- Advertisement -

And still or And new? Projecting who will remain a champion throughout 2018.

0

 

We saw a lot of titles change hands in the UFC in 2017. From Cody Garbrandt losing a back and forth affair to T.J. Dillashaw, to the Light Heavyweight debacle with Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier, and of course, Rose Namajunas pulling the upset of the year with her first-round knockout of Joanna Jedrzejczyk. 2017 was a fun and unpredictable year in the UFC. I’d like to take a look ahead and try to forecast which champions will still have their titles at the end of 2018 and of course, who won’t. Will it be #andstill or #andnew? Let’s get started.

 

HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION STIPE MIOCIC(17-2) : Stipe Miocic had quite the year in 2016, but 2017 was a little tougher for him. He only fought once due to injuries and contract negotiations, although that one performance was an impressive first-round knockout of former champ Junior Dos Santos which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. So the question at hand, will Miocic still be the UFC heavyweight champion at the end of the year? I think this comes down to one very simple thing, does he get by Francis “The Predator” Ngannou at UFC 220? Ngannou is riding high, coming off of TheMMATakeover’s “knockout of the year” winning performance against Alistair Overeem. I think Miocic has to be considered the more skilled and well-rounded fighter as Ngannou hasn’t been in the sport very long, but as we saw in the Overeem fight, that won’t matter if The Predator lands a clean shot on his chin. If he is able to win that fight, I don’t know who beats him this year. The top 10 of the division is only getting older, and he already holds knockout victories over Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Mark Hunt and of course the Dos Santos win that I mentioned earlier. No UFC heavyweight champion has ever defended their title more than twice but I think Miocic is the guy, I think he wins at UFC 220. He’s got as good a chin as anyone in the division, and his power is no joke. Plus I believe he has the wrestling chops to take Ngannou down where conventional wisdom would tell you that he has an advantage. If I’m correct, he’s keeping his belt at least until 2019. VERDICT: #ANDSTILL

- Advertisement -

 

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION DANIEL “DC” CORMIER(19-1, 1 NC): So we all know the story of Daniel Cormier. Second best light heavyweight on the planet, but never could get by that pesky Jon Jones. Well, luckily for DC, Jones doesn’t seem to be able to get by all of these pesky rules and laws society and USADA have in place. For this reason, Cormier was able to capture gold in the UFC even though Jones is in his division. He lost to Jon Jones for the second time in July but had the loss overturned as a result of a failed drug test from Jones. Jones gets suspended and boom, Cormier gets his belt back. Now looking for his third title defense, he’s up against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220. The very dangerous Oezdemir is 3-0 in the UFC, with his last two wins over Jimi Manuwa and Misha Cirkunov coming in a combined 70 seconds. He also has a win over Ovince Saint Preaux. With Volkan nipping at his heels, Alexander Gustaffson looking reignited, OSP on a roll, Anthony Johnson rumored to be un-retiring and potentially even Jon Jones coming back, 205 is an absolute shark tank. There a multitude of other dangerous contenders that I didn’t mention, and this is why I don’t believe that Cormier will hold the belt at the conclusion of 2018. Well, this combined with the fact that I don’t love the idea of a 38 year old having been knocked out in his most recent fight getting hit by some of these guys. VERDICT: #ANDNEW

 

MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION ROBERT “THE REAPER” WHITTAKER(19-4): Poor Robert Whittaker. He had such an amazing year in 2017, but was mostly overlooked because of Michael Bisping’s extremely strange tenure as middleweight champion. Bisping’s run culminated in him losing his belt to the great Georges St Pierre. Well, when the smoke cleared Whittaker was the UFC’s middleweight champion so I can’t imagine that he’s THAT upset about it. After stopping Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in April he was given an interim title fight against Yoel Romero at UFC 213. After that fight, he was supposed to fight the winner of St. Pierre and Bisping. Unfortunately for The Reaper, after winning the Romero fight, GSP confirmed everybody’s suspicions by choosing to vacate the title rather than defend it. By default, Whittaker was promoted to champion and here we are. Whittaker really has proven to be the best in the world by beating the best in the world. He’s undefeated at middleweight and hasn’t lost since February of 2014 in a welterweight bout against two-time title challenger Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. I would personally consider the three scariest challengers at 185 to be Jacare, Romero(he’s already beaten both) and Luke Rockhold. Guys like Chris Weidman and Kelvin Gastelum are always dangerous as well but likely nothing he couldn’t handle. If you made me pick a dark horse, I would go with Derek Brunson, who he’s also beaten. So really, at this point his biggest threat is Rockhold. If/when Whittaker gets by him at UFC 221, it’s smooth sailing through the rest of 2018. VERDICT: #ANDSTILL

