UFC 2021: 3 belts that will change hands this year
By Jacob Rolfe
The UFC has started the year with a bang, picking up from where they left off after an eventful 2020. The turn of the year has already seen the likes of Kamaru Usman and Jan Blachowicz defending their belts, with plenty of other contender fights filling the cards.
The roster is stacked with talent across every weight-class and it is anybody’s guess as to who will end the year as Champions, but we’ll give it our best shot. Here’s our breakdown of which belts we think will change hands in 2021.
Heavyweight – Jon ‘Bones’ Jones
What better place to start than at the top of the food chain. The Heavyweight division has burst into life over the last couple of years and the addition of former Light Heavyweight champion and future hall of famer Jon Jones has only increased the hype.
The division currently has what may be the most decorated Heavyweight champion of all time in Stipe Miocic. The champ has fought everyone, and he has beaten everyone. But he’s never fought anyone quite like Jon Jones.
Jones has been teasing his weight increase for some time now and looks set to make his Heavyweight debut this year. His skillset is unrivalled by any athlete in the two heaviest divisions, and he is arguably the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of all time. Potential matchups with Miocic and number one contender Francis Ngannou are mouth-watering, but we think he beats them both. There’s a reason Jones only has one loss on his record (by way of disqualification), because his all round game is undeniable.
He has out-struck some of the best strikers and out-wrestled the best wrestlers that the sport has seen. All whilst becoming the youngster ever UFC champion at just 23 years old. He dominated the Light Heavyweight division for years, but can he hang with the big boys in the Heavyweight division? He absolutely can, and we fully expect him to have that belt wrapped around his waist come the end of the year.
Lightweight – Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier
The fact that Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to be retiring from the sport completely changes this decision. There doesn’t look to be a 155lb man on the planet that can beat the Dagestani champ. However, after calling an end to his career following the passing of his father, the most talent-filled division in the organisation has opened right up.
Cases can be made for many of the contenders, but we think Dustin Poirier will be the man to emerge from this year with the crown. Some will mention Justin Gaethje, but Poirier KO’d him. Some will mention the return of a motivated Conor McGregor, but Poirier KO’d him too. The Diamond has a seriously impressive resume, including becoming the closest to ruining Khabib’s undefeated record after securing him in a tight guillotine. You don’t get anything for nearly winning the belt, but we think Dustin is the best of the rest.
His early 2021 victory over The Notorious McGregor was emphatic, and he definitely has what it takes to defeat any other contender to secure the title. He has KO’d some of the best the division has to offer and his ground game is criminally underrated. So whether it’s Gaethje or Charles Oliveira standing across from him in the Octagon, The Diamond has a little something for them both.
Featherweight – Max ‘Blessed’ Holloway
We might be witnessing ones of the most talented and accomplished fighters of all time watching the Blessed Hawaiian. He had a little dip against the current champ Alexander Volkanovski with back-to-back defeats, even though many fans argue he won at least one of those title fights. But Holloway returned in January, and he looked better than ever.
He didn’t just technically outbox the tough Boston boy Calvin Kattar, he completely dominated him from beginning to end. You’d do well to find a more one-sided main event in the UFC’s recent history. Holloway took the time mid-beating to shout ‘I’m the best boxer in the UFC’ between popping a jab and ducking oncoming punches.
The arrogance is back, and with it comes one of the most talented and outgoing fighters the sport has to offer. Volkanovski is a tough guy, but Holloway is simply on a different level and we believe the Hawaiian will reclaim his Featherweight title in style this year.