What a year 2016 was! Championship belts changed hands TEN times during 2016, and only Joanna Jędrzejczyk, Demetrious Johnson and Daniel Cormier, managed to claim their titles before 2016 and hold on for the whole year. Two of the ten champions are undefeated: newly crowned Cody Garbrandt and dominant Pole Joanna Jędrzejczyk.

It’s not easy being a champion, you have a massive target on your back which everybody is aiming for. Ten champions, hundreds of contenders, who still has a belt at the end of 2017?

Find out what Team Sprawl thinks below:


JJ Saddington:

The majority of these picks are based more on circumstance than ability, such is the sorry state of things headed into 2017. Anyway…

If the King of MMA and all round bad shit, Jon Jones returns to the sport, the writing’s probably on the wall for seemingly unloveable incumbent light-heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier. The real variable is whether or not the third best JJ (myself and Joanna Jedrzejczyk take Gold and Silver in this category) can actually keep it together long enough to step back into the Octagon.

Similarly, it’s impossible to know who McGregor Ltd. will decide to fight next. Pretending this is an actual meritocracy, and assuming the stars align for it, a lightweight title clash between the Irishman and Khabib Nurmagomedov could well see the sport’s biggest star subject to a Dagestani ragdolling. Hate me all you want for this pick, I hate you all so much more.

Tyron Woodley hasn’t gotten the respect he deserves, but it’s hard to see him getting through Stephen Thompson a second time, having held onto the belt by the skin of his balls in their first encounter. Also, Demian Maia is coming!

There’s simply no chance that Michael Bisping gets past Yoel Romero, so let’s not even entertain the numerous other challengers waiting to take the Brit’s head off.

Provided Jose Aldo stays put, the ‘undisputed’ featherweight champ should revert to type and shut out challenger Max Holloway…if they ever fight, that is. After that, I see little standing in the way of Aldo.

Amanda Nunes and Joanna Jedrzejczyk ain’t going anywhere, so let’s just gloss over those divisions. Stipe Miocic likely survives until 2018 because heavyweights are made of glass, so don’t expect too much movement there.

Oh, and Demetrious Johnson. Nah.


John King: 

Let’s go from light to heavy, we’ll start with the women’s strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk: I’m confident we can all agree that she’s not losing her belt any time soon? The two most dangerous challengers in my eyes are Claudia Gadelha and Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Check the record, she’s already beaten both of them; Gadelha twice.

Er… What’s her name? That girl that just demolished Ronda Rousey? I would know if they’d put her in the bloody adverts. All jokes aside, Amanda Nunes is an animal, she is the hardest hitter in the division and swarms you like, well, like a lioness! Nunes has starched both Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, who are arguably the two biggest names in women’s MMA. Julianna Pena or Valentina Shevchenko are probably next, and frankly, I feel bad for them

Demetrious Johnson just isn’t going to lose, it’s as simple as that. Nobody can beat him. Nobody.

Cody Garbrandt has just won the title in a phenomenal, unexpected performance against Dominick Cruz and will likely face TJ Dillashaw next. He beat Cruz but can he beat Dillashaw? I don’t think so.

The only real threat to Jose Aldo at featherweight in my opinion is Max Holloway, who he will likely fight night. Is he a threat, yes. Will he beat Aldo, no. Nobody at FW can beat him.

I’ve picked Conor McGregor to keep his belt, on the assumption he pulls off another wild move and avoids Khabib Nurmagomedov. He can beat Khabib with striking, but if Khabib is smart, he’ll shoot, pick him up and dump him on his head like he used to do with bears as a child.

Tyron Woodley is good, but just not that good. I think Wonderboy beats him in a rematch and probably ends the year as champion.

Same with Michael Bisping, he’s good, but he’s not the best. Romero is next in line and I think the Cuban dethrones Bisping, and brutally at that.

Daniel Cormier beats everybody at light-heavyweight, that is everybody other than Jon Jones. Jones is back this year and will probably get an immediate shot, and win his belt back.

Stipe Miocic is a talent. Not only does he have high level wrestling, but he also has good striking, power in his hands and a granite chin. I don’t see anybody that beats him. Maybe Cain, but he’s too injury prone to bank on it.


Jack Sear:

If the likes of Grasso, Namajunas and Suarez are given a little more time to blossom, then they may actually hold a decent chance of unseating Joanna Champion. She will not be dethroned in 2017, though.

With Holm and De Randamie moving to 145lbs, Amanda Nunes is now sitting in a rather cushty position atop the women’s bantamweight ranks. She keeps the belt because she has already beaten her only legitimate challenger – Shevchenko.

Seriously, who could actually give Mighty Mouse a competitive scrap, let alone stand a realistic chance of beating him without using a weapon? Next.

Cody Garbrandt looked sensational in his win over Cruz. TJ Dillashaw however is slightly more polished than Garbrandt at this point and is more potent than Cruz. Dillashaw reclaims the belt before the year is out.

Jose Aldo is avoiding Holloway like the plague and with good reason. If the UFC forces them to fight, smart money is on Holloway. Even if the UFC decide to strip Aldo, there is no one else in the top 15 currently who would be favoured against Holloway, although Bektic could surprise.

Conor McGregor might not lose in the Octagon this year, but he will lose his strap. Regardless of who he fights next, a McGregor retirement appears to be on the cards for 2017.

‘Wonderboy’ beats Tyron Woodley in the rematch. Maia submits Wonderboy to close out the year.

This pains me to say it, but come 2018 Michael Bisping will no longer be the UFC Middleweight kingpin. Romero may not be the one to do it, but failing him there is also the likes of Jacare, Rockhold, etc.

DC to keep his belt, because he already has the blueprint to beat Rumble and picking Jones seems like a lost cause at this point.

With Cain Velasquez out of action for the foreseeable future, Stipe Miocic‘s challenges will ostensibly come from rematches with Werdum and JDS, both of which he should be favoured to win.


Thomas Young:

Demetrious Johnson stays flyweight champ ’til 2025. You heard it here first (not even first in this list, Thom! – Ed).

Jose Aldo loses the belt to the ever-improved Holloway. It’s destiny.

Conor McGregor will most likely defend his lightweight title against either Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov or Nate Diaz. Whatever happens, Mcgregor isn’t exiting 2017 with the lightweight title.

Tyron Woodley loses the belt to Demian Maia. That is all.

Michael Bisping’s career resurgence is one of the best things I’ve ever seen in MMA. I think he has a legit chance against Yoel Romero (probably the next in line for the title shot). However, I’m not sure he’ll successfully defend the belt twice or thrice next year. The middleweight division is always full of surprises but one thing I’m sure of is Bisping won’t be holding the title at the end of 2017.

Fuck knows what’s happening with the light-heavyweight division but one thing is certain: IF Jones returns in 2017, he’s taking the belt away from Daniel Cormier and with him to 2018.

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