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Odds of Each UFC Title Changing Hands in the Next 12 Months

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2012

Odds of Each UFC Title Changing Hands in the Next 12 Months

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    At UFC 154, Georges St-Pierre returned from a lengthy layoff to cast Carlos Condit down from his place in the prestigious pantheon of UFC champions.

    Though Condit was only an interim champ, he is the latest UFC competitor to have gold ripped from his grasp and been forced to rejoin the field of chasers formerly coming for what he once had.

    Condit's experience is one that nearly all champions share, few retiring before an ambition usurper sneaks off with their glory and the belt that symbolizes it.

    Here, we'll take a look at the probabilities of each current UFC champion relinquishing his title within a calendar year.

    In regards to the bantamweight division, which has two champions, we're looking for a third party to come along and take either the official or interim title away.

Heavyweight

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    Current Champion: Junior Dos Santos

    I view the UFC's heavyweight division as a two-horse race between current champion Junior Dos Santos and No.1 contender Cain Velasquez. Though the weight class has seen an influx of talent over the past couple years, these two stand head and shoulders above the field.

    Some might interject, claiming that Alistair Overeem's impending return to action makes it a Mexican standoff, but I just don't believe he has what it takes to hang with either dos Santos or Velasquez for more than five minutes at a time.

    The real wild-card is Daniel Cormier. If he is able to carve a path to the UFC title within the next 12 months, then the division will officially have a "Big Three."

    Until then, the only man that really poses a threat to dos Santos' reign is Velasquez. True, the first time they squared off was a one-sided thrashing in favor of dos Santos. But Velasquez's domination of Antonio Silva this May was pretty convincing evidence that he is the class of the challenger's field.

    He'll get his crack at revenge this December 29 when he rematches dos Santos in what likely represents the toughest obstacle the champion will encounter for at least the next 12 months.

    Again, Cormier could factor in, but there is too much uncertainty there to take the Strikeforce champ's title shot for granted. At least within such a diminutive time-frame.

    I give Dos Santos a little better than even odds against Velasquez and heavily favor him against anyone else the division currently houses. In the end, that slides the meter to about a 50/50 proposition.

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 2-1 (50 percent)

Light Heavyweight

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    Current Champion: Jon Jones

    Jon Jones has dominated the 205-pound division in a way no one ever has before. Aside from narrowly escaping Vitor Belfort's armbar attempt, Jones rarely encounters moments he is not in complete control of inside the Octagon.

    There is little reason to expect anything different over the next calendar year, especially considering Jones won't put his belt on the line until April, and then against Chael Sonnen.

    Though Sonnen is a top middleweight (not light heavyweight) fighter with elite-level wrestling, prevailing belief that he'll pose a serious threat to Jones can really only be traced to rhetoric—not logic.

    After Sonnen, possible contenders include Alexander Gustafsson, Mauricio Rua, Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida. 

    That's a list full of guys that could very well be ticketed for the Hall of Fame, but nothing there really gives cause to believe Jones' divisional rule is in any perilous danger.

    And don't hold your breath on Anderson Silva moving up and trying to take the belt away from Jones.

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 10-1 (10 percent)

Middleweight

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    Current Champion: Anderson Silva

    This one would have been a lot more intriguing if Chris Weidman had not withdrawn from his December bout with Tim Boetsch, because Weidman stands as the greatest threat to Silva's supremacy.

    The division's remaining top contenders—Boetsch, Belcher and Bisping—fight in style more favorable to Silva's own, which means they'll be hard-pressed to dethrone Silva, even if given the opportunity.

    Of course, anything can happen and any of those fighters could conceivably defeat Silva, but those scenarios must be accompanied by reminders that "possible" and "probable" mean vastly different things.

    Also mitigating the odds of Silva relinquishing his title in the near future are his plans to take a little time off. Of course, those plans might not hold up when Dana White has a sit-down with the champ.

    Regardless, the biggest threat to Silva remains Father Time, though even that seems to be taking it on the jaw. Age eventually has to catch up with the Brazilian, but there have been no signs that that day is looming just yet. 

    When we consider that Silva yet remains in his prime, his division lacks a true (healthy) threat and the possibility he'll have a relaxing next 12 months, it looks very much like the UFC middleweight belt will still be snugly around Silva's waist this time next year.

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 11-1 (9.09 percent)

Welterweight

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    Current Champion: Georges St-Pierre

    Though St-Pierre has never racked up the spectacular finishes the oft-compared-to Anderson Silva has, he spends a far smaller portion of his fights in a position of danger. 

    On one hand, that suggests he's less likely to suffer an upset. On the other, Carlos Condit came ridiculously close to ending St-Pierre's reign with a head-kick earlier this month.

    But either way, St-Pierre is a dominant champion, one not likely to give up his title very easily. He is, however, saddled with Johny Hendricks, who is perhaps the most legitimate title challenger between 170 and 205 pounds (excluding the disabled Chris Weidman).

