With 2013 all wrapped up and 2014 just beginning, we thought “what better time than now to look at each UFC champion to determine who we think will hold each belt at the end of 2014?” In this third article of three, we will be looking at the two lightest UFC weight classes as well as the women’s bantamweight division. Our first installment covered the UFC’s three heaviest weight classes and our second installment covered the three middle weight classes. By the way, if you haven’t checked out Reed Kuhn’s Fightnomics it is a must read for any UFC fan, or anyone interested in betting on UFC fights.
Current Champion: Ronda Rousey
Top 2014 Contenders:
Zingano was supposed to coach opposite Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter 18. Unfortunately for her, she suffered a knee injury that has kept her out of action since the TUF 17 Finale in April, 2013. In addition, Zingano’s husband recently committed suicide, but it is unclear what their relationship was like at the time of his passing, or how this will affect Zingano going forward. Regardless, after the McMann vs Rousey contest at UFC 170, Zingano will likely receive the next shot at the women’s title.
McMann is the number 3 UFC women’s bantamweight competitor and the next to receive a shot at Ronda Rousey. She sports a career record of 7-0, finishing 4 of those fights inside the distance. In her UFC debut in April, she finished Sheila Gaff late in the first round of their fight. Some would argue her title shot is coming too soon, but in a relatively young division, it’s tough to find really worthy contenders. McMann’s athletic credentials are well known with her silver medal in the Athens Olympics in submission grappling.
Alexis Davis is one of the veterans of women’s MMA. At just 29 years old, she already has 20 career fights with a record of 15-5. Two of those wins have come under the UFC banner, both by decision over Liz Carmouche and Rosi Sexton. Davis and Jessica Eye will face off at UFC 170 with the winner likely third in line for Rousey’s title.
At 27 years old, Eye is already 11-1 and has her first UFC win under her belt. Like many female fighters, the majority of Eye’s wins have come by decision, with 8 of 11 taking the full 15 minutes. Assuming the women’s champion continues to be pretty active, Eye could get her shot at the title late in 2014 if she is able to get past Alexis Davis.
In a relatively young division, the title is up for grabs for any young fighter who can ascend the rankings quickly. Crys Cyborg has to be considered a contender because if she crosses down into the bantamweight division, she could likely have an immediate shot at Rousey if she signs with the UFC. Amanda Nunes, at the age of 25, could possibly earn a title shot if she continues to destroy her competition (8 of her 9 wins are by knockout).
The UFC Women’s Bantamweight division is one of our toughest predictions. With so many young contenders and a lack of match-ups to look at historically, its tough to choose someone as champion for the end of 2014. Cat Zingano’s match-up with Miesha Tate was incredibly close, but Tate was absolutely dominated by Ronda Rousey. McMann is still somewhat of an unknown with her only UFC win coming over Sheila Gaff, who isn’t even in the UFC’s published top 15. We expect Ronda Rousey to remain champion at the end of 2014.
Champion: Renan Barao
Faber took Cruz’s spot at UFC 169 when Cruz was unable to face Barao due to injury. Faber already suffered a decision loss to Barao in July, 2012, but has been incredibly impressive as of late. It took him just 2.5 rounds to dispose of the heavy-handed Michael McDonald who many thought would be the first one to defeat Faber in a non-title contest in his entire career.
If Cruz can get and stay healthy, he may return in late 2014. Depending on the extent of his current injuries and how his recovery goes, he could be a top contender immediately. He was forced to give up his bantamweight title he had held since March, 2010. Cruz was on a 10 fight win streak before his current injury layoff which has gone on over 2 years (he last fought in October, 2011). Cruz is one of the few top bantamweights who Renan Barao has not yet defeated so it will be very interesting if the two finally do meet up.
Raphael Assuncao is 5-1 in UFC competition including a recent split decision win over TJ Dillashaw. With a couple more wins, Assuncao could become the number one contender. There are few other guys we could see being able to earn title shots in 2014, let alone beat the ever dominant Renan Barao.
Renan Barao has been abolutely dominant as the UFC’s interim bantamweight champion. Now that the interim title is gone, we don’t see anything changing. Barao will take on 2 or 3 contenders in 2014 and will defeat all comers.
Champion: Demetrious Johnson
Lineker is our top contender for the flyweight title because he is one of the few without a loss to the champion, Demetrious Johnson. Incredibly, Lineker has 3 straight TKO wins in UFC contests as a flyweight! One important factor for Lineker though, is being able to make the 125 lbs limit. In his last 2 fights he has been slightly over and that won’t fly with Uncle Dana and the UFC if he wants to compete for the title.
McCall would be an unlikely selection for many people. The reason we see him as a top contender is he has shown he is one of the few who has what it takes to compete with Demetrious Johnson. He managed to make it to decisions with the current champ twice, which makes him a compelling fight should he be able to pull off a couple big wins in 2014 (the first of which has to come over Brad Pickett at UFC Fight Night 37 in London).
Johnson has already beaten John Dodson, Joseph Benavidez and John Moraga. It is very unlikely that anyone is able to leap frog all 3 of those top guys as well as the two we discussed above, at least in 2014.
John Lineker has what it takes to win the UFC flyweight title. He has the speed and packs an incredible punch for a 115 lber. A dominant performance by Lineker at UFC 169 on February 1, 2014 likely gives him the next shot at Johnson and we see him taking full advantage of that opportunity.
Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest. In terms of event picks, the next UFC event will go down January 25 and will feature top lightweight contenders Benson Henderson and Josh Thomson. Co-featured will be an explosive heavyweight tilt between Gabriel Gonzaga and Stipe Miocic. Stay tuned for our predictions for UFC on Fox 10 and other upcoming fight cards!