Who will be the UFC champions after 2021? (Flyweight – Lightweight)

Conor McGregor, UFC

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.

State of the UFC’s bantamweight division entering 2021

One of the divisions that has really flipped in 2020 is the UFC‘s bantamweight division. I’m not sure anyone saw the division going the way that it did when the year started. Granted, I don’t think anything about 2020 went as planned.

When the year started, Henry Cejudo (16-2) was the reigning UFC bantamweight king. He was angling for a fight with former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo (29-7), after Aldo lost by split decision to Marlon Moraes.

Cejudo and the UFC brass felt that Aldo won the fight. The two men were scheduled to fight in May. However, after the pandemic hit, Aldo was not able to travel for UFC 249 to take on Cejudo.

That’s when former UFC bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz (22-3), stepped to the plate. Cruz had been out since 2016, but in that fight he lost his world title. The two men met at UFC 249.

That night, Cejudo finished Cruz in the second round then retired after the fight. The promotion decided to give Aldo a title shot after he was promised one and paired him against top contender, Petr Yan (16-1) for the vacant title.

At UFC 251 on Fight Island, Yan and Aldo met for the bantamweight championship. Aldo had some good moments early, however, Yan took over late. Ultimately, Yan finished Aldo in the fifth round to become bantamweight champion.

UFC’s Bantamweight Division in 2021

We already know the first title fight, we just don’t know when. Yan was supposed to defend his title against Aljamain Sterling (19-3) at UFC 256. However, Yan had to pull out for undisclosed reasons. That fight is supposed to be setup early in 2021.

An interesting wrinkle in the division is the return of former champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4). Dillashaw never lost his UFC title in the ring, but his suspension forced him to be stripped of the 135 pound title.

Dillashaw’s two-year suspension is up in January and he’s looking to get right back in the mix. Jose Aldo is one of the men that wants a shot at Dillashaw. Aldo is coming off of a big win against Chito Vera at UFC Vegas 17. 

The two former UFC champions could make for a very compelling matchup. Another key matchup early in the year is the matchup between Cory Sandhagen (13-2) and former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar (24-8-1).

That matchup on February 6th might be a title eliminator. Rob Font (18-4) might be the one contender to watch in 2021. Font just knocked out Marlon Moraes at UFC Vegas 17. His hands looked incredibly crisp and he’s busted into the top five at bantamweight.

The UFC‘s bantamweight division is absolutely stacked. I didn’t even mention the matchup between Pedro Munhoz and Jimmie Rivera that’s booked on January 20th. So many incredible matchups in that division.

Petr Yan looks like a world-beater. However, his division is full of guys who are waiting to take away that crown. So many interesting storylines and potential matchups surround the UFC’s bantamweight division entering 2021.

UFC books Frankie Edgar – Cory Sandhagen

Frankie Edgar

The UFC is currently finalizing a big-time fight at bantamweight that could be a title eliminator. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was first to report that the promotion is finalizing a bout between Frankie Edgar (24-8-1) and Cory Sandhagen (13-2).

The fight is going to take place on February 6th. Frankie Edgar is competing in his third weight class inside the UFC. The former lightweight champion of the world made his bantamweight debut back in August when he took on Pedro Munhoz.

The fight was razor close, but Edgar was able to pickup the split decision victory. That win snapped a two-fight losing streak for the former UFC lightweight champion. In all honesty, Edgar finally appears to be competing in his natural weight class.

Cory Sandhagen bounced back in a major way when he fought in October on Fight Island. Over the summer at UFC 250, Sandhagen was dominated and finished in the first 90 seconds by Aljamain Sterling.

It was a very poor performance, but Sandhagen got his shot at redemption in October when he took on Marlon Moraes. That night, Sandhagen looked rejuvenated and he was able to finish Moraes in the second round of their fight.

Sandhagen has always been looked at as a future UFC champion. He’s great on the ground and his striking has really evolved. He will be getting the biggest fight in terms of name recognition on February 6th.

State of the UFC’s Bantamweight Division

Currently the UFC is looking to book the title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling for the first quarter of 2021. Originally, they were supposed to fight at UFC 256, however, Yan had to pull out of the fight.

Given the new timeframe, it lines up perfectly with the Edgar – Sandhagen fight. The UFC‘s plan could be to have the winners of these two fights face off in the summer. While not confirmed, the Edgar – Sandhagen fight is likely going to be a title eliminator.

