2016 was another intense year for champions and fans saw history repeated from 2015 as seven titles changed hands over the past year with some having multiple changes. Now that 2017 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 have become 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: Joanna Jedrzejczyk remains champion.
Why: Jedrzejczyk’s striking and speed have proven time and time again to be a deadly combination in her fights to where she not only has had successful title defenses but lays a full beating on her opponents to where they cannot find any moments of an opening to possibly discover her weak spot. Even her well-timed defense game has helped make her such a dominate champion to where she can remain in control of fights while at the same time studying her opponents’ techniques and style to help her find their most vulnerable spot and bring the fight to a bloody end.
WOMEN’S BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Amanda Nunes remains champion.
Why: Nunes is known for her power and striking combination that has made her the first fighter of the division to successfully defend the title since former champion Ronda Rousey. Though she might not have some of the best cardio out of the other female athletes she does lay pressure on her opponents to not give them any opportunities to where she has finished 13 of her 14 victories (10 via knockout and 3 via submission). Even the numbers show her power is a deadly weapon with such a high finish rate in her career making her no joke to the entire division that not only will help her remain champion, but possibly become the first female fighter to hold two titles in different weight classes when the women’s featherweight division is introduced this year at UFC 208.
WOMEN’S FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Holly Holm becomes the first champion of the division.
Why: Now the women’s featherweight division is totally brand new to the UFC, so it is hard to call the champion of the division, but from the first scheduled title fight I believe Holm has the possibility to become champion again, only in a different weight class. Indeed she suffered two back to back losses after becoming bantamweight champion she now will be much more well-balanced in her technique as she will be closer to her normal weight and therefore not punish her body as much in order to remain in top condition. Even her striking power she uses with both punches and kicks will show a great increase in this new weight class proving once again she is still the best striker in all of women’s mixed martial arts.
My prediction: Demetrious Johnson remains champion.
Why: Ever, since the flyweight division was introduced to the UFC in 2012 Johnson, has just been tearing the division apart with almost bitter ease with his strength, speed, and cardio that has proven too much for any other fighter in the division to be able to stand against. With all Johnson brings to his fights I believe will not only help him remain champion throughout the year but become the new GOAT of the UFC as he shoots to break Anderson Silva’s record of 11 title defenses. After all, he looks to be unstoppable right now and if he keeps up his training and continues to bring it inside the octagon fans will soon have a new respect for the current pound-for-pound king.
My prediction: Cody Garbrandt remains champion.
Why: Garbrandt has been on a role ever since turning pro in the sport as he has an intense striking power that has lead him to finish nine of his 11 fights via knockout with seven of them occurring in the first round. After such a dominant performance against former champion Dominick Cruz, he captured the attention of fans everywhere as he exposed not only how deadly of a striker he is, but revealed his ground techniques as he countered all of Cruz’s takedowns and even laid one of his own upon him. For all that Garbrandt brought to this fight against such a dominant champion like Cruz has proved he indeed will not only remain champion once the new year is over but will continue to dominate the division to become the new dominant champion of the bantamweights.
My prediction: Max Holloway becomes champion.
Why: When Holloway first entered the sport he began on a smooth path to the top, but when entering the UFC he discovered just how challenging the sport really. At first, he started off on a rocky path, but after moving past two back to back losses he would go one to win his next ten fights in a clean fashion of all three methods of victory. By winning by every fashion possible has risen him to the top of the leader board with the possibility of becoming the next dominant champion of the division as Jose Aldo seems to now be falling apart from all the injuries he has received throughout his career while Holloway is just getting pumped for what looks like an interesting career fans will enjoy watching grow.
My prediction: Khabib Nurmagomedov becomes champion.
Why: The lightweight division has always been possibly the toughest division in the sport as most fights only make it past one or two title defenses before they lose the gold and never see it again. Nurmagomedov however, has been on a role since entering the sport as he has compiled a perfect record of 24-0 with eight wins via all three methods of victory proving he has standing, ground and cardio game making him possibly the deadliest fighter in the division. For every time Nurmagomedov steps foot inside the octagon he unleashes a world of pain upon him opponents to not only show them he is here to win, but that he means business and wants to make history in becoming the dominant lightweight champion the UFC has been looking for.
My prediction: Stephen Thompson becomes champion.
Why: Thompson has been on such a role ever since entering the company as his style has become more accurate with his striking and defense making him the toughest challenge the division has to offer. Now he had run for his money in his most recent title fight against current champion Tyron Woodley as he was pushed to the limit, but at the same time pressured Woodley to where Woodley had a new respect for the number one contender. After every fight Thompson always comes back much stronger and smarter than he did the fight before and in his upcoming rematch against Woodley I believe he will be much more defense while having aggression in his style to really lay it on Woodley that not only would help him become champion but possibly be another dominate champion of the division since Georges St-Pierre.
My prediction: Ronaldo Souza becomes champion.
Why: Ronaldo has been a fighter in the division I believe has been overlooked several times since stepping foot into the octagon because some see him as not ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’ to watch. Well, I can say he is a pretty entertaining fighter to watch compete and when you actually pay attention to what he brings to his fights t becomes much clearer on why he has the potential to hold UFC gold by the end of 2017. From his intense ground game to his striking power he has shown the world he is as tough as they come not giving his opponents’ any edge as well as laying pressure on them to exposes their weaknesses and put them to bed in the process.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
My prediction: Anthony Johnson becomes champion.
Why: Striking power is one main weapon fighters need in order to help them succeed and Anthony Johnson has just that along with speed to give him more of a cutting edge in laying the smack down upon his opponents. Now his ground game has been proven to not be so great and will be his biggest weakness, but at the same time he has increased his takedown defense while increasing his speed and power to not only become a top fighter, but avenge his loss to current champion Daniel Cormier and show the world why strikers are considered the best fighters ever.
My prediction: Stipe Miocic remains champion.
Why: The heavyweight division is full of heavy hitters, but it takes more than just heavy hitting to become the champion in this division. Miocic brings great power to his striking along with an intense ground game and well-balanced cardio that have proven to make him the “Baddest Man on the Planet.” Though he still has plenty of competition ahead of him, I really do not see any future title contenders taking the belt from him as his striking power has increased dramatically since his second loss to Junior dos Santos at UFC on Fox 13. Knowing that he did not want to leave any of his fights to the judges he worked on finishing fights to the fullest and has done just that as he finished his last four fights all via knockout, thus proving even more that his striking power will help him remain champion throughout the year.
Now fans can only wait to see who walks away with gold around their waist by year’s end and though the sport is pretty unpredictable fans are for sure going to see some fireworks in the upcoming title fights of 2017.
In the words of Bruce Buffer, “IT’S TIME!”