Men’s Featherweight: Alexander Volkanovski. I’m not sure if there has ever been a more second-guessed champion than Volkanovski. After defeating Max Holloway twice and Brian Ortega in his past three fights, UFC fans are still not convinced he is the best Featherweight on the roster. Volkanovski and Holloway were set to meet a third time, but Holloway was forced to pull out due to injury. Instead, Chan Sung Jung steps in to challenge for the title at UFC 273.
Men’s Lightweight: Islam Makhachev. After an incredible 2021, Makhachev has put himself in the perfect position to fulfill his destiny and claim the 155-pound belt. Makhachev is slated to meet current the No. 3 three lightweight contender, Beniel Dariush, on Feb. 26 in what many assume is a title eliminator bout. If he can make it past Dariush, he can pose a real problem on the ground to the current champ, Charles Oliviera.
Men’s Welterweight: Khamzat Chimaev. He is looking to get back to his old, active self after a horrible bout with COVID-19. He looked better than ever in October of last year, taking out Li Jingliang with relative ease in the first round. If he can get back to his old form it’s more than reasonable to consider he could be challenging for the Welterweight championship by the end of 2022. Kamaru Usman is up for a real test in his presumed upcoming rematch with Leon Edwards, but there is no one scarier in the welterweight division than the streaking Chimaev.
Men’s Middleweight: Israel Adesanya. “Stylebender” has been running the Middleweight division since early 2019, and fans shouldn’t expect much to change on that front in 2022. Adesanya will face Robert Whittaker for the second time on Feb. 12 and assuming Adesanya comes out victorious again, there is not much viable competition at 185 pounds. You can’t help but wonder if he makes another run at the Light Heavyweight belt since it changed hands late last year.
Men’s Light Heavyweight: Jiri Prochazka. If you’ve followed the career of Jiri Prochazka, it felt inevitable that he would reach this point in his career. In just his two UFC fights, Prochazka has notched two Knockout of the Year contenders. Slated as the backup fighter for the Light Heavyweight Championship in October of last year, the UFC has virtually made the statement that Prochazka is next. So much so that Glover Teixeira even mentioned him after winning the belt, stating he is ready for the challenge.
Men’s Heavyweight: Cyril Gane. Another UFC newcomer has taken the mixed martial arts world by storm. The former training partner of Francis Ngannou will face off against him for the UFC Heavyweight Championship next week at UFC 270 for Ngannou’s first defense. If anyone has the formula to take down the giant that is Ngannou, it’s someone who’s spent lots of time in the ring with him. Gane’s ability to control the distance and avoid power strikes will pose a huge problem if Ngannou doesn’t approach the fight correctly.