The UFC Bantamweight Division has been one of the most electric and entertaining divisions to the follow due to the immense talent, conflicting personalities and competitive bouts that have taken place over the last couple of years. With the retirement of Henry Cejudo and a long line of notable contenders waiting for their chance to shine, it is time to make a few predictions for the remainder of 2020!
Petr Yan will defeat Jose Aldo and become the new UFC Bantamweight Champion:
This bout is still puzzling for so many reasons. For one, there is at least two or three names that are more deserving than Jose Aldo more a vacant bantamweight title bout (Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling, Cory Sandhagen). Do not get me wrong, I love Aldo as much as the next guy and respect his status as one of the greatest mixed martial artists to ever grace the Octagon. However, a title bout against the frightening Petr Yan? That is where I draw the line. Aldo’s three round technical battle against Marlon Moraes proved that the former UFC Featherweight Champion still has what it takes to compete with the best and looked surprisingly good at his new weight class. However, it was an extremely close bout and Aldo was not able to secure a convincing victory. Nevertheless, the UFC has elected to give the “King of Rio” a shot to become the new UFC Bantamweight Champion. The problem? He must get through the very game and viscous Petr Yan.
Petr Yan is frightening, plain and simple. Many would argue that Urijah Faber was able to keep the first round against Yan competitive and quite possibly even won the round. I respectfully disagree after having watched that fight a few times. Yan was mercilessly toying and baiting Faber into a realm of confidence and it paid off. Calm and composed, Yan let Faber find his range and establish his striking to lure him into a false sense of hope that would lead to Faber’s willingness to exchange on the feet. As soon as that happened, Yan knew he had him and blasted his way to viscous third round KO via head kick. Expect more of the same when Yan meets Aldo for the vacant UFC Bantamweight belt.
The bout will prove to be competitive in the first round or two where Yan will be patient and focused and allow Aldo to get comfortable. Come round three and four, Yan will use his impeccable gas tank and brutal pace to land on Aldo and eventually put the former champion away. Yan is averaging an impressive 6.46 significant strikers per minute and 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes. He is exciting and terrifying at the same time and will be the new face of the UFC Bantamweight Division.
Aljamain Sterling will defeat Cory Sandhagen and challenge for the UFC Bantamweight Championship:
I still believe Sterling should be the one to face Petr Yan for the vacant belt but what do I know? After suffering a brutal knockout loss at the hands of Marlon Moraes, Sterling has bounced back better than ever and rattled off an impressive four fight win streak against Brett Johns, Cody Stamman, Jimmie Rivera, and Pedro Munhoz. The “Funk Master” has improved his striking and is easily one of the most athletically talented fights on the UFC roster today. As much I like Sandhagen and believe he is going to get his time and chance to fight for UFC gold, it will not be in 2020. Sterling has paid his dues and made the adjustments to become a better fighter which will lead to a victory at UFC 250 against the very game Sandhagen. The bout between these two will be very high level which may possibly lead to a boring round or two. However, expect Sterling to turn it up at the midpoint of the bout where he will use his strength and athleticism to win a decision victory over Sandhagen and establish himself as the #1 contender in the division.
Cody Garbrandt will once again become a top three ranked UFC Bantamweight:
I have said it over and over, Cody Garbrandt is not done. Three knockout losses in a row is no joke but I believe in the talent and heart of the former UFC Bantamweight Champion. He was on an impressive 11-0 streak prior to losing to Dillishaw twice and suffering a fight of the night knockout loss to Pedro Munhoz back at UCC 235. Garbrandt has taken over a year to recover and hone his skills which will translate in his fight again Raphael Assuncao at UFC 250. While it is easy to write off the former champion, do not. The fighter who utterly dismantled Dominick Cruz is still in there and will come back in 2020. Garbrandt is averaging 3.53 significant strikes per minute, a 100% takedown defense rate and a thrilling 1.70 knockdown ratio. He boasts some of the most impressive boxing skills in the UFC today and has the ability to send anyone who stands before him to the canvas. Garbrandt will come out strong and determined at UFC 250 and finish Assuncao in round one in an impressive fashion. The victory will launch “No Love” into a five or six spot in the UFC Bantamweight rankings and cement his return to bantamweight glory.
The Sugar Show continues and lands a top 10 UFC Bantamweight Ranking:
Sean O’Malley must be one of the most fun and wild fighters to follow in the UFC today. I cannot remember a time I was more excited to see what is next for a specific fighter than when O’Malley completely destroyed Jose Alberto Quinonez at UFC 248 after a two-year layoff. At UFC 248, “Sugar” proved he was ready to go on a run and got his wish for a high caliber opponent in Eddie Wineland who is one of the more experienced UFC fighters on the roster today. O’Malley returns to the Octagon at UFC 250 to face a vastly more experienced opponent in Wineland to provide he is ready to begin his assault on the upper tier of the UFC Bantamweight division. As long as he sticks to the game plan and uses his obvious advantages which include height and reach, O’Malley should be able to defeat Wineland and receive a top 15 opponent for his next UFC appearance. Expect big things from “Sugar” as he continues to evolve and become a more complete mixed martial artist.
Raoni Barcelos and Montel Jackson become top 15 UFC Bantamweights:
It is crazy to me how little these guys are being talked about. Both Raoni Barcelos and Montel Jackson will get their chance to become top 15 UFC bantamweights and will shine in doing so. Barcelos is currently riding an eight-fight win streak and has compiled a 4-0 UFC record along the way. The Brazilian BJJ ace has been studying BJJ since he was two and has amassed an impressive 15-1 record in his professional mixed martial arts career. Barcelos was slated to face Cody Stamman in March 2020 but the fight was scrapped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Look for Barcelos to secure a high-profile fight against an opponent ranked somewhere between 15-18 in his next bout and impress with another stellar performance.
Montel Jackson has looked like a man on a mission since his UFC debut loss to Rick Simon. Since then, he has compiled a three-fight win streak by submitting and Brian Kelleher and winning two lopsided unanimous decision over Andre Soukhamthath and Felipe Colares. “Quik” stands at 5’10 and boasts a 75.5-inch reach which is one of the largest in the division today. The Wisconsin native is a well-rounded fighter who even competed in a BJJ tournament without receiving any real class instructions! Look for Jackson to get a step up in competition for his UFC appearance and continue his climb toward the top of the UFC bantamweight division.
For more of my articles, click here!
Andrew is a lifelong follower of combat sports. His passion began as a child and has only grown as an adult. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University and a master’s from Texas A & M University. Outside of combat sports, Andrew currently works as a program manager for an aerospace manufacturing company. He has trained Muay Thai for seven years and continues to spar and train on the weekends when time permits.