When: January 16
Who: Featherweight Bout: Calvin Kattar (22-4) vs. Max Holloway (21-6)
Why: Holloway fell twice to Alexander Volkanovski and has lost three out of his last four. Max desperately needs to get back on track with an emphatic win, but in Kattar, he has someone who knocked out the notoriously tough Jeremy Stephens with his elbows, then pulled the brake on the Dan Ige hype train. Kattar is looking to use this fight to get into title contention, while Max needs to rebound to stay relevant.
When: January 20
Who: Welterweight Bout: Khamzat Chimaev (9-0) vs. Leon Edwards (18-3)
Why: Two fighters on absolute tears square up in the main event of a weekday card. Edwards has reeled off eight in a row, while Chimaev is being very, very highly touted by Dana White. Heavy title shot implications on the line here.
When: January 23
Who: Lightweight Bout: Conor McGregor (22-4) vs. Dustin Poirier (26-6)
Why: These two tangled in 2014, in the very early days of both men’s UFC careers. Since then, Poirier has gone 10-2, held interim UFC gold, and has not only become one of the UFC’s best fighters, but a bonafide draw. McGregor became, well, McGregor, a worldwide combat sports phenomenon. I never liked how their first fight ended, Poirier ducking into a weird strike that seemed to clip him weird on the back of his head. You don’t always get a chance at redemption, and after six and a half years, The Diamond has that chance.
When: January 30
Who: Welterweight Bout: Carlos Condit (31-13) vs. Matt Brown (22-17)
Why: Hooo boy, if you like crusty old gunslingers, this is right up your alley. This has no title relevance, as Condit, since defeating Nick Diaz for the interim UFC welterweight title, has gone 3-8. Brown, since he earned a title eliminator bout with Robbie Lawler, has gone 3-6. So this is firmly on the senior circuit, but it could be two of the scrappiest fighters in UFC history putting on one final showdown until someone falls.
When: February 6
Who: Bantamweight Bout: Cory Sandhagen (13-2) vs. Frankie Edgar (24-8-1)
Why: A bantamweight championship shot might be on the line for the winner. Edgar made a successful debut at 135lbs, winning a close, slightly controversial split-decision over Pedro Munhoz, while Sandhagen hit a speed bump in getting submitted by Aljamain Sterling, rebounded nicely by spinning wheel kicking Marlon Moraes.
When: February 6
Who: Heavyweight Bout: Alexander Volkov (32-8) vs. Alistair Overeem (47-18)
Why: BELLATOR VS. STRIKEFORCE CHAMPIONS COLLIDE!
When: February 13
Who: UFC Welterweight Championship: Kamaru Usman (c) (17-1) vs. Gilbert Burns (19-3)
Why: A title fight that’s supposed to have happened in July might finally, finally, by-god finally happen.
When: February 13
Who: Middleweight Bout: Chris Weidman (15-5) vs. Uriah Hall (16-9)
Why: Has Uriah Hall finally put it all together? Has he finally shed the “potential” label? He TKO’d a middleweight legend in his last fight in Anderson Silva, now he has a chance to defeat the man who vanquished Silva’s reign at the top.
When: February 27
Who: Light Heavyweight Bout: Dominick Reyes (12-2) vs. Jiri Prochazka (27-3-1)
Why: Since losing to Muhammed Lawal in 2015, Prochazka has reeled off eleven straight wins, ten by knockout, clearing out RIZIN, including a successful UFC debut, knocking out Volkan Oezdemir. In Reyes, you have a fighter that should have defeated Jon Jones, even with a busted leg. Then, somewhat surprisingly, lost a bid for the vacant UFC Light Heavyweight title to Jan Blachowicz. 205lbs is so shallow that the winner here is no more than another win away from a crack at gold, and in Prochazka’s case, might be less.
When: March 6
Who: UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship: Amanda Nunes (c) (20-4) vs. Megan Anderson (11-4)
Why: The two-division UFC world champion, and maybe the most dominant fighter in the world, Nunes, defends her title against the 6-foot-tall Anderson, the former Invicta featherweight champion who is coming off of two finishes.