The new year is upon us so it’s time for us to predict every UFC champion by the end of 2022.
UFC president Dana White has officially confirmed two big fights will be taking place at UFC 270 which could define the future of the heavyweight and flyweight divisions respectively.
UFC 270 will be held on January 22 at Anaheim’s Honda Center as the world’s premier mixed martial arts organisation looks to kick things off with a bang amid the coronavirus pandemic.
White revealed Ciryl Gane will take on his old pal Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight championship and in the co-main event Brandon Moreno will run it back with Deiveson Figueiredo for a third time for the flyweight championship.
Here is how we see the divisions unfolding by the end of the year.
Heavyweight – Ciryl Gane
It’ll be a tough ask to beat Ngannou for sure – just ask Stipe Miocic – but if anyone can do it, it’s Gane, who spent many hours training with Ngannou under the tutelage of MMA Factory head coach Fernand Lopez before their acrimonious split.
Of course, as things stand Jon Jones has yet to make his heavyweight debut, so we reserve the right to change our minds at such a moment in time.
Light heavyweight – Jiri Prochazka
Fans could be about to witness a changing of the guard when Glover Teixeira and Jiri Prochazka eventually fight one another.
Now, Teixeira is certainly no pushover by any stretch of the imagination, but Prochazka will most likely have the advantage in terms of speed and power.
Middleweight – Israel Adesanya
Say it quietly but Adesanya looks virtually unbeatable at 185lbs after his attempt to become a two-weight world champion ended in failure against Jan Blachowicz back in March of last year.
Of course, Whittaker may have something to say about that, but given the conclusive nature of their first fight, it’s hard to predict otherwise.
Welterweight – Kamaru Usman
Like Adesanya, the same can be said about Kamaru Usman, who has been an unstoppable force to be reckoned with at 170lbs.
Such is his level of dominance it’s hard to see anyone coming close to unseating the current pound-for-pound king right now.
Keep a close eye, however, on Khamzat Chimaev, who could be there or thereabouts by the end of the year.
Lightweight – Islam Makhachev
Seen as Eastern Europe’s heir to Khabib Nurmagomedov, there seemed to be no one who could stop Makhachev before he was shockingly knocked out by Adriano Martins.
But the 30-year-old has since rebounded nicely with a pair of submission wins over Thiago Moisés and Dan Hooker. He also has solid names like Drew Dober and Arman Tsarukyan on his record – as well as BJJ ace Davi Ramos – after a nine-fight unbeaten streak.
Featherweight – Alexander Volkanovski
It’s about time Alexander Volkanovski gets the respect he deserves.
C’mon, give the man a break.
Bantamweight – Petr Yan
Petr Yan might just be one of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters in the world right now currently without the belt in their possession.
The Russian has barely put a foot wrong after delivering an illegal kick to the head of a downed Aljamain Sterling, comfortably outclassing Cory Sandhagen in one of the best displays of mixed martial arts we have ever seen to earn himself a shot at redemption.
Flyweight – Askar Askarov
Moreno and Figueiredo may be fighting for the belt in their best of three later this month, but we don’t think they’ll still be holding it by the end of the year.
Instead, we’re going with Askar Askarov, who is currently ranked the No.2 flyweight in the official rankings.
Admittedly Double AA hasn’t exactly had the best of luck as of late but what he does have is a strong wrestling base with a formidable gas tank to boot.
Women’s featherweight – Amanda Nunes (retires)
Granted, none of us could have foreseen Pena submitting Nunes the first time, but it’s hard to imagine the same thing happening again.
What better way to bring your career to a close than by beating the last person to hand you a loss inside the cage?
Women’s bantamweight – Amanda Nunes (retires)
As above – unless Valentina Shevchenko decides to move up in weight again.
Now, that could be interesting…
Women’s flyweight – Valentina Shevchenko
Speaking of Valentina, we fully expect Shevchenko to continue her dominant reign supreme at the top of the women’s flyweight division.
While Erin Blanchfield and Casey O’Neill may be future champions in waiting, they are both arguably still some way off fighting for the title anytime soon.
Women’s strawweight – Rose Namajunas
From one dominant champion to another – Rose Namajunas seems to be just head and shoulders above the rest at 115lbs.
So much so that Shevchenko was one of the first to congratulate her following her win over Weili Zhang at UFC 268.
Perhaps they’re just better off fighting each other after all…
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