2017 is over and 2018 is here. With a new year comes the excitement of the unknown. Everyone hopes that the new year will bring happiness. The MMA Takeover staff is no different. We hope that the world of MMA will bring exciting memorable moments in the New Year.
The staff of the MMA Takeover makes predictions for the main card of each UFC. However, we have decided to make bold predictions in MMA for the 2018 calendar year. These predictions must be bold. We are not making picks like Demetrious Johnson will defend his flyweight title or Cris Cyborg won’t lose in 2018. Our predictions won’t be popular. Here are some of the staff picks.
Staff’s Bold Predictions for 2018
Keith Shillan: Derek Brunson Will Win the UFC Middleweight Title and Become the 2018 Fighter of the Year
I know that I am all alone in this prediction but I think Derek Brunson is a special talent. He is a fantastic wrestler with arguably the best power in the middleweight division. Since joining the UFC, the 33-year-old fighter out of Jackson / Wink John product is 9-3 in the organization. His losses have come at the hands of Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, and Anderson Silva. Of his 8 wins, 6 have come by way of knockout with another by submission.
Now let’s look at his three losses. The majority of media and fans believed that Brunson should have got his hands raised when he faced off against Silva. His loss to Romero was over three years ago. In the fight, Brunson was ahead on most scorecards and had even taken down the Olympic silver medalist three times. He looked to be securing the victory until he was hit by a massive left hook from Romero in the third round and lost.
Lastly, comes current champion, Robert Whittaker. Everyone remembers Whittaker knocking Brunson out, but many forget that Brunson had blasted the Australian fighter and was extremely close to knocking him out. If it wasn’t for Brunson’s over aggression, he might have finished Whittaker.
I think Brunson finally gets over his mental mistakes and has a banner year. I say he fights three times this year, wins all three by knockouts and win the middleweight title. He also is named the MMA Takeover’s Fighter of the Year.
Cory Groeneveld: Conor McGregor will Both Defend his Title and also Fight in a Boxing Ring Again.
Brandon Sibcy: Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz Finish Their Trilogy But Not How You Think
I think Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor will finish their trilogy in 2018. Okay, not a “bold” enough prediction? I think Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor will finish their trilogy in 2018.. in the ring, in a boxing match. Now I have your attention?
Now hear me out. Dana White has been hinting at getting into boxing since the Mayweather vs. McGregor build up where we all saw him wearing a “Zuffa Boxing” shirt. In November of last year, he announced that “The UFC is 100% getting into boxing.” White is interested in building new stars he mentioned during the media lunch, but you’re going to need some star power to get MMA fans interested in these events.
Enter Mcgregor and Diaz.
Both men are now licensed by the Nevada State Athletic Commision to box. McGregor has also been hinting towards fights with Paul Malignaggi and Manny Pacquiao over the last year which tells me what we already know, McGregor is going to go where the money is from here on out.
So I’m writing this assuming McGregor is stripped sometime this year and either doesn’t fight again or takes on another “super fight”.
But we all saw how it went last time McGregor boxed. Would people still care to watch him enter the ring again?
While Mcgregor did lose his first and only professional boxing match against Floyd Mayweather last year, I believe fans would be more than happy to watch him and Diaz go hand to hand in a similar match. His last fight in boxing was a spectacle. McGregor was never meant to win that match. This fight is winnable for him. And, yeah, while it is two MMA stars in a boxing ring, it’s two MMA guys with pretty good boxing (at least by MMA standards). It’s also fun for UFC fans as it gives them fighters they know in a boxing ring that they can actually get excited about and root for.
So in my opinion, this is the perfect fight to kick off the new Zuffa Boxing. Fill the card with some exciting up and comers and potential stars and top it off with a fight that’s guaranteed to move the needle.
William Reat Noch: Colby Covington Becomes a Fan Favorite
This might seem unreal to certain but if I told you in 2016 than Covington would be the most talked about fighter by the end of the year in 2017 you wouldn’t believe me either.
One thing is clear with Covington if there was an award for self-promoter of the year it would undeniably be his. A year ago, Covington was seen in the streets holding a “Will you fight me sign?”, an antic or promotional technique which gained almost no attention. However, with only two fights in 2017, he quickly became one of the most popular fighters in the sport. Some might argue that what he did after facing Demian Maia in Brazil is simply disrespectful and far from how a martial artist is supposed to behave, others would say that Covington has mastered the promotional aspect of MMA.
