Here’s a spooky question: Anyone want to join me as I stare into my crystal ball for part one of ‘UFC 2017 Champion Predictions?’ Spooky answer: You do!
Well, ladies and gents. It’s that lovely time of the year where the leaves change, the holidays approach and the UFC holds onto its current stars in a vain attempt to keep their champions safe from the MMA gods who, as it turns out, have penchants for drama rivalling that of an emotional high school student experiencing their first break up.
We’re starting our predictions for who gets to hold a UFC championship belt in 2017 off, as all gentlemen should, with the ladies:
Women’s Strawweight: Jessica Andrade
Call me crazy here, but 2017 is the year we get another women’s strawweight champ. Now, before you go off on me and start harping on how I just implied Joanna Jedreznack? Judge-Jade-hick? Champion isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread (she totally is, just FYI) consider the fact that her division is one of the fastest changing in the UFC. A few bantamweights are considering drops and with them comes (presumably) a jump in competition (or at the very least, punching power). She’s had her fun in the sun, but Jedrzejczyk’s real tests are yet to materialize. Jessica Andrade, however, comes from an arguably heavier hitting division and is armed with a grappling skillset that is guaranteed not to crumble after the first round. Count that, as well as her cardio along with her improved striking skills and it is easy to see how competitive a ‘Champy’ fight gets.
While it’s easy to believe Joanna will always be the force to be reckoned with in the division, she, much like the fearsome T-rex, must either evolve or go extinct.
Women’s Bantamweight: Miesha ‘Please don’t click away yet’ Tate
Mark my words, ladies and gents! Mark’em good! We will hear Katy Perry ringing in our champions’ walk once more. ‘Why?’ It might have something to do with Ronda’s questionable commitment to the sport. The bet for who should be women’s bantamweight champ would usually be a safe one on Rousey as, for a time, it appeared she would be holding the belt until the last star in the universe imploded. As of late however, it’s become plain as day that everyone’s favourite Judoka/Actress (Judactress?) needed some time to reprioritize her life goals. Don’t get me wrong here, if she stays, I believe she’ll be the champ for a very long time. But in her current ‘Will they/Won’t they’ relationship with MMA, I’m betting on the latter to be the reason the title gets vacated. With Tate’s toughness and a slight tune up to her consistency, I believe she has the capacity to scoop up the belt, at the very least until another Olympian shows up.
And now, on to the men:
Flyweight: Demetrious Johnson
Demetrious Johnson is what happens when someone plays the MMA game with cheat codes on. Infinite stamina. Knockout power. Submission threat. Why bother picking anyone else? It’s not like anyone notable at Bantamweight is eager (or perhaps, able?) to make the cut, so I’m really willing to go all-in on Mighty Mouse.
He doesn’t really show any signs of wear, his stablemates aren’t exactly nipping at his heels, and he still fights like a man possessed.
Join me on this hype train, there’s plenty of room!
Bantamweight: Dominick Cruz
Speaking of bantamweights, if this one can stay healthy, it’s likely he’ll still be juking and jiving anyone attempting to strike with him into doing an unintentional ‘Hokey Pokey’ dance until the judges render a lopsided decision. The only real threat here is T.J. Dillashaw, and while that’s an interesting fight to watch twice, it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon due to the lengthy vacations that Cruz tends to take between fights due to injury. Compound that time even further when considering those who have yet had a shot at the title, and it begins to look like the only way Cruz loses the belt is if it’s stripped from him (again).
Prove me wrong, Cody Garbrandt, prove me wrong.
Featherweight: Conor McGregor Max Holloway
These days, it’s starting to look more and more like this is the division no one wants to be a part of. With the newly instituted alleged rules on weight cutting, it’s starting to look like everyone’s favourite Irishman has a new favourite division to hang out in. So why Max Holloway? This 16-3 standout has all the skills necessary to exploit weaknesses in almost any division, joined by the fight IQ to put them all together. Game planning for his style has become increasingly difficult for many coaching staff; With his unique ability to push the pace using a creative striking playbook, he is also backed by a surprisingly threatening guillotine on the ground.
A cursory look through his record reveals a healthy mix of cracker-jack fights including the defeats of such ‘bangers as Jeremy Stephens, Cub Swanson and Ricardo Lamas. The last person he lost to? Only the most ‘Mystic’ of ‘Mac’s. So uh, it’s not like he’s rolling over for just anyone.
You might be asking yourself: ‘…But Charlie, where are the heavier divisions?’ Well Dear Reader, don’t get your pool noodles in a twist. Tune in next time for the second half of my 2017 predictions!
Charles Barangan is an award-winning writer, producer, and digital content creator. He’s also really into gelato and pumpkin pie. Visit his Facebook page a like and follow him on Twitter as @Charlietron3000 for more content.