As we prepare to turn our calendars to 2022, bidding 2021 farewell (surely next year will be better than this one, right?!), and with the UFC still in a bit of an “offseason”, I figured I’d boldly predict who will be champion in each of the promotion’s weight classes exactly a year from now.
In 2020, all UFC champions retained their titles, which is a pretty rare and crazy feat. However, 2021 saw seven new UFC champions crowned (Francis Ngannou, Glover Teixeira, Charles Oliveira, Aljamain Sterling, Brandon Moreno, Julianna Pena, Rose Namajunas).
Will 2022 be like 2022 or 2021? Probably the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Give me a second to polish up my crystal ball and I will see where the UFC gold is headed next year.
Current Champ: Rose Namajunas
End of 2022 Champ: Rose Namajunas
I’ll start things off boring and predict that Rose Namajunas will keep the belt around her waist for all of 2022. There’s a couple of factors in play here – her next challenger appears to be Carla Esparza, who actually beat Namajunas before, but who I think Rose outclasses now. Plus, 2020 was the first year since 2017 that Rose fought more than once in a calendar year. I think she gets by Esparza then might not even fight again before 2023 rolls around.
Current Champ: Valentina Shevchenko
End of 2022 Champ: Valentina Shevchenko
Not much analysis needed here – Valentina Shevchenko appears to be unstoppable and still in her prime. There are no legit challengers to her throne in sight for 2022.
Current Champ: Julianna Pena
End of 2022 Champ: Amanda Nunes
Typing Julianna Pena’s name as champ is still very surreal. The rematch with Amanda Nunes seems likely to happen next, and maybe fairly soon. While champs generally don’t reclaim their thrones once usurped, I think Nunes will come back in top form in their next fight.
Current Champ: Amanda Nunes
End of 2022 Champ: Amanda Nunes
This really isn’t a real weight class. Other than champ Amanda Nunes, there are six other fighters listed at 145 pounds, with pretty much all of them really bantamweights who move up to featherweight on occasion. Who knows if this title will even be contested in 2022? However, if top free agent Kayla Harrison signs on the dotted line with the UFC, things could get interesting at 145 pounds.
Current Champ: Brandon Moreno
End of 2022 Champ: Askar Askarov
My first big gamble is predicting Askar Askarov to be the UFC’s reigning men’s flyweight champ at the close of next year. He has a defacto #1 contender fight coming up soon against Kai Kara-France, which I think he wins. Then I see him toppling Brandon Moreno or Deiveson Figueiredo, depending on who wins their title fight next month. Askarov is just that good of a wrestler and would make UFC history as their first deaf champion.
Current Champ: Alexander Volkanovski
End of 2022 Champ: Alexander Volkanovski
Sorry to be boring here, but I’m picking yet another current champ to retain for all of 2022. But Alexander Volkanovski is just too good of a fighter and seems to be getting better with each outing. He hasn’t lost since his fourth pro fight, way back in 2013, going 23-1 in his pro career thus far. Plus, the man expected to challenge for his strap next, former king Max Holloway, Volkanovski has already beaten twice. Alex the Great keeps his belt for at least another year.