All roads lead to UFC 200. The promotion’s historic card is yet to take shape but UFC matchmakers and president Dana White are starting to put together ideas for the July 9 event in Las Vegas.
It’s likely to set records for pay-per-view sales and revenue generated, surpassing the mark set by 2009’s UFC 100.
And of course, all the top-ranked stars want to be involved, some, like Jose Aldo, have already pleaded their case on social media.
No fights have been announced yet but here is our best guess at who could feature.
Conor McGregor (c) v Frankie Edgar
McGregor looks like death on the scales at 145lbs but a return to the division he holds gold is his best option after defeat to Nate Diaz at UFC 196.
Now, a rematch with Aldo is plausible but given ‘Notorious’ will listen to the fans on this one, the shout is Edgar.
The former lightweight champ demolished Chad Mendes last time out and has long campaigned for another shot at the featherweight strap ever since his 2013 loss to Aldo.
Rafael dos Anjos (c) v Khabib Nurmagomedov/Tony Ferguson
Next on the bill is the man McGregor was initially scheduled to fight at UFC 196, lightweight king Dos Anjos.
His inclusion at 200 is dependent on his recovery from a broken foot but should he return it makes sense for him to face the winner of April 16’s Fight Night main event.
Nurmagomedov is 22-0 and has already beaten Dos Anjos. Crippling injuries have forced him into a two-year hiatus since that victory but a win next month could catapult him into the title frame.
Ferguson, though, is everything you would want from a contender: well-rounded, exciting, a finisher and active. Either combatant would be worthy of the card.
George St-Pierre v Nate Diaz
It’s still unclear whether or not former long-time welterweight champion GSP will be returning to competitive fighting after vacating his title in 2013.
But if he does, then Diaz is the perfect re-introduction. Given the enormity of 200, attracting one of the promotion’s biggest ever stars will no doubt be a priority and this clash has an intriguing backdrop.
Diaz is a star in his own right after defeating McGregor but GSP’s bitter rivalry with his brother, Nick, adds extra intrigue. Whatever the case, though, just get the Canadian legend on the card.
Holly Holm v Cat Zingano
Zingano hasn’t been in the cage since a 14-second submission loss to then-champ Ronda Rousey a year ago but the 33-year-old is ready to return. Holm wants another crack at Miesha Tate, but White has already said the new champ will take on Rousey, so this fight can be used to give the division a contender.
Away from the main card there are some enticing possibilities for the prelim bouts and here are some of the options available to the UFC:
Travis Browne v Matt Mitrione
This heavyweight rematch makes perfect sense. Mitrione, now a free agent, lost to Browne in January, but only after a series of eye pokes went unpunished by the referee.
Aljamain Sterling v Bryan Caraway
These two bantamweights have previous. The talented Sterling is a future star and has slammed Caraway, calling him ‘Mr Tate’, for trying to find an easy route to a title shot.
Paige VanZant v J. Calderwood
VanZant signing up for ‘Dancing with the Stars’ has come at an ideal time for 200. Joanne Calderwood pulled out of their December bout injured and so would be an ideal matchup.
John Lineker v Cody Garbrandt
Garbrandt and Lineker are both powerful and both possess quick hands. Dengue fever forced Lineker out of their March bout but this is one the fans won’t want to miss. Pass
CM Punk v Mickey Gall
To head up the Fight Pass card the former WWE star’s much-anticipated debut in the UFC should be considered. He’s yet to enter the Octagon because of injury but now is the time.
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