Petr Yan had a rollercoaster of a 2021, losing the undisputed title to Aljamain Sterling via disqualification at UFC 259 following an illegal knee.
He bounced back with an amazing win in a fight of the year contender against Cory Sandhagen at UFC 267 to win the interim title after Sterling wasn’t cleared to fight in their rematch due to a neck problem.
That fight came together in itself because despite Sandhagen’s brilliant win over Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18, he was defeated by TJ Dillashaw in the former champion’s return bout following a two-year drug ban at UFC Vegas 32.
In that fight though, Dillashaw suffered a knee injury that required surgery and meant he was unavailable to step in for the title fight.
If Yan can get past Sterling in their unification bout early in 2022, then the obvious fight to make and the best fight in the division would undoubtedly be between Yan and Dillashaw.
Both are brilliant strikers, with Dustin Poirier even naming Yan as the best boxer in the company, while Dillashaw has made a career for himself with his wrestling skills and Yan has proved to have some of the best takedown defence ever.
Both fighters are in the prime of their careers and are incredibly well rounded with great cardio, grappling and striking as well as legitimate knockout power too.
It would be two of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport battling it out for the undisputed championship of the world in the best division in the sport.
There is an argument to be made that Jose Aldo is one of the very best of all-time and has had the storied, fairytale career that many fighters dream of.
After being crowned featherweight champion during the WEC days back in 2009, he was promoted to UFC’s featherweight champion when the organisation completed a buyout in 2010.
As the UFC’s crown jewel at 145lbs, Aldo dominated the division for the best part of four years. He beat everyone there was to beat at the time, until he ran into Conor McGregor’s violent left hand.
It seemed that knockout at UFC 194 in 2015 was the start of a downward spiral that every great fighter seems to have these days.
It marked the start of a run of six losses in nine fights, which was remarkable considering he didn’t taste defeat for over ten years prior to that fight.
It was a defeat to now featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski that sparked a change for Aldo though, who decided to drop down in weight to 135lbs to try and challenge for the bantamweight title.
In a back and forth battle with Marlon Moraes, it started with a defeat that many disputed. Ultimately though, it was yet another loss on his record as part of that run.
The performance was enough to convince the UFC to give him a title shot for the vacant belt though after TJ Dillashaw was suspended for using banned substances and stripped of his reign.
He went up against Petr Yan and ultimately fell short at UFC 251, with the Russian using superior boxing skills to eventually wear the older Aldo down and earn a TKO victory in the fifth and final round.
Since then though, the Aldo we have seen at 135lbs has been nothing short of excellent. Another fun scrap between himself Marlon Vera got him back on the winning trail at UFC Vegas 17, before facing off with Pedro Munhoz at UFC 265 and coming out on top in a three-round war.
Now ranked at number four once again, Aldo takes on Rob Font for a chance at possible redemption against Yan in yet another title fight.
But more than that, a win over Font could set up a dream fight between Aldo and Dillashaw that many wanted to see years prior.
While both men reigned supreme at the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, neither seemed keen to switch into the other’s path.
After his last win though, Aldo called Dillashaw out for his return bout only for him to instead fight Cory Sandhagen and win. That seemed to set him up for the next title shot, only for knee surgery to set him back a few places.
With Aljamain Sterling set to defend against Yan in their highly anticipated rematch early in 2022, Dillashaw may need another bout to keep himself active before potentially getting that shot again.
If Aldo can earn the victory at UFC Vegas 44 over Rob Font, he will be perfectly placed to finally get that fight that he has wanted for a long time.
Should he manage to get that fight and get the win that he is so sure he can deliver, then the only logical next step from that would be another shot at UFC gold.
It would mark yet another chapter in the fairytale of Aldo’s career to date and whether he was successful or not, it would cement his legacy and add even more certainty to the argument surrounding his G.O.A.T status.
