveira’s weight loss at UFC 274 was overshadowed by another brain-blowing performance. This time, it was the first-round victory coming from behind Justin Gathage, who could be the leading candidate for the round of the year. The “Du Bronx” is the king of light-hearted mountains, and rumors of a dream match against Khabib Nurmagomedov appeared sooner than expected. Oliveira hopes to have another fight book by the end of this year. Two big wins in 2022 and last year’s momentum should work hard enough for Oliveira’s legacy to be named Fighter of the Year.

Brooke House: Alexander Volkanovsky, assuming he beats Max Holloway. The Fighter of the Year debate is getting a little boring, with only one small set of names included. If Volkanowski manages to defeat Holloway for the third time, after a landslide victory over Korean zombies, he will likely fight for the third time before the end of the year. This resume is as good as anyone else in the game. Defeating Holloway is certainly not an easy task, which is why Volkanowski’s victory will make him a solid choice for the best fighter of the year.