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UFC Championship Schedule: January Edition

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In January, the UFC has no champion fighting, and surprisingly only three title fights are planned thus far.

The reason for this is likely due to the fact that the UFC had an abundance of title fights in late 2016 and the champions are not quite ready to fight this early in 2017.

Here’s a look at some of the booked fights thus far and what the outlook is for the other champions.

Booked Champions:

Ferbuary 11th

Holly Holm vs Germaine De Randamie:

UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship
UFC 208 | Brooklyn, New York
Inaugural Women’s Featherweight Championship

In the UFC’s debut in Brooklyn, Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie will square off for the UFC Women’s Featherweight Championship. The division was intended to be created for Cyborg Justino, but after she turned down 2 fights for the new belt, the UFC booked Holm vs Randamie.

Later we learned that Justino had failed a random USADA test and will likely be suspended for 1-2 years. With that in mind one must wonder if the UFC made a big mistake.

Regardless they’re in too deep to scrap plans now, but they’re going to have to look find some talent which isn’t easy considering Bellator also has a Featherweight division and has signed two of the bigger ‘stars’ in the division.

March 4th

Tyron Woodley (C) vs Stephen Thompson:

UFC Welterweight Championship
UFC 209 | Las Vegas, Nevada
Tyron Woodley’s 2nd title defense

Although a lot of ideas were thrown out there, the UFC got it right giving Stephen Thompson a rematch against Tyron Woodley after their UFC 205 draw. It was too close of a fight to not see a rematch.

Even though Damien Maia is just as deserving of a shot and the public interest is definitely higher in a Nick Diaz title fight, Wonderboy was the only option.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson:

Interim UFC Lightweight Championship
UFC 209 | Las Vegas Nevada

As of late, the UFC has made some odd decisions with interim championships. For the third time in less than 3 months, they booked another interim title fight. Although we can sit and complain about it, it’s not such a bad thing.

Can we really complain that Khabib vs Ferguson is now a 5-round fight instead of the 3-rounder it would have been? Nope.

This is one of the most compelling fights in MMA right now. Both guys are riding historic win streaks and have looked outstanding. There are so many factors in this fight that make it interesting. Will Khabib be able to dominate Ferguson in his active guard on the ground?

How will Khabib deal with Ferguson’s unorthodox and diverse striking skills?

Unknown Date

Cody Garbrandt (C) vs TJ Dillashaw:

UFC Bantamweight Championship

After his massive upset against Dominick Cruz, Cody Garbrandt will defend his UFC title for the first time against his former teammate TJ Dillashaw. We all know the history there as Dillashaw notoriously abandoned Team Alpha Male for Team Elevation based out of Denver.

The two are set to coach against one another in the Ultimate Fighter Season 25. This will likely push there title fight back to Summer.

Garbrandt vs Dillashaw is a very exciting fight. Two guys that fight similar and know each other’s game real well.

Un-booked Champions:

Stipe Miocic: Heavyweight Champion

Last Fight: W/TKO | Alistair Overreem; September 10th (UFC 203)
Champion since: May 14th, 2016 (UFC 198)
Title Defenses: 1
Possible contenders: Fabricio Werdum, Junior Dos Santos
Expected Return: Spring of 2017

Stipe is currently taking time off and looking to return in the Spring of 2017. With the Cain Velasquez vs Fabricio Werdum fight falling through, many expect Werdum to get the rematch with Miocic by default.

Dos Santos could possibly steal the title shot with a big win before the spring. Unfortunately for him, Stefan Struve pulled out of their scheduled fight for February. The UFC is currently seeking a replacement. Dos Santos defeated Miocic in 2015.

Daniel Cormier: Light Heavyweight Champion

Last Fight: W/UD | Anderson Silva; July 9th, 2016 (UFC 200)
Champion since: May 23rd, 2015 (UFC 187)
Title Defenses: 1
Possible contender: Anthony Johnson
Expected Return: Spring 2017

Daniel Cormier is expected to fight Anthony Johnson sometime in the spring. Johnson and Cormier were supposed to fight last year at UFC 206 but Cormier pulled out with a groin injury.

It’s pretty much unofficially official that Johnson will get first crack at Cormier when he returns. After Cormier pulled out of UFC 206, Johnson did not take a replacement fight and instead opted to wait for Cormier. It’s unlikely the UFC would go any other way but Johnson.

Jon Jones is suspended for a failed USADA test until mid-July. It’s unlikely he will get a title shot upon returning but stranger things have happened.

Michael Bisping: UFC Middleweight Champion

Last Fight: W/UD | Dan Henderson; October 8th, 2016 (UFC 204)
Champion Since: June 4th, 2016
Title Defenses: 1
Possible Contenders: Yoel Romero
Expected Return: Spring 2017

Michael Bisping vs Yoel Romero is likely on tap for sometime in spring. Although Romero failed a USADA test in 2016, he was only suspended 9 months for a tainted supplement.

Romero is a scary opponent who has been in one of the more historic runs at middleweight beating Chris Weidman, Jacare Souza, Lyoto Machida, and Tim Kennedy.

Bisping will have his hands full, but he’s been on quite the run himself beating Anderson Silva, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson all last year.

Fans seem to underestimate Bisping, and it’s hard to see why. He’s been a perennial top-5 Middleweight for several years now and is on the top of his game.