 

WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION TYRON “THE CHOSEN ONE” WOODLEY(18-3-1): Predicting whether or not Tyron Woodley will still be welterweight champion at the conclusion of 2018 was unquestionably the easiest pick for me to make. In my eyes, it comes down to a couple of very simple things. Number one, Woodley is really good. He’s an elite level wrestler which gives him an immediate advantage going into almost any fight in this sport. Not to mention he not only stood with but knocked down elite striker Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson(57-0 as a kickboxer) in both of their fights. He has proven one punch knockout ability and the speed at which his punches come is second to none, making them very tough to avoid. Number two, not enough competition. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good fighters at 170 pounds. We’ve got the aforementioned Wonderboy, Robbie Lawler, Rafael Dos Anjos, Colby Covington, Damien Maia, some really good fighters. The trouble is, Woodley already has wins over Lawler, Maia, and Wonderboy(twice). RDA looks amazing at welterweight so far, but you’ve got to keep in mind that he was knocked out as well as taken down and controlled in different fights at lightweight. So in my mind, it’s entirely possible that Woodley could do one or the other to him as well. Covington has had some good performances and CERTAINLY done a good job promoting himself, but c’mon. Do you honestly see Covington beating Woodley? So with all of that being said, I know a lot of people want to see him lose, but who beats him? Darren Till? I need a lot more than a win over an overworked Cowboy Cerrone before I believe that he can compete with Tyron Woodley. Mike Perry? Santiago Ponzanibbio? Please, just stop it. VERDICT: #ANDSTILL

 

LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION “THE NOTORIOUS” CONOR MCGREGOR(21-3): What can I say about Conor McGregor? The Irish superstar hasn’t had an MMA bout since November of 2016. Granted, who can blame him? His fight with Floyd Mayweather made him a lot more money than any MMA fight would’ve. Still, the fact remains that he hasn’t been active as champion. He has yet to defend his title(he also never defended his featherweight belt) and the list of viable contenders is growing. Of course, we have interim champion, Tony Ferguson. We have the absolutely terrifying Russian, Khabib Nurmagomedov, fresh off of his absolute destruction of Edson Barboza. Former McGregor victims Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier are both making strong cases for title shots as well. McGregor, while one of the best strikers in the sport, would have his hands full with any of these men. In particular, Ferguson or Nurmagomedov as both are atrocious match-ups for the Irishman. The UFC isn’t going to want to strip their biggest draw, but if he doesn’t defend his title soon they may not have a choice. I don’t know if he’s going to be able to remain champion through the year between his inactivity and the two monsters he has waiting for his return. It’s an incredibly tough call, but I’m going to lean towards no. VERDICT: #ANDNEW

 

FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION MAX “BLESSED” HOLLOWAY(19-3): Max Holloway had a great year in 2017, twice beating the legendary Jose Aldo and securing not only the title but also his first defense in the process. He’s an extremely tough out because he has the ability to take punishment early and he speeds up as the fight goes. He is one of the more interesting picks I had to make because although he’s beaten a lot of the top 145ers the UFC has to offer, there are a couple of up and comers in the division that look like they’re going to be very good. He got Aldo out of the way early and holds notable wins over Ricardo Lamas, Cub Swanson, and Jeremy Stephens as well. He was originally supposed to fight Frankie Edgar at UFC 218, but Edgar had to pull out which turned that into the Aldo rematch. Had that fight happened, I’m sure “The Answer” would’ve been a tough out as always, but I believe Holloway would’ve gotten the win and will if that fight does eventually happen. Chan Sung Jung(better known as the Korean Zombie) is still lurking around out there, as well as guys like Darren Elkins, Doo Ho Choi, and the Swanson/Lamas rematches. I believe, however, that the real threats are going to come in the form of Team Alpha Male’s Josh Emmett and Brian “T-City” Ortega. We all know how good these Alpha Male guys are and iron sharpens iron. Emmett Trains with the likes of Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes, and Cody Garbrandt every day, so he’s obviously built some good skills over the years. Well, he proved just how skilled he was in December with his violent first-round knockout of perennial top 5 contender Ricardo Lamas. Brian Ortega is coming off of a big win of his own, a submission of Cub Swanson just a week prior to Emmett’s fight With lamas. Well, as good as Josh Emmett looked in that fight, I don’t think ANYBODY is knocking Max Holloway out in the first round. I also don’t see anybody outworking him over five rounds. I could, however, potentially see someone with an elite Jiu Jitsu game catching him, as he has been submitted in the past. Enter Ortega. I’m very high on T-City(and was actually the only one here at TheMMATakeover who picked him over Swanson in our staff picks, thank you.) and believe he’ll get his title shot this year. If that happens, I don’t know if Holloway will have an answer for his grappling. To get to the point, I believe Holloway may have one more defense, but his inevitable meeting with Ortega will end with a new UFC Featherweight champion. VERDICT: #ANDNEW

 

BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION T.J. DILLASHAW(15-3): I’m going to say right off the bat, who knows? I’ll do my best with this pick, but this triangle of violence between Dillashaw, Cody Garbrandt, and Dominick Cruz could end with any one of them holding the belt at the end of the year. Dillashaw beat Garbrandt at UFC 217, Garbrandt beat Cruz in December of 2016, and Cruz beat Dillashaw in January of 2016. I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of them touch the belt this year. You’ve got Jimmie Rivera, John Linekar and Raphael Assuncao in the mix as well. I believe Dillashaw will lose his title this year, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him win it back. Bantamweight is my personal favorite division because of the depth and skill level in the top 10. Any one of these guys could win a fight against any of the rest of them at any point, making this one almost impossible to predict. Then there is also the possibility of a super fight against Flyweight king Demetrious Johnson which, if contested at Flyweight, would likely require Dillashaw to vacate if he gets the win. If it were to be a bantamweight affair, then he’s got the number one pound for pound fighter in the world to deal with. I’ll tentatively say that Dillashaw isn’t going to be champion at the end of the year, but admittedly could be dead wrong. VERDICT: #ANDNEW

 

FLYWEIGHT CHAMPION DEMETRIOUS “MIGHTY MOUSE” JOHNSON(27-2-1): What’s left for the consensus number one pound for pound fighter on the planet? Mighty Mouse has done it all, he’s beaten every relevant opponent his division has to offer. Some of them twice. Who’s left for him? There’s been a lot of talk of a super fight with bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw. There were rumblings of a fight with Cody Garbrandt when he had the belt as well. Clearly what makes sense at this point is a collision with the king of the 135-pound division. So if he fights Dillashaw, where does it take place? Dillashaw claims to be able to make 125 without issue and we’ve seen Johnson at 135 in the past, so who put their title on the line? For my money, its contested at 135. Johnson has earned the benefit of the doubt at this point, so let’s say for the sake of argument that he wins. I would guess that the UFC keeps him at bantamweight and has him vacate. Even if it were to happen at 125, I don’t think there much to do but move up at this point. I don’t think DJ loses, but I also don’t think that he will be the flyweight champion at the end of the year. VERDICT: #ANDNEW

 

