Who will be champions at the end of 2016?

Updated: December 22, 2015
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As 2015 closes, with two new champions just in the month of December, the question is: what does 2016 have in store for us?

Heavyweight: Fabricio Werdum

My thoughts about 2015 were derailed with injuries, giving way to just one title shot all year in the division. And 2016 doesn’t look to be much different; I don’t see more than two title defenses in store. The heavyweight division’s lack of luster will keep it from that big payday of a UFC 200 card this summer. Instead, champion Fabricio Werdum will meet Cain Velasquez in February. I don’t think that clash will be different than their first, unless Velasquez catches Wedrum with one shot. With the UFC’s lack of a rush in pushing Alistair Overeem, the next logical option is that Stipe Miocic will get a title shot in 2016. He too would likely fall and Werdum will close out the year the same way he started: as champion.

Light Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier

The return of Jon Jones doesn’t muddy up the waters here. I think Jones defeats Cormier soundly for the title and does so at UFC 200. Even if Cormier wants to defend before then, not holding off that grudge fight makes little sense. But there isn’t a part of me that thinks Jones wants to stay at 205 pounds. He wants his belt back that he never lost, and he wants to shut Cormier up. I think he does so and then prepares to jump to heavyweight in 2017. In the meantime, the UFC will once again need to find a champion at 205 pounds and Cormier will again be that guy no matter who they put across the cage from him. My guess for the runner up? Ryan Bader.

Middleweight: Luke Rockhold

Barring some miracle, nobody in the UFC is on Rockhold’s level in this division. He will soundly put away Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza and Vitor Belfort (in some order) to run through 2016. If he has a fourth defense, which is unlikely, it would probably be a Chris Weidman rematch. Also, in case of injury, don’t sleep on the UFC pushing Michael Bisping into a title fight if he opens 2016 by beating Gegard Mousasi. “The Count” has a closing window of opportunity and the UFC has always desperately wanted him challenging for a title. I can’t see him ending his career without that shot, so if the UFC can sneak him in during 2016, they will.

Welterweight: Tyron Woodley

All of 2016 in the welterweight division really depends on which Carlos Condit we’ll see to start off the year. Is he back to his old form after the long layoff? We didn’t really get to see the answer to that in his return. Champion Robbie Lawler will test him like nobody else has. I’m going to go off the rails in predicting four title defenses for this division this year, and start by saying we are going to get the good Carlos Condit, who will take the title off of Lawler. Condit will turn around and lose the title to Tyron Woodley, who will defeat Lawler and Demian Maia to close out the year.

Lightweight: Conor McGregor

It is unfathomable that McGregor could climb up to 155 pounds and take the title. But honestly, I think he does just that because everything he says turns to gold. And no, that is not a leprachaun reference. I don’t think he makes the jump until UFC 200, where he will take the belt from Rafael dos Anjos. I don’t think RDA will defend the title again until then, just to rest up for the money fight. But they will fight at UFC 200 and McGregor will win the title and become a two-division champion. He will defend the 155-pound title once, and top Eddie Alvarez around Christmas 2016.

Featherweight: Frankie Edgar

But wait, didn’t I just say that McGregor was going to become a two-division champion? Yes. I believe McGregor will stop Edgar in their April fight that could be the fight of the year, then go on to win the 155-pound title over the summer, and then drop back down to 145 to smash Max Holloway before deciding that he wants to stay up in weight permanently. Once he does, the UFC will rush to crown a new champion in December, but a Jose Aldo injury keeps him from fighting Edgar. In steps Chad Mendes, who will fall one more time in a title fight before deciding to switch weight classes himself and allowing Edgar, once again a KO winner over Mendes, to become a champion in his second division ever.

Bantamweight: Urijah Faber

Here is my stretch pick. Even though I think that on most days Dominick Cruz beats TJ Dillashaw, I think Dillashaw wins their fight because the allure of a fight with former mentor Faber is just too strong. There is no bigger fight for Dillashaw at 135 pounds than Faber, and he will do anything to get it. But I think the teacher outworks the student and Dillashaw will be too caught up in the emotion of the moment the night they fight with Faber coming out on top in a huge emotional feel-good moment with Faber FINALLY capturing UFC gold. He and Dillashaw hug, maybe even a group hug with Mendes and Joseph Benevidez…I don’t know if we will go that far. The UFC will feed Faber an easy win to close out 2016, maybe a Bryan Caraway.

Flyweight: Demetrious Johnson

I mean really, who is going to beat him? I’m fairly certain this will be Johnson’s final year in the division and he will go out with a bang. Line them up: Henry Cejudo, Ian McCall and let’s finish it off where it started: Joseph Benevidez.

Women’s bantamweight: Ronda Rousey

She is beatable and we know that now. But Rousey won’t lose next year in likely just two fights. She will rematch Holm at UFC 200 and take back the title before giving Miesha Tate one more beating. Will Rousey lose again in her career? Maybe. But she coems back like a wrecking ball, at least for 2016.

Women’s straw weight: Joanna Jędrzejczyk

Claudia Gadelha will get a shot and Carla Esparza could earn a rematch, but the money fight will be the third of “Joanna champion” this year against Rose Namajunas. I expect Jędrzejczyk to win that too because nobody has proven to be close to her yet.

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