The UFC’s return to Fight Island at the weekend was a rousing success as UFC 267 provided some incredibly memorable moments in Abu Dhabi.
A super-stacked card saw a new champion crowned as Glover Teixeira finally reached the top of the mountain by submitting Jan Blachowicz in the second-round, while Petr Yan reclaimed his title with a brilliant decision win over Cory Sandhagen.
On top of that however, we found out the hype behind Khamzat Chimaev is very real as he dominated against Li Jingliang to a first-round submission win.
After over a year out of the cage and a long, hard battle with COVID-19 the question marks around Chimaev were genuine. When he struggled to make weight before the bout too, eyebrows were raised even more.
But once he stepped into the octagon all those doubts were washed away within seconds. Chimaev ducked under a punch and immediately secured a takedown, lifting Li up and walking him across the octagon while shouting at Dana White for looking at his phone during the fight.
He then put him down, landed some strikes and worked for a submission, securing a rear-naked choke that put Li to sleep in just 196 seconds.
It means Chimaev has absorbed just two strikes in his entire UFC run to date, which stretches to four wins and four finishes now, a stunning record.
He will now break into the top ten in the rankings this week and with only big names ahead of him and a championship fight in his division this weekend, 2022 could be a huge year for the Swedish fighter.
In the title picture up a couple of weights, Teixeira was finally able to reach the top of the mountain aged 42 thanks to a big win.
It was the second time lucky for the Brazilian as he finally claimed the light heavyweight championship, but the future doesn’t look much easier for him.
Jiri Prochazka weighed-in as the back-up to the title fight and has been confirmed as the next contender for the belt, meaning Teixeira will need to defeat an absolute demon in the striking world who is in the peak of his career.
With 25 knockout wins from 28 career victories, Prochazka offers a completely different threat with his incredibly unorthodox striking and Teixeira will need to use his grappling and jiu-jitsu as best as possible to stand any chance of win on the night.
Petr Yan also claimed another title win with an excellent win over Cory Sandhagen, growing stronger and stronger as the fight went on to continue to prove himself as the best 135lbs fighter in the world currently.
He proved to everyone that he is comfortably the best striker in the division but also that his wrestling is still among the best around, making a rematch with Aljamain Sterling seem even more like a foregone conclusion.
He called for a fight against TJ Dillashaw next instead of Sterling, despite winning the interim title, in a fight that would pit two of the world’s best against each other once more in the most stacked division around.
With UFC 268 coming up this weekend, the title pictures in the UFC could be about to change drastically once more but UFC 267 was a truly excellent card.
Arguably the best fight of the year not on a pay-per-view card headlines UFC Vegas 32 this weekend as Cory Sandhagen puts his number one contender status on the line against the returning former champion TJ Dillashaw.
Elsewhere on the card, two young female prospects go head-to-head when Miranda Maverick and Maycee Barber square off on the main card in the flyweight division. Knockout sensation Adrian Yanez also returns to the octagon to take on Randy Costa too.
Last time out at UFC Vegas 31, we went 7/10 with one perfect pick on the night to move up to 370/576 (64.24%) with 164 perfect picks (44.32%).
We’ll look to improve on that here with this 13-fight card and after starting with the early prelims here and finishing off our prelims picks here, we move on to our main card picks here.
Adrian Yanez (13-3) vs Randy Costa (6-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Yanez has been dubbed the ‘mini Masvidal’ for his brilliant boxing skills and great kicks to the body, while Costa is a fantastic striker himself. Yanez is really good at setting up his kicks to the body and he has genuine knockout power in his hands. Costa on the other hand is a tricky fighter who switches stances, and that could allow Yanez to catch him on the inside.
