With such a tumultuous year, emerging as a UFC contender is demanding, but earning the status of a UFC Champion has proven to be even more difficult. Although being a contender means no guarantees, these athletes are certainly front-runners in that race to the top.
1. Rose Namajunas – Former UFC Champion
Former UFC Champion Namajunas shocked the world when she captured the strawweight title in 2017. At the time, the 24-year-old trained by the great Trevor Wittman was considered a huge underdog. When Namajunas challenged Joanna Jędrzejczyk, the incumbent champion was a favorite pushing -450 on many betting lines.
Fans witnessed the boxing capacity of Namajunas. Not only that, but her ability to marry movement and striking is fun to watch. Following her first title win, Namajunas put a stamp on her elite boxing with a title defense over the longstanding former champion Jędrzejczyk in a rematch. Despite dropping her belt to Jéssica Andrade, Namujuans is in a prime position to challenge for the title in 2021. On top of all that, “Thug Rose” avenged her title loss when she rematched the Brazilian on Fight Island, showing boxing vitality that dominated most of the fight.
2. Aljamain Sterling
Looking to become a UFC Champion, Sterling possesses many qualities that can help him reach the pinnacle. Even though the UFC bantamweight division is stacked with talent, Sterling has separated himself from the pack. As of now, the belt belongs to Russian powerhouse Petr Yan, but that could change in 2021. Sterling’s grappling ability looks effortless, and he showed the dangers of his game with a quick rear-naked choke finish over Cory Sandhagen at UFC 250. Since his loss to Marlon Moraes, the 31-year old bantamweight’s striking has come a long way as well.
3. Max Holloway – Former UFC Champion
Holloway’s performance over the streaking Calvin Kattar was a great fight, and it helped provide a contender-queue. The former featherweight champion was able to set a record for strikes and significant strikes landed. Also, Holloway had a razor-close decision loss to the featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, where many believe the Hawaiian slugger actually got the job done.
Brian Ortega is slated to compete for the belt, so there is no doubt Holloway is waiting in the wings. In addition, since the former champion already has a win over Ortega, there is little doubt he is close. With the incorporation of kickboxing, Holloway’s striking acumen continues to evolve and perplex foes. For instance, against Volkanovski, “Blessed” was able to clip him with a high kick that sent the champion crashing to his knee.
4. Dustin Poirier – Former Interim UFC Champion
Once the interim UFC Champion, Poirier is in a good spot after an upset finish over Conor McGregor at UFC 257. The American Top Team staple overwhelms foes with crisp boxing technique. Poirier won his interim belt in a war with Holloway. The Louisiana native’s goal is to become the undisputed champion. However, given the uncertainty surrounding UFC Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Poirier sits atop the division waiting.
With such a pristine record, it’s obvious why “The Diamond” makes the list. Poirier has put the work in and proven himself against elite competition. For instance, his performance against Dan Hooker was a worthy “fight of the year” candidate. In addition to this, he has solid wins over several UFC champions, some include Justin Gaethje, Eddie Alvarez, and Anthony Pettis.
Who do you think makes the list for potential champions in 2021? Leave your idea in the comment section below and let us know what you think!