UFC Power Rankings: Which Fighters Have the Best Odds of Capturing Gold in 2017?

Chad Dundas@@chaddundasMMA Lead WriterMarch 30, 2017

UFC Power Rankings: Which Fighters Have the Best Odds of Capturing Gold in 2017?

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    The UFC experienced unprecedented championship turnover during 2016.

    All told, eight new champions were crowned inside the Octagon last year, including the emergence of young lions like men's bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt and ascendence of surprising veterans like middleweight titlist Michael Bisping.

    The new year has already given us one additional champion after Germaine de Randamie defeated Holly Holm to become the company's inaugural women's featherweight champion at UFC 208. But what does the future hold for the rest of 2017?

    Will it be another year of wholesale change at the top? Or will some consistency emerge as a perhaps a few of these fledgling champions establish themselves as dominant, dependable draws?

    Glad you asked. With a bevy of title matches already on the books and a gaggle of top contenders breathing down the necks of the champions, here's a look at the challengers most likely to win UFC gold in 2017.

    Odds are the writer's own unless otherwise noted.

No. 1 Cris "Cyborg" Justino

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    Cris "Cyborg" Justino

    Division: Women's featherweight
    Age: 31
    Record: 17-1-1 overall, 2-0 UFC
    Last five: 5-0
    Next fight: N/A
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 1-to-4

    Is it possible the long frosty relationship between Cyborg and the UFC is finally thawing? Maybe. The fighter unilaterally regarded as the most fearsome woman on the planet was recently retroactively granted a therapeutic use exemption and immediately cleared to return after a UFC drug test she failed in December. That could be very good news for the long maligned Justino and very, very bad news for every other 145-pounder on the planet--including de Randamie, the newly crowned champ.

    As if to signal her desire to fully dedicate herself to a UFC career, Justino also recently vacated her InvictaFC featherweight title. Look, if she gets herself in a cage with de Randamie at any point this year, we all know what's going to happen. It'll be lights out for the current champ and the crowning of a new one. Cyborg reclaiming the mantle as the sport's most dominant female is as big a given as any potential plot line in the UFC this year. All she needs is the chance to prove it. 

No. 2 Anthony Johnson

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    Anthony Johnson

    Division: Light heavyweight
    Age: 33
    Record: 22-5 overall, 13-5 UFC
    Last five: 4-1
    Next fight: Johnson faces Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title at UFC 210 on April 8.
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: Pick ‘em.

    Johnson gets the No. 2 spot on this list for a couple of reasons. For starters, he's already set to rematch Cormier for the 205-pound strap at UFC 210, and their fight is going off as a dead heat, according to OddsShark.

    Second, because Johnson is getting that title shot early enough in the year that—even if he loses it—it's not totally out of the question the puddle-shallow light heavyweight division might cough-up yet another championship opportunity for Johnson before 2017 is up—especially if Jon Jones returns and reclaims his throne.

    Granted, Johnson already lost once to Cormier back at UFC 187, when they fought for the vacant light heavyweight title. Honestly, though, "Rumble's" punching power means he's always one swing away from walking out with the gold.

    When this pair meets again at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, Johnson could just as easily shut Cormier's lights out with a big right hand or gas out again and concede another late-stoppage loss.

No. 3 Georges St-Pierre

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    Georges St-Pierre

    Division: Middleweight
    Age: 35
    Record: 25-2 overall, 19-2 UFC
    Last five: 5-0
    Next fight: St-Pierre is expected to face Michael Bisping for the middleweight title on a date TBA in 2017.
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 5-to-4

    Welterweight GOAT St-Pierre will almost certainly be 36 and at least three-and-a-half years removed from the cage by the time his 185-pound title match against Bisping finally goes down.

    That said, his age, potential ring rust and having never competed in the UFC middleweight division before don't appear to be dampening his outlook any. Surprisingly enough, OddsShark makes GSP the biggest favorite of any upcoming title challenger currently on the docket. So, make of that what you will.