It’s due to be a phenomenal striking battle and neither will want to give up anything against the other which could see a finish and I think Yanez will edge it, but don’t be surprised if Costa scores the win. PICK – Adrian Yanez via Knockout, Round 2
Miranda Maverick (11-2) vs Maycee Barber (8-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
Maverick and Barber are both excellent strikers with genuine knockout power. Barber is a very solid wrestler who will look to hold her opponent down and slam ground and pound until she separates them from their consciousness. Maverick is really good at throwing in combinations on the feet and using her elbows and kicks well.
It’s a really tight fight and one that could well be the birth of a star and also fight of the night. Both have a path to victory but I think if they both tire, Maverick’s technique may help her out to land the better shots late and eek a close decision win. PICK – Miranda Maverick via Decision
Darren Elkins (26-9) vs Darrick Minner (26-11) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
Elkins is a well rounded fighter who is excellent at firing strikes with volume and pushing the pace. Minner on the other hand is a remarkable submission artist with 22 of his 26 wins coming via tap out. Elkins has some good body kicks and solid wrestling too and his scrambles are solid but Minner is so good on the ground it might not even matter.
‘The Damage’ is 37 now though and past his prime and while he beat Garagorri, that’s not a big teller of where he is right now. Minner on the ground is unreal and this fight will almost certainly go to the ground, so I can’t see how he doesn’t secure a submission once again. PICK – Darrick Minner via Submission, Round 2
Kyler Phillips (9-1) vs Raulian Paiva (20-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Phillips is a solid striker on the feet with a background in wrestling to fall on where needed. He’s got good kickboxing and mixes it well with takedowns and makes it really hard to make reads on him for his opponents. Paiva is a good striker in his own right but he is a flyweight moving up and that won’t stand him in good stead here.
Phillips is bigger, stronger, more well rounded and this should be a pretty easy win barring something miraculous happening. PICK – Kyler Phillips via Decision
Aspen Ladd (9-1) vs Macy Chiasson (8-1) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
An intriguing fight at the top of the women’s bantamweight division as Aspen Ladd takes on Macy Chiasson. Ladd is a great striker, who’s only defeat came in just 16 seconds against Germaine De Randamie. She bounced back from that with an impressive KO win over Yana Kunitskaya back in 2019 but hasn’t fought since. Chiasson won TUF 28 and has since gone 4-1 in the UFC proper, with her most recent win coming against Marion Reneau at UFC Vegas 22.
Ladd is a brilliant wrestler who has some violent ground and pound and vicious striking on the feet to go with it, while Chiasson is a super well-rounded fighter herself too with an even split of finishes via knockout and submission. Ladd is returning from a torn ACL/MCL injury but while Chiasson has got some good names on her resumé she’s not fought anyone of the calibre of Ladd before.
Ladd is powerful, quick, a great striker and has the advantage with the wrestling too which means she can dictate where this fight goes. Because of that, she’ll only need one takedown per round to control and land some vicious shots and therefore I think she’ll get the win. PICK – Aspen Ladd via Knockout, Round 2
Cory Sandhagen (14-2) vs TJ Dillashaw (17-4) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
Arguably the best main event of the year so far for a fight night card, Sandhagen takes on the returning Dillashaw in the headline fight. Sandhagen has won nine of his last 10 fights, including two in a row against Marlon Moraes at UFC Fight Island 5 and Frankie Edgar at UFC Vegas 18. Dillashaw is coming off a two-year suspension for failing a drugs test, after losing in under a minute to Henry Cejudo at flyweight last time out.
Sandhagen is an amazing technical striker, with his last two wins coming via a spinning wheel kick followed by ground and pound and then a flying knee walk-off KO. Dillashaw is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the division with excellent wrestling and powerful striking and kicks. Having been out for two years though, at this level, is something that is incredibly tough to overcome.
If Dillashaw can get in and wrestle Sandhagen he has a good chance, but ‘Sandman’ is one of the best at range management in the division and he has been very active while Dillashaw has been away. For that reason, I think he’s able to secure a huge win for his career in a real banger of a fight. PICK – Cory Sandhagen via Decision
It was supposed to happen back in May, but we’re finally about to get one of the best fights the bantamweight division could possibly put together.