One thing is sure, what he did worked for him, ever since that fight and particularly post-fight octagon speech, many fighters from welterweight contender Kamaru Usman to middleweight fighter Sam Alvey have called out Covington. Also, despite a massive negative uprise from the fans, on both Covington’s fighting style and trash talking, many others have equally praised his genius. You could arguably say that Covington has had the biggest rise in popularity after only one fight. But why would I think that Covington would become a fan favorite despite the number of fans who have spoken against him?
Well, it is fair to say that despite his haters, Covington already has more fans than your average title contender. Many people have praised him for a very simple reason, he understands the most crucial aspect of self-promotion: becoming the money fight instead of asking for it. Even if I’m personally not a fan of how he does it, I openly admit that I wish more fighters used this perspective of becoming a money fight to promote themselves rather than calling out whoever’s stock is currently rising. I personally was surprised at the number of people who have recently called him a genius, but I must admit that I have found his jokes against Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia, and Rafael Dos Anjos to be funny and inventive. The affinity between Covington and MMA fans can be seen as a love or hate relationship.
Furthermore, his current 5 fight win streak, beating two top 10 opponents is also making his skillset undeniable. He is now one of the best welterweights in the UFC since a couple more wins would potentially get him a title shot against Tyron Woodley and fans are currently debating whether he or Rafael Dos Anjos should fight for the title next. This is where I feel Colby will have an opportunity to gain many fans, by fighting Tyron Woodley.
Although Tyron Woodley has been undeniable as a champion with 3 title defenses since he beat Robbie Lawler in July 2016, he has also received an incredible amount of criticism from both the fans and Dana White himself in his last two fights, where he has been branded as a boring fighter. His last attempt at making a money fight with former lightweight contender Nate Diaz was also heavily condemned as it didn’t make sense ranking-wise. Therefore, I believe that if Colby gets his shot against Tyron Woodley and is able to keep on entertaining his audience through his social media jokes and memes to hype the fight, as well as delivering a performance like he did against Maia in
both his trash talking and fighting, then many fans who were heavily critical of Woodley may join the
Colby Covington bandwagon.
However, it is crucial to remember that the most important factor in Covington becoming a fan favorite will be winning in an entertaining manner. As of now, he is winning, but I believe not enough fans see him as an entertaining fighter, due to his wrestling base, for them to get behind him.
Bryant Jenkins: Conor McGregor Will Not Fight in 2018
Conor “The Notorious” McGregor will finally be rightfully stripped of Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson’s lightweight belt. This causing an even larger divide between McGregor and the UFC. Just like the many other times, McGregor has butted heads with top brass, keeping “The Notorious” one on the sidelines to continue watching his old straps and the sport he once ruled pass him by.
Jordan Carroll: The UFC Bantamweight Title Changes Hands Twice
By the end of 2018, the UFC Bantamweight belt will have changed hands… twice. I know that three championship reigns in one weight class in one year is not something that happens often, which is why this is my bold prediction for 2018. I think that the trio of Cody Garbrandt, Dominick Cruz, and T.J. Dillashaw will all get their hands on the belt this year.
I believe that T.J. Dillashaw will lose his title to Dominick Cruz in a rematch in mid-2018. I know it doesn’t seem likely with Cruz having pulled out of his last scheduled bout with Jimmie Rivera but hear me out. The 135-pound division is hurting for contenders outside of the top 5. Cruz has to be considered the best bantamweight of all time, right? Injuries aside, he’s still in his physical prime. So say he wins a fight in March, gets his shot in June or July and gets his title back. That’s feasible if he stays healthy, after all, he DID beat Dillashaw last time. Now imagine that Cody Garbrandt wins a fight somewhere between February and June. He’d be as eligible as anyone for a shot at the title. He rematches Cruz late in the year, November or maybe even the big end of year December card that the UFC annually puts on. He ran through Cruz once, why couldn’t he do it again?
