ESPN has revealed the top ten MMA fighters expected to have a big year in 2020

McGregor v Cerrone

The 2020 calendar year got off to a blistering start in MMA with the sport's biggest attraction taking centre stage.

Conor McGregor's demolition of Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at UFC 246 last month was certainly something that fans will not soon forget. There is, however, much still to look forward to.

To this end ESPN have ranked the ten fighters they expect to fare best in 2020 - and these are rundown below:

10. Henry Cejudo (15-2)

It has been a great couple of years for the 2008 Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medallist.

He began his career resurgence by defeating pound-for-pound great Demetrious Johnson back in August 2018 to capture the UFC flyweight championship, avenging his most high-profile loss in the process.

Cejudo then went on to successfully defend his title against then-UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in January of last year. 

The 32-year-old's 2019 would get even better, however, when he bested Marlon Moraes in June to claim the aforementioned bantamweight title. By virtue of this victory, Cejudo became just the fourth fighter in history to hold two UFC titles simultaneously. 

A shoulder injury has sidelined Cejudo since the Moraes fight though, and "Triple C" was subsequently stripped of his flyweight championship due to inactivity.

UFC Fight Night Cejudo v Dillashaw

Now seemingly solely focused on campaigning at bantamweight, Cejudo has repeatedly stated that he only wants to participate in financially lucrative fights at this point in his career.

As a result of this, Cejudo's next title defence looks set to be against Brazilian legend Jose Aldo. Aldo is currently on a two-fight losing streak but remains the most high profile option in the 135-pound division for Cejudo - who would be a heavy favourite for the fight. 

Henry Cejudo wants high profile fights - so whatever 2020 has in store for him, expect it to be worth the watch!

9. Alexander Volkanovski (21-1)

NBL Rd 13 - Illawarra v Adelaide

Current featherweight titlist Volkanovski defeated long-standing champion Max Holloway at UFC 245 in December 2019 to stake his claim as one of the sport's best.

A rematch with Holloway seems a virtual certainty - although a broken hand means that Volkanovski has yet to confirm when he will return to action.

The 31-year-old Australian is currently riding an 18-fight win streak - and looks set for a big future if he can maintain his current momentum.

8. Amanda Nunes (19-4)

UFC 239 Nunes v Holm

With wins over Ronda Rousey, Holly Holm, Miesha Tate and Cris Cyborg, Amanda Nunes is universally recognised as the greatest female competitor ever in the sport of MMA.

Her dominance, though, maybe proving somewhat of a handicap - as there does not appear to be a huge list of intriguing potential challengers for either of Nunes' bantamweight or featherweight titles. 

Whilst Nunes has undoubtedly already built a career worthy of the UFC hall of fame, the 31-year-old Brazilian could do with some fresh adversaries to ignite an interest in her title defences across both weight divisions.

7. Conor McGregor (22-4)

McGregor v Cerrone

He is unquestionably the biggest name in all of MMA, but quite how big Conor McGregor's 2020 will be depends very much on which fights he opts to take before the end of the year.

The 31-year-old Irishman would seem to have his pick of any opponent he chooses. Options such as Justin Gaethje, Jorge Masvidal or a trilogy fight with Nate Diaz are all viable. 

McGregor's most defining move, however, would be to reclaim a UFC championship.

In order to do this at the current time, he would need to defeat either welterweight champion Kamaru Usman or lightweight champion (and arch-rival) Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Any fight involving Conor McGregor this year will do big business. His long-term legacy would be greatly enhanced, though, if he were to add to his haul of UFC championships. 

6. Francis Ngannou (14-3)

UFC Fight Night Blaydes v Ngannou 2

Several names on this list may be bigger than Francis Ngannou - but few hit harder! His slate of highlight-reel knockouts means that the fearsome heavyweight is always one to watch.

5. Valentina Shevchenko (18-3)

Such is the pedigree of the lady known as "Bullet", that her only two UFC defeats have come at the hands of the above-mentioned Nunes.

Seemingly set for a busy 2020, the current women's flyweight champion could add to her already impressive resume by remaining undefeated throughout the year.

4. Kamaru Usman (16-1)

UFC 235 Jones v Smith

The reigning UFC welterweight champion looks set to finally enter the octagon against long-time rival Jorge Masvidal in July, meaning that the 32-year-old Nigerian will likely only fight twice in 2020.

However, a victory over Masvidal - together with a second successful title defence later in the year - could see him have a very good year indeed.

3. Israel Adesanya (18-0)

The UFC has not had a young champion as exciting as Adesanya since the rise of Jon Jones almost a decade ago.

UFC 243 Whittaker v Adesanya

Having defeated Robert Whittaker last October to claim the middleweight title, Adesanya looks set for an even bigger year in 2020.

Scheduled to meet Yoel Romero in the main event of UFC 248 in March, Adesanya could later go on to meet the likes of Paulo Costa and Jared Cannonier in mouth-watering bouts before the end of December.

2. Jon Jones (25-1, 1 NC)

UFC 239 Jones v  Santos

Returning to action next weekend in the main event of UFC 247 against Dominick Reyes, light heavyweight champion Jon Jones shows no sign of losing any sharpness as he enters a new decade.

He may, however, be running short of contenders in the 205-pound division should he defeat Reyes. A run in the heavyweight division has seemingly been inevitable for Jon Jones for some time now - and 2020 may well be the year in which we finally see it.

1. Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0)

Some may have better-looking records on paper than Khabib, but few in the history of the sport have ever looked so effortlessly dominant as the 31-year-old Russian.

The current lightweight champion is slated to finally defend his championship against standout contender Tony Ferguson in April at UFC 249.

WRESTLING-RUS-SPORT-UFC

Assuming he is victorious, "The Eagle" looks set to once again face Conor McGregor in a rematch of the biggest fight in UFC history.

Given his flawless record, it would be no surprise to see Khabib end the year undefeated - despite the quality of opposition he looks set to face.

It is worthy of note that the list above has many absentees that one might expect to see. Neither heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic nor former champion Daniel Cormier made the top ten.

Others that failed to make the cut include Jorge Masvidal or Nate Diaz - despite the pair headlining a pay-per-view back in November at UFC 244. Indeed, not one non-UFC fighter made the top ten.

Such omissions truly show the strength and depth of the UFC's roster.

The year 2020 seems set to be an explosive one - with both must-see fights and fighters alike!

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