The main event at UFC Vegas 32 will see Cory Sandhagen take on former 135lbs champion of the world TJ Dillashaw, in a fight that will likely determine the next contender for the title towards the end of the year or early next year.
But when Dillashaw returned from a two-year suspension after failing a drug test for EPO use when moving down to challenge for the 125lbs title against Henry Cejudo, he was immediately reinstated to the title picture.
The plan was likely to pit Sandhagen against the winner of the UFC 259 bout, with Dillashaw taking on the loser. But the crazy ending meant that the UFC had to find a way to keep them both active, or make them both wait.
The bantamweight division is one of the most stacked in the entire company, so it’s not like there weren’t match ups ready to be made. But this is arguably one of the absolute best you could make if given a clean slate of 135lbers to pick from.
Both are extremely well rounded fighters, with great striking skills but also a solid ground game to fall back on too. They both have knockout power, both have good submission skills, both have a high fight IQ and both shine when the lights are brightest.
This is a fight that could quite easily be for a title and could quite easily headline a pay-per-view card, but instead it’s there for all to see for free this weekend.
The winner will have a genuine claim at being the best bantamweight in the world, regardless of the title situation in the immediate aftermath.
While they’ll need to prove that in their next fight, it would be hard to argue. Should Sandhagen get the win, he’s just beaten one of the best of all-time and is on a three-fight win streak. If Dillashaw gets the W, he’s just come back from two years out and beaten one of the top contenders at the first attempt.
This is the type of fight that you show a casual fan and they turn into a real super fan. The level will be that high and the action will be that good. Don’t miss it.
The winner was expected to be the official next title challenger to Aljamain Sterling’s title, with the champion expected to face Petr Yan in a rematch once he recovers from neck surgery.
However that fight is now on the back burner after the former two-time bantamweight champion revealed in an Instagram post on Tuesday night that he would be unable to compete following a cut received in training.
According to Dillashaw, he was drilling in training and was met with an accidental headbutt by a teammate which opened up a big cut over his right eye. He posted a photo to go with the post showing the severity of the cut, while also stating he was hopeful of rescheduling the fight for as soon as possible.
Rather than find a new fight on short-notice for Sandhagen, the UFC are reportedly opting to bump the current co-main event up the card meaning that Michelle Waterson will headline once more against Marina Rodriguez.
The bout was initially scheduled to find the next opponent for the bantamweight champion after the title fight between Sterling and Yan at UFC 259 in March. But when that fight ended in a disqualification when Yan kneed Sterling while he was down, forcing the fight to end and a new champion to be crowned, UFC president Dana White confirmed that Yan would get an immediate rematch.
With Sterling undergoing neck surgery though, that fight has been put on the back burner until he is healthy which means this fight being postponed may not be the worst thing in the world in terms of blocking up the division.
Dillashaw was on a four-fight win streak, including winning and defending the 135lbs title against Cody Garbrandt before he tried to move down to flyweight to become a dual-champion. He was knocked out by Cejudo in just 32 seconds though, before it was revealed post-fight that he had tested positive for EPO and was suspended for two years, relinquishing his bantamweight title as a result.
With the pay-per-view main events set for the foreseeable future, the UFC have now announced some of their Fight Night main events and some other notable bouts too.
After UFC 261, former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes returns to the octagon following his defeat at UFC 253 when he takes on Jiri Prochazka on May 1st in their main event bout. Prochazka made his UFC debut at UFC 251 with a stunning knockout win over Volkan Oezdemir to shoot himself into contention for the top five. This fight was originally scheduled for February but Reyes was forced to withdraw due to injury.
These two will now battle it out for the number one contender spot, with Yan and Sterling certain to compete in a rematch later this year. Dillashaw makes his return to the octagon after serving a two-year suspension after admitting to injecting EPO ahead of his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo in 2019.
