The end of the year is almost near and we are left to look back on 2020 for what it was, and also for what it wasn’t.
While fight fans across the world were lucky enough to have Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) come out of COVID-19 limbo back in May to stage fights almost every weekend through December, things didn’t go completely as planned. With travel restrictions, venue issues, positive coronavirus tests, untimely contract disputes, and even retirements, we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to in 2020.
Whether it was all-time grudge matches, legendary fighters moving up in weight, or a fight five years in the making, fight fans missed out on some prime Octagon clashes. We’ve compiled the Top 5 missed matchups of the year below that may or may not have the chance of happening again.
5) Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns
This welterweight title fight isn’t a must-have for fight fans, especially considering Burns just burst onto the title scene this year. However, Usman vs. Burns was booked twice in 2020 and failed to culminate both times. Their first scheduled bout at UFC 251 was canceled after Burns tested positive for COVID-19. The Brazilian was then replaced by Jorge Masvidal. The second scheduled title fight, which was expected to take place at UFC 256 earlier this month, was scratched after “Nigerian Nightmare” needed more time to prepare for his next title defense.
Despite the two different cancellations in 2020, Usman vs. Burns is still lined up to take place early next year. Again, it’s not the sexiest matchup on paper. But given Burns’ abilities on the ground and recent success inside of the Octagon this makes for one of the hardest tests for Usman. After all, the UFC welterweight champion trains alongside Burns at Sanford MMA on a daily basis.
4) Jorge Masvidal vs. Colby Covington
While a welterweight grudge match between ex-friends Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington was never actually booked in 2020 it certainly had a good chance of happening. Masvidal had come into the year as one of the promotion’s biggest stars while Covington was looking for an opportunity to put himself right back into title contender after losing to Usman last December. If not for COVID-19 and the hectic schedule UFC was forced to follow the real life beef between “Gamebred” and “Chaos” could have easily spilled into the cage.
Instead, Masvidal wasted half of 2020 arguing with UFC over his contract while finally coming back to lose to Usman on short notice at UFC 251, which turned into one of the biggest UFC events of the year. As for Covington, he came back to fight rival Tyron Woodley at UFC Vegas 11 this past September and ended up dominating the former UFC welterweight champion for a TKO stoppage.
According to a recent interview with Submission Radio, Covington is ready to book his long-awaited showdown with Masvidal for early 2021. “Chaos” says the ball is currently in Masvidal’s court.
3) Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou
A potential heavyweight clash between former UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and top contender Francis Ngannou came out of nowhere in 2020, but it still caused quite the chaos.
Jones and Ngannou were both pushing for the heavyweight affair back in May but UFC refused to pay up to book it. “Bones” proceeded to clash with UFC over his fighter pay and threatened to walk away from the sport for multiple years. Ngannou seemed to share a similar take on the situation, but the fight was never booked.
Since then, Jones has officially relinquished his UFC light heavyweight title and moved up to heavyweight. Ngannou has been scheduled to fight Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title early next year. If “Predator” is able to knock off the champ it will pave the way for his anticipated showdown with Jones sometime next summer.
2) Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor 2
It shouldn’t be surprising to see Khabib vs. McGregor 2 land on this list. Not only do the two lightweights share one of the biggest rivalries in the history of the sport but they produced the highest-grossing UFC event of all time just two years ago at UFC 229, which ended in Khabib choking “Notorious” out.
While McGregor would have had to put in a lot more work in 2020 to land his coveted rematch with “The Eagle” the Irishman was planning on locking that down for Moscow late this year. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 ruining McGregor’s chances to put together a win streak and Khabib eventually walking away from the sport fight fans never got to see the rematch.
That said, McGregor could still fight his way into a bout with Khabib in 2021 if he can defeat Dustin Poirier next month at UFC 257 and Dana White can coax “Eagle” out of retirement.
1) Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
There’s a reason why Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson is listed here at No. 1. and I think we all know why. This year marked the fifth time in the past five years that this lightweight matchup was scheduled to take place. And for the fifth time it was cancelled.
This time around, Khabib and Ferguson were slated to meet at UFC 249 back in May in what was the promotion’s first event back from COVID-19 hiatus. However, Khabib was eventually pulled from the card due to travel restrictions and Justin Gaethje was asked to step in. Gaethje surprised many and handed “El Cucuy” his first loss in over eight years. Gaethje would go on to fight Khabib for the undisputed title at UFC 254 this past October and ended up losing via submission.
Unfortunately, it seems as if this is the last time Khabib vs. Ferguson will ever be booked. That’s because Nurmagomedov is currently retired and if he comes back it will only be for one more fight to cement his undefeated record at 30-0. It’s also because Ferguson went on to lose yet another fight in 2020 when he got manhandled by Charles Oliveira earlier this month at UFC 256. Things would have to completely change over the next 12 months for this lightweight matchup to ever make sense again.
Which potential 2020 matchup did you miss the most?
This poll is closed
Khabib vs. Ferguson
Khabib vs. McGregor 2
Jones vs. Ngannou
Masvidal vs. Covington
Usman vs. Burns
Other (Comment Below)
Stick with Mania for more end-of-the-year coverage!
Get the latest gear
- 2023 Panini Prizm UFC Factory Sealed Retail Blaster Box
- 2023 Panini Select UFC Factory Sealed Retail Blaster Box
- Islam Makhachev Walkout Jersey
- UFC Fanatics Single Glove Display Case
- 2022 Panini Donruss Optic Retail Blaster Box
- 2023 Donruss UFC Retail Blaster Box
- Miesha Tate UFC Authentic Plaque
- Brock Lesnar WWE Home Sweet Home Collage