The UFC champions wear brass and leather belts; these belts are not only the sign of success and achievement, but these honorable titles also spark the invincibility of the fighters.
But! Nothing lasts forever.
Of the 12 UFC weight classes, seven fighters now own championship belts who didn’t win on 1st January 2021. If you involve interim straps, then the number increases to 9. This is a massive change in the upper echelons of the game, and in 2021 it was done in overwhelming ways.
Still, I’m not sure enough to predict that more than a dozen UFC titles will change, as happened this year. I’m having trouble seeing more than a few power transfers in 2022. Let’s go ahead and take a look at how I can imagine a change by next 31st December.
Jiri Prochazka (light-heavyweight):
This is not an attempt to undermine the success of Teixeira, who knocked out Jan Blachowicz to become the 205-pound champion – making his UFC Gold debut almost seven years later. Teixeira is hard, but Jiri is someone special. In his fight in May with Dominick Reyes, he showed his power. Prochazka has consecutively won 12 contests and has lost just one of 24 fights since 2013. Reyes’ completion showed that competing at the highest level would not diminish his role. If he can keep his morale up, Prochazka has the best chance to go with the title.
Petr Yan (men’s bantamweight):
Mentioning Yan in the potential new champions of the year feels like a hoax to me, as he is already there and likely will still be if any illegal and unfortunate act kneel him down. In October, Petr won an interim belt against Cory Sandhagen, and I am pretty sure that he will also win against Sterling; till now, no date has yet been announced for Sterling-Yan 2.
Alexandre Pantoja (men’s flyweight):
Among 11 fights, Pantoja captured eight UFC fights; these achievements convinced me that he had the upper hand in the championship. In the 2018 fight, Pantoja won against pre-champ Moreno. In 2022, Pantoja may not win the title shot as Moreno is the first to uphold his belt against Deiveson Figueiredo (a former champion). But at the end of the year, Pantoja will win the title shot as he is second in UFC rankings.
Valentina Shevchenko (women’s bantamweight)
There have been no recent talks about Shevchenko’s being champion unless she finishes her trilogy with famous Amanda Nunes.
Shevchenko cleared the 125-pound division, defeated the record-breaker four contenders, and enjoyed the 2017 submission win over Peña. So, the new bantamweight champion can take advantage of the redemption opportunity here. And if she follows her Nunes’ upset with a victory against Shevchenko, it would be an excellent 1-2 punch.
Robert Whittaker (middleweight):
In a recent competition, Robert turned up his old championship which gets him in a strong position for his title shot on 12th February 2022. Israel Adesanya (won in 2019) came out empty-handed in its bid to become the Division Two champion the following year. Still, I believe that throughout 2022, he will continue to be at 185-pounds man.