The following weekend will see UFC 262, before a return to the bantamweights headlining as Cody Garbrandt takes on Rob Font in a battle of heavy hands. ‘No Love’ last fought at UFC 250 with a highlight reel knockout over Raphael Assuncao, before being scheduled to move down to 125lbs for a flyweight title fight against Figueiredo. Garbrandt was forced to withdraw with injury and ‘Deus da Guerra’ instead fought Alex Perez at UFC 255.
Moving into June, at UFC 263 welterweight jiu-jitsu king Demian Maia will make his return to the octagon for the first time since being brutally knocked out by Gilbert Burns at UFC Brasilia last year – the first event to take place without fans due to the pandemic – when he takes on Belal Muhammad.
With the top of the division currently at a standstill as Jon Jones and the UFC have a contract impasse and Derrick Lewis waiting on a decision to see if he will fight new champion Francis Ngannou next for the title, Volkov and Gane have chosen to stay busy and look improve their own situations in the running for a potential title shot in the future.
That fight will be backed up by a bantamweight banger between two of the most underrated fighters in the division as Raoni Barcelos takes on Timur Valiev. Barcelos returned after nearly a year away from the cage with a masterful performance against Khalid Taha at UFC Vegas 13 before seeing his next three bouts fall through for various reasons. He has won his last nine fights professionally and is 5-0 in the UFC.
Last but not least, the UFC also announced blockbuster welterweight co-main event for UFC 264 on July 10th when Gilbert Burns returns to the cage to take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Burns was on a tear at 170lbs and fought Usman for the title at UFC 258 in February, only to suffer a third round TKO loss to his former teammate. He’ll be taking on former title challenger Thompson who has won his last two fights in a row, defeating Vicente Luque and then Geoff Neal most recently at UFC Vegas 17 in December. Both men are looking to get back into the title picture as soon as possible and with Leon Edwards hoping that a win over Nate Diaz at UFC 262 can earn him a fight against the winner of Usman vs Masvidal later this year. A win for either of these two competitors in July could see them challenge next for the title, especially if they can do it impressively.
The first UFC event at the APEX in 2021 lived up to the hype as both co-main events delivered with spectacular knockout finishes.
Cory Sandhagen fought Frankie Edgar in the bantamweight division while Alexander Volkov took on veteran Alistair Overeem in the main event of UFC Vegas 18, with both of the elder statesmen on what is likely to be their final run at UFC gold.
The 135lbs clash was widely accepted to essentially be a number one contender bout, with champion Petr Yan set to defend his belt against Aljamain Sterling next month at UFC 259. While many were expecting a close fight between the rising star Sandhagen and legendary figure that is Edgar, that is far from what we got.
It took just 28 seconds for ‘Sandman’ to finish the fight, landing a flying knee flush on Edgar’s chin and leaving him lying unconscious with a walk-off KO.
While some, including the champion Yan himself, have suggested that former champion TJ Dillashaw should get an immediate rematch following the end of his suspension, Sandhagen disagrees. In his post-fight interview he made it very clear what his plans are, calling out the winner of the upcoming title fight.
“I heard Yan doing an interview, saying he wants to fight TJ [Dillashaw] after. TJ’s coming off some of the most dangerous PED’s you can do in the sport. That seems disrespectful to the sport, and I’ve been working. I’ve been working for the belt and I think I’m better than Yan, so if he wins I want Yan, same as Sterling too.“
Sandhagen’s last defeat came at UFC 250, when Sterling submitted him in just 88 seconds to earn himself a title shot against the winner of the fight between Yan and Jose Aldo at UFC 251 the following month. ‘Sandman’ is confident that if they fought again for the belt, that it would be a different outcome.
“You guys have seen I’m a different animal since that fight with Sterling. I’m grateful he taught me a lesson but the next time we fight I’m gonna hurt Aljamain. I want to fight the winner of that fight in July, or whenever they want really, but I’ve got to be next for the title. There’s no-one else even in the conversation, especially after a performance like that.”
