A lot has changed from 2018 to 2019 in the UFC. Robert Whittaker lost his middleweight title to Isreal Adesanya. Max Holloway lost his title after three title defenses to Alexander Volkanovski. Herny Cejudo became a two-division champion and Weili Zhang shocked the world to become the women’s strawweight champion. Today MMA Sucka takes an in-depth look at possible title challengers for the year 2020.
Chan Sung Jung
Chan Sung Jung aka “The Korean Zombie” has been extremely impressive since returning from his mandatory military service in South Korea. Since returning in 2017, Jung has knocked out Dennis Bermudez. Lost via last-second knock out in a fight that he was dominating against Yair Rodriguez. Then racked up back to back knockout wins in 2019 over Renato Moicano and Frankie Edger. Max Holloway is more than deserving of a rematch with Alexander Volkanovski, so it may not be right away but Jung certainly deserves a title shot by the end of 2020.
Aljamain Sterling is also on a tear, currently riding a four-fight win streak. Defeating Brett Johns, Cody Stamann, Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz in 2018-2019. With Henry Cejudo vacating his flyweight title, his first fight back will be for the bantamweight title. Depending on when he comes back this could be bad for Sterling as he just had surgery on his wrist in late 2019. If he should not be ready by the time Cejudo comes back, the UFC may opt to have Cejudo fight Petr Yan. If that ends up being the case Sterling should 100% be fighting the winner of that fight.
In 2019 the women’s flyweight title has changed hands twice. With Jessica Andrade defeating Rose Namajunas in May. Then shortly after Weili Zhang won the title from Andrade in August. Zhang is currently booked to fight Joanna Jedrzejczyk in March at UFC 248. Although the obvious next fighter in line should be Tatiana Suarez. Suarez is 8-0 and 5-0 inside the UFC cage. She has finished three out of her five UFC wins impressively. She is also the number three ranked women’s flyweight in the world. Only sitting behind former titleholders Namajunas and Andrade.
Okay, this one is kind of a pipe dream for 2020, but we all know how much Dana White loves to put undefeated prospects in title fights. Edmen Shahbazyan is 11-0 and 4-0 in the UFC. He won his contract on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series by knocking out Antonio Jones. Since being in the UFC he has won a split decision over Darren Stewart, knocked out Charles Byrd and Brad Tavares and even has a submission win over Jack Marshman.
The reason his title shot is a pipe dream for 2020 is that he is currently ranked number nine in the UFC middleweight division. On top of that ahead of him is about three or four other fighters that are well deserving of a title shot. A title shot this year should not be considered impossible though. If he manages to defeat a top-five guy in impressive fashion, and Adesanya remains champion, White may make the fight from a marketability standpoint. If Shahbazyan and Adesanya remain undefeated, it could be marketed as undefeated vs. undefeated. Both men are extremely young prospects with somewhat similar fighting styles.
Like we mentioned earlier, Cejudo has vacated his flyweight title. Which made the UFC book Joseph Benavidez vs. Deiveson Figueiredo for the vacant title. Alexandre Pantoja is currently 6-2 in the UFC. Beating guys like Brandon Moreno, Wilson Reis, and Matt Schnell in that timeframe. His two losses are to Dustin Ortiz, who hasn’t fought since January 2019, and Deiveson Figueiredo, who will be fighting for the vacant title. There are only three men ranked ahead of Pantoja in the flyweight rankings. Those men are Benavidez, Figueiredo, and Jussier Formiga. With the UFC booking Figueiredo and Benavidez for the vacant title, it is likely that they also book Pantoja and Formiga for the number one contender slot. Should Pantoja get past Formiga he should be next in line for the title shot.