- 2021 update on all the UFC’s men divisions.
- Summary of all current champions.
- A look ahead to 2022.
Although the world has been forced to contend with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that 2021 has been another massive year for the UFC.
Currently, displaying eight active men’s divisions, ranging from 125 lb to 265 lb, whether you like your technical speedsters or your hard-hitting powerhouses, the UFC’s roster has it all.
Throughout 2021, the men’s divisions have so far seen five new champions crowned, including Brandon Moreno leading the way for Mexican mixed martial arts.
Following what has been testing, but a hugely successful year