In the main event, Overeem was blasted by ‘Drago’ and knocked out in the second round after a super display of power striking from the Russian.
An early jab rocked Overeem and his strikes throughout the first round ended up breaking the nose of Overeem and causing a lot of blood and problems for the Dutch fighter. He came out for the second round but Volkov was too strong physically and too accurate with his punches and put him down several times before the referee waved it off.
While it marked the end of Overeem’s final run towards UFC gold, it marked the beginning of serious conversations around Volkov’s road to the belt.
Dana White won’t want him to be inactive in the hope he can get a title shot, especially while the likes of Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik and co are all fighting still.
While Lewis and Blaydes will meet later this month at UFC Vegas 19 in a rescheduled bout from last year but the fight that Volkov should be keeping an eye on is March’s bout between Rozenstruik and Cyril Gane.
The two are looking to build up some momentum to join in the title picture themselves and with Lewis and Blaydes already having wins over Volkov, his best bet is a fresh opponent. If Volkov can get a quick turnaround to fight the winner of Rozenstruik and Gane before the halfway point of the year, a win could see him position himself to take on the winner of Miocic/Ngannou vs Jones at the end of the year.
The title pictures of two more UFC divisions are starting to become a little clearer, which can only lead to positive match making.
The wait is over, TJ Dillashaw is available to re-enter the octagon once again.
The former UFC bantamweight champion of the world has seen his two-year suspension from competition completed, after he tested positive after fighting against Henry Cejudo for the flyweight title back in 2019.
Since then Cejudo moved up to bantamweight, won the title, defended it and retired, then Petr Yan won the vacant belt. It’s been a whirlwind of a two years for the UFC’s 135lbs weight class, but Dillashaw believes that he is the uncrowned champ after never losing the belt.
Despite admitting to cheating to help him cut weight for his fight with Cejudo, Dillashaw is now eligible to return to action and many have thrown their names into the hat to welcome him back to the division.
The fight on everyone’s lips right now is Jose Aldo. The Brazilian former featherweight champion has come down to bantamweight while Dillashaw has been away and had mixed success. He lost his debut to Marlon Moraes, although many had him winning on the scorecards, before being granted a title shot for the vacant title and being knocked out by Petr Yan.
Two huge names, both looking to get back into contention for the title and on a similar timeline for a bout. It could work.
Rob Font also got a big win on the same card, knocking out Marlon Moraes viciously in the first round of their fight before calling out Dillashaw himself. Font made waves with the win and moved up into contender status and believes a fight against the former champ will boost him into the conversation more.
Dillashaw however doesn’t agree with either of those bouts, as he feels he deserves to get straight back in the cage in a title fight.
That would mean he would fight the winner of the Yan vs Aljamain Sterling bout that is currently scheduled for UFC 259 in March. The two were scheduled to fight in December originally but Yan was forced to withdraw following visa complications owing to COVID-19.
With that fight now ready to happen, if Dillashaw wants to wait for the winner then we likely won’t be seeing him in action until the third quarter of the year. There is also no guarantee that the UFC give him that fight, with the division absolutely stacked with talent right now.
His best bet in my eyes, would be a fight with the winner of the co-main event at UFC Vegas 18 between Cory Sandhagen and Frankie Edgar.
With both men coming off a win having lost the previous bout, a win in this one alone likely won’t be enough to earn them a title shot unless it’s a highly spectacular performance. The best bet for them is likely to be a clash with Dillashaw after this fight, to set up a number one contender bout for the winner of Yan vs Sterling.
With Cody Garbrandt calling for an Aldo fight before moving down to flyweight to challenge for a title, Font can fight with Moraes to keep the division moving.
That leaves the top of the division all matched up and with the biggest star in the weight class returning for a high stakes fight. Make it happen Dana.
