We are already 12 days away from the new year’s first UFC event. 2021 is setting up to be a massive year for the promotion. Each UFC weight classes’ title picture is fascinating, and their respective outcomes will dictate the division’s narratives, as per usual.
Some weight classes like: bantamweight, welterweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight have clear near futures – as pertaining to the title pictures. The others require some sorting out. We’ve received updates – some big, some small – on what might be next in each division though.
Each UFC weight classes’ title picture can be found below.
The UFC men’s flyweight division actively stole the spotlight in 2020. The 125lbers amassed four title fights last year – most of any weight class. Deiveson Figueiredo secured the vacant belt and he hasn’t looked back – already defending it twice. Well, once and a half considering the draw to Brandon Moreno.
Expect to see Figueiredo, who likes to be an active champ, taking some months off ensuring he comes back at 100%. Nonetheless, the next flyweight title fight to make is Figueiredo-Moreno 2. The last two times a title fight ended in a draw – Woodley-Thompson & Edgar-Maynard – they ran it right back. Do the same here.
Cody Garbrandt and Henry Cejudo will still be there at the end of the year. I could see Figueiredo-Moreno 2 being booked over the summer.
Originally, Petr Yan was scheduled to make his first title defense versus Aljamain Sterling last month at UFC 256. Unfortunately, the champ withdrew a month prior due to “personal reasons” – later confirmed to be visa/travel issues.
He claimed the bout was “postponed” also, not canceled – citing a few months for a new date. We’ll see Yan-Sterling finally go down in either February or March.
Aside from that, we have Cory Sandhagen vs Frankie Edgar to look forward to on Feb. 6th. Moreover, Rob Font and Jose Aldo recently asserted themselves as contenders who will have interesting 2021s. Oh and TJ Dillashaw is back and eager to get the belt back. Rumors are that he and Aldo are hoping to square off. The bantamweight division is packed deep with talent.
Latest update has Alexander Volkanovski aiming to face Brian Ortega in March. City Kickboxing will be taking over UFC 259 if that’s the case. It’s the fight that will be next, and there are many hungry contenders waiting in the wings.
Beginning with the victor of 2021’s inaugural main event – Max Holloway vs Calvin Kattar. Next, you have to look at Zabit Magomedsharipov and Yair Rodriguez – who are still eyeing one another.
Korean Zombie is still planning on fighting for a belt sooner rather than later. Further down the line, you will find a mix of dynamic strikers and grapplers in what is another stacked division.
Dana White confirmed he will speak with Khabib in Abu Dhabi “sometime soon” (this month). As of now, no one outside of Khabib’s inner circle knows his plan.
We do know that Conor McGregor is fighting Dustin Poirier in a couple weeks at UFC 256. Who knows, we could know Khabib’s decision by then, and if he retires they could slap a vacant belt on that fight. Either way, if McGregor wins, expect Dana to try and convince Khabib to fight him. I believe the champ when he says he has zero interest in facing Conor again.
Poirier winning will raise more questions, but another top contender will be emerging from UFC 256. The winner of Hooker-Chandler is going to throw his name into the title picture.
Charles Oliveira is already in the title picture. He and Justin Gaethje could square off with he victor competing for a championship their next time out. The big question is Khabib’s decision. Hopefully we’ll know the answer prior to UFC 256.
Usman-Burns finally facing off in February at UFC 258 makes all the sense. The welterweight division has so many entertaining rivalries and storylines. Starting with Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal – who are expecting to see each other quite soon.
We still have to see Leon Edwards and Masvidal settle their differences inside the octagon at some point. For now, Edwards will still face Khamzat Chimaev next – date TBA.
‘Wonderboy’ Thompson earned himself a top-contender fight with his performance in 2020’s final fight versus Geoff Neal. Expect him to either face the winner of Chiesa-Neal or wait and see how things play out ahead of him.
Currently, the UFC has no intention of stripping Israel Adesanya as he moves up to fight Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 in March. What if ‘Stylebender’ wins and becomes champ-champ? That’s a whole other article for another day. Will a top contender emerge by then though?
Whittaker is the top choice right now, but he could fight in the meantime and lose. Same goes for rising star Marvin Vettori – him losing to his next foe changes everything.
The UFC won’t strip Adesanya before fighting Blachowicz, but they still could later. Maybe ‘Izzy’ gets sidetracked by someone (Jon Jones).
We’ll see if one of Whittaker, Costa, Cannonier, Till, Vettori, or Holland come to the forefront. Regardless of his near future plans, Israel Adesanya will return to middleweight one day.
Aside from Adesanya-Blachowicz, the light heavyweight division is a mystery at the moment. Yes, Glover Teixeira is the clear-cut top contender. Otherwise, we’ll have to wait until after UFC 259.
The reason being that Dominick Reyes and Jiri Prochazka are facing one another on Feb. 27th. Then, Thiago Santos and Aleksandar Rakic are scheduled for UFC 259. Perhaps the winners of both contests face off, giving time for Teixeira’s opportunity.
Jon Jones is gone from the 205lb division and it doesn’t appear as though he’ll be back – at least not for awhile. Honestly, it’s a division that’ll garner a lot of attention in early 2021.
Speaking of garnering attention, the “baddest man on the planet” title will yield two of the most anticipated bouts of the year. First, Stipe Miocic vs Francis Ngannou. Expect that to headline UFC 260 in April with the winner facing Jon Jones late summer/early fall.
The UFC is still hoping to have Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis meet early this year. Meanwhile, expect Ciryl Gane to make his headlining-debut against Jairzinho Rozenstruik at some point. Add in Alistair Overeem and Alexander Volkov and you have a plethora of top-10 challengers.
Women’s Strawweight, Flyweight, Bantamweight, & Featherweight
Latest on the women’s strawweight title picture: UFC wants Weili-Namajunas. However, if they feel the latter isn’t committed, they listed Carla Esparza as the fallback option.
Latest on the women’s flyweight title picture: Shevchenko does want a third crack at solving the Amanda Nunes puzzle. Expect Jessica Andrade to get the next shot at dethroning ‘The Bullet’ though. Dana believes Andrade presents a true challenge to the champ. Murphy and Chookagian could make noise this year as well.
Latest on the women’s bantamweight title picture: Germaine de Randamie vs Holly Holm should be next to determine to top contender. Winner faces Nunes when she returns to the division – unless Shevchenko comes in and steals the opportunity.
Latest on the women’s featherweight title picture: Nunes-Anderson going down at UFC 259 on March 6th. Still no official rankings on UFC.com.
I’m of the belief that the UFC should make Shevchenko-Weili before they miss out on that big chance.
Each UFC weight classes’ title picture is detailed and outlined above. 2021 is gearing up to be filled with super-fights. Could we see Khabib-McGregor, Adesanya-Jones, and Shevchenko-Weili all in the next 12 months? It’s a possibility.
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