MMA: Predicting a World Where Every Current UFC Champion No Longer Exists
It's safe to say the MMA world would be a much different place if every current UFC champion didn't exist.
Who would reign over each division? Would certain divisions even exist? Who would rise up and fill the void as the UFC's next slate of superstars?
The UFC has become a revolving door for upper-echelon talent, but their time in the spotlight often becomes truncated by the dominance of current champions. In the history of the UFC, there have never been more dominant champions than there are now.
Jon Jones has turned the once-prosperous light heavyweight division into a wasteland. Anderson Silva is more interested in fighting his clone than anyone at middleweight. Georges St-Pierre, who rarely even loses a round, has dominated himself into retirement. Ronda Rousey has only defended her UFC title once, and people are already clamoring for superfights.
Fans are captivated by elongated title reigns, but at the same time, it's always fun to rock the boat every once in a while and experience some change. It's out with the old and in with the new (in most cases).
Today, we look into the crystal ball and give life to a world with a brand new slate of UFC champions.
Women’s Bantamweight Champ: Sarah Kaufman
Sarah Kaufman - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
Without Rousey, it's doubtful women's MMA would even exist in the UFC, but we'll play devil's advocate and pretend that division stays intact.
The UFC's dream champion in a post-Rousey era is former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champ Miesha Tate, another charismatic star.
Tate is blessed with the world-class skills to make a smooth transition as the new face of women's MMA.
Unfortunately for Tate, this transition would be thwarted by Sarah Kaufman, another former Strikeforce champ. Kaufman has already dominated Tate once before in their May 2009 Strikeforce bout.
While she lacks the same charisma as Rousey and Tate, Kaufman is the most well-rounded fighter in the entire division. It also doesn't hurt that she has Greg Jackson in her corner.
With Rousey gone from the division, Kaufman would win the UFC title and sit back and watch while Tate, Liz Carmouche and Cat Zingano battle it out for a shot. Perhaps even Tara LaRosa and Marloes Coenen would be offered UFC contracts to bolster the division.
Flyweight Champ: Joseph Benavidez
Joseph Benavidez - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
The 125-pound division hasn't been around long in the UFC, but Flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson is quickly establishing himself as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Unfortunately, the UFC's flyweight division is still starving for contenders.
Outside of Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson, there really aren't any marquee contenders competing at 125-pounds. To make matters worse, Johnson has already defeated all of them.
Benavidez would be the obvious choice as the man to take up the mantle in a post-Johnson era. He solidified himself as the No. 2 flyweight in the world at UFC 156, where he earned a unanimous decision over McCall.
As champion, Benavidez would find himself circling through a threesome of contenders, including McCall, Dodson and John Moraga.
Bantamweight Champ: Urijah Faber
Urijah Faber - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
The discombobulated mess that is the UFC bantamweight division could use some stability right about now.
Current champ Dominick Cruz remains sidelined indefinitely with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), while Renan Barao gets to play pretend champion.
This is an unfortunate situation that weighs heavily on both Cruz and Barao. Cruz, who is in the prime of his career, hasn't fought in nearly two years, but the UFC has allowed him to maintain his place atop the bantamweight division.
Barao, on the other hand, is arguably the best bantamweight in the world, but he'll never truly be seen as the champion until he either beats Cruz or becomes the official titleholder.
Since there are two bantamweight champs, it's only fair both are excluded in our post-champion world.
After four straight failed attempts at recapturing a world title, "The California Kid" Urijah Faber would finally be a champion again in the absence of Cruz and Barao.
Michael McDonald would stand out as a surefire contender, but he is still much too green to overcome Faber's experience.
Featherweight Champ: Chad Mendes
Chad Mendes - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
While there are two champions at bantamweight, the featherweight division faces its own title issues.
Jose Aldo, who is one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, has become the target of top UFC lightweights.
Former UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar recently dropped down to 145 pounds to challenge Aldo for the featherweight title. After defeating Edgar, Aldo now finds himself locked into a future showdown with lightweight contender Anthony Pettis.
Most people already see Aldo as a future Hall of Famer and all-time great. Fighters from lightweight and featherweight all want a piece of his legacy.
Unfortunately, the lightweight division has more marquee names than featherweight, which has caused a lot of leapfrogging in the title picture.
Aldo not being in the picture wouldn't necessarily be a good thing. His continued dominance and win over Edgar legitimized the division.
With that said, his exit would finally open doors for hungry contenders Chan Sung Jung, Ricardo Lamas and Cub Swanson.
When the smoke from the contender scuffle clears, Chad "Money" Mendes will stand alone as the new UFC featherweight champion.
Lightweight Champ: Frankie Edgar
Frankie Edgar - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
It's pretty obvious that Benson Henderson's existence in the lightweight division is the only reason Frankie Edgar is now competing at featherweight.