Another interesting wrinkle in the division is the return of TJ Dillashaw. Dillashaw says he wants to return in March which could line him up for a title shot as well. My guess is whoever looks the best between the winner of this fight and Dillashaw will get the next UFC title shot.

TJ Dillashaw wants a title shot in his UFC return

On January 18th, the suspension of former UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw (16-4), will officially be lifted. The MMA world has not seen Dillashaw inside a cage since January 19th of 2019.

That night, Dillashaw took on Henry Cejudo for the UFC‘s flyweight championship. Dillashaw was attempting to become a two-division world champion, however, he was caught and finished in the first 32 seconds of the fight.

The stoppage was controversial and the UFC was looking to book a rematch between the two. However, Dillashaw then announced that he was vacating his UFC bantamweight title due to a result in his pre-fight drug test.

We later found out that Dillashaw had tested positive for the performance enhancing drug, EPO. Dillashaw was suspended for two years for the positive drug test. In the span of just a couple of weeks Dillashaw went from superstardom to being shunned by the MMA community.

Now, the suspension is almost up and the former champ is anxious to get back into the cage. Dillashaw was interviewed yesterday by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and talked about his return. Dillashaw made it clear that he’s wanting to go right to the top.

UFC title shot right away?

“They (the UFC) know I want the title fight. I want that title. I want it right away because you got a guy, Petr Yan, that beat someone for the belt who was 0-2 (Jose Aldo) in the weight division. You know, how are you calling yourself a champion,” Dillashaw told Okamoto.

The current UFC bantamweight champion, Yan, is scheduled to take on Aljamain Sterling at some point early next year. The fight was originally supposed to take place next week, but Yan had to postpone the fight.

Dillashaw also said in the interview that he’s looking to fight around March. In all honesty, I don’t see Dillashaw getting a title shot right away. There would have been a chance if Yan and Sterling had fought next week, but now, I don’t think so.

With that in mind, Dillashaw will need to fight someone in the UFC‘s top ten. A couple of names stick out including Cory Sandhagen and Frankie Edgar. A fight with either of those two makes a lot of sense for Dillashaw.

Dillashaw made it clear that he wants a UFC title shot right away. However, if he is forced to fight someone else, he wants it to be a title eliminator. One thing is for sure, and that is with the return of Dillashaw, bantamweight just got even better.

BREAKING: UFC title fight between Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling is off

The UFC 256 card just can’t catch a break. The card was originally supposed to feature a welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns as well as a women’s featherweight title fight between Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson.

However, both of those title fights were called off due to injuries. Now, just a few weeks before the event, the UFC 256 card has lost another title fight. Per ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, the Petr Yan – Aljamain Sterling fight has been called off.

The news was first reported by MMA Island. Petr Yan (15-1) had to pull out of the fight for undisclosed reasons and the UFC is said to be working on a new date for that title fight. Aljamain Sterling (19-3) will have to wait even longer for his UFC title shot.

This is a crushing blow for the UFC 256 card. The past couple of days has seen the card get a major boost with the additions of Tony Ferguson – Charles Oliveira and the addition of a UFC flyweight title fight. However, this is very bad news for a card that needed two title fights.

UFC 256’s bad luck

In all my years of watching the sport, I never remember a UFC card losing three title fights. However, the December PPV has been dealt three crushing blows which has damaged the card.

Yet, the UFC 256 still has a couple of really good fights now that the flyweight title is on the card and Ferguson – Oliveira is on the card. The fight night that the promotion is putting on, December 19th, is absolutely stacked with amazing fights.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see the UFC move up one of those contests to the PPV card. That card could really use another big matchup to get the PPV numbers as much as possible. However, there’s no word on that yet. This situation is still developing.

BREAKING: Amanda Nunes – Megan Anderson at UFC 256 is off

The return of the greatest female mixed martial artist of all time is going to have to wait. Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, UFC 256 is losing the title fight between Amanda Nunes (20-4) and Megan Anderson (11-4). The fight was expected to headline the card.

Nunes was getting ready to make her UFC return after she became a mother a short time ago. Nunes took some time off after she successfully defended her featherweight crown at UFC 250 in an absolute destruction of Felicia Spencer.

The Lioness seemed ready to be very active over the next year recently stating that she will be competing between 145 and 135 defending both UFC titles. Now, it appears that the world is going to have to wait a little longer for the return of the UFC champion.

This is a tough break for the Australian challenger, Megan Anderson. Anderson has won back-to-back fights to earn the shot at the UFC champion. She has a skillset that would pose some interesting challenges for Nunes.

