5 storylines to watch ahead of UFC 254
UFC 254 on Saturday, Oct. 24 features a long-awaited showdown that carries huge implications for the sport, along with other interesting subplots.
Let's take a look at some of the more intriguing storylines going into the event.
Card subject to change
UFC 254 features two matches that were delayed because of COVID-19, and just recently lost two more.
Rafael dos Anjos and Cynthia Calvillo both tested positive ahead of the event, which takes two intriguing matches off the books, for now.
Even though every precaution is being taken to protect the fighters when they get to Fight Island, combat sports continue to get hammered by the pandemic.
Will the winner of Nurmagomedov-Gaethje face Conor McGregor?
Though it’s unfair to take away from the main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, the specter of Conor McGregor looms more than ever, now that he has announced he will face Dustin Poirier in January.
McGregor has designs on facing the winner of the Nurmagomedov-Gaethje bout, and beating Poirier would bring that closer to reality.
This could be problematic if Nurmagomedov wins. He is adamantly against facing McGregor again, after he defeated him at UFC 229.
A Gaethje upset would almost guarantee a McGregor fight, and there’s a good chance UFC is hoping in silence that it happens.
Is the winner of Whittaker-Cannonier a worthy opponent for Israel Adesanya?
The bout between Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier is a pick ‘em fight, and the winner is sure to land a date with middleweight champ Israel Adesanya.
But either fight would lack intrigue, because of Adesanya's brilliance.
The best fans can hope for is that this fight delivers, because Adesanya will be a heavy favorite when he inevitably faces the winner.
Lauren Murphy on the cusp of a title shot
Now that Calvillo is off the card, Lauren Murphy just needs to dust off late replacement Liliya Shakirova to all but assure a shot at future Hall of Famer Valentina Shevchenko.
Murphy has been on a roll, and she would have been a live underdog against Calvillo, but how she’ll do in a bout with Shevchenko is anyone’s guess.
Shevchenko is one of the most dominant champions in the sport, only bested by Amanda Nunes, and there’s no doubt she’ll be a prohibitive favorite against Murphy if they come to blows.
Volkov-Harris exposes lack of depth at heavyweight
Though the mystique of the heavyweight division is always present, it doesn’t take a nuclear-powered telescope to see that the big boys' side of the pool is shallow.
Alexander Volkov and Walt Harris are two fighters on the rebound, after they got blasted by the division’s top contenders, and they represent the best of what’s left outside the top five.
Other than Jon Jones moving up to face Stipe Miocic and Brock Lesnar’s rumored return, there aren’t a lot of fights worth waiting for at heavyweight.