2024 MMA Predictions: Covington, Cyborg, and More

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It’s finally here. After 12 months of excitement and controversy inside and outside the cage, another year of MMA has come and gone. With the passage of another year comes another annual tradition.

At this time of year, people all over the sport often make predictions about what the new year holds. That’s what we’ll do here and the next time we meet. This is the first part of a two-part series on prognostication for 2024 in the sport.

Your exciting (OK, maybe “exciting” isn’t the operative word to use right here) conclusion to the series will drop early next week after the ball drops in Times Square. Stay tuned to MMA Sucka for the rest of the predictions.

Let’s Peer Into The Crystal Ball!

There’s no time to waste. Fortunately, my brother located the crystal ball used for prognostication last weekend when he visited the family and placed it on the table at my workspace.

It’s time for us to take a look into our crystal ball. Let’s look closely now.

Colby Covington Won’t Main Event a UFC Card in ’24

Of all the predictions from this series, the first one is the likeliest slam dunk. Two weeks ago Saturday, Colby Covington (17-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) made an unsuccessful bid at the promotion’s welterweight championship in the UFC 296 main event.

Over 25 minutes of action, Covington was outsmarted in embarrassing fashion by incumbent champion Leon Edwards (22-3, 1 NC MMA, 14-2, 1 NC UFC). The December 16th fight was Covington’s lowest point in the famed Octagon.

Even though Covington’s heel persona served him very well in the past, it’s worn thin now. The adoption of Covington’s bad guy character was created to keep him on the roster, something that Joe Rogan mentioned on his podcast a few years ago.

“The story’s interesting. This is what happened,” Rogan recalled. “They had him scheduled to be cut and he was about to fight Demian Maia, and they told him, ‘Listen, your style sucks'”.

Colby Covington will not appear in any UFC main event throughout 2024.

Covington’s Time in Limelight Has Passed

In the aftermath of UFC 296, this Website ran a take on Covington’s antics and behaviors leading up to and after the fight. Two weeks removed from the fight, one certainty is apparent. Colby Covington is no longer a viable star on the promotion’s roster.

His performance in the UFC 296 main event was a far cry from Covington’s effort at the UFC Apex in the fall of 2020. That night in the headlining contest, he was headed for a likely victory by way of decision before Tyron Woodley injured his rib less than 90 seconds into the fifth and final round of the contest.

Plenty can happen in three years. Since the fight against Woodley, Covington is a shell of his former self. With Covington having political aspirations for his future, maybe his time in MMA is just about up.

ESPN Properties Won’t Air or Stream Bellator Events

2024 marks the sixth year that ESPN will air MMA as part of a seven-year media deal with the UFC. After the agreement was inked, the Disney-owned network acquired rights to air PFL cards following the expiration of that promotion’s pact with NBC Sports Group.

Late last month, ESPN and the PFL agreed on an extended pact to keep the promotion’s events on The Worldwide Leader’s properties over multiple years. No mention of Bellator MMA events was made when the deal was consummated right after Thanksgiving.

While ESPN has made a name for itself in combat sports throughout the decades and has become a power player in MMA, expect them to run something other than Bellator events on their family of networks. Simply put, ESPN already has enough combat properties on the air and ESPN+ .

No sports network should rely on one property or a set of properties to bring in ratings, though ESPN’s detractors have said that they spend too much time on gridiron football programming, even airing daily studio shows during the offseason.

Look for YouTube to Stream Bellator Schedule

At press time, there’s yet to be a word as to which property is slated to pick up Bellator’s schedule of events in 2024. There’s yet to be an official slate for next year’s events online. When Bellator’s slate does drop, expect YouTube to stream it.

There’s a simple rationale behind this prediction: In past years, Bellator’s undercard fights have streamed on YouTube ahead of, and on some occasions, immediately following, main cards of events. With Showtime out of the picture, YouTube is the safest bet to make when finding the shows.

With YouTube, you wouldn’t need to pay an extra fee to watch Bellator cards live. Pay-per-view events have never really been part of Bellator’s business model, only going that route twice in the promotion’s life.

Cyborg/ Harrison Fight (Finally!) Happens

To end part one of this series, how about a prediction that could come to fruition at long last? For years, a super fight matching Cris Cyborg (27-2, 1 NC MMA, 6-0 Bellator) with Kayla Harrison (16-1 MMA, 15-1 PFL) has been discussed.

With the PFL purchasing Bellator back in November, every MMA fan’s dream could become reality.  The path to this fight is as simple as it’s ever going to get.

Putting Pen to Paper Last Obstacle

As part of the PFL buying Scott Coker’s promotion, a blockbuster event matching the best fighters from both companies will be held in 2024. While the idea of a Cyborg/Harrison pairing lost some of its appeal due to the latter’s failed championship bid in 2022, one has to believe that this is still a fight that several MMA fans will want to see.All that’s holding the fight back is the signing of contracts. The countdown can begin as soon as Cyborg and Harrison agree to meet in the cage. What a night that’ll be if and when this match comes to pass.
If this fight happens, it’ll be the biggest single contest in MMA history.

Happy New Year, Everybody!

On behalf of all of us here at MMA Sucka, here’s to a happy and safe 2024.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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