    It seems borderline unimaginable that St-Pierre could end his lengthy hiatus, jump up a weight class and take Bisping's title all in one night—but maybe that's why the guy's already earned MMA legend status.

    It might all turn out to be a fantasy, but for now, it's good enough to nab the third-overall spot on these power rankings. 

No. 4 Jon Jones

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    Jon Jones

    Division: Light heavyweight
    Age: 29
    Record: 22-1 overall, 16-1 UFC
    Last five: 5-0
    Next fight: N/A
    Probability of winning the title in 2017: 3-to-2

    Look, let's be real for a minute: The only thing standing between Jones and another run with the UFC light heavyweight title is Jon Jones.

    As of this writing, the 205-pound kingpin is still suspended until July after failing a UFC administered drug test, allegedly stemming from some tainted dietary supplements he was taking.

    If we could reasonably count on Jones to serve the rest of that suspension, train for a bout with the Johnson-Cormier winner and then show up unscathed on fight night, Jones would be a stone-cold, lead-pipe lock at No. 1 on this list.

    But we all know we cannot count on Jones to do those things. Him not doing those things has sort of been the story of his career up to this point.

    And frankly, the days of shrugging off Jones' personal transgressions because he's still got plenty of time to figure it all out are over. He will turn 30 later this year and has made so much trouble for himself that he's on the UFC's last nerve—though what exactly that means in a world where Bellator MMA is snapping up free agents like a Hungry Hungry Hippo is anyone's best guess.

    Bottom line: If Jones can keep from, as Cormier might say, disqualifying himself from competition, he'll be champion again by the end of summer. If not? Let's just saw a reality where he buys a Harley and spends a few years just roaming the earth is also disturbingly easy to imagine right now.

No. 5 Max Holloway

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    Max Holloway

    Division: Men's featherweight
    Age: 25
    Record: 17-3 overall, 13-3 UFC
    Last five: 5-0
    Next fight: Holloway will fight Jose Aldo to unify the featherweight title at UFC 212 on June 3.
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 2-to-1

    Since losing to Conor McGregor via unanimous decision in August 2013, Holloway has been on an absolute tear, running off 10 straight wins in the topsy-turvy 145-pound division.

    He's been so good—as evidenced by his TKO stoppage of Anthony Pettis to capture the interim championship at UFC 206 in December 2016—that defeat by McGregor now feels like ancient history.

    So too do the days when Aldo was regarded this weight class' unbeatable champion. When this pairing meets up in Rio de Janeiro in June, it will be Holloway who is ascendant while Aldo will be nearing his 31st birthday and out of action for nearly a year since his unanimous-decision win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200.

    Will it be enough for Holloway to upgrade from interim to undisputed champion? It's possible. It's possible.

No. 6 T.J. Dillashaw

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    T.J. Dillashaw

    Division: Men's bantamweight
    Age: 31
    Record: 14-3 overall, 10-3 UFC
    Last five: 4-1
    Next fight: Dillashaw is expected to fight Cody Garbrandt for the bantamweight title at an event TBA in 2017.
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 3-to-1

    Dillashaw spent nearly two years as men's 135-pound champion from May 2014 until January 2016, when he lost the belt to the returning Dominick Cruz via split decision.

    Fast-forward another 14 months and we know Cruz turned over the title to Garbrandt in a much more one-sided affair at UFC 207.

    Now, Dillashaw and Garbrandt—fueled by the feud resulting from Dillashaw's split from Team Alpha Male—will serve as opposing coaches on the next season of The Ultimate Fighter and assumedly will square off for the championship later this year.

    MMA Math might tell us that Garbrandt will be the favorite in their bout, since Garbrant > Cruz > Dillashaw, but the truth is the former champ has been awfully good since dropping the title to Cruz.

    Dillashaw has defeated top contenders Rafael Assuncao and John Lineker in consecutive appearances. Garbrandt appears dominant but remains untested as champion.

    If you told us Dillashaw will end 2017 as champion, it wouldn't exactly bowl us over with surprise.

