MMA Bouts We Need to See in 2024
With 2023 closing out in the near future, a new year of fights awaits us. 2024 could be a fascinating 12 months with UFC 300 around the corner and the news that the PFL and Bellator have merged in recent weeks. So, what fights need to be made for the upcoming year?
Talia Santos vs. Dakota Ditcheva
MMA news websites were incredibly surprised to learn that Thalia Santos had left the UFC despite being one of the higher-ranked flyweights in the division. One has to believe that she is chasing different opportunities within MMA rather than simply leaving the sport.
Fight fans would, in theory, love to see her participate in the PFL ranks and fight against the undefeated Dakota Ditcheva. The Manchester-born Muay Thai practitioner would provide stern opposition for her fellow flyweight, having reached the final of the 2023 European Championship, where she is set to fight Valentina Scatizzi. This fight would also serve as a decent measuring stick to see where the top PFL fighters rank against the best of the UFC.
Both women would truly ‘go for it’ in this fight, with both having a tendency to win by knockout. While the fighters would appreciate each others’ power and be wary of walking straight into a powerful blow, they wouldn’t change the system that has brought them unwavering popularity in the fight world to date.
Jon Jones vs. Tom Aspinall
Fight fans need to see the UFC Heavyweight Champion fight. Jon Jones won the title back in March 2023 against Ciryl Gane for the then-vacant strap. He was supposed to fight Stipe Miocic in mid-November but had to pull out of the fight due to a pectoral injury.
In direct response to Jones pulling out of the fight and his track record with the company, the UFC decided to name an interim heavyweight champion. As such, Tom Aspinall picked up the interim championship when he scored a first-round knockout win against Sergei Pavlovich, which was revered by MMA new sites.
With two heavyweight champions floating around the UFC, a unification bout needs to take place sooner rather than later. This could have played into Dana White’s hands. Could there be a more marketable fight than for the biggest prize in the company between two fighters representing the US and UK – arguably the two biggest markets in MMA?
Alexa Grasso vs. Valentina Shevchenko
Trilogies in MMA aren’t quite as common as in boxing, but there’s every reason why Alexa Grasso and Valentina Shevchenko should fight for the third time. Grasso will no doubt have recovered from her injury in the earlier months of 2024, meaning she will be available.
Valentina Shevchenko held the UFC flyweight championship from 2018 to early 2023 and defended it against all challengers like Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Liz Carmouche, and Jéssica Andrade. She won’t have forgotten about Grasso ending her title reign nor forgiven. The first fight saw her lose via a face crank submission in the fourth round, while the second ended in a split draw.
A third and final fight is surely needed for the 2024 calendar in order to draw a conclusion on this quality-defining rivalry. While Grasso has seldom won by finish, if she could knock out or make Shevchenko tap out again, it would truly make MMA breaking news, put this rivalry to bed, and allow the Mexican to take on new challenges.
Jason Jackson vs. Sadibou Sy
Now that the PFL and Bellator are operating under the same umbrella but are going to continue running as their entities, it opens up the door for cross-promotion fights. Fantasy fight bookers have long dreamed of seeing the best of each roster face-off, and now the chance is apparent.
Jason Jackson, as the Bellator Welterweight Champion, is set to carry the brand forward into this new era. On the other side of the company, there’s the Swedish Denzel Washington, Sadibou Sy, who won the 2022 PFL welterweight championship and is in the final of the 2023 edition.
A meeting between the two champions would set the tone for the entirety of all welterweight fighters, irrespective of the promotion they are aligned with. Jason Jackson would, in theory, fight for a decision win, having had lots of success with the judges – while Sy would try to end the fight with his fierce kickboxing techniques.
Francis Ngannou vs. Tyson Fury
Ok, this is a very speculative concept, but Francis Ngannou fought Tyson Fury in the boxing ring, what many would consider to be Fury’s home advantage in a match that made boxing news latest headlines at the time – fight fans would surely like to see whether the Morecambe fighter could hang in Ngannou’s wheelhouse, in the cage.
Whatever the buy rates were or weren’t, the fight itself was a success in Saudi Arabia as the sporting fixture entertained the local audience and those watching all around the world. While MMA might not have the same global appeal as boxing, the crossover demand is growing, and fight fans want to see boxers participate in MMA, as opposed to seeing the conventional MMA fighter try their hand at boxing.
In the hysteria of his last so-called retirement, Fury flirted with trying out MMA or even going to the WWE to become a professional wrestler before stating he didn’t actually want to step away from the world of boxing. Given that Ngannou is also very open to fighting in many disciplines, having signed with PFL, but also stated he wants to pursue boxing, there’s scope to see this fight again taking place in the ring or the cage in 2024. Furthermore, Frank Warren, who represents Fury, has already said that a re-match is likely to happen.
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