It has been a fascinating year of action inside the octagon, and that shows no sign of stopping in 2022, as a host of new faces will be looking to take giant strides in their careers next year.
Some of the top stars will once again be back in the octagon, with Conor McGregor and Francis Ngannou both likely to return at some point in the next 12 months.
As in the NBA we are always looking to find the best 2, in the UFC we also want to find promising talents. So, who are some of the bright stars that fans should be looking out for in 2022?
Few stars have made such an impression in their UFC debut than Paddy Pimblett. The fighter from Liverpool, England has already been compared to Conor McGregor following his first bout in the UFC, and the 26-year-old is expected to have a huge year in the company next year. His first fight with the company came in September on the Brunson vs Till undercard.
He was very dominant in that showing, winning by KO in the first round against Luigi Vendramini. His following has become massive since that win in September, as he amassed more than 800,000 new followers on social media in the aftermath. However, his return to the octagon could be announced fairly soon, as he has teased that he will be looking to fight three times in 2022.
Sticking with the Brits, Leon Edwards is another that looks set to reach the top of the welterweight division next year. The fighter from Birmingham, England, has been one of the standout stars this calendar year, fighting on two occasions. He was expected to return to the octagon at UFC 269. However, the fight against Jorge Masvidal was cancelled just days before the bout, as the American pulled out.
However, rumours have already begun to circulate that Edwards could be set to take on Kamaru Usman early in 2022.
The 30-year-old picked up the biggest victory of his career earlier in the year, as he beat Nate Diaz by unanimous decision. He hasn’t yet been awarded a title opportunity, but has won the Performance of the Night bonus on one occasion, and also holds the record for the sixth-quickest finish in UFC history when he beat Seth Baczynski inside eight seconds.
Islam Makhachev looks to be another fighter who is standing on the verge of getting a title opportunity. A shot at the lightweight gold could come in 2022, as his record in the UFC over the last five years has been nothing short of exceptional.
He has won 21 of his 22 professional fights, with his only defeat coming by KO in the first round against Adriano Martins at UFC 192 in October 2015. Since then, he has won all eight fights that he has been involved in, and his performances throughout 2021 have been at a different level.
Makhachev has won inside the opening five rounds on all occasions, which includes the huge submission victory that he recorded against Dan Hooker at UFC 267 in Abu Dhabi in October. Ten of his 21 victories throughout his professional career have been recorded by submission, while he has won by knockout on three occasions.
There is a growing feeling that the Russian will finally get his title opportunity in 2022, which could mean a showdown with Dustin Poirier. A match-up against McGregor could also lie in wait for the close friend of Khabib Nurmagomedov further down the line. Regardless, he looks like one of the huge stars to keep an eye on over the next 12 months.