Will the hottest stories in the UFC come to fruition?  What are the odds?

Do you feel that? That, my friends, is the feeling of a new MMA calendar year. A year in which everything seems possible.

It’s time to dream big for 2022. We have a new board. The table is set for some incredible fights, groundbreaking performances, and feats that will go down in the history books.

But let’s also be realistic. Some of our wildest dreams will come true, no doubt. Others won’t come close, due to a wide range of circumstances.

At this time of year, the brief window in which the wrestling world comes to a standstill, headlines are full of speculation and possibility, but it can be hard to separate the likely from the unlikely. That’s where I come in. Some of these answers will give you hope. Others will disappoint you. And even if something is about to happen, until the octagon door closes, nothing is certain.

For now, there is high hope for this year in the UFC, so let’s dig into the chances of each of these key stories becoming a reality in 2022.

What are the chances… Conor McGregor fights Nate Diaz?

Okamoto says: 75%

It’s on my list of fights I want to see in 2022 and I feel good about its chances. Diaz has one fight left on his UFC contract and, by all accounts, is eager to book it and then see what his options are in free agency. A fight between Diaz and Dustin Poirier is certainly possible, and I think the UFC will consider it. But if McGregor is to return in early summer, my gut tells me that’s the one. The trilogy just makes a lot of sense in 2022. It’s not a dunk, but I’m going with a strong 75% here.


What are the chances… Jon Jones fights at least twice?

Okamoto says: 30%

Well, he definitely won’t fight more than twice. There is more chance that he will not fight at all, than he will fight more than twice. Fight once? Yes, I think we will finally see Jones at heavyweight in 2022. But twice? I am not optimistic. We’ll probably know more later this month, after the Francis Ngannou-Ciryl Gane unification fight.

Does Jones definitely get the winner of that match? It is likely, but there is never a guarantee. Contract negotiations. Potential injuries. How it all fits into the UFC pay-per-view schedule. It really depends on Jones, of course. If he really wants to fight twice in 2022, there’s no obvious reason why it shouldn’t happen. But I’m going to predict only one appearance in 2022 for ‘Bones’.


What are the chances… of witnessing a two-weight UFC champion in one of the men’s divisions?

Okamoto says: twenty%

The last double champion coronation we saw was Henry Cejudo in 2019. We had a chance to see another one in 2021 with Israel Adesanya, but he fell short against Jan Blachowicz by a couple of rounds. This year, the obvious candidate to become a two-weight champion is Jones. The longtime light heavyweight king appears to be in a position to make his heavyweight debut and possibly contend for a championship.

The reason I have such low odds is that Jones is a wild card, as we all know. Until he steps into the octagon as a heavyweight, nothing is a guarantee. He would then have to beat the champion of course, which is a very difficult task no matter if it’s Ngannou or Gane. And I don’t see another former or current champion as likely to get the job done in 2022. Usman is probably the most likely, but he has repeatedly said he doesn’t want to fight Adesanya. And I don’t think Adesanya will take another chance to move up to light heavyweight, at least not in 2022.


What are the chances… of Khabib Nurmagomedov coming back?

Okamoto says: 0% (!!!!!)

I added this one just because I still see this question on social media from time to time, and it’s time to let it go. It’s time to let it go. Even Dana White told me in our end-of-the-year conversation that she had let it slide. If Dana can let it go, the rest of you can let it go too. The Eagle will not return.


What are the chances… of Henry Cejudo coming back?

Okamoto says: 10%

If you think about it, not much has changed with Cejudo since he stepped away from the sport in 2020. It’s clear to all of us, in fact, he’s said it outright, he’s willing (and even willing) to return, provided the opportunity and the money attract you, which makes a lot of sense. He’s happy not to fight, but he would absolutely fight for a lot of money and the opportunity to become a triple champion, at featherweight. Those are Cejudo’s demands for a comeback.

The problem is that the UFC is not interested. Not that the UFC doesn’t mind getting back into the Henry Cejudo business, but it’s not a priority. It’s not something the company is going to go out of its way to make happen. If Cejudo wants to return under his current contract, he always has a spot. But Cejudo wants a “shock” offer to get back in the Octagon, and at this point, the UFC feels no obligation to “shock” Cejudo. And I don’t necessarily see that changing in 2022.


What are the chances… Amanda Nunes regains the title against Julianna Peña

Okamoto says: 90%

And before I say I’m disrespecting the new champion, let me explain how I got to this number. The betting odds for the first fight between Nunes and Pena opened with Nunes as the 8-to-1 favourite. The implied odds on that are 88.89%. In other words, prior to fighting at UFC 269, oddsmakers believed Nunes would beat Pena nine times out of 10.

They were wrong? Sitting here today, I’m not ready to say that they were. Every time the rematch is scheduled, I will go in with a pretty similar opinion of both fighters as I did with the first. As dramatic and historic as Peña’s surprise was, I’m not going to throw away everything I knew about these two women for it.

Perhaps the original odds were dead, but Pena made sure to get his “one win in 10” on the one night that counted. I have a lot of respect for what Pena was able to do in late 2021, and no one can take that away from him, but when it comes to predicting the outcome of a rematch, he remains a significant underdog.


What are the chances…that the UFC women’s champions at the end of the year will be Nunes, Rose Namajunas and Valentina Shevchenko?

Okamoto says: 65%

This question probably sounds like a snub to Peña, but the reality is that Nunes will be the heavy favorite to win back the title when they meet again, and Peña knows it. Namajunas seems to have found herself: “I’m the best!” — and that confidence and maturity have prepared her to lead the division for a long time. Shevchenko is just… I mean, who is going to dethrone this woman? Taila Santos looks good and there is a lot of young talent at 125 pounds. But Shevchenko looks like a lock on top right now.

Nunes, as wild as it sounds, could be the weak link. Where is your head after the loss to Peña, and in your career in general? She has accomplished a lot. If one of these women doesn’t have the title at the end of the year, I guess it’s probably Nunes, but I’ll lean on these three being the queens of the UFC in December 2022.