There is almost always a new UFC champion every year. In 2019 alone, we saw six — five were first-time title-holders. So far in 2022, we’ve seen a title change hands three times. We could see more by the end of the year, especially given all the rising contenders. Looking at the UFC odds, we can expect at least five new champions within the next 12 months.
Most Likely UFC Champs By July ‘23
Islam Makhachev (Lightweight, 155 lbs.)
To the eyes of many, Makhachev is an uncrowned champion. Even if he has yet to beat a top-10 fighter, Makhachev has dominated every opponent as if they didn’t belong in the cage with him. With Khabib Nurmagomedov as his No. 1 promoter, Makhachev will get that title shot sooner than later.
In fact, rumors have it that he’s headlining UFC 281 against former champion Charles Oliveira. The online sports betting lines have him as a sizable favorite over Oliveira. While the Brazilian is dangerous, he has not fought a dominant wrestler like Makhachev. Pencil the Russian in as the lightweight champ before 2022 ends.
Next Fight: Charles Oliveira, UFC 281 (Oct. 22) (Rumored)
Jamahal Hill (Light Heavyweight, 205 lbs.)
Since Jon Jones dropped the strap, light heavyweight has been a revolving door of champions. In the last two years alone, we’ve seen three fighters claim the belt. We can add the fourth fighter in 31-year-old Jamahal Hill.
The knockout artist is scheduled to fight Thiago Santos next in a bout where he should be favored. Getting by Santos, especially if he does it in style, should push Hill to the front of the line. He continues to get better and may just give Jiri Prochazka or whoever is holding the belt the business. When the odds release, bet online on Hill to win the UFC title.
Next Fight: Thiago Santos, UFC on ESPN 40 (Aug. 6)
Ciryl Gane (Heavyweight, 265 lbs.)
Gane knows he has unfinished business. The Frenchman lost a close decision to Francis Ngannou but now gets a chance to get a rematch if he can get by Tai Tuivasa. The betting odds heavily favor him as he should dispatch Tuivasa in front of his home country. The UFC has soured on Ngannou as champ so they will give Gane the rematch quickly.
On the chance that Jones does insert himself in the title picture, Gane still has solid odds to beat him. “Bon Gamin” is unlike most heavyweights. He moves like a lightweight and fights technically. His grappling needs work but it is an area he is continually improving. Gane is one of the best UFC bets to become champion within 12 months.
Next Fight: Tai Tuivasa, UFC Fight Night 209 (Sep. 3)
Zhang Weili (Women’s Strawweight, 115 lbs.)
Speaking of uncrowned champions, many fans consider Zhang Weili the “real” champion of the strawweight division. Carla Esparza left a lot to be desired when she edged Rose Namajunas for the belt. Undoubtedly, when the UFC lines release, Zhang will be a big favorite over Esparza.
The Chinese martial artist has only lost against Namajunas and many even though she won the rematch. It’s not so much a question of “if” but “when” Zhang regains her championship. The UFC should book her against Esparza later this year or early in 2022.
Next Fight: TBA
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Alex Pereira (Middleweight, 185 lbs.)
It’s interesting to see the betting lines favor Israel Adesanya against Alex Pereira in what should be their trilogy fight. Pereira made quick work of Sean Strickland on UFC 276 and is likely the next opponent for Adesanya. The Brazilian is notable for owning two wins, one via knockout, over Adesanya in kickboxing.
While this will be an MMA fight, Adesanya is unlikely going to outwrestle Pereira. It will most be another kickboxing match and Pereira has already shown he can put away the champion. That KO is also still fresh in Adesanya’s mind as he got irritated when Strickland taunted him about it. When Pereira and Adesanya meet again, it could be another win for the Brazilian.
Next Fight: TBA