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UFC: Predicting Every Champion 1 Year from Now

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistAugust 8, 2014

UFC: Predicting Every Champion 1 Year from Now

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It's 2015.

    You've just traveled to work in your flying, water-powered car after eating a breakfast consisting of nutrient pills and Soylent Green.

    Your robot butler is cleaning the house, while you're punching your time at the office, plugging away for a cyborg boss on a sentient OS with the voice of Scarlett Johansson.

    Oh, and your office is on the moon.

    OK, actually most of that probably isn't going to happen a year from now. If we're being honest, probably none of that is going to happen a year from now. It's more likely that the world will look almost exactly the same, and we'll all be living life more or less exactly as we are right now.

    One thing that almost certainly will look different in the future, though? The UFC. In a sport as dynamic as MMA, one right hand can change the course of history every time two athletes stand across the cage from each other.

    With that in mind and also accepting that the promotion probably won't exist in a world that looks like something out of Blade Runner, here's a stab at predicting who will be wearing UFC gold in the summer of 2015.

Women's Strawweight: Joanne Calderwood

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    Courtesy: UFC.com

    The UFC's newest division will be in full swing by next summer, and in the early days its title will be passed around like a hot potato.

    Calderwood, a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 20—the tournament to crown the inaugural strawweight championdoesn't get out of the house with the title but acquits herself well enough to get some serious face time in the UFC.

    After fighting and winning on the TUF finale in December and triumphing again in the spring, she gets a title shot on a show in the U.K. in early summer and makes good on it. She becomes the third woman to hold the gold in the division's short history but goes on to be the first to successfully defend it later in 2015.

Women's Bantamweight: Ronda Rousey

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Another year of Rousey atop the bantamweight heap, as she remains undefeated and undisputed as the top woman in the game. She sits at 12-0 after beating Gina Carano and Cat Zingano through late 2014 and early 2015, but she's on hiatus to film a movie during the summer.

    When she returns? Cyborg Justino is waiting to welcome her back to the UFC on the year-end card—a bout years in the making that many believe will be her last in the promotion before she heads to Hollywood full time.

Flyweight: Demetrious Johnson

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Johnson continues to sit on his throne in 2015, as the beneficiary of his own stellar talent and a division that is weaker than a scurvy-ridden sailor in the 1800s. He's beaten everyone who anyone believes could even abstractly be a challenge and even a few whom no one believed would be a challenge.

    Though he's politely pushing for a superfight with the bantamweight champion, only he truly sees such an opportunity as either marketable or particularly interesting, and the promotion is leaving him to manhandle foes at 125 pounds.

Bantamweight: TJ Dillashaw

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    USA TODAY Sports

    After a closer bout than his first with Renan Barao, a successful Dillashaw leaves UFC 177 as the utterly undeniable top 135-pounder in the world. He also leaves with a broken hand, one that puts him on the shelf for the rest of 2014 and early 2015.

    In his stead, the UFC books a trilogy bout between Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber with the right to welcome Dillashaw back to the cage on the line. Cruz, surprisingly still sharp after only one bout in three years, beats his old nemesis and earns a title shot.

    Dillashaw vs. Cruz is the co-main event of the UFC's July Fourth card in 2015, tearing down the house with a wild battle of frenetic movement and lightning striking that finally puts the bantamweight division on the map. Dillashaw takes a unanimous decision and enjoys the rest of his summer while taking it easy.

Featherweight: Frankie Edgar

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    After defeating Chad Mendes for the second time at UFC 179, Jose Aldo elects to move to lightweight after years of teasing it and a fresh promise from Dana White of facing the winner of Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez.

    Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson are booked to do battle soon after, and the UFC elects to make it a title fight for Aldo's now-vacant gold—something not initially planned but White likes, as it keeps the division moving and the title in play.

    After a signature slow start that sees Swanson hurt him badly, Edgar wakes up down the stretch to snatch a decision and become the third two-division champion in the history of the UFC.