Conor McGregor: UFC Lightweight Champion

Last Fight: W/TKO|Eddie Alvarez | November 11th (UFC 205)
Champion since: November 11th (UFC 205)
Title Defenses: 0
Possible Contenders: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Tony Ferguson
Expected Return: Unknown

It’s kind of unclear what is going on at the moment with Conor McGregor. McGregor said he’d like to take time off to spend time with his family as the birth of his child is expected in April.

Dana White on the other hand claims that McGregor is taking 10 months off from the sport for that same reason. This would mean McGregor will return in September at the earliest.

In the meantime the UFC booked Ferguson vs Nurmagomedov for the interim title.

So what is going on? Who knows with McGregor? At the least, hopefully he returns in the Summer to unify the belt with the winner of Ferguson and Khabib.

Jose Aldo: UFC Featherweight Champion

Last Fight: W/UD | Frankie Edgar; July 9th (UFC 200)
Champion Since: December 2017 (McGregor vacated title upgrading Aldo to champion)
Title Defenses: 0
Possible Contender: Max Holloway
Expected Return: Unknown

Similar to McGregor, Aldo is another one who you just don’t know with. Aldo hasn’t fought since July since has contemplated leaving the UFC as well as moving up to Lightweight.

For an unexplainable reason, Max Holloway fought Anthony Pettis for an interim Featherweight title IN December of last year. Holloway won the title by TKO. Many had fought this would lead to a quick turnaround fight for Holloway to fight Aldo for the unified title in February. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, and since there has been a lot of confusion as to what’s going on.

The fight will also likely not take place in March as UFC 209 already has two title fights. Beyond UFC 209, no PPV’s are planned but several are expected. Maybe the UFC’s plan will become more transparent, but as of right now we can’t really predict where and when this fight will happen.

Also to muddy the waters even more, the UFC reportedly offered Aldo an interim Lightweight title shot against Khabib Nurmagomedov in which the Russian turned down. So what’s going on with Aldo? Who knows?

Max Holloway: UFC Interim Featherweight Champion

Last Fight: W/TKO | Anthony Pettis; December 10th (UFC 206)
Champion since: December 10th (UFC 206)
Title Defenses: 0
Possible Contender: Jose Aldo
Expected Return: Unknown

As stated with Aldo, it’s a bit unclear what will happen with Max Holloway. Holloway had been calling out Aldo for UFC 208 in Brooklyn, but it never came to fruition.

UFC 209 is now full and it’s kind of hard to get an idea of when and if Holloway will fight Aldo.

Demetrious Johnson: UFC Flyweight Champion

Last Fight: W/UD Tim Elliott; December 9th (UFC TUF 24 Finale)
Champion Since: September 22, 2012 (UFC 152)
Title Defenses: 9
Possible Contenders: Henry Cejudo, Joseph Benavidez, Sergio Pettis
Expected Return: Spring 2017

The UFC is starting to run out of opponents for Demetrious Johnson. The inaugural Flyweight champion has dominated the division and has developed into one of the most well-rounded fighters on the planet.

He’s at the point where he’s beaten almost every contender in the top 10 of the division. Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo was supposed to be a #1 contenders matchup for Mighty Mouse, but the fight ended in a controversial win for Benavidez. The two will likely rematch.

This leaves a lot of questions as to what is next for Johnson. Could he have a fight at Bantamweight to stay busy? Could he fight a guy like Sergio Pettis who picked up a nice win against John Moraga? Or could a hot prospect like Magomed Bibulatov come in and make his case right away?

A lot up in the air for the UFC’s longest reigning champion.

Amanda Nunes: UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion

Last Fight: W/TKO | Ronda Rousey; December 30th (UFC 207)
Champion Since: July 9th, 2016 (UFC 200)
Title Defenses: 1
Possible Contenders: Valentina Shevchenko, Julianna Pena
Expected Return: Unknown

Amanda Nunes shocked a lot of people when she beat Ronda Rousey in 46 seconds. Rousey barely landed a single punch, Nunes completely blitzed her and likely retired the longtime former champion.

Nunes became the first women since Ronda to defend the title as the previous two champions failed to do so. Nunes had a huge year main eventing two of the biggest cards of the year in UFC 200 and UFC 207.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk: UFC Women’s Straweight Champion

Last Fight: W/UD | Karolina Kowalkiewicz; November 11th (UFC 205)
Champion Since: March 14TH, 2015 (UFC 185)
Title Defenses: 3
Possible Contenders: Michelle Waterson, Jessica Andrade
Expected Return: Unknown

Joanna has been a bit quiet since beating Karolina at UFC 205 a few months ago. She hasn’t really stated when she will come back and the UFC hasn’t really hinted at any ideas of who she’ll fight next.

One idea that could work would be a fight against Michelle Waterson who just beat Paige Van Zant. The fight was broadcasted on FOX and did massive ratings, the biggest since the UFC’s debut on FOX.

Waterson also had a documentary recently released by ESPN. The documentary was so popular that Lebron James actually tweeted about it and Waterson.

In an ideal world, the UFC would book Waterson against Jedrzejczyk on FOX. It would likely perform huge ratings and it’s a solid fight.

The other idea is to have her defend the title against Jessica Andrade. Andrade is a massive straweight who has looked great since moving down to the division last year.

It would be surprising to see Joanna take a lot of time off as she has always been an active fighter. So a spring date with one of these two is highly likely.

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