The UFC saw a year of upsets in 2016. Newcomer Cody Garbrandt (+160) shocked fight fans by picking apart bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz; Miesha Tate (+260) landed an upset win over Holly Holm (who, herself, landed an upset win over Ronda Rousey in 2015); and middleweight Michael Bisping (+425) pulled off possibly the biggest title fight upset in MMA history against Luke Rockhold.
Only three belt-holders — Demetrious Johnson, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Daniel Cormier — started and ended 2016 as champion.
Of the current champs, who will survive the onslaught of 2017? Here are the odds.
Odds to still be UFC champion by year-end 2017
Demetrious Johnson (Flyweight): 1/4
At the top of the list is Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (25-2-1), the only flyweight champion the UFC has ever known. He won the inaugural UFC flyweight title fight against Joseph Benavidez back in 2012 and has successfully defended the belt nine times.
He may only be 5’3, but Johnson looms large in the sport. Heralded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC today, he has held his title for over four years and is unlikely to lose it anytime soon.
Conor McGregor (Lightweight): 3/7
The “Notorious” McGregor (21-3) watches over a tough lightweight division, but he’s at a point in his career where he can handpick his opponents. If Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov had taken place, then either winner would have been a tough challenger for McGregor, but luckily for him the fight never materialized thanks to a very late injury to Nurmagomedov.
Mcgregor is currently on leave awaiting the birth of his son, so it’ll be at least a couple of months until he steps back into the Octagon. And besides, he’s got his eyes fixed on a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather at the moment.
If he does defend his title in 2017, it’ll probably be against the 8th-ranked lightweight, Nate Diaz. A fight against the younger Diaz brother isn’t the toughest lightweight fight available to him, but it’s probably the most lucrative for both McGregor and the UFC.
Jose Aldo (Featherweight): 3/7
Jose Aldo (25-2) held the featherweight belt for five years before losing his title to Conor McGregor in a 13-second fight. Aldo has since reclaimed the title and McGregor probably isn’t coming back to contest it.
His toughest opponent in the division is interim champion Max Holloway, whom he faces in June. Holloway’s a tough fighter, but I like Aldo’s chances.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (Women’s Strawweight): 7/13
The undefeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0) rules over the women’s strawweight division and is arguably the best pound-for-pound female fighter around. Her last fight against Karolina Kowalkiewicz was closer than expected, but overall she’s had a pretty comfortable time defending her title.
Amanda Nunes (Women’s Bantamweight): 2/3
Amanda Nunes (14-4) stripped Miesha Tate of the bantamweight title last year and demolished former champ Ronda Rousey in a stunning title defense. The women’s bantamweight division is rapidly improving, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is quite on Nunes’ level just yet.
Tyron Woodley (Welterweight): 1/1
Tyron Woodley (17-3-1) has successfully defended his welterweight title against number one contender Stephen Thompson twice! The division has been fairly stagnant lately, so his spot on top seems pretty safe for now. But the young Jorge Masvidal could be giving him a run for his money pretty soon.
Daniel Cormier (Light heavyweight): 1/1
Daniel Cormier (18-1) defends his title against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson this Saturday at UFC 210. Though he’s beaten Rumble before, it’s going to be a tough fight. And even if he wins, he’ll probably have to fight former champ Jon Jones once the latter returns from suspension. Cormier has a decent chance of holding onto his title, but he’s got a tough road ahead.
Stipe Miocic (Heavyweight): 11/9
Stipe Miocic (16-2) is scheduled to face Junior dos Santos at UFC 211. The Brazilian former heavyweight champion beat Miocic back in 2014, and has a real shot at taking back the title. Even if Miocic survives dos Santos, he’ll likely face two-time champ Cain Velasquez afterwards. He’ll likely go into both fights a small underdog.
Cody Garbrandt (Bantamweight): 3/2
Cody Garbrandt (11-0) won his first title after just two years in the UFC. He ended Dominick Cruz’s reign over the bantamweight division, taunting and humiliating him in the process. But next he’ll likely face former teammate TJ Dillashaw, who looked lethal in his most recent fight.
Michael Bisping (Middleweight): 3/1
Michael Bisping (29-7) pulled off one of the biggest upsets in MMA history when he stripped Luke Rockhold of his middleweight title. It wasn’t really Rockhold’s pedigree that made it a massive upset, it was the fact that Bisping accepted the fight on just 17 days’ notice. Bisping now has to guard his title in a stacked middleweight division. The weight-class is bursting at the seams with talent, and any of the current top 10 would have a decent chance against Bisping. Even Georges St. Pierre, who’s been out of the game for years and never fought at middleweight, is favored over the champ.
Germaine de Randamie (Women’s featherweight): 9/1
Germaine de Randamie (7-3) narrowly beat Holly Holm in the inaugural UFC women’s featherweight title fight, but really she’s just a placeholder until Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino returns from suspension. Understandably, de Randamie has been hesitant to take on Cyborg, but when the fight inevitably takes place, the odds will not be in her favor.
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