As 2020 comes to an end, the UFC hasn’t seen much change at the top of each of its weight divisions this year.
Stipe Miocic retained his heavyweight title by defeating Daniel Cormier in their trilogy fight in August, while Israel Adesanya successfully defended his middleweight crown twice against Yoel Romero (UFC 248) and Paulo Costa (UFC 253).
At flyweight, if Figueiredo can navigate the rematch against Moreno then it’s hard to see anyone beating him. Garbrandt would likely be next in line, moving down from 135lbs, but with a 10lbs cut and with how easily he gets hit it’s hard to look past Figueiredo knocking him out and reigning supreme for years to come. FLYWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: DEIVESON FIGUEIREDO
At bantamweight, Aljamain Sterling has a great chance of taking the belt in 2021. He is scheduled to take on Petr Yan at some point and stylistically has a great chance of taking Yan to the ground and securing a submission. On the feet he can hang too with his range management and it should be a great fight.
The returning TJ Dillashaw will also have a say in where the belt goes in the new year. The former champion has been suspended for two years for a failed drug test, but is available again from January to return. He has been linked with a fight against Jose Aldo in his comeback and a win in that fight could put him right back into title contention.
Cory Sandhagen, Frankie Edgar and Rob Font could all also potentially be just one win away from a title fight too in what should be a stunning year for the 135lbs division. BANTAMWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ALJAMAIN STERLING
At featherweight, Alexander Volkanovski has moved on from Max Holloway for now and is expected to make his next title defence against Brian Ortega. T-City showed a new and improved striking game when he dismantled ‘Korean Zombie’ and is a genuine threat to Volkanovski’s reign. Zabit Magomedsharipov is also waiting in the wings and another win in 2021 will likely see him enter title contention, while the chances of Max Holloway re-entering the frame are possible too.
Overall, I think that Volkanovski has all the tools to hold on to his strap for as long as he wants to. He has striking and wrestling and a durability that makes it hard to stop him. Unless he gets back in there with Holloway for a third time, expect Volkanovski to retain throughout the year. FEATHERWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ALEXANDER VOLKANOVSKI
My money is on a return to the top for McGregor. The fight against Poirier is huge, but the fact he has beaten him before is a big advantage for him. A win guarantees him the next title shot, whether it’s against Khabib or not. If it is, he’ll lose again. But if it isn’t, he has a skillset that can cope with almost anyone else except possibly Charles Oliveira. LIGHTWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: CONOR MCGREGOR
At welterweight, the division is stacked but it’s firmly in Kamaru Usman’s hands. The Nigerian Nightmare has defended his belt successfully twice since dethroning Tyron Woodley and is set to defend against Gilbert Burns next. His skillset is so dominant though, and he is so strong and powerful that I don’t see a 170lber in the world, never mind the UFC, that beats Usman any time soon. WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: KAMARU USMAN
Should he end up vacating the 185lbs title, Robert Whittaker will step into any title fight as the favourite. Paulo Costa, Darren Till, Marvin Vettori and Kevin Holland could all end up in the title picture with him with one more win in the new year although I would expect ‘The Reaper’ to come out on top against them all. MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ROBERT WHITTAKER LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: ISRAEL ADESANYA
At heavyweight, Stipe Miocic has reigned supreme now for four of the last five years and has lost just once since 2014. He will fight Francis Ngannou for a second time in the first quarter of 2021 and should he get through that bout, which isn’t a given by any stretch, a fight against Jon Jones awaits.
As good as Miocic is, Jon Jones is undefeated but for a dodgy disqualification and has done nothing but fight for titles since 2010. A move up to heavyweight could cement him in the conversation as the greatest of all time if he is successful and he certainly has the skillset to defeat anyone in the world.
Jones’ wrestling, striking, range management, durability and experience could see him reign supreme among the big men for a long time and I think that starts in 2021. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION END OF 2021: JON JONES