After back-to-back decision losses to Henderson, Edgar had no choice but to drop weight if he wanted to contend for a UFC title.
Unfortunately, he found out things weren't any easier at 145 pounds when he lost a third consecutive bout to featherweight champ Jose Aldo.
With Henderson out of the picture, Edgar would return to the lightweight division and resume his unending rivalry with Gray Maynard. There would be a ton of other intriguing contenders for Edgar at lightweight, including Gilbert Melendez, Nate Diaz and Anthony Pettis.
A bout with Pettis would be especially exciting, considering he is the last man to defeat Henderson.
Welterweight Champ: Rory MacDonald
Rory MacDonald - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
UFC President Dana White has stated many times in the past that Georges St-Pierre is "by far the biggest pay-per-view star in MMA."
As a promotion, how do you replace your cash cow?
The Canadian stranglehold over the welterweight division won't end with St-Pierre's departure.
At 23 years old, Canadian welterweight contender Rory MacDonald is ready to step into the spotlight as the new welterweight king.
While MacDonald can never make up for St-Pierre's popularity, his serial killer-like mystique will keep fans captivated for years to come.
People have often criticized St-Pierre for fighting safe and not attempting to finish fights. These sentiments couldn't be any further from the truth for MacDonald, who has only seen two fights go the distance.
The welterweight division would be left in good hands if MacDonald took up the reins. Of course, Johny Hendricks and Jake Ellenberger would have something to say about that.
Middleweight Champ: Chris Weidman
Chris Weidman - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
Can the history of basketball be talked about without mentioning Michael Jordan? Would boxing be as fulfilling without the efforts of Muhammad Ali?
Anderson Silva is every bit as important to MMA as Jordan and Ali were to their sports.
It's easy to take the present for granted when everything is vividly laid out in front of you. History is unfolding every time Silva steps into the cage. His accomplishments will be looked back on and praised for generations to come.
As for the middleweight division, Weidman appears to be the heir to Silva's throne. Another potential suitor is former Strikeforce middleweight champ Luke Rockhold.
It's tough not to give Weidman the nod after hearing a multitude of world-class MMA stars sing his praises. UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre even went on record and predicted Weidman would finish Silva in their upcoming title bout in July.
Weidman is a world-class fighter in every aspect, and the middleweight division isn't exactly screaming with tough opposition. Fighters like Vitor Belfort, Yushin Okami and Michael Bisping would all put up valiant efforts, but the Weidman war wagon is prepped for the long haul.
Light Heavyweight Champ: Lyoto Machida
Lyoto Machida - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
Things would probably be more chaotic in the light heavyweight division without Jon Jones as champion.
There have been six other light heavyweight champions since UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell, but Jones is the only one to successfully defend the title more than once.
It's tough envisioning another fighter planting a similar stranglehold on the division as Jones, who has four consecutive title defenses. Every contender seems to have his own personal kryptonite already present in the division.
Any top-10 guy could emerge as the next UFC champion, but in the end, the safe pick is Lyoto Machida. Even though he has three losses, his Karate-based style still confuses every opponent he steps into the Octagon with.
He even gave Jones trouble in the opening round of their UFC title bout back in December 2011.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua would be the toughest fight stylistically for Machida, but it would be a tough climb back into the light heavyweight title picture for the former Pride star. Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira and Gegard Mousasi would all make for compelling contenders.
Heavyweight Champ: Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier - Esther Lin/MMAFighting
The UFC's heavyweight division has never truly had a dominant champion.
No heavyweight in UFC history has ever successfully defended the title more than two times.
Some believe current champion Cain Velasquez will be the fighter who finally ascends beyond the historic heavyweight hurdle.
In a world without Velasquez, the obvious choice for his successor would be the man he defeated to win back the UFC title, Junior Dos Santos. There is a lot of talent at heavyweight, but it all seems to pale in comparison to Velasquez and Dos Santos.
Some have even predicted the Velasquez and Dos Santos rivalry will transform into MMA's version of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Marquez.
The obvious choice would be for Dos Santos to take up the throne, but in a sport with so many variables, things aren't always as clear cut as they may seem.
Undefeated Strikeforce World Grand Prix champ Daniel Cormier is a stylistic photocopy of Velasquez. Cormier, a former Olympian for Team USA wrestling, serves as Velasquez's training partner and wrestling coach at American Kickboxing Academy.
It isn't far-fetched to believe he'd give Dos Santos similar problems as Velasquez, especially in the wrestling department.
With Cormier on top, the division would look the same way it does now. Dos Santos would be the clear cut No. 2 heavyweight, and fighters like Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva would remain a tier below.