Every year the sport of MMA gets crazier and crazier. And every year, we try and predict some potential outcomes. In this piece, we revisit January’s predictions, assess them and see how well or how badly we did. You can check out the original article here.
2021’s MMA Predictions Revisited
1 – Conor McGregor becomes the lightweight champion in January, only to lose it in his next fight
Not quite. The belt was never on offer between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier in January. Although it produced McGregor’s first knockout loss, the fallout from the fight got ugly. McGregor’s second fight (the first time that he has competed twice in a year since 2016) was also against Poirier. The build-up for that fight was also ugly and finished ugly too. McGregor broke his leg in the fight, leading to back to back losses for the Irishman. You can check out our technical breakdown of the fight here. Poirier did compete for the title, however, losing via third-round submission.
2 – Stipe Miocic defeats Francis Ngannou again before losing to Jon Jones
The heavyweight division had a lot of promise heading into 2021. Stipe Miocic held the belt after his trilogy with Daniel Cormier and was set to rematch Francis Ngannou. Jon Jones moved up from light heavyweight to make his heavyweight debut. What played out saw Miocic suffer at the hands of the heavy-hitting Cameroonian native. There’s a reason Ngannnou has 12 knockout finishes.
The 𝓒𝓸𝓻𝓸𝓷𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓸𝓷 of @Francis_Ngannou 👑
— UFC (@ufc) December 13, 2021
Ngannou showed much-improved takedown defence in his second world title bout and was able to stay on his feet long enough to knock Miocic out cold. A left hook followed by ground and pound finally saw Ngannou taste UFC gold. ‘The Predator’ is set to face off against one of the breakout stars of 2021, Ciryl Gane, who captured the interim belt in August.
3 – All of the Bellator champions remain champion until 2022
This prediction was one that we were fairly confident in. With that being said, it didn’t quite play out how we predicted. Since the turn of the year, there have been four new champions and one interim champion crowned. Ryan Bader ‘retained’ his heavyweight crown having not competed at heavyweight all year. Valentin Moldavsky captured the interim belt in his only fight in 2021 when he defeated Timothy Johnson by unanimous decision in June. He is set to face Bader in a unification bout in January.
Vadim Nemkov made two impressive defences of his light heavyweight title, both of which took place in the 205lbs tournament. In April he defeated Phil Davis via unanimous decision before submitting Julius Anglickas in October. Nemkov will face Corey Anderson in the final of the tournament, presumably taking place in the first quarter of 2022.
Gegard Mousasi and both women’s champions, Cris Cyborg and Juliana Velasquez all retained their belts, with four defences combined.
New champions include Yaroslav Amosov, Patricky Pitbull, AJ McKee and Sergio Pettis, with a number of emphatic title fight performances between them. Amosov dominated Douglas Lima to capture the belt in June and has likely set up a fight with Michael Page. Pitbull went 1-1 with Peter Queally, however, managed to make the adjustments in their second fight to keep the belt within the family. AJ McKee put on the performance of a lifetime when he tapped out Patricio Pitbull to capture the belt and win the featherweight tournament, setting up a huge 2022. Pettis went 2-0 in 2021, defeating Juan Archuleta via unanimous decision in May to win the belt before producing a huge comeback against Kyoji Horiguchi in December. Both men will enter the bantamweight tournament in 2022.
4 – Donald Cerrone calls time on his career
Again, this one hasn’t come to fruition, however, with that being said, he’s certainly slowed down. In 2016, he competed four times, in 2017 we saw him three times, 2018 we again saw him three times, 2019 saw him make the walk four times and in 2020 he competed three times.
In 2021, however, he only competed once, a loss. Alex Morono TKO’d Donald Cerrone in the first round of their bout to send ‘Cowboy’ to 0-5-0-1 in his last six bouts, suffering four TKO’s. It’s time for Cerrone to call time on his career, for his own health. He is way off the pace of the majority of fighters in either the 155lbs or 170lbs divisions, where he often competes. We hope to see him out once more in a fairly winnable fight and then leave his gloves and cowboy hat in the octagon. Dhiego Lima or Jared Gooden are the fights to make.
