Longtime matchmaker Joe Silva also decided to step down last year. Let me slide for a moment into the shoes of his replacement, Sean Shelby, and suggest five fights that I’d love to see made in 2017.
Cowboy Cerrone v. Robbie Lawler
The perpetually active Cerrone has been on a tear since moving up to the 170 pound weight class. He will look to make it five straight wins in the division on January 28 against Jorge Masvidal. Lawler has been taking some time to let his body heal after Tyron Woodley ended his long title reign.
Neither of these decorated veterans ever seems to have a boring fight. A matchup between Cerrone and Lawler would almost certainly result in a crowd pleasing, stand up war.
Demetrious Johnson v. Dominick Cruz
The man they call Mighty Mouse has all but cleaned out the 125 pound division. There are no obvious challengers for his belt, so why not let him go up a weight class and attempt to avenge his last lose? Cruz handed DJ his last L all the way back on October 1, 2011.
Cruz no longer has to worry about defending the 135 pound strap after losing a tough five round battle with Cody Garbrandt. Johnson is in need of a marque opponent and the timing couldn’t be any better for a rematch between the future hall of famers.
Kron Gracie v. Cub Swanson
This one is a bit of a pipe dream as the 28-year-old son of mythical MMA figure Rickson Gracie currently fights under the Rizin banner in Japan. Kron recently put game veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri to sleep via Rear-Naked Choke.
Swanson is fresh off a glorious win over Doo Ho Choi in a bout that could be considered the fight of the year. A battle between Swanson and the promising son of a legend would have hardcore fans drooling.
Georges St. Pierre v. Nate Diaz
Who knows if we will ever see GSP fight in the octagon again? The greatest living welterweight has expressed on multiple occasions that he is ready and willing to return. So far he has been unable to reach a contractual agreement with the UFC to facilitate said return.
After two star-making fights with Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz is not going to want to step into the cage against anything less than a brand name. Given the history of bad blood between Georges and the Diaz brothers, this would be an easy fight to sell, assuming Dana White could make it happen.
Tony Ferguson v. Khabib Nurmagomedov
Could this one be any more obvious? Tony is on a 9 fight win streak. Khabib is 24-0. The UFC is trying to make the fight. Both fighters want it. The problem is that Tony wants to be paid equal to Khabib and Dana White says that Ferguson must honor his current contract.
One has to hope that a compromise can be reached and the fans get to see what should be a tremendous fight to determine who gets the first crack at Conor’s 155 pound belt.