I know this seems unlikely, especially considering that both fights already happened recently. I’ll admit that the matchups are interchangeable. It could be Garbrandt vs Dillashaw for the belt. Or Cruz trying to take Cody’s belt. Maybe even someone like a John Linekar or a Jimmie Rivera gets involved, who knows? My bold prediction is that the bantamweight belt will change hands twice. That division is too competitive right now for me to buy into anyone holding the belt for very long. In my opinion, it’s the scariest top five in the UFC, and this is the sole reason that this is my bold prediction for 2018.
Bruno Duarte: Stipe Miocic Will Defend the Title 3 Consecutive Times
I predict that Stipe Miocic will become part of UFC’s history by being the first man to defend his title 3 consecutive times.
With Francis Ngannou looking more impressive than ever and somewhat unstoppable in the eyes of many, Miocic will have to show once again why he is ‘The Baddest Man On The Planet’. Only this time, he will also show that he is one of the greatest by becoming the only man in the history of the UFC to defend the heavyweight championship belt three times in a row. Miocic so far has shown us that he possesses the tools to beat anyone in the division and Ngannou might not be an exception. The Croatian descent last loss in the octagon was three years ago against Junior Dos Santos via unanimous decision in a close fight. However, they fought again on May 2017 where Stipe successfully avenged his loss in great style with a dominant win via TKO, equalling both Cain Velasquez’s and Randy Couture’s UFC’s consecutive heavyweight title defenses record (two times).
I believe that Miocic (a former Golden Gloves champion) is a very well-rounded striker and will not be afraid to keep the fight standing against Ngannou. Boxing is his biggest asset and low kicks one of his most important weapons. He often throws them successfully keeping his opponents out of balance. It would be a lie to say that Miocic defense is not unbreakable because he often leaves himself open to strikes and power punches and yes Ngannou can capitalize on that by countering. In contrast, Mocic’s intensity and high punching volume can pose a threat to Ngannou. He is also a former Division-1 wrestler and has displayed his wrestling ability effectively in the octagon, particularly with his takedown defense and single leg takedowns.
Lastly, I would like to remind the readers of Cain Velazquez vs Junior Dos Santos 2 where Dos Santos looked as unstoppable and ferocious as Ngannou does now but ended up losing the fight to Velasquez. It is important to remember that we are talking about the Heavyweight division, arguably the most unpredictable division in the sport.
Gary Brown: Demetrious Johnson Wins a Belt at Bantamweight
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has pretty much cleaned out his division. He will be looking for a new challenge and he will also be looking to cement his legacy as the greatest fighter of all time. While many have been called for Johnson to move up to bantamweight, I think he finally does it.
Ryan Fortune: Jimmie Rivera Wins the Bantamweight Championship
Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera (22-1 MMA,5-0 UFC) in my mind will be Bantamweight Champion.
In his 5 fights in the UFC, Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera has looked great. We saw him improve tremendously as a fighter. Last time out, he won a Unanimous Decision over Thomas “Thominhas” Almeida (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) at UFC on Fox 25. That was his only performance of 2017, recovering from an eye injury sustained in a winning effort over Uriah “The California Kid” Faber (34-10 MMA, 10-6 UFC) which is the biggest win of Jimmie Rivera’s MMA career back at UFC 203.
I think we will see him as a UFC Champion by the end of 2018. We assume he will fight again soon, after being pulled off UFC 219 twice, Firstly by Dominick “The Dominator” Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and secondly by John “Hands of Stone” Lineker (30-8 MMA, 11-3 UFC). None of those failed bouts where Rivera’s fault, however, with Cruz breaking his arm and Lineker gaining a tooth infection. I assume we will see him return to action in the first quarter of 2018.
However, the Current Bantamweight Champion T.J Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) is campaigning with a fight with #1P4P and long-reigning UFC Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (28-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) at 125 pounds, Rivera won’t likely receive his Bantamweight Shot (assuming he wins his next fight) until the last third of 2018. I think Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera has the style to beat TJ Dillashaw and shock the world, Dillashaw has been cracked before, most recently against Cody “No Love” Garbrandt (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) at UFC 217. Garbrandt clearly stunned Dillashaw, where he walked back to his corner on wobbly legs after being dropped towards the end of the first round. I think Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera will seal the deal and become the new UFC Bantamweight Champion in 2018