As the year comes to a close, we start to look at what lies ahead for the UFC in 2021. Three new champions were crowned this year at flyweight, bantamweight, and light-heavyweight. In a time where each champion in the promotion is historically dominant, let’s predict all of the UFC champions in 2021.
Current Champion: Deiveson Figueiredo
Champion in December 2021: Deiveson Figueiredo
Dark Horse: Manel Kape
The “God of War” had one of the best years for a champion in recent memory. Despite not coming away with a victory at UFC 256, Figueiredo still passes the eye test as the best flyweight in the world. He still should be viewed as the favourite to hold the title in 12 months. One challenger who’s capable of making a run is Manel Kape. The former RIZIN FF champion has yet to make his promotional debut, but with Figueiredo cleaning out the top of the division, Kape only needs 1 or two big wins for the opportunity.
Current Champion: Petr Yan
Champion in December 2021: Aljamain Sterling
Dark Horse: Henry Cejudo
Petr Yan on any given night is the best 135lb fighter in the world. However, so is Aljamain Sterling. This bout should take place sometime in the first quarter of 2021. After Sterling’s performance against Cody Sandhagen, it’s very difficult to pick against him. As for Henry Cejudo, it’s almost for certain he’s back in 2021 right? It’s likely the former UFC champion returns and if he does it will be for a title.
Current Champion: Alexander Volkanovski
Champion in December 2021: Brian Ortega
Dark Horse: Calvin Kattar
As far as UFC champions are concerned, Volkanovski is one of the most dominant. A professional record of 22-1 and 9-0 in the UFC, Volkanovski is expected to challenge Brian Ortega in February. In addition, Calvin Kattar is set to take on former champ Max Holloway next month. Volkanovski is dominant, but at some point, there’s surely a challenger that’s going to have his number.
Current Champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Champion in December 2021: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Dark Horse: Charles Oliveira
If “The Eagle” is truly retired, then obviously this pick will have to change. But until the uncertainty is cleared up, he’s going to be the lightweight champion. Almost two months have passed since his declaration, yet the title has not been vacated. With Nurmagomedov’s stardom is as prevalent as ever, it’s likely he’s back in the UFC chasing the luxurious 30-0. “Do Bronx” is on an 8-fight win streak and should be next in line for a title opportunity. If there is a vacant belt, expect one of the competitors to be Oliveira.
Current Champion: Kamaru Usman
Champion in December 2021: Kamaru Usman
Dark Horse: Leon Edwards
“The Nigerian Nightmare” is 12-0 in the UFC and has beaten 5 fighters in the top ten. His matchup with Gilbert Burns is on the horizon, however, he should be favoured to come out victorious. Usman presents a stylistic nightmare for any challenger. He possesses probably the best wrestling in the division and his striking is very underrated. Calling Leon Edwards a dark horse is sort of misleading, but the inactivity and bad luck has put a halt on Edwards career. A win over Khamzat Chimaev likely gets Edwards a rematch with Usman late in 2021.
Current Champion: Israel Adesanya
Champion in December 2021: Robert Whittaker
Dark Horse: Marvin Vettori
Israel Adesanya starched both the #1 and #2 contenders in the middleweight division. He’s 20-0 and is expecting to make the jump to light-heavyweight. History shows that it’s likely Adesanya will end up vacating the middleweight belt if he’s successful in moving up weight classes. That brings in former champion Robert Whittaker. The two former UFC champions still sit at the top of a middleweight division that is seeing an overhaul of young fighters. One of those young fighters, Marvin Vettori, is skyrocketing through the division and could also play a factor.
Current Champion: Jan Blachowicz
Champion in December 2021: Israel Adesanya
Dark Horse: Jiri Prochazka/ Magomed Ankalaev
As a result of Adesanya moving up, he’s the favourite to be your light heavyweight champion. Much has been made lately of the lack of depth at 205lbs, however, with the addition of Adesanya, it replaces the void left by Jon Jones. There’s also a plethora of contenders that haven’t gone mainstream just yet. Jiri Prochazka and Magomed Ankalaev are both rising contenders that are capable of winning UFC gold.
Current Champion: Stipe Miocic
Champion in December 2021: Jon Jones
Dark Horse: Ciryl Gane
It would have been elementary to choose Francis Ngannou here. The lack of promotion and inability to capitalize on Ngannou has been one of the UFC’s bigger flaws. However, he seems to be in line for his long-awaited rematch. Champion Stipe Miocic, already has a dominant win over the challenger and with the addition of Jon Jones, there’s suddenly a logjam in the division. Miocic is still at the very top of his game, but Jones would be the youngest challenger Miocic has faced since he took on Stefan Struve in 2012. Jones is one of the best defensive fighters in history and is an elite grappler. Two of the things that both Miocic and Ngannou could struggle with. Outside of the top 5, Gane is the hottest prospect in the heavyweight division. He only has seven professional fights, but he’s up to the task and will be looking to inch into title contention in 2021.
Current Champion: Weili Zhang
Champion in December 2021: Rose Namajunas
Dark Horse: Tatiana Suarez
In what some consider to be the greatest women’s fight of all time, Weili Zhang was on the right side of scorecards. It could have gone either way and at some point in the future, a rematch should be made. “Thug Rose” is the clear #1 contender at the moment and after the war that Zhang was in, Namajunas is capable of regaining her seat on the throne. On the other hand, Tatiana Suarez should not be forgotten. Suarez has been dominant when in the cage, the problem is, she has not competed since June of 2019. When Suarez finally returns, she’s the sleeper in the always reliable women’s strawweight division.
Current Champion: Valentina Shevchenko
Champion in December 2021: Valentina Shevchenko
Dark Horse: Maycee Barber
Aside from Jessica Andrade and Lauren Murphy, the lack of contenders in the flyweight division is alarming. It’s unlikely that either of the two knock off Shevchenko in 2021. She’s won six in a row and doesn’t appear to be slowing down in the near future. Maycee Barber was on a fast track to stardom before tearing her ACL and suffering a lopsided loss to Roxanne Modafferi. However, she’s still ranked in the top ten and has a chance to bounce back against a notable opponent in Alexa Grasso.
Current Champion: Amanda Nunes
Champion in December 2021: Amanda Nunes
Dark Horse: Aspen Ladd
Amanda Nunes is on the Mount Rushmore of UFC champions. She’s defeated every single UFC bantamweight and featherweight champion. Nunes is defending her 145lb championship in March and it would be no surprise if that marks the end of the featherweight division. Unless the UFC decides to book a rematch with Germaine de Randamie or Holly Holm, Ladd seemingly would land a title shot with a victory in the first half of 2021.
Which UFC champions will be able to continue their championship reign next year and which will be dethroned?
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