No. 7 Yoel Romero

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    Yoel Romero

    Division: Middleweight
    Age: 39
    Record: 12-1 overall, 8-0 UFC
    Last five: 5-0
    Next fight: N/A
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 3-to-1

    Much like Jones, it occasionally feels as though a lack of opportunity is the only thing separating Romero from wrapping UFC gold around his waist.

    The former Olympic wrestler from Cuba has been scary good since coming to MMA in 2009. Romero remains fairly green, but his unorthodox style and imposing power have pushed him to an undefeated start inside the Octagon.

    To see evidence of exactly what he's capable of, one must look no further than his stupefying flying-knee TKO of former champ Chris Weidman at UFC 205.

    Yeah, like we said: Scary good.

    The catch for Romero is that since Bisping unexpectedly won the 185-pound championship from Luke Rockhold in June 2016, the title picture has been put in suspended animation.

    Bisping is slated for a bout against St-Pierre later this year, but the details are sketchy at best. If GSP wins that bout or if Bisping simply continues his big-money legends tour while eschewing the middleweight Top 10, Romero could have a long wait ahead of him before getting his own title shot.

No. 8 Junior Dos Santos

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    Junior Dos Santos

    Division: Heavyweight
    Age: 33
    Record: 18-4 overall, 12-3 UFC
    Last five: 3-2
    Next fight: Dos Santos faces Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title at UFC 211 on May 13.
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 4-to-1

    The likable Dos Santos is flying under the radar a bit leading up to his title bout with Miocic—odd considering JDS already has one win over the current champion, albeit in a decision after a close, back-and-forth fight in December 2014.

    These days, however, up-and-comers like Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou are hogging many of the 265-pound headlines, along with perennial contenders like Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum.

    Somehow, Dos Santos has slipped through the cracks a bit, perhaps because of an underwhelming 3-3 record dating back to the end of 2012 and the notion he's absorbed more than his fair share of punishment despite being just 33.

    Smart money is probably on Miococ here. Still, almost anything can and will happen in the unpredictable heavyweight division, so the mere fact JDS is facing Miocic in the champ's dreaded second title defense (historically a big hurdle for heavyweight champs) gives him as good a chance as anybody on the roster to win UFC gold.

No. 9 Valentina Shevchenko

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    Valentina Shevchenko

    Division: Women's bantamweight
    Age: 29
    Record: 14-2 overall, 3-1 UFC
    Last five: 4-1
    Next fight: Shevchenko is expected to fight Amanda Nunes for the women's bantamweight title at an event TBA in 2017.
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 5-to-1

    Shevchenko has come seemingly from nowhere to establish herself as the No. 1 contender in the women's 135-pound weight class. The decorated kickboxer only has four fights inside the Octagon, but the two most recent have been impressive victories over former champion Holly Holm and top prospect Julianna Pena.

    After losing to current champ Nunes at UFC 196 in March 2016, however, the question remains whether Shevchenko can have closed the gap enough to make the outcome of their second fight different. We won't know until it actually goes down.

No. 10 Demian Maia

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    Demian Maia

    Division: Welterweight
    Age: 39
    Record: 24-6 overall, 18-6 UFC
    Last five: 5-0
    Next fight: Maia will fight Jorge Masvidal at UFC 211 on May 13.
    Odds of winning the title in 2017: 7-to-1

    The venerable jiu jitsu professor of the 170-pound weight class, Maia has been on a roll since seemingly rededicating himself to being a pure grappler in the spring of 2014.

    In that way, there's a delightful, throwback quality to his recent success. Everybody knows what Maia's going to do, and yet they still can't stop him. Submission victories over Matt Brown and Carlos Condit in his most recent bouts have been ultra impressive but so far not good enough to land him a shot at champion Tyron Woodley.

    One of two things will happen for Maia this year: Either he'll slip up and lose a fight—this upcoming meeting with Masvidal is a dangerous one—or he'll get a title shot. If it's the latter, it wouldn't be a big shocker to see Maia become champion.