There is a title fight at almost every single UFC pay-per-view and sometimes even two. Title fights get everyone watching and surely everyone talking. Everyone is always wondering who will become the next champion? Who will become the man or woman to beat the division’s dominant champion? Who will be the next big star? We are taking a look at, not necessarily who will be the next champion in their division, but who is most likely to become champion if the title were to change hands.
Most Likely to be the Next Champion (Division by Division)
The current season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ will crown the first ever UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion. There are currently two more fights in the opening round of the tournament, so there are still so many possible options. The finals are not even close to being set, but favorites would include Carla Esparza, Rose Namajunas, Joanne Calderwood, and the already once eliminated Tecia Torres. The champion will be crowned at the finale on December 12, 2014 and on that night, Scotland will have its first ever UFC champion, as Joanne Calderwood will be victorious and will become the first ever UFC Strawweight Champion.
Ronda Rousey is the current and first ever UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion. Rousey is arguably one of the most dominant champions out of all the current champions. Without ever losing a single round in her career and only going out of the first round once, Rousey has compiled a perfect 10-0 record. The 2008 Olympic bronze medalist in judo has got her next opponent and it is easily the toughest test to date. Currently set to take place on February 28, 2015 at UFC 184, the champion ‘Rowdy’ Ronda Rousey looks to defend her title against ‘Alpha’ Cat Zingano. In a fight that was originally supposed to take place back in 2013, but was called off due to injury, Zingano finally will finally get her chance in 2015. No one has showed they have more heart in the women’s bantamweight division than Cat Zingano. The Colorado native has a perfect 9-0 record and is 2-0 in the UFC. Both of her UFC victories come by TKO in the third and final round in fights where she had to overcome early onslaughts. If anyone is going to beat Ronda Rousey, it will be Cat Zingano because she has no quit in her and is very good in almost all aspects.
Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson is also a very dominant champion and is by far the most active that the UFC has. ‘Mighty Mouse’ is the first and only UFC Flyweight Champion and possesses a 7-0-1 record at flyweight and an overall record of 21-2-1. The person to fight him to a draw at flyweight is also the person who is most likely to beat him and that is Ian McCall. ‘Uncle Creepy’ has fought Johnson twice, once where it went to a wrongly awarded loss that was later changed to a draw and another time where he lost a unanimous decision. In the first fight, McCall was taking over towards the end of the fight and many thought he may have won. It was originally announced that it was a majority decision loss, but there was an error in judging. This was huge because if it was announced a draw on the spot, it would have went to a sudden death fourth round because it was a semi-final in the flyweight championship tournament. McCall has had his fair share of distractions out of the octagon, but it finally seems that he has put most of that behind him and is ready to take that next step to become a champion. The Team Oyama flyweight is on a two fight win streak and is set to take on John Lineker on November 8, 2014 in a fight with major title implications. With John Dodson sidelined due to injury, it is very likely that the winner of this is next in line for ‘Mighty Mouse’. McCall is really the only one that can or can come close to matching the footwork of the champion and he has the best chance to dethrone Johnson.
One of the feel good stories of the year thus far was T.J. Dillashaw putting on one of the most spectacular performances when he dominated the then current champ Renan Barão. Dillashaw was able to become the first guy to beat Barão in over nine years. The Team Alpha Male bantamweight was able to become the champion. Dillashaw’s biggest test will come in his next fight as he is expected to take on former UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz. Dominick Cruz never lost his championship; it was vacated due to a plethora of injuries that sidelined Cruz for almost three years. ‘The Dominator’ successfully made his comeback in probably the most feel good story of the year as he absolutely ran through Takeya Mizugaki in 61-seconds back in September. Cruz is on an 11-fight win streak and has never lost as a bantamweight in his career. This fight is a very interesting one because what has worked so well for Dillashaw is his footwork, often drawing comparisons to Cruz. This will be one of the most evenly matched fights to take place in 2015 because they are both very similar and can match each other in all aspects. Dominick Cruz will be the guy to defeat Dillashaw and will take back the title that he never lost.
José Aldo is one of the all-time greats and is certainly the most dominant champion ever out of all the weight classes below 155. Aldo is coming off of what was likely the fight of the year thus far against Chad Mendes at UFC 179 and was able to cement himself as the best featherweight in the world. Aldo showed his heart and resilience in his fight with Mendes as he was in some serious danger and was able to overcome something that he has never faced before in his career. Aldo has a 25-1 career record and his only lost came at lightweight back in 2005. The hype train that is Conor McGregor is likely his next opponent if he can get by Dennis Siver in January. Aldo is not the biggest fan of McGregor’s and even took a shot at him after his victory over Mendes. Aldo seems to be unbeatable, but if there is anyone who may dethrone him it may very well be Conor McGregor. Aldo has already beaten pretty much everyone else near the top of the division except for ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor. McGregor’s striking has looked fantastic thus far in his career, but even more importantly, he has an unmatched belief in himself. McGregor is supremely confident in himself and facing a guy with that much confidence may be troublesome to any of his opponents. The Irishman seems to get under everyone’s skin and gets guys to fight emotionally leaving them to make mistakes that they would unlikely make. So, Aldo is an elite striker, but if anyone is able to match that and possibly best him, it may be Conor McGregor.
Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis has yet to defend his UFC Lightweight Championship since winning it from Benson Henderson back in August of last year. Pettis’ first defense will take place on December 6, 2014 at UFC 181 against Gilbert ‘El Niño’ Melendez. ‘Showtime’ is very injury prone and has not been very active the past few years, but when he does fight, he looks great and has finished fights in spectacular fashion in each of his last three fights. Melendez, the former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion, is one of the toughest, scrappiest guys that there is in all of MMA. Melendez has been fighting at a very high level for over six years. ‘El Niño’ is a guy who has no quit in him and may be able to take the champion into deep waters and come out with the decision victory.
Johny Hendricks has looked great as of late and many agree that he beat the greatest welterweight of all time in Georges St-Pierre. Although not awarded the championship that night, Hendricks was able to capture the UFC Welterweight Championship in his next fight against Robbie Lawler. With an injury that has sidelined him for most of 2014, ‘Bigg Rigg’ will be making his return to the octagon on December 6, 2014 as he again faces ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler. Lawler will not be the guy to take the title away from Hendricks though. The person who will defeat Hendricks is a Canadian fighter from the Tristar Gym. It is not Georges St-Pierre, but it is one of GSP’s training partners and his name is Rory MacDonald. Before GSP took a break, there were media members asking Rory nonstop if he would fight GSP for the title. Whether it affected him or not, it was certainly a distraction and MacDonald put on a disappointing performance against Robbie Lawler. Since then, ‘Ares’ has put together a three fight win streak and has earned himself the number one contender spot and is going to face the winner of Hendricks vs. Lawler in 2015. Rory MacDonald does not have a flaw and will be the next champion in the welterweight division. MacDonald is a far more complete striker than Hendricks, he has amazing takedown defense, and has better cardio than Hendricks.
Chris Weidman is the current UFC Middleweight Champion and was the guy to dethrone the greatest UFC Champion of all time in Anderson Silva. Not only did he defeat Anderson Silva once, but he also did it a second time in an immediate rematch. Weidman then went on to successfully defend the title in a five round decision victory over Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida. ‘The All American’ is set to defend his title on February 28, 2014 against Vitor Belfort in a bout that was scheduled, but postponed multiple times. Belfort will not be the guy to take the title from Weidman. Many believe that the guy to give Weidman his toughest test and quite possibly the guy to take the title is ‘Jacare’ Souza, but this is not the case. Luke Rockhold is the biggest threat to Chris Weidman in the middleweight division. Rockhold’s only loss in the UFC came against Vitor Belfort who was on the, now banned substance, TRT. The American Kickboxing Academy middleweight has a 12-2 record where 10 of those victories come by first round stoppage. Rockhold has also beaten ‘Jacare’. Rockhold is set to take on a rival of his in Michael Bisping on November 8, 2014. With a victory over Bisping, he will be on a three fight win streak and will be very close to being the next title challenger. It is hard to find a flaw in Rockhold’s game. Rockhold has solid takedown defense, a great ground game, and possesses a great striking game where he is the much more powerful striker than current champion Chris Weidman. If Weidman faces Rockhold, he may very well meet his match and may lose his title.
At just 27-years-old, Jon Jones is the consensus pound-for-pound best fighter in the world and is already one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time. No one is unbeatable, but Jon Jones is certainly as close as it gets and he may be the champion for a very, very long time. Having already successfully defended his title seven times, ‘Bones’ has only really been tested one time and that was against Alexander Gustafsson. Jones’ toughest test may come in the guy he dislikes the most in the entire division, Daniel Cormier. Jones is set to defend his title on January 3, 2015 at UFC 182 against Daniel Cormier. DC has been very dominant at both the heavyweight and light heavyweight division. At 15-0, Cormier has also looked very unbeatable. When the former Olympian, Daniel Cormier takes on Jon Jones, he may very well be the guy to end the reign of Jon Jones. If not DC, then who?
The heavyweight division is currently in a tricky situation. Current UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez was set to defend his title against Fabrício Werdum at UFC 180, but was forced out of the bout due to injury. So, the main event of UFC 180 was switched to an Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship bout where Werdum would take on Mark Hunt. Werdum is a large favorite over Hunt and rightfully so. Hunt has the power to knockout anyone in the world, but Werdum is the more well rounded fighter. Werdum has a huge advantage on the ground and proved that his stand-up game is very good as well when he dominated Travis Browne. The next UFC Heavyweight Champion to be crowned will only be the interim champion, but it will be wrapped around the waist of Fabrício Werdum.