NEXT year is already shaping up to be a massive one for the UFC – who are still by far the leading mixed martial arts promotion in the world.

The MMA leader has some massive fights on the horizon, many of which have fans salivating.

Heavyweight champ Francis Ngannou is due to defend his belt against former team-mate and interim titleholder Cyril Gane at UFC 270 on January 22.

And rising superstar Israel Adesanya will renew his rivalry with former middleweight king Robert Whittaker the following month at UFC 271.

Although there are several mouthwatering fights to look forward to, there are plenty of bouts that still need making.

And with that in mind, SunSport thought it'd only be right to list seven of the fights we simply have to see next year.

Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor IIII

Conor McGregor may be 2-1 down in his series with Dustin Poirier, but the pair simply have to run things back given the manner in which their trilogy fight ended.

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The unfortunate leg break McGregor suffered in the first round of their July trilogy fight left more questions than answers.

Although Poirier was clearly getting the better of him, one can't say definitively that he was going to have his hand raised.

McGregor is no stranger to making a second-round comeback, with his UFC 189 victory over Chad Mendes a testament to that fact.

The bad blood coupled with the what-ifs makes a fourth fight between the pair a must-happen.

And given Poirier's recent defeat to champion Charles Oliveira, it's likely it could end up coming to fruition.

Gilbert Burns vs Khamzat Chimaev

The Khamzat Chimaev steam train kept rolling in 2021, despite his Covid-enforced hiatus from the octagon.

Borz steamrolled the previously No11-ranked Li Jingliang at UFC 267 to cement his status as an elite welterweight.

But if he wants to rise up the ranks even faster and potentially fight for the title by the end of the year, he must face Brazilian grappling phenom Gilbert Burns.

SunSport understands the match-up was in the works last month, although it seems to have gone cold.

The prospect of the grappling gurus going head-to-head with one another is a real mouthwatering prospect, aside from the fact the winner of the bout would likely earn a welterweight title.

Francis Ngannou vs Jon Jones

Jon Jones' long-awaited heavyweight debut is set to take place next year now that his latest legal issues have been resolved.

Bones has set his sights on the winner of Ngannou's January clash with Gane.

And should Ngannou best his former team-mate, the UFC should do everything in their power to put The Predator in a blockbuster showdown with Bones.

Jones' body of work at 205lbs has earned him the right to walk straight into a title shot, regardless of the outcome of Ngannou vs Gane.

Let's hope his issues with the UFC have all been resolved so he can face the winner, which, from a style standpoint, fans hope will be Ngannou.

Kamaru Usman vs Leon Edwards

Leon Edwards's crack at UFC gold is perhaps the most elusive in UFC history.

The soft-spoken but brutal Brummie bruiser is undefeated in his last ten fights and was on an eight-fight win streak before his no contest with Belal Muhammad in March.

Rocky has done more than enough to earn a rematch with welterweight king Kamaru Usman, the man responsible for his second and last defeat inside the octagon.

It's high time meritocracy returned to the sport and the slick southpaw be given his shot at revenge

Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington

Former best mates turned rivals Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington have been going back and forth with one another for the best part of two years.

The feud, according to Masvidal, began when Covington refused to pay one of his coaches for his interim welterweight title fight with Rafael dos Anjos in 2018.

Since then, the former roommates have traded several verbal jabs in the media, with Covington repeatedly branding his old pal 'Street Judas'.

The heat between these two needle movers is very real and one that can make the UFC a boatload of cash.

So they'd be wise to make the fight fans of both men are desperate to see.

Nate Diaz vs Vicente Luque

Nate Diaz has one fight left on his UFC contract – so why not make it a barnburner?

The Ultimate Fighter season five winner set his sights on a showdown with fellow scrapper Vincente Luque months ago.

And a bout with the Brazilian is exactly the type of match-up Diaz would thrive in. Both men want it, fans want it. But for some strange reason, the UFC brass doesn't seem to want it.

Perhaps they want to keep Diaz on ice as a possible opponent for McGregor's comeback fight. Who knows?

But they could also make the most of Diaz's star power by putting him in there with a fellow dog in Luque.

Sean O'Malley vs Cody Garbrandt

Surging bantamweight prospect Sean O'Malley is on course to solidify himself as a serious bantamweight title contender next year.

So why not put him in there against a former champ in Cody Garbrandt? The pair have real disdain for one another and both command big followings.

And their viral clash at the UFC 269 press conference earlier this month has only served to further whet fans' appetites for the match-up.

The rewards for the victor would be great too. For O'Malley, a win over the highly-respected former champion would likely catapult him to the top-five of the stacked bantamweight division.

And for Gabrandt, who is 1-5 in his last six following a knockout loss in his flyweight debut to Kai Kara-France this month, a win over Suga would see his stock rise considerably and put him back on the path to reclaiming the 135lb belt.

All the seeds are planted for a fan-friendly O'Malley vs Garbrandt bout. Let's hope the UFC doesn't fumble the bag with this one.


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