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Predicting the UFC champions at the end of 2019

Will Khabib Nurmagomedov still hold UFC gold at the end of 2019?
Will Khabib Nurmagomedov still hold UFC gold at the end of 2019?
Scott Newman

2018 has been an interesting year in the UFC, particularly when it comes to title changes. By the time UFC 232 is done, discounting Interim title fights, we will have seen a total of 17 title fights across the UFC’s various weight classes, with 3 of those titles changing hands thus far.

But what will happen in 2019? Will dominant UFC champions like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Max Holloway and Amanda Nunes hold onto their titles? Or will new contenders rise and take their titles away?

Only time will tell, but here are some predictions as to who will hold the UFC’s titles at the end of 2019.


#12 Heavyweight

Will Stipe Miocic regain his Heavyweight title in 2019?
Will Stipe Miocic regain his Heavyweight title in 2019?

Current champion: Daniel Cormier

Predicted champion: Stipe Miocic

Daniel Cormier has held the UFC Heavyweight title since his knockout of Stipe Miocic at UFC 226, but it’s hardly a secret that he intends to retire following one more fight – probably against Brock Lesnar – early in 2019. That means, assuming he beats Brock, that the UFC Heavyweight title will likely be vacated.

There are plenty of possibilities as to who might end up with the vacant title then, from Cormier’s returning former training partner Cain Velasquez to rising stars Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou, but the man I’m putting my money on is the former champ Miocic.

I can most likely see a scenario where the winner of February’s Velasquez/Ngannou fight ends up taking on Miocic for the vacant title – I’d expect Miocic to win a fight against someone like Derrick Lewis in the meantime – and while I’d have taken prime Velasquez to come out on top in that scenario, I’m not sure I can trust the version of Cain we’ll see after so many injuries. Remove Cormier from the equation and I still can’t see a big man on the horizon who’s better than Stipe, basically.


#11 Light Heavyweight

Dominick Reyes is my wildcard pick to hold the Light-Heavyweight title at the end of 2019
Dominick Reyes is my wildcard pick to hold the Light-Heavyweight title at the end of 2019

Current champion: Vacant

Predicted champion: Dominick Reyes

The UFC Light-Heavyweight title is currently vacant; Daniel Cormier has given up his title and Jon Jones will meet Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 232 to decide a new champion. Despite that, however, I’m going for a wild card in this division and stating that come the end of 2019, Dominick Reyes will be holding the title.

Why? I think Jones will beat Gustafsson, but I simply can’t see him keeping hold of the title – whether that’s down to more issues with PEDs, or whether he decides to vacate to move to Heavyweight I’m not sure, but either one is hugely likely in my mind.

So why Reyes? 205lbs is a thin division with Middleweight journeymen like Anthony Smith and Thiago Santos now part of the upper echelon, and so I think the time is right for Reyes – who’s clearly the best prospect in the division right now – to make a charge for the title.

After seeing him ease past Ovince St. Preux – a tough gatekeeper – in October, I just can’t see him struggling with the likes of Smith and Jan Blachowicz, and that would be enough to put him in line for the title. Gustafsson would represent a huge challenge for him of course, but I see something special in ‘The Devastator’ and I think he can usher in a new era at 205lbs.

Also Read: Who are the Current UFC Champions?

#10 Middleweight

Robert Whittaker will look to hold onto his Middleweight crown in 2019
Robert Whittaker will look to hold onto his Middleweight crown in 2019

Current champion: Robert Whittaker

Predicted champion: Robert Whittaker

Aussie sensation Robert Whittaker first claimed the UFC Middleweight title at UFC 213 back in 2017 with a win over Yoel Romero, and his last fight saw him overcome the giant Cuban again to hold onto his crown in one of the best battles of 2018. And honestly, I don’t see a Middleweight on the horizon capable of toppling ‘The Reaper’ in 2019.

Whittaker is set to defend his title against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 in February, but given that he’s fighting at home in Australia against a smaller 185lber, I can’t see him having too many difficulties. And outside of Gastelum, he’s already beaten the top-ranked Jacare Souza as well as Romero; Luke Rockhold is moving to 205lbs and Chris Weidman looks way past his best now.

Whittaker’s biggest challenge could be in the form of another man from Down Under. Israel Adesanya could claim a title shot should he beat Anderson Silva at UFC 234. However, ‘The Last Stylebender’ doesn’t look quite ready for the challenge of Whittaker just yet, and so I’m confident in saying that I think Whittaker will hold onto his crown into 2020.


#9 Welterweight

Kamaru Usman is looking to take the Welterweight title in 2019
Kamaru Usman is looking to take the Welterweight title in 2019

Current champion: Tyron Woodley

Predicted champion: Kamaru Usman

Tyron Woodley has held the UFC Welterweight title since July 2016, and despite earning the wrath of UFC President Dana White, he’s been a very consistent champ since, defending his title on 4 occasions including an impressive win over Darren Till in September. Going into 2019, he has two clear-cut challengers; Colby Covington and Kamaru Usman.

