With 2020 in the rearview mirror and the UFC’s 2021 year set to begin in one week on Fight Island, we decided to predict who will hold UFC titles at the end of the year.
Here are my predictions on who is a UFC champ at the end of 2021.
Flyweight: Deiveson Figueiredo
Deiveson Figueiredo is legit. The Brazilian is the current flyweight champion and is set to rematch Brandon Moreno sometime in the first half of 2021. Although the first fight was a draw, had it not been for the champ being deducted a point, or a judge giving Moreno the fifth-round, Figueiredo would’ve defended.
I expect Figueiredo to beat Moreno and then defend the belt again later on and remain the flyweight champ.
Bantamweight: TJ Dillashaw
This may be off the board to some, but I still believe TJ Dillashaw is the best bantamweight in the world.
Dillashaw is just weeks away from returning his USADA suspension and when he does, I expect him to face a big name like Jose Aldo. If Dillashaw wins, it would be hard to deny him a shot at reclaiming his belt, and regardless, I like him to beat either Petr Yan or Aljamain Sterling.
Featherweight: Alex Volkanovski
It’s time to put some respect on Alex Volkanovski’s name.
Many fans don’t view him as the champion due to his close fight with Max Holloway last time out. However, I expect him to silence those doubters with a win over Brian Ortega and another title defense over one of Zabit Magomedsharipov, Calvin Kattar, or Yair Rodriguez.
Lightweight: Conor McGregor
If Khabib Nurmagomedov is really retired, I believe we see Conor McGregor reclaim his lightweight title.
McGregor is set to rematch Dustin Poirier at UFC 257, and I like McGregor to win that fight. Although it is looking like it won’t be for the belt, by summertime, Nurmagomedov will vacate the belt. Once that happens, the Irishman will fight and beat Justin Gaethje for the vacant lightweight title.
Welterweight: Kamaru Usman
Kamaru Usman has his hands full against Gilbert Burns and if he can get past the Brazilian, I expect him to keep his title for the foreseeable future.
Usman only fought once in 2020, but in 2021 I’m forecasting at least two title defenses where the second comes at the end of the year against Colby Covington or Jorge Masvidal and Usman beating them again.
Middleweight and light heavyweight: Israel Adesanya
Israel Adesanya will be a champ-champ by the end of 2021.
In March, Adesanya will beat Jan Blachowicz to win the light heavyweight title and will only fight one more time in 2020 with it being a middleweight title defense to keep both straps.
Heavyweight: Jon Jones
This is the year Jon Jones finally fights at heavyweight.
Jones has hinted at a move to heavyweight for years and it has been reported he will face the winner of Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou this year. Whoever wins that fight, I like Jones to beat them as his skillset matches up well with both of them.
Women’s strawweight: Weili Zhang
This is one the hardest divisions to predict as Weili Zhang has a ton of tough challengers coming in Rose Namajunas, Yan Xioanan, Amanda Ribas, and the rematch with Joanna Jedrzejczyk among others. Yet, I don’t know how often Zhang will fight in 2021 as I wouldn’t be surprised if it was only once where she defeats Namajunas or Carla Esparza.
Women’s flyweight: Valentina Shevchenko
This is obvious. Until I see someone in the UFC beat Shevchenko at 125lbs, I won’t pick against her.
Women’s bantamweight and featherweight: Amanda Nunes
Similar to Shevchenko, Amanda Nunes is too dominant and she will beat Megan Anderson and possibly defend her 135lbs belt in 2021 as well.
Cole Shelton covers MMA for BJPenn.com, MMANews, and MyMMANews.com while also being the lead MMA odds writer for Sports Betting Dime