2021 was an incredible year for the women’s divisions in the UFC. We saw some tremendously dominating performances and some historic upsets. In thinking about the year, the first fight that comes to mind is the bantamweight title fight that took place at UFC 269.
The fight took place just weeks ago between Julianna Pena (11-4) and Amanda Nunes (21-5). Nunes was a monster favorite given her status at the two-division UFC champion. Nobody was really giving Julianna Pena a chance outside of Julianna Pena herself.
Well, Pena did exactly what she said she was going to do and shocked the world to become UFC bantamweight champion. 2021 also saw the return of “Thug” Rose Namajunas (11-4) to the top of the mountain. It happened back at UFC 261 when she knocked out Zhang Weili to regain the strawweight title.
She affirmed her status at the top of the mountain by defeating Weili in an immediate rematch in November. Then of course, 2021 featured the pure brilliance and dominance of the queen, Valentina Shevchenko (22-3). Shevchenko defended her title twice and won both fights by dominant stoppage.
2022 is shaping up to be another big year for the women’s divisions. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the four divisions and make predictions for who will be UFC champion at the end of the year.
UFC 2022 Predictions
The first division we are looking at is the strawweight division. Currently, Rose Namajunas is on top of the division. She has her first opponent lined up for the year, we just don’t know which date they will be fighting. Up first for Namajunas is Carla Esparza (18-6).
These two met in the first ever strawweight title fight with Esparza getting the win. However, both of these fighters are much different now and I truly believe that Namajunas is on another level. I think she’s going to easily retain her UFC title in the rematch.
Then, Namajunas will have her toughest test in my opinion. I believe her second title fight is going to come against Marina Rodriguez (15-1-2). Rodriguez is setup for a title eliminator in the first part of the year and I believe she’s going to get the job done.
After that, I’m expecting her to get a title fight. Given her style, she can really give Namajunas problems. However, I still really like “Thug” Rose’s overall game and I think Trevor Wittman will figure out a game plan to keep her UFC title.
Champion: Rose Namajunas
Flyweight and Bantamweight
Next up, I believe we are going to see another two-division UFC champion rise up in 2022. That champion will be Valentina Shevchenko. Let me get this out of the way quickly, nobody is touching her at 125 pounds. Nobody will come close to dethroning her at flyweight and there’s really nothing to discuss.
My bold prediction is her capturing the bantamweight title. Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes are expected to run things back sometime in late spring. I believe that Nunes is going to regain her bantamweight title. However, I’m not sure she’s going to fight at 135 pounds again after beating Pena.
If she stays at 135, I think the UFC will finally do the trilogy with Shevchenko. If they do, I expect Shevchenko to get the win. Now, let’s say that Nunes vacates the bantamweight title after winning it back. If she does, I think the UFC does the rematch with Pena and Shevchenko at 135 pounds.
Just like the first time, I expect Shevchenko to get the win. Obviously if Pena wins, I still see the Shevchenko fight happening. This will be the year that Valentina moves up and captures a second world title.
Champion: Valentina Shevchenko
Featherweight – Amanda Nunes
The last division to discuss is the featherweight division. Let’s be honest, there’s no competition for Amanda Nunes currently at 145 pounds so by default, she’s going to be my pick for the featherweight division. Now, the potential add of Kayla Harrison (12-0) could make things very interesting.
The two-time PFL champion and Olympic Gold Medalist is being courted by all the major promotions. She’s Nunes’ teammate but has already said that she would fight Nunes for the UFC title to further her legacy. While not confirmed, the UFC’s original plan was to have Harrison face Nunes had Nunes won at UFC 269.
Of course, all that went out the window after Nunes lost. That said, if Harrison signs with the UFC, she will be getting a title shot in 2022. Her skillset and strength could give Nunes a ton of problems especially if Nunes isn’t in peak cardio shape.
However, with so many questions surrounding the free agency of Harrison, I’m still going to go with Nunes as the featherweight champion.
Champion: Amanda Nunes