Recent reports suggest Usman is set to fight for “the title” at UFC 235 regardless of Woodley’s status, but personally I’m not buying that and I suspect we’ll see Woodley defend against Covington there instead. I’d take Woodley to win that one, but I can’t see him getting past Usman when they eventually clash.

For me Usman is the best 170lber on the planet right now; he’s got a huge frame with a long reach, his wrestling game is largely unparalleled in the division, and his striking has improved by leaps and bounds.

Woodley has been a great champion, but Usman is younger, hungrier and he hasn’t had the injuries that ‘The Chosen One’ has. I don’t see Usman losing in the foreseeable future and I think 2019 ends with him holding the crown at 170lbs.

#8 Lightweight

Khabib Nurmagomedov is my pick to be Lightweight champion as 2019 ends
Khabib Nurmagomedov is my pick to be Lightweight champion as 2019 ends

Current champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov

Predicted champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov

Right now, the status of Khabib Nurmagomedov as UFC Lightweight champion is up in the air, largely because he’s still waiting for the outcome of his case with the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the infamous UFC 229 brawl.

If he ends up with a long suspension, then an interim champion is likely to be crowned. I can’t see him being suspended for the full year though, and that’s why I think he’ll still hold the title come the end of 2019.

Nurmagomedov might attempt to pull a power-play given his sudden rise in status to a big pay-per-view draw and might attempt to demand fights with someone like Floyd Mayweather, or Conor McGregor in a rematch, but I don’t see those happening. Instead, the lure of the UFC title will be too much, and once his suspension’s up, I think Khabib will return to fight the interim champion.

That interim champion? I’m going out on a limb and saying it’ll be Tony Ferguson, who will probably beat someone like Dustin Poirier for the title. Ferguson and Khabib has long been a dream match for MMA fans but I think ‘The Eagle’ would come out on top due to Ferguson’s willingness to fight from his back. And so 2019 will end with Khabib holding the title just as he does today.


#7 Featherweight

Nobody looks capable of beating Max Holloway right now
Nobody looks capable of beating Max Holloway right now

Current champion: Max Holloway

Predicted champion: Max Holloway

After seeing current UFC Featherweight champion Max Holloway destroy top contender Brian Ortega at UFC 231, there’s just no way I’m picking anyone to dethrone him in 2019. As far as I’m concerned, the only thing that can defeat ‘Blessed’ right now is himself – that is, his overall health, as various injuries kept him out of action for the majority of 2018.

He didn’t appear to have lost a beat against Ortega though, and that means it’s almost impossible to pick someone like Frankie Edgar – or a hot up-and-comer like Renato Moicano, Zabit Magomedsharipov or Yair Rodriguez – to defeat him. Right now Holloway is simply too good.

The wild card is if the Hawaiian chooses to move up to 155lbs at any point in the year. My guess, however, is that the move won’t happen; I’m thinking Holloway would only move for an immediate title shot, and with Khabib’s status so up-in-the-air right now, I don’t see it happening. Instead, I think he’ll defend against Edgar and then one of those rising stars later in the year, winning both times.

#6 Bantamweight

TJ Dillashaw has held the Bantamweight title since 2017
TJ Dillashaw has held the Bantamweight title since 2017

Current champion: TJ Dillashaw

Predicted champion: TJ Dillashaw

TJ Dillashaw’s first fight of 2019 won’t actually be at 135lbs as he’s dropping to 125lbs to challenge Henry Cejudo for his UFC Flyweight title, but I also believe he’ll end 2019 still holding the UFC Bantamweight title too. After the way he destroyed Cody Garbrandt in August, I just don’t see anyone on the horizon with the skills to take him out.

Assuming he doesn’t fight post-Cejudo until the summer, the likely contenders he’ll have to defend against range from the winner of Marlon Moraes vs. Raphael Assuncao through to rising stars like Aljamain Sterling and Jimmie Rivera.

Right now though, I can’t see any of them having a chance against Dillashaw, whose brand of striking and wrestling is pretty amazing to watch in full flow.

The X-factor for Dillashaw could be how he returns to 135lbs following his drop to Flyweight, but assuming he can do it healthily then I’d be shocked if he isn’t still the reigning Bantamweight champion come the end of 2019.


#5 Flyweight

Henry Cejudo might turn out to be the final UFC Flyweight champion
Henry Cejudo might turn out to be the final UFC Flyweight champion

Current champion: Henry Cejudo

Predicted champion: None

It’s not exactly a secret that the UFC intends to abandon the men’s Flyweight division following the January super fight between current Flyweight champ Henry Cejudo and current Bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw. Assuming the reports of the death of the division are definitely true, then there won’t be a Flyweight champion at the end of 2019.