5 – Alexander Volkanovski makes three defences of his title
Although this one didn’t quite play out, he was scheduled to fight early in 2021, which could have seen him compete more frequently. Volkanovski had to withdraw from the March bout due to contracting COVID and we didn’t see him back until September. In that bout, he put on a fight of the year contender against Brian Ortega. He would retain his belt with a unanimous decision victory and set up a big 2022.
𝑮𝑶𝑶𝑺𝑬𝑩𝑼𝑴𝑷𝑺 🥶 pic.twitter.com/61uAPb7SF5
— UFC (@ufc) December 31, 2021
We will likely see him in against Max Holloway for a third time and then potentially against Giga Chikadze (should he get past Calvin Kattar in January). Whatever happens, we hope to see him in action more often in 2022.
6 – Sean O’Malley rematches Marlon Vera, wins, only to lose in his next outing to Rob Font in a main event
Going 3-0 in 2021, Sean O’Malley has certainly had a good year. Although he didn’t get a rematch with Marlon Vera, he knocked out Thomas Almeida, Kris Moutinho and Raulian Paiva. The main story surrounding O’Malley this year is that he simply didn’t feel the need to compete against anyone ranked in the top 15. He bragged that he could make the same money fighting lower ranked guys, which he certainly did this year. Going forwards into 2020, he definitely needs to face off against tougher opposition. Merab Dvalishvili, Ricky Simon and Adrian Yanez are all on big winning runs, would be tougher opposition than anyone that O’Malley faced this year and would provide different tests for the ‘Suga show’.
7 – Dana White lives up to his word and releases some big names including…
We anticipated that some big names would be released and that certainly happened in 2021. Tyron Woodley, Thomas Almeida, Paul Felder, Stefan Struve, Junior dos Santos, Joe Benavidez, Jimmie Rivera, Demien Maia, Diego Sanchez, Alistar Overeem and Carlos Condit were all either released or allowed to retire under their current contracts.
We predicted that Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold, Greg Hardy, Felice Herrig, Jeremy Stephens and Robbie Lawler would all be cut. Jacare was released following a submission loss in May. Rockhold, Hardy, Herrig and Stephens went a combined 0-2 in 2021, with Rockhold and Herrig not competing at all. With a combined 12 straight losses, all four of these fighters need to be cut in 2022. Lawler competed in a huge fight in 2021 against the returning Nick Diaz, winning via third-round TKO.
8 – James Gallagher, Valerie Loureda and Dillon Danis continue to get knock over fights
Bellator wasn’t all that active, in comparison to the UFC at least. James Gallagher got a tough match-up against Patchy Mix, losing via third-round submission in November. He’ll continue to get tough match-ups in 2022, having entered the Bellator bantamweight tournament.
Valerie Loureda went 1-1 in 2021, having lost to Hannah Guy but bounced back to defeat Taylor Turner via split decision. Turner was certainly a knock-over, with a record 5-7. Diana Avsaragova is the fight to make. Both women are novices with a combined eight professional fights, it would be a good test for each woman.
Dillon Danis didn’t compete after several surgeries in 2021. He constantly poked at Jake Paul in order to try and tempt the Youtuber into a fight, however, we doubt this will come to fruition. He’ll have to compete in Bellator to stay relevant but don’t be shocked to hear that he’ll certainly get a debuting fighter who won’t have a decent ground game.
9 – Israel Adesanya narrowly defeats Jan Blachowicz, drops back down to 185lbs and rematches Robert Whittaker
Israel Adesanya‘s 2021 didn’t quite go to plan. He failed in his quest to capture the 205lbs belt, losing by decision to Jan Blachowicz. He dropped back down to face Marvin Vettori in a rematch, which he went on to dominate. He’s scheduled to rematch Robert Whittaker at UFC 271, in what promises to be another tough match-up.
10 – Leon Edwards signs for Bellator and co-headlines a card alongside his brother, Fabian
This was way off. Leon Edwards competed twice having had over a year out. He faced Belal Muhammad in a disappointing no contest, due to an eye poke. He did defeat Nate Diaz in a five-round none title bout in June and was set to face Jorge Masvidal in December (however, Masvidal withdrew from the bout). He is on his way to a title shot for sure, gets his name out there a lot more than he previously did and is becoming a more established name. The Nate Diaz fight got the ‘casual’ fan used to seeing Edwards and he’s much more recognisable now. Keep an eye out on MMASucka’s 2022 outlandish predictions for more Leon Edwards content…
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