2017 was another mind-blowing year for champions. Now that 2018 has begun we are left to wonder who will become champion once this year is finished. It is a tough call after all the weight classes are such shark divisions, but here are some fighters I believe will be holding the gold by the end of the year.
WOMEN’S STRAWWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Rose Namajunas remains champion.
Why: Namajunas’ combination of striking and grappling have proven to increase in every fight. Even her knockout win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk speaks for itself. Of course, she will have to make it past Jedrzejczyk a second time as well as facing fighters like Jessica Andrade, Claudia Gadelha, Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Tecia Torres and many more. But don’t forget her jiu-jitsu and wrestling mixed with her striking giving her some of the best ground-and-pound in the division. By continuing her increase training on all of these, especially her striking, she looks to be another dominant champion in the making.
WOMEN’S FLYWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Valentina Shevchenko becomes champion.
Why: Shevchenko’s Muay Thai and kickboxing are out of this world. In the flyweights, she looks to be a force to be reckoned with since none have faced a fighter like Shevchenko ever. From all, she managed to prove in the bantamweight in just a short time only shows more of what she will accomplish in the flyweight. Yes, she has to work more on her takedown defense, but with the jiu-jitsu, she possesses she could easily challenge the current flyweights and show them why she’s “The Bullet”.
WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Amanda Nunes remains champion.
Why: There is no woman in the bantamweights more dominant and aggressive than Amanda Nunes. Yes, Nunes is a beast when she fights and to make her scarier is her ground-and-pound. Her ground-and-pound is out of this world and when she lays down on her opponents you know she means business. Though, her cardio is not one of the best, so she has to really work on that part. But everything else from her striking and grappling is on point. By the looks of things she might not only still be champion, but for a good time afterward.
WOMEN’S FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Cris Cyborg remains champion.
Why: Though the featherweight division is still new Cyborg looks to be holding the belt still by year’s end. Her aggressive striking and ground-and-pound seem too much for all or most of the female fighters. Holly Holm did put up a good fight against her, but Cyborg will clean her mistakes and come back smarter. Unless she’s caught with more PEDs she looks to be holding the title for quite some time until her real challenge arrives.
My prediction: Demetrious Johnson remains champion.
Why: Not the most popular division, but you have to admit it; Johnson is the most dominant champion right now. From his striking and wrestling techniques, he just appears unstoppable. He is indeed and until someone takes the gold away he will remain unstoppable. Now he has shown interest to face T.J. Dillashaw, so this fight could change everything. If Johnson continues improving and bringing the man we all know to fight gold with still be around his waist.
My prediction: Jimmie Rivera becomes champion.
Why: The bantamweight division has a few big names, but they forget about rising star Jimmie Rivera. Rivera has accomplished so much from his striking and wrestling ability giving him a near perfect record of 21-1. His defense game is high quality as well with a hundred percent takedown defense. Though, he has not faced an efficient wrestler or jiu-jitsu specialist of the same caliber he is. But I believe he has the techniques to take on anyone. If he continues to bring the fighter we all know against top dogs he will be holding gold in 2018.
My prediction: Max Holloway remains champion.
Why: Holloway has been on a twelve fight win streak since his third and last loss to Conor McGregor. His striking, speed and cardio are just on top and above the rest of the division. He looks to be a dominant champion in the making. Now there are stars like Frankie Edgar, Brian Ortega, Josh Emmett and Darren Elkins. All Holloway still has to face. However, his Muay Thai and jiu-jitsu appear far more than these fighters can handle. Unless they can pull off a quick finish in the first round or two, Holloway will most likely put them away he has done with his past twelve fights.
My prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov becomes champion
Why: Nurmagomedov’s wrestling and ability to take heavy shots is unlike anything we have ever seen. Now he got rocked some by Michael Johnson, but he immediately came back and began to ground-and-pound him. In his most recent bout against Edson Barboza, he didn’t feel any of the strikes and simply rubbed them off. If he showed that type of resistance against Tony Ferguson and Conor McGregor along with the rest of the division he could turn himself not only into a champion but the most dominant lightweight and fighter the UFC has ever seen.
My prediction: Rafael dos Anjos becomes champion.
Why: Dos Anjos was a force to reckoned with in the lightweight division. After struggling to make the weight cuts he decided to move to welterweight and has demolished every opponent like amateurs. Of course, he has never faced a wrestler like Tyron Woodley before. However, he has great takedown defense and is far more aggressive. If Woodley continues his performance of boredom dos Anjos looks to be claiming gold in two divisions sometime in 2018.
My prediction: Georges St-Pierre becomes champion.
Why: George St-Pierre has always been one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters to ever compete inside the octagon. When he won the middleweight title he was forced to vacate it due to colitis. But sickness won’t keep the king down. When he returns he will prove again like he has time and time before he is the greatest well-rounded fighter. From his boxing to his wrestling, he just is an unstoppable force. Now the middleweight is new for him, he still managed to bring the St-Pierre we know after a four-year layoff.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Alexander Gustafsson becomes champion.
Why: I know, Gustafsson has already faced Daniel Cormier and lost. I also know when he faced a top striker like Anthony Johnson he got knocked out so I can understand why it doesn’t make any sense he will finally become champion. However, he’s striking and wrestling techniques have shown massive improvements now looking to be what he needs to claim gold. Cormier is still a beast when it comes to his wrestling. However, he seems to have shown recent signs of slowing down and losing his stamina. Gustafsson on the other hand still has plenty of fight in him looking to finally bringing Sweden on the map.
My prediction: Francis Ngannou becomes champion
Why: There are many talented heavyweight stars with athleticism and knockout power, but Ngannou appears more than that. His knockout power and ability to grappling with opponents say it all. This guy is dangerous no matter where or how you fight him, he is going to bring a fight your way. He still has yet to face a well-rounded wrestler or jiu-jitsu specialist. We will see him perform against one when he takes on Stipe Miocic at UFC 220. Another thing to remember is the strength he possesses. This has helped him dominate his opponents and will do the same in the new year. Unless he pulls any stupid moves he will finally get his country of Cameroon on the map. Maybe become the heavyweight star everyone has been dying to see.
Fans can only wait to see who walks away with gold around their waist by year’s end. One thing is for sure, fans will see fireworks in the upcoming title fights of 2018.
In the words of Bruce Buffer, “IT’S TIME!”