If for whatever reason the UFC decides to keep the division running, which seems unlikely, then I suspect Cejudo would end the year as champion; without Demetrious Johnson, the Olympic gold medallist is the best 125lber on the roster by far, and so I think he’d regain his title if he were to lose to Dillashaw, which is what I see happening.

#4 Women’s Featherweight

Cris Cyborg has ruled the Women's Featherweight division with an iron fist for years
Cris Cyborg has ruled the Women's Featherweight division with an iron fist for years

Current champion: Cris Cyborg

Predicted champion: Cris Cyborg

Cris Cyborg has ruled over the Women’s divisions in whichever promotion she's competed at with an iron fist for a decade now, and I can’t see that changing in 2019. After she faces Amanda Nunes at UFC 232, it’s a mystery as to who she’ll fight next – perhaps the winner of Cat Zingano vs. Megan Anderson would be next in line, but it’s hard to see either of them toppling the champion.

The X-factor is the fact that Cyborg has stated she might try to leave the UFC in early 2019 as her contract apparently expires in March, but whether that can even happen given the UFC’s contract clauses is unknown. My best bet is that Cyborg will end up on ice as the UFC attempt to extend her contract while she attempts to leave.

If that happens then usually I’d guess the UFC would look to crown an interim champion, but given the dearth of talent in this division I don’t think that’ll happen. We may see only one title fight in this division in 2019 – perhaps even none – but I don’t think anyone other than Cyborg will hold the title.


#3 Women’s Bantamweight

Holly Holm is my pick to regain her Bantamweight title in 2019
Holly Holm is my pick to regain her Bantamweight title in 2019

Current champion: Amanda Nunes

Predicted champion: Holly Holm

Current UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes is set to face Cris Cyborg for the Featherweight crown at UFC 232, but assuming she loses that fight I suspect she’ll be back to defend her 135lbs title in 2019. ‘The Lioness’ has been a dominant champ since 2016, but 2019 is the year I’m predicting she becomes unstuck.

Thus far the opponents Nunes has defended against have been good stylistic matches for her, but at some point, given her consistent popularity following her Ronda Rousey win in 2015, she’s probably going to have to face Holly Holm.

Holm is ageing, hasn’t fought since June and is currently supposed to fight prospect Aspen Ladd in March, but I think she’s a horrible stylistic match for Nunes.

Essentially, in a fight between Holm and Nunes, the champion would have to either go back to her berserker style, and risk being countered, or enter into a point-fight with Holm, something ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ excels in. Either way, I suspect Holm would win, and while I doubt she’d hold onto the title for long, I can see her recapturing it in late 2019 with a win over Nunes.

#2 Women’s Flyweight

Valentina Shevchenko looks pretty secure as Flyweight champion for 2019
Valentina Shevchenko looks pretty secure as Flyweight champion for 2019

Current champion: Valentina Shevchenko

Predicted champion: Valentina Shevchenko

Given she had a tremendous run as an undersized Bantamweight, it’s hard to see anyone toppling current UFC Women’s Flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko in 2019. She defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk – one of her toughest challenges – to claim the title, and right now, the list of contenders for her remains pretty thin.

With 3 wins in the division, it looks like Jessica Eye is next in line, but it’s hard to see the veteran being the one to defeat ‘The Bullet’; she seems inferior in all areas in my opinion. And right now the likes of Sijara Eubanks and Katlyn Chookagian are simply too unproven to be solid picks to dethrone Shevchenko.

A wild card could emerge to shock everyone – someone like Ashlee Evans-Smith or Andrea Lee – but I’m confident in saying that Shevchenko will still have the gold around her waist when 2019 comes to an end.


#1 Women’s Strawweight

Could Tatiana Suarez end the year as champion at Strawweight
Could Tatiana Suarez end the year as champion at Strawweight

Current champion: Rose Namajunas

Predicted champion: Tatiana Suarez

Current UFC Women’s Strawweight champ Rose Namajunas hasn’t fought since April, but hopefully, she’ll return in early 2019 to take on current top contender Jessica Andrade. It’s a tough fight for ‘Thug Rose’ given Andrade’s insane power at 115lbs, but it’s still one I’d pick her to win; Joanna Jedrzejczyk picked Andrade apart in their fight in 2017 and Namajunas has proven to be at least Jedrzejczyk’s equal when it comes to striking in MMA.

I don’t see Rose holding the title come the end of the year, though. That’s because there’s a monster prospect by the name of Tatiana Suarez shooting up the ladder rapidly. The TUF 22 winner absolutely destroyed former champ Carla Esparza in September, and I don’t see anyone in the division having an answer for her world-class wrestling and grappling skills.

If she ends up fighting Rose later in 2019, which I think will happen, then I see Suarez controlling the champion on the ground and grinding her out for either a late submission or a decision victory. Either way, the former Olympic wrestling hopeful will end the year with UFC gold in my opinion.

Edited by Rahul Arun

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