UFC 200 was promoted as the biggest event in mixed martial arts history, but even though the pay-per-view has come and gone, plenty of big fights remain on the schedule for 2016. The company’s top star will likely fight two more times this year, and an upcoming card will feature a highly anticipated debut.
Ronda Rousey could return to the octagon by the end of the calendar year, but she might not fight again until 2017 after losing her women’s bantamweight title in November of last year. Daniel Cormier will likely defend his light heavyweight championship against the winner of Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira at UFC 202, though that potential fight doesn’t have a date. It looks like Michael Bisping will defend his middleweight championship against Dan Henderson at some point in 2016.
The top three pound-for-pound fighters in UFC--Demetrious Johnson, Dominick Cruz and Jon Jones--don’t have fights scheduled for 2016. Brock Lesnar, arguably the biggest draw in UFC history, likely won’t fight again after failing two drug tests ahead of his UFC 200 fight.
Below are the top five UFC fights that are scheduled for 2016.
Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley, UFC 201
Lawler is the best pound-for-pound fighter that has a fight scheduled in 2016, but he’s far from a guarantee to retain his title. UFC’s No.4 ranked fighter will put his welterweight belt on the line against Woodley on Saturday in Atlanta. Lawler is on a five-fight winning streak, though each of his last four bouts have made it to a fifth and final round. It’s the first time that Woodley will enter the octagon since January of last year when he defeated Kelvin Gastelum.
Lawler is a -205 favorite, and he’s going for his third straight successful title defense.
Conor McGregor vs. Nate Diaz, UFC 202
It might be the biggest rematch in UFC history. When McGregor and Diaz fought for the first time at UFC 196 in March, the PPV generated 1.5 million buys. McGregor remains the sport’s biggest star, and after losing his first ever UFC fight, he finds himself in an unfamiliar position. McGregor was ahead after the first round of the welterweight fight, but he was unable to knock out Diaz, who submitted him in the second round to pull off the upset. With the fight set for 170 pounds once again, the bout is essentially a tossup.
It was supposed to be the main event of UFC 200, but the fight was moved to Aug. 20. The PPV could do more buys than UFC 200, which was expected to be the biggest event in UFC history.
Conor McGregor vs. Jose Aldo, Unknown
The hype for McGregor-Aldo II will be considerably less if the Irishman can’t take care of business at UFC 202, but the fight is one of the year’s most intriguing bouts either way. McGregor says he’ll come back down to 145 pounds after facing Diaz to defend his featherweight title for the first time. Aldo earned a title shot by defeating Frankie Edgar at UFC 200, and he’s looking for revenge after dropping the featherweight belt 13 seconds into his UFC 194 fight against McGregor.
Aldo has expressed concerns that McGregor won’t drop to 145 pounds to defend his title, though the bout is all but official. It could headline the card at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 at Madison Square Garden.
Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem, UFC 203
The heavyweight division has been one of the most unpredictable in UFC over the past few years, making the upcoming title match all the more interesting. Miocic needed less than three minutes to take the championship from Fabricio Werdum at UFC 198 on May 14, winning his third straight fight by knockout. Having won four fights in a row, most recently a second-round TKO of Andrei Arlovski, Overeem gets his first title shot after fighting in UFC for nearly five years.
Miocic will defend his title in front of his hometown fans of Cleveland in the main event of UFC 203 on Sept. 10.
CM Punk vs. Mickey Gall, UFC 203
Punk and Gall only have two professional MMA fights between them, but fans have been waiting for Punk to make his debut for nearly two years. Coming from WWE, Punk is one of UFC’s biggest stars, even though he’s yet to step foot inside the octagon. He was supposed to have his first fight in 2015, but multiple injuries have delayed his foray into the world of MMA. Punk doesn’t have the amateur wrestling background that Brock Lesnar did when he made the transition from WWE, and he’s a significant underdog against a relatively unknown opponent.
The three-round non-title fight isn’t the main event of UFC 203, though it will be the fight that many fans are paying to see.