    Hendricks's explosive left hand and outstanding wrestling credentials make him a serious threat to St-Pierre, even if the Canadian showed little-to-no effect of the ACL injury he suffered last year, when he fought Condit at UFC 154.

    But after Hendricks, there probably isn't anyone there that poses too strong a threat to St-Pierre, at least not within a year from now. Names like Condit, Kampmann, Ellenberger and Fitch make up the division's contender list, and while they are all terrific competitors, none are in St-Pierre's class. 

    Even a return from Nick Diaz wouldn't really put GSP on the hot-seat in my book.

    Even after whittling down the odds a bit to account for Hendricks' power, St-Pierre's prospects are still looking good over the next 12 months.

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 5.5-1 (18.18 percent)

Lightweight

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    Current Champion: Ben Henderson

    Ben Henderson may have established himself as the best 155-pound mixed martial artist on the planet, but there is no shortage of contenders nipping at his heels.

    First, Henderson is expected to deal with Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 5, this December 8. He's favored to win that bout, but not by a heck of a lot. 

    After Diaz, there is Gray Maynard and Anthony Pettis, both of whom could challenge Henderson with 12 months should he win this December. 

    All totaled, that's three challengers with a very realistic chance of beating Henderson. Even if he's considered likely to win each match individually, slightly better than even odds run three times in a row is not likely to produce a trio of positive outcomes. 

    That's the reality of the lightweight division's current landscape—parity, and lots of it.

    I wouldn't expect anyone to hold the title indefinitely anytime soon, and setting the bar at 12 months for Henderson presents the champion with a tough challenge.

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 1.6-1 (62.5 percent)

Featherweight

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    Current Champion: Jose Aldo

    The featherweight division is quietly becoming one of the UFC's strongest. The arrival of Frankie Edgar, the emergence of Erik Koch and blossoming of Chan Sung Jung, Chad Mendes, Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson have combined to create quite the intriguing power-struggle.

    All that not to mention Jose Aldo, one of the sport's most exciting fighters and dominant champions, continues to rule the roost.

    Unfortunately, injuries have quelled the building division's building excitement of late, tearing promising bouts asunder with little regard for the desires of the sport's fanbase.

    The latest attempt to right the ship has been scheduled for February, 2013, when Aldo will defend his title against Edgar.

    Here's hoping it actually survives to become reality.

    Beyond Edgar, there is a bevy of legitimate contenders lining up for a crack at Aldo, which means his next 12 months likely won't be a cake-walk.

    Still, he is Jose Aldo, so even the challenge he's in for might not be enough to take him down from his pedestal.  

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 3.3-1 (30.30 percent)

Bantamweight

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    Current Champion: Dominick Cruz

    Interim Champion: Renan Barao

    Dominick Cruz and Renan Barao own the bantamweight division. There is a lot of talent there, but nearly all of it is a noticeable notch below those two. The sole exception is Michael McDonald, who has the talent to join Cruz and Barao, turning the weight class a triumvirate.

    The most obvious title bout the division has to offer is Cruz vs. Barao. However, if Cruz remains on the mend well into 2013, a McDonald vs. Barao bout seems like the best substitute.

    Brad Pickett or Eddie Wineland could factor into the interim title scene in some way as well, but I really don't see either making the same type of impact McDonald has the potential to.

    So when we look at the odds for the bantamweight division, it really comes down to how possible you believe it is for McDonald to make inroads with the top two guys. That's assuming we don't consider a Cruz-Barao unification fight one that would see titles "change hands."

    As of now, I'd make McDonald a decided underdog against either Cruz or Barao, though one with a realistic chance of pulling off the upset.

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 3-1 (33.33 percent)

Flyweight

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    Current Champion: Demetrious Johnson

    Though Johnson became the flyweight division's inaugural champion with an emphatic win over Joseph Benavidez, his place at the top of the ladder is a precarious one indeed.

    That's because, though still in its infantile stages, the flyweight division is rife with talent and will likely see more migrate in from other promotions in 2013.

    Johnson's first title defense will come against John Dodson next January in a match that will surely test the staying power of the new crown-wearer. Dodson has looked spectacular of late and might be able to match Johnson's speed better than any other fighter around, if not entirely.

    Beyond Dodson, Johnson is likely to find himself pitted against a familiar foe or two in 2013, with potential rematches against Benavidez and Ian McCall on the horizon. John Moraga could also make the jump to the championship level next year.

    All in all, that's a tall order for Johnson to handle. 

    Much like the lightweight division, the 125-pound class could become pretty volatile near the top very soon. Though Johnson could separate himself from the pack, he'll enter next year surrounded by viable contenders, a few of whom certainly have what it takes to beat him on any given night.

     

    Odds of title changing hands in next 12 months: 1.9-1 (52.63 percent)

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