The Most Exciting Fights to Kick-off 2020
We check out the world of combat's biggest bouts to get the new year underway.
The usual Christmas lull has left fight fans ready for some high quality, high stakes fights. Luckily the drought is set to break right away.
First up, the UFC kicks off 2020 with the return of the superstar villain Conor McGregor in his first non-title fight in three and a half years. The Irishman is in desperate need of a win, having posted losses to Floyd Mayweather and Khabib Nurmagomedov since his last win over Eddie Alvarez in 2016. And in Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone, he has an opponent who could deliver a range of outcomes, all of them exciting. With the most wins, finishes and post-fight bonuses in UFC history, Cerrone is as close to guaranteed excitement as MMA gets.
After Andy Ruiz Jr ruined heavyweight boxing’s attempted year of meaningful title fights, the big boys are finally back to their scheduled programming with the long-awaited rematch between WBC champion Deontay Wilder and lineal champ Tyson Fury.
Following a 2018 bout where both fighters delivered on their potential and still only managed a draw, few fights in boxing history carry the same level of intrigue. The hardest puncher to ever throw leather facing the most skilled pugilist in the division without a loss between them, anyone who tells you they know how the fight will go is lying.
And if the boxing gods decide to smile on fans, we may still see the winner meet unified champ Anthony Joshua later in the year, although likely one belt lighter.
March sees the first big title fight in women’s MMA, with UFC strawweight champion Zhang Weili making her first defence against the former scariest woman on the planet Joanna Jedrzejczyk. After going two wins and three losses in her last five fights, Jedrzejczyk’s career is on a knife’s edge. But the Sanda specialist Zhang has the kind of walk-forward pressure game that could fit perfectly into JJ’s expert footwork and counterpunching combinations. With both fighters averaging over six significant strikes landed per minute the matchup is sure to be a festival of technical violence that could threaten striking records.
By far the most anticipated fight on the MMA calendar - again - is the April 19th lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and the former interim champ Tony Ferguson. There’s not much more to be said about the fight now that it has been booked for the fifth time. Since their first potential fight in 2015, both men have gone six and zero and increased the mythical nature of the fight to unicorn status.
And finally, we have the unconfirmed, but the tantalising prospect of undefeated IBF lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez meeting the Ukranian master Vasiliy Lomachenko. 22-year-old Lopez has torn through 15 straight victories in three years and has had his sights set on Hi-Tek the entire time. Such has been Lomachenko’s class that he has had trouble finding quality opponents and the young Honduran-American with true knockout power is the most exciting prospect he’s had in years. Even better, the fight would unify all four major titles and name the first undisputed lightweight champion since Pernell Whitaker and the first of the four-belt era.
We’re only days into the new decade but the future for combat sports is already as bright as ever.