Per Megan Anderson’s Twitter account, it appears that Nunes was injured which is why the fight has fallen through. She stated that the promotion is working to book the fight for early next year. However, there is no date as of now.

UFC 256 Outlook

UFC 256 has gone through several changes. Originally, the card was set to be headlined by the welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman and Gilbert Burns. However, that fight fell through after Usman needed more time to heal from his last fight.

Then, the UFC announced that Petr Yan would defend his bantamweight title against Aljamain Sterling. That put the card back to two title fights. However, now we’ve just learned that the headlining fight between Nunes and Anderson is off.

The good news is that the UFC does still have one title fight on the card. The bad news is that the promotion is going to have to scramble to book a quality co-main event or a new main event for the December 12 PPV.

Aljamain Sterling finally gets his title shot at UFC 256

After months of campaigning, Aljamain Sterling (19-3) is finally getting the shot that he deserved. UFC president Dana White announced today that in December, Petr Yan (15-1) will be defending his bantamweight crown against Sterling at UFC 256.

Sterling has been asking for his chance at UFC gold for months. However, the promotion hasn’t guaranteed him the spot until now. It’s hard to imagine anyone who is more deserving in the bantamweight division than Aljamain Sterling.

Sterling last competed back at UFC 250 against Cory Sandhagen. The fight was labeled as a title eliminator and Sterling ran through Sandhagen in just 88 seconds. You couldn’t have been more convincing in a title eliminator.

Yet, the UFC wouldn’t come out and say that Sterling was for sure next. The UFC normally is very blunt about who’s next, just look at the way Dana White talks about Francis Ngannou. However, Sterling was never given that treatment.

There was a bunch of quotes saying things like Sterling might get the next shot. Or that Sterling was probably next for the UFC bantamweight champion. However, everything was put to bed today when the promotion announced the Yan – Sterling title fight.

UFC 256 Co-Main Event

It appears that this title fight is going to slide into the co-main event slot. While Amanda Nunes and Megan Anderson are going to get the headlining treatment at UFC 256. Nevertheless, fans should be pumped up for this bantamweight matchup.

Sterling will be coming into the octagon in December on a five fight winning streak. In those five fights Sterling has beaten the likes of Cody Stamann, Jimmie Rivera, Pedro Munhoz, and Cory Sandhagen. He’s looked absolutely sensational.

Yan on the other hand is coming off of his destruction of Jose Aldo back at UFC 251. Yan became the bantamweight champion that night after he stopped Aldo in the fifth round of their title fight. Prior to that, Yan knocked out Urijah Faber.

He has never lost in the UFC and he will bring his 7-0 record into the cage in December. Both of these men present such interesting styles. Yan’s striking is elite while Sterling has unique striking but sensational ground skills. It should translate to a fantastic fight.

What’s next for Cory Sandhagen after UFC Fight Island 5?

This past Saturday night, the UFC hosted their fifth fight night from Fight Island. In the main event of the evening, there was a bantamweight contest between former title challenger Marlon Moraes (23-7-1) and Cory Sandhagen (13-2).

It was a very big fight for the UFC‘s bantamweight division. Moraes was the top ranked contender while Sandhagen came in fourth. Despite being fourth, Sandhagen was actually the betting favorite heading into UFC Fight Island 5.

In the fight, Sandhagen made it apparent why he was the betting favorite. Sandhagen did a fantastic job of striking from the outside and flustering Moraes with his movement. Moraes really just looked like he could never get going on Saturday.

Finally, in the second round, Sandhagen handed a spinning kicked that floored the former UFC title challenger. A few follow up shots after that caused the referee to step in and call a stop to the action. The biggest UFC win so far for Sandhagen.

Who should the UFC pair him with next?

In his post fight interview, Sandhagen had a couple of names that he was interested. TJ Dillashaw and Frankie Edgar were the two names that Sandhagen had in mind when envisioning his next UFC fight. He figured those were the only two ahead of him in the title picture.

Edgar recently made his successful UFC bantamweight debut by defeating Pedro Munhoz. The fight was razor close, but a win put Edgar near the top of the division. Edgar is looking to challenge for a UFC title in the third weight class that he’s competed in.

TJ Dillashaw is able to come back in January after being suspended for two years. The former UFC bantamweight king was known as one of the best fighters in the world a couple of years ago. Dillashaw dropped down to flyweight in his last UFC contest to challenge Henry Cejudo.

Dillashaw lost to Cejudo, but that wasn’t the main story however. He tested positive for EPO and was suspended for two years. He had to relinquish his UFC bantamweight title, but he’s itching to get back into the cage.

Personally, I like either fight for Sandhagen. A win over one of those high profile guys would surely put him in the title picture. Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan are expecting to fight early next year, but Sandhagen could get a UFC title shot at some point in 2021.

UFC Fight Island 5 Main Event Preview: Marlon Moraes – Cory Sandhagen

One of more anticipated fights from the UFC‘s second trip to Fight Island headlines tomorrow night’s fight night. Top bantamweight contenders Marlon Moraes (23-6-1) and Cory Sandhagen (12-2) will try to take another step towards a UFC bantamweight title fight.

The UFC‘s bantamweight division has turned into arguably the deepest and most exciting division for the promotion. Any of the top ten fighters paired against each other would get UFC fans excited for the matchup. And, there are a ton of top guys just outside the top 10.

This matchup is so fascinating on a number of levels. Marlon Moraes is trying to get back on the right track after his last two performances. Yes, he technically won his last fight at UFC 245. However, the majority of people watching felt Moraes lost to Jose Aldo.

On the other side of the cage is Cory Sandhagen. Sandhagen was one win away from a UFC bantamweight title fight before getting demolished by Aljamain Sterling back at UFC 250. The fight wasn’t even remotely competitive as Sandhagen was submitted in 88 seconds.

Prior to that loss, Sandhagen had won his first five fights in the UFC. Sandhagen looked like a future champion, but the loss caused some doubts. However, Moraes has doubts of his own after his last two performances inside the octagon.

UFC Fight Island 5 Main Event Prediction

This is such a good fight because both men are so evenly matched. If you’re looking for the more explosive fighter, you would want to look at Marlon Moraes. There is no place that this fight will go that Moraes won’t feel comfortable.

His all around skills are what led him to a UFC title shot back at UFC 238. Moraes has explosive power on the feet, and he’s very technical with everything that he does. However, Moraes does have a tendency to fade a little as the fight goes on.

You could make the argument that Sandhagen is just as well rounded as Moraes. Sandhagen has very slick striking and despite his last performance, he’s very good on the ground. There is one area where Sandhagen as a big advantage.

Sandhagen is a much larger man than Marlon Moraes. His frame is much bigger, and he just looks like the bigger man. If you ask me, I think he needs to lean on that size in this one. Maybe try to engage in some clinch work early to tire Moraes out.

When it comes to the prediction I’m torn. On one hand, I think Moraes is going to get the best of Sandhagen early on. I think Moraes will have something to prove. However, the longer the fight goes, Sandhagen can end up with the advantage. I think this is the fight of the night, but I’m going to lean Moraes in an absolute war.

Prediction: Marlon Moraes by Unanimous Decision 

Frankie Edgar proves he’s still elite at UFC Vegas 7

There were many questions about Frankie Edgar (24-8-1) entering UFC Vegas 7. He was making his bantamweight debut at the age of 38 after spending his entire career at lightweight and featherweight.

Of course, Edgar was diving right into the deep end taking on the UFC‘s fifth ranked contender in Pedro Munhoz (18-5, 1 NC). It was a sink or swim test for Edgar in his first outing at bantamweight. After a five round war, Edgar proved that he can still swim with the best of them.

UFC Bantamweight’s Newest Contender

In an instant classic, Edgar and Munhoz went to war. Both men had big moments in the fight. Both men wobbled the other at various points, and both displayed crisp striking over five rounds.

In the end, the two of the three judges gave the split decision to the former UFC lightweight champion Edgar. It was a razor close fight, but I believe that the judges got this one right. Munhoz had big moments, but Edgar’s output and higher number of strikes landed won the fight on my scorecard as well.

One of the UFC‘s most dynamic divisions just got a little more dynamic and deep with Edgar making his successful debut. With defeating the top five ranked Munhoz, expect Edgar to be in the top five to start the week next week.

Personally, I would like to see Edgar get one more win in the division before getting a UFC title shot. Aljamain Sterling has worked for and earned the next shot, but Dana White has yet to confirm that he’s next for the UFC‘s champion, Petr Yan.

Either way, at UFC Vegas 7, Edgar proved that he belongs at bantamweight. He didn’t tire from the weight cut, and he looked just as sharp as ever. One has to wonder what it would have been like if he jumped straight to bantamweight instead of his time at featherweight.