Current Champion: Fabricio Werdum
Next Contender: Cain Velasquez
A heavyweight title re-match is already scheduled between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. I think there are two main players for the next title shot. First, is the winner of Andrei Arlovski vs. Stipe Miocic. I think both have a compelling case for the shot, and the winner will have a bolstered resume. Second, is Alistair Overeem. He is coming off of a win over Junior Dos Santos, which makes him a credible contender. However, he is technically a free agent. He could realistically, sign somewhere else, making this argument invalid. I could see UFC negotiating into a new contract a title shot. I think right now Overeem has the edge for the title shot if he re-signs.
One thing that could throw a wrench in all this would be if somehow and someway, Fedor Emelianenko signed with UFC. This seems unlikely at this point. Fedor has another fight on his deal with Rizin, but maybe by the end of 2016, the rumor of Fedor to UFC can heat up again.
Another thing to look for is a potential move to Heavyweight for Jon Jones. I think he is a win away from such a move, and I think he is the guy to beat if he does.
The problem with the division is that the discussion really stops there. Travis Browne could make a resurgence and contend again, but he hasn’t gotten over the hump yet. I would never count out Junior Dos Santos. Ruslan Magomedov may be in the talk by this time next year. Bottom line: UFC needs new, young faces at Heavyweight. I would not be shocked if we saw names like Vitaly Minakov and Marcin Tybura in UFC’s heavyweight division in 2016. Also, watch for the debut of Bilyal Makhov.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Jon Jones
Current Champion: Daniel Cormier
Next Contender: Jon Jones
The big news at Light Heavyweight is the return of Jon Jones. I am reluctant to call him “former” champion, but that is what he is. The Jones vs. Cormier re-match has not been made official, but it is the fight we fully expect to happen.
Honestly, I have no clue what to make of the division after that fight. It seems that you have a top tier of Jones and Cormier that stand far above everyone else. I think the next tier is small as well, consisting of Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader and Anthony Johnson. The Bader vs. Johnson fight is probably the number one contender fight right now.
Ryan Bader has the resume to contend, but I am not sure he is the draw. He probably deserved the shot at Daniel Cormier already. I can see several scenarios playing out. I can see Jon Jones moving to Heavyweight with a win over Cormier. I could also see, if Jones lost, him getting a immediate re-match to create the trilogy. I also think we could see a fight for a vacant title, maybe between Cormier (if he loses) and the Bader vs. Johnson winner. Either way, Johnson vs. Bader winner has to be next in line right?
Like Heavyweight, I don’t know what to make of the division after the top 5-6. I think there are literally no contenders on the rise. UFC had some stock in Ovince St. Preux. I think we will keep hearing some of the same names.
I look for some old names to exit as well. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Shogun Rua, and even Rashad Evans are at a crossroads. They could have a career resurgence or they could fade away and retire.
I would suggest Joe Silva look hard at Russia for talent in this division, Eastern Europe is where the best light heavyweight talent lies and its not even close. Sign some young guys, Joe.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Daniel Cormier (I am predicting he loses to Jones and then wins the title back after Jones moves to Heavyweight)
Current Champion: Luke Rockhold
Next Contender: ??
The question of next contender seems to come down to either Yoel Romero or Vitor Belfort. Romero would seemingly be more deserving, but Belfort has a highlight reel KO over the new champion. If I was a betting man, I would bet Rockhold vs. Belfort II is the fight that is made. Although, I have no clue what you do with Romero if you do that. Perhaps you do Romero vs. Weidman?
Anyways, I would expect some combination of contender between Yoel Romero, Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort and Jacare Souza. One of those guys gets the title shot. Two of them will get a big top contender fight.
There is another big fight in the division between Anderson Silva and Michael Bisping. I would be tempted to write both these guys off in this division, but regardless, the winner will be in a really good position to contend.
There are a few climbing names to watch: Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson. These guys could end the year in contention.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Luke Rockhold
Current Champion: Robbie Lawler
Next Contender: Carlos Condit
I think we have somewhat of a picture here. Tyron Woodley should be the guy to fight the winner of Lawler vs. Condit. I think the question has to be, what type of top contender fight do you set up? My first pick would be Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia. They seem to be the next two up. However, the two have fought already, with MacDonald winning. Also, MacDonald is probably fighting Hector Lombard next.