WOMEN’S FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION CRIS “CYBORG” JUSTINO(19-1): I think this one is pretty obvious, and I think the reasons that it’s obvious are obvious. Let’s go over it anyway. Cyborg is the scariest woman on the planet. She’s the best female fighter in the world, and it isn’t close. Of all of the female division that the UFC has to offer, featherweight is by far the most shallow. Holly Holm came up from bantamweight and was, in my opinion, the stiffest test the UFC had for her. Holm was about as bad a match up for Cyborg as there Is in the UFC. A quick and elusive counter striker. Well, Cyborg won a close but clear decision over Holm. So whats left? There are rumors of a fight with bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. Cyborg can’t make 135, so it would have to be contested at 145. I don’t see Nunes winning that fight. In fact, I don’t see any woman on the roster beating Cyborg. VERDICT: #ANDSTILL

 

WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION AMANDA “THE LIONESS” NUNES(15-4): Amanda Nunes has looked great recently. She dominated WMMA legend Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate in 2016 and most recently defeated Valentina Shevchenko by decision at UFC 215. She hasn’t lost since Falling victim to a third round Cat Zingano comeback in 2014 in a fight that she had dominated up to that point. The women’s bantamweight division isn’t what it was a couple of years ago. The aforementioned Rousey and Tate have both stepped away from the game. Zingano has struggled with injuries and has had just one contest since February of 2015, a fight that she lost to former TUF winner Juliana Pena. Pena won’t be fighting any time soon as she is expecting a child in the coming weeks. So really the biggest challenge is Valentina Shevchenko who Nunes holds two victories over. Raquel Pennington has built some momentum recently, but I’d have a tough time making a case for her to beat Nunes. Holly Holm most recently competed at featherweight and is 1-4 in her last 5. I think Nunes will still be champion at the end of the year based on lack of competition. The bantamweight division just doesn’t have the talent right now. The word is that featherweight champion Cyborg Justino may be next for The Lioness, but Cyborg has been very loud about the fact that she can’t make 135 pounds. So if that fight is booked, it’s likely to be at 145, meaning that it wouldn’t have any effect on Nunes title anyways. VERDICT: #ANDSTILL

 

WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT CHAMPION NICCO MONTANO(4-2): Nicco Montano is flying high fresh off of her somewhat surprising run on The Ultimate Fighter. She defeated Roxanne Modaferri to become the inaugural women’s 125 pound champion in the UFC. As impressive as she’s been thus far, this is where the real challenge begins. When Carla Esparza won her Strawweight belt coming off of TUF, it was quickly realized that she was not in fact, the best 115-pound fighter in the UFC. Will this be the case with Nicco? I guess we’ll find out, but I would tend to think it will probably be similar to the Esparza situation. Not only were there some women on the show that Montano didn’t end up matching up with(namely, Sajara Eubanks who had to pull out of their title fight) but between free agent acquisitions and women coming up and down from other divisions, flyweight is looking like it could be the deepest women’s division in the UFC in short order. Bantamweight number one contender Valentina Shevchenko has discussed going down, Joanne Caulderwood is likely to come up and even former longtime strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk has talked about the possibility of coming up to 125. That’s a murderers row, and I didn’t mention even close to every woman who will make the transition to flyweight. I haven’t seen enough of Montano to confidentially pick her to beat most of these women. VERDICT: #ANDNEW

 

WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT CHAMPION “THUG” ROSE NAMAJUNAS(7-3): THUG ROSE! THUG ROSE! THUG ROSE! Rose Namajunas had the performance of the year at UFC 217 when she knocked out long time strawweight queen Joanna Jedrzejczyk just a couple of minutes into their fight. She’s always had tons of potential and finally realized it that night. She’s well rounded, her grappling game is right up there with anyone in the division. I think it’s fair to say that she’s proven her striking to be high level with her head kick of Michelle Waterson and of course her UFC 217 fight that I mentioned earlier. As good as Namajunas has been of late, this division is a shark tank. Aside from the almost inevitable Jedrzejczyk rematch, there’s Claudia Gadelha, Jessica Andrade, Karolina Kowalkiewics, former champion Carla Esparza, Tecia Torres Cynthia Calvillo, need I continue? A couple of the girls I mentioned already hold wins over Namajunas. That’s a lot of tough matchups for her. I like Thug Rose, but I just can’t see her finishing the year on top of a division this stacked. VERDICT: #ANDNEW

Comments
Loading...
%d bloggers like this: