2021 was a big year for Kamaru Usman, as not only did he defend his UFC welterweight championship on three occasions, but he also became the number one ranked pound-for-pound fighter with the organisation.

Victories over Gilbert Burns, Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington helped the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ get to the top spot in the standings. He faces strong competition for the position in 2022. Here is a look at who we could see Usman meet this year.

Colby Covington

Usman’s last appearance inside the Octagon came last November when he defeated Covington following five tough rounds. It was the defending champion who was handed the unanimous decision.

The American caused Usman lots of problems in their encounter in New York at UFC 268, particularly with the uppercut. He also remains the number one ranked fighter in the welterweight division behind the champion.

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Covington is set to face Masvidal later this year. He is -330 favourite in the UFC betting for that fight. If he produces an impressive performance, he could push for another shot at Usman in 2022.

Leon Edwards

British fighter Leon Edwards faced Usman very early into his UFC career. He lost the contest by decision after three rounds. Since then, Rocky has failed to suffer defeat in ten fights and is now up to number three in the welterweight rankings.

Edwards’ latest win came against Nate Diaz. His team now believes their fighter should be next in line to take on the champion. It is a fight that could be scheduled for the summer, as long as Usman has recovered from the operation he had on his hand.

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If Usman wants to cement his place as the pound-for-pound number one in the UFC, putting an end to Edwards’ winning run inside the Octagon will help him do that. It would also position him as one of the most dominant UFC champions in history.

Charles Oliveira

A clash between two champions always generates a lot of interest in the UFC and lightweight titleholder Charles Oliveira has hinted he would be prepared to jump up a division to face Usman.

Oliveira extended his record with the UFC for the most submissions wins when he beat Dustin Poirier. That was his 15th victory by that method, and his 18th success inside the distance.

Only four fighters in UFC history have held titles in two different divisions at the same time, so Oliveira may be striving to his add his name to that list. One of those is his Brazilian compatriot Amanda Nunes, who was the UFC featherweight and bantamweight champion, before losing the latter to Julianna Pena.

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‘Do Bronx’ has called out some of the biggest names in the UFC over the last 12 months. He is currently fifth in the pound-for-pound standings. Success over Usman would help him climb further up the ladder and take him a big step towards the top spot.

Usman is expected to return to the UFC in July. He will be keen to prove he remains the most dominant fighter within the organisation when he steps back into the Octagon.