This division is incredibly deep. You have Gastelum, Brown, Magny, Johny Hendricks and Stephen Thompson all making waves. Those are the names that I think are in best position in 2016. However, you always hear rumors of a Georges St. Pierre return. Nick Diaz could seriously fight in the UFC in 2016. We aren’t sure whether we have seen the last of Benson Henderson in the UFC. I think the Lorenz Larkin vs. Albert Tumenov winner enters the discussion. Gunnar Nelson is still there. This division is stacked from 1 to 20.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Tyron Woodley
Current Champion: Rafael Dos Anjos
Next Contender: ???
The lightweight title shot is in Conor McGregor’s court. If he wants the fight…he gets it. However, if Conor elects to fight at featherweight, I expect the front runner for contender to be Tony Ferguson. I don’t think its that complicated. My guess is that Conor vs Dos Anjos happens in March in Las Vegas.
Outside of Ferguson, you do have a crowd. You have the winner of the Pettis vs. Alvarez fight (and the loser is still in the mix). You have Nate Diaz on the heels of a big win. You have a Khabib Nurmagomedov return from injury. Also, Donald Cerrone has cemented his place in the top tier of this division. If I was UFC, I would do Ferguson vs. Pettis/Alvarez winner and Khabib vs. Cerrone.
A few names that I expect to be on the rise are Rashid Magomedov, Michael Chiesa, Joe Duffy and Magomed Mustafaev.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Rafael Dos Anjos
Current Champion: Conor McGregor
Next Contender: Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar is the next contender, but the question may be: does he have to wait until Conor fights at lightweight before this fight happens. I am guessing he does. I am also guessing we see Edgar vs. McGregor fight at UFC 200. It does not appear Conor will vacate his featherweight title to fight Dos Anjos. However, that could change. If it does, I expect Edgar vs. Holloway. That could be a fight we see regardless.
I do think after Edgar you still have to mention Jose Aldo. He could make a case for a rematch with McGregor and it would sell well. The other two names at the the top are Max Holloway and still Chad Mendes. Charles Oliveira could gain some traction if he can make weight. Renan Barao is likely entering this division as well in 2016.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Conor McGregor
Current Champion: T.J. Dillashaw
Next Contender: Dominick Cruz
Its hard not be excited for Dillashaw vs. Cruz. Cruz is coming off of a second long layoff due to knee injury. But, the former champion never lost his title. This is a great fight. However, it leaves some questions for what’s next.
There is some storyline for a Urijah Faber title fight regardless of the Dillashaw vs Cruz outcome. Though hurt for some time, Raphael Assuncao is deserving of a title shot. A third option for what is next is, Demetrious Johnson. He could move up a weight class and contend.
This division has some life. Thomas Almeida is on the rise. Aljamain Sterling is in UFC limbo right now, but he would be in the mix by year’s end if he stay with UFC. John Dodson is a bantamweight now. John Lineker is gaining momentum in this division. I also would not sleep on returning, Michael McDonald.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Dominick Cruz
Current Champion: Demetrious Johnson
Next Contender: Henry Cejudo
I am assuming Cejudo gets the next title shot. I mean, who else could? I think the question in this division ruled by a dominant champion is: does Johnson move up a class?
After Cejudo there isn’t much. Maybe Ray Borg? Maybe Louis Smolka? I think there are a host of solid guys that can make solid fights. Jussie Formiga, Dustin Ortiz, Justin Scoggins, Louis Smolka and Kyoji Horiguchi.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Demetrious Johnson
Current Champion: Holly Holm
Next Contender: ???
The next contender is not fully clear, although we know Rousey will get a title fight in her next UFC fight. There are strong rumors of Miesha Tate vs. Holly Holm in March with the winner facing Rousey. I am guessing that is the plan.
Outside of Holm/Rousey/Tate the names that we could hear chatter for are Amanda Nunes who has looked great, Cat Zingano, Julianna Pena and maybe Valentina Schevchenko who is coming off a big win in her UFC debut.
Bethe Correia and Jessica Eye are still solid opponents in this shallow division. The UFC needs talent here, but I just don’t see it out there.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Ronda Rousey
Current Champion: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Next Contender: Claudia Gadelha
Gadelha and Jedrzejczyk are going to fight, and the rumor is they will first coach TUF. I think Claudia is the biggest threat to Joanna.
After that, I don’t know who is in line. Rose Namajunas has the most impressive recent win. Carla Esparza should return as should Jessica Penne. Karolina Kowalkiewicz was impressive. Paige Van Zant is still a great fighter and is improving. Tecia Torres has some momentum behind her.
Prediction of Champion at the end of 2016: Joanna Jedrzejczyk