    Summer 2015 sees him preparing for his first title defense against upstart contender Dennis Bermudez.

Lightweight: Gilbert Melendez

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    With well more than a year off since his last bout—a title-winning performance over Benson Henderson at UFC 164Anthony Pettis is just the slightest bit too slow when he comes to defend his title against Gilbert Melendez at UFC 181.

    Melendez uses his boxing to close distance and successfully scores takedowns throughout the fight, and while Pettis is extremely active and threatening from his back, the judges award a wildly contentious decision to Melendez.

    While many see it as karma for El Nino after he lost his first title bid via controversial decision to Henderson, the UFC elects to award Pettis an immediate rematch. The two are slated to close out the summer of 2015 with their second meeting, with the winner to face Jose Aldo late in the year.

Welterweight: Robbie Lawler

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Lawler kicks off 2015 by righting the wrongs of his first bout with Johny Hendricks, planting the Texan with a head kick late in their January title fight and writing one of the greatest redemption tales in UFC history.

    With media and sponsor attention increasing, he rematches Rory MacDonald as the headliner of the card on July Fourth weekend and scores another violent stoppage over the Canadian.

    While the MMA world is heaping praise on him, the press conference is ripe with rumors of a Georges St-Pierre return in 2016 or a rematch with Nick Diaz late in 2015, so Lawler has little time to enjoy his fourth win in a row and first UFC title defense.

Middleweight: Chris Weidman

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    To be the man, you have to beat the man.

    Weidman did that with consecutive wins over Anderson Silva, and by 2015 he's well on his way to securing his legacy as one of the best the sport has ever seen. He's bested Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort before 2014 is over and puts a surprisingly one-sided beating on Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza early in 2015.

    Many are beginning to compare his early legacy to that of Silva, and the caliber of opponents, coupled with the way he's beating them, is beginning to see Weidman match up to the Brazilian. His combination of sneakily skilled striking, good wrestling and expert submission wrestling is a puzzle no one at 185 has come close to solving.

    Summer 2015 sees him training for a year-end headliner against Tim Kennedy.

Light Heavyweight: Anthony Johnson

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    After battering Daniel Cormier for five rounds and stopping Alexander Gustafsson in early 2015, Jon Jones decides to move to heavyweight instead of rematching old foes.

    While many demand he stick around to fight Anthony Johnson, who has yet to lose in the UFC since his return, Jones insists there will always be someone new and he's not interested in 205 anymore (he does this through a series of Instagram trolls, the response to which is so overwhelming and hostile that it causes the Internet to break for nearly 36 hours).

    The result is that Johnson is matched with Cormier, who has remained relevant despite his loss to Jones and sees this as his last crack at the top of the heap, given his age and the mileage on his body after a life of high-level competition.

    Unfortunately for the Olympian, he simply can't overcome the sheer power of Johnson, who keeps the fight at distance just long enough to land an overhand right behind Cormier's ear and finish him with strikes on the ground soon after.

    Johnson immediately begs Jones to come back to 205 after his victory, to which Jones replies "LOL" on Twitter. The Internet breaks again—this time for almost three full days.

    When it's fixed, Jones has deleted the tweet.

Heavyweight: Cain Velasquez

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Velasquez, winner of six straight bouts after beating Fabricio Werdum in Mexico and Alistair Overeem in the first half of 2015, has proved that his only career loss was something of a fluke and there's no end to his title reign in sight.

    The UFC books Travis Browne to oppose him in summer 2015 after the Hawaiian has a solid bounce-back performance late in 2014 and turns around quickly in 2015 for another win. The challenge goes horribly for him though, with Velasquez outgunning his athleticism with pure aggression, repeatedly taking him down and battering him on the ground until an eventual TKO racks up another title defense.

    Talk turns to a potential bout with Stipe Miocic, but nothing is confirmed for Velasquez until the fall.

     

    Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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