2021 is already looking like an incredibly exciting year for the UFC. After a big year despite the pandemic in 2020, the promotion is riding a wave of momentum that should carry them to a huge year in 2021.
2020 was remarkable in the sense that no UFC champion lost their title inside the octagon. Sure, there were titles that were vacated, however, if a champion made the walk to the cage as a champion, they left as a champion.
We might never see another year like that in the UFC. With how good the competition levels are, every year you’re virtually guaranteed to see at least one champion lose their title. We should expect this in 2021.
Earlier this week, we posted an article on which UFC champions would likely lose their titles in 2021. However, I wanted to dive a little more in-depth and make predictions on who exactly I believe will leave 2021 a champion.
In this article we will go through the lower men’s divisions starting with flyweight. We will continue to go through the rest of the divisions and the women’s divisions throughout the week. So, who will walk out of 2021 a UFC champion?
UFC Champions after 2021
Flyweight – Deiveson Figueiredo
The first division we will look at features the 2020 UFC fighter of the year, Deiveson Figueiredo (20-1-1). Figueiredo captured the flyweight title this year after it was vacated by Henry Cejudo in late 2019.
He captured the title after dominating Joseph Benavidez twice. From there he defended his title against Alex Perez before running into Brandon Moreno (18-5-2). Moreno and Figueiredo fought to a draw at UFC 256.
Their fight was a fight of the year candidate. A back and forth war that ultimately saw the hands of both men raised. The UFC is planning on them rematching at some point in either April or May.
I believe that Figueiredo will win that rematch. From there, I’m expecting Figueiredo to face former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (12-3). I also believe that Figueiredo will turn away Garbrandt on his request to capture another UFC title.
That might be the only two times we see Figueiredo in 2021. I believe that the Moreno fight is going to be another war which might cause him to take some time off. Expect the Garbrandt fight in the second half of the year. Two tough fights might be it for Figueiredo.
Bantamweight – Aljamain Sterling
I believe that we are going to see a new UFC bantamweight champion in 2021 and his name is Aljamain Sterling (19-3). Sterling is currently waiting on his title shot against bantamweight champion, Petr Yan (15-1).
I’ll start by saying that I believe Petr Yan is incredible. If I was told that he will go through 2021 and remain the champion, I wouldn’t be shocked at all. However, I just have this feeling about Sterling.
Sterling has really showed me a lot over his last five performance. His striking is looking so much better and he’s incredibly slick on the ground. His domination of Cory Sandhagen was jaw dropping.
These two bantamweights are so good and I’m anxious for the UFC to book the title fight between the two. The bantamweight division is insanely stacked, but in my heart, I believe that Sterling is the best of the bunch right now.
Featherweight – Brian Ortega
Back in October, I believe we saw the best featherweight in the UFC compete. His name is Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC). Ortega fought for the first time in almost two years against The Korean Zombie.
I picked Ortega to lose because the Brian Ortega who fought Max Holloway in 2018 wouldn’t have outstruck Chan Sung Jung. However, the Brian Ortega we saw in October on Fight Island looked like a completely different fighter.
T-City showed incredible striking that night beating up TKZ. We already know the skills he possesses on the mat so there were just questions on if his striking could get to that same level. I believe that they have.
Ortega will be taking on Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) in the first part of this year for the featherweight title. I believe this is a perfect fight for Ortega when it comes to the style. His rangy striking along with his grappling skills should create problems for Volkanovski.
I’m expecting Brian Ortega to get his hand raised when the two men fight. Expect Brian Ortega to hold onto that UFC title once he gets his hands on it. T-City is a problem and he’s just getting better.
Lightweight – Conor McGregor
I can already feel a portion of the UFC fan base rolling their eyes reading that. Yes, I believe that Conor McGregor (22-4) is going to leave 2021 as the UFC lightweight champion. There is plenty of reasoning behind this.
First and foremost, I believe that McGregor is going to defeat Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) at UFC 257. McGregor’s next fight after that will be for the lightweight championship. Likely coming against Justin Gaethje or Charles Oliveira.
Let’s say that McGregor fight’s Justin Gaethje (22-3). I really like McGregor’s chances in that matchup. While we’ve seen such good performances from Gaethje, I think McGregor’s clean straight striking would give him a lot of problems.
I only see McGregor fighting twice at lightweight in 2021 which is why I believe he will be the champion. However, should Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) not retire, I believe Nurmagomedov will leave 2021 the champion.
The toughest test for McGregor in 2021 will be Charles Oliveira (30-9, 1 NC). Based on what we’ve seen from Oliveira lately, that is a very tough matchup for McGregor.
However, I still believe in the end, McGregor is the second best lightweight in the world only behind Nurmagomedov. If there’s no Khabib, then lightweight will see the second title reign of The Notorious Conor McGregor in 2021.