Happy New Year. Hope everyone is enjoying their 2022 so far. We’re back with some UFC champion predictions for the end of 2022. Hopefully I do better than last year.
Flyweight – Brandon Moreno
Early spoiler for my UFC 270 predictions as I believe Moreno will hold the belt until 2023. I think he’s shown vast improvements on the feet to go along with his high level grappling. If he beats Figueiredo in a couple of weeks I believe he’ll fight Askar Askarov towards the end of the year in a rematch from their draw a few years back. I think Moreno will edge that fight but it will definitely be close once again. I just believe Moreno has improved more than Askar since then.
Bantamweight – Petr Yan
Yan is the best bantamweight on the planet right now and if it wasn’t for a silly mistake at UFC 259, he probably would’ve kept the title. In the rematch, I’m backing Yan again to take the victory. TJ Dillashaw was my second choice as Dana White has confirmed he’s next in line for a title shot and I believe him and Petr will put on a classic, but as of right now I think Yan beats TJ and will be the champion going into next year.
Featherweight – Alexander Volkanovski
The featherweight division is in a weird place right now. The only fight in the division that makes sense for the champ is a trilogy with Max Holloway, who he’s beaten twice already and it appears that both men are looking elsewhere (the lightweight division) for a fight. I think Max Holloway might move up to fight at lightweight once again, possibly a McGregor rematch. I really don’t know what’s going to happen with the featherweights so I’m going to play safe with Volk still being champ at the end of the year.
Lightweight – Islam Makhachev
The toughest division in the UFC provides a tough selection for me but I’m going with Islam. I think he beats Beneil Dariush this month and will go onto fight the winner of Gaethje vs Oliveira towards the end of the year. I’m confident Islam can beat Gaethje but I’m not as confident he can beat Oliveira. It’s a question of jiu-jitsu vs wrestling and out of respect for each martial art, it could end up being a standup fight until one of them gets rocked. On the feet I’d back Oliveira but Oliveira might not even beat Gaethje so I think Islam is a safer choice.
Welterweight – Kamaru Usman
After fighting three times last year, Usman proved himself to be the best fighter in the world right now and I don’t think Leon Edwards will dethrone him when they have their inevitable rematch later this year. I don’t think Khamzat Chimaev will sniff a title shot this year, unless someone has to pull out of a title fight, so I’m not considering him for the belt this year. The only person that I think can cause a serious threat to Usman’s reign this year is Vicente Luque, a good striker with KO power and elite jiu-jitsu. If he can get a win over another contender such as Gilbert Burns, I think he puts himself up there for a shot at the title over the likes of Belal Muhammad.
Middleweight – Israel Adesanya
UFC 271 prediction spoiler. Israel Adesanya will pick apart Robert Whittaker again in my opinion. Rob will make it a different fight this time, probably looking to introduce some grappling into the fight and maybe shoot for a takedown but I think the result stays the same. I think we could potentially see a Brunson rematch if he beats Jared Cannonier and Izzy prevails in February but Izzy’s ground game has improved so much from their first fight where Brunson couldn’t take him down, leaving me with the impression that Izzy will defeat him too if they were to fight this year. Jared Cannonier, if he wins is another contender with incredible power, however, Izzy’s technique trumps that, something we saw when he fought Costa at UFC 253.
Light Heavyweight -Jiri Prochazka
This was a tough choice but I think Jiri could be champion by 2023. I know Glover is incredible and he could easily beat Jiri if he gets him to the ground but I’m confident Jiri can knockout Glover. Glover could also retire with the belt if he beats Jiri when they fight. I don’t expect the champion to fight more than once this year so it’s definitely between the two of them for me.
Heavyweight – Ciryl Gane
As of right now, I think Ciryl Gane will beat Francis Ngannou at UFC 270. Ngannou has become more technical on the feet but we haven’t seen him in trouble just yet. Ciryl is much faster with his hands than Ngannou and also has power to at least put him in trouble. Jon Jones has been training but I’m not sure he’ll fight this year. I’d love to see Jones vs Ngannou or Gane but I’m not confident it’ll happen this year, especially if the payout can’t be resolved.
Strawweight – Carla Esparza
Yes, as of now I think Carla Esparza will defeat Rose Namajunas when they inevitably face off this year. They’ve obviously come leaps and bounds since their first fight in which Carla put on a grappling clinic and I think she could do that again. I don’t see there being two fights for the Strawweight crown unless there’s a trilogy fight between these two.
Women’s Flyweight – Valentina Shevchenko
No one in that division can beat her right now, she should move up and fight Nunes or Peña.
Women’s Bantamweight – Valentina Shevchenko
This is my wild theory of the year! Peña beats Nunes again in their rematch and because Valentina has no one else in her division to fight, she moves up to face Peña in a rematch which she wins. Watch this space. No matter who wins the rematch between Nunes and Peña, I’m confident Shevchenko will move back up to face one of them to attempt becoming the 5th UFC double champion, if not this year, next year.
Women’s Featherweight – Amanda Nunes
I don’t see there being another women’s featherweight title match until 2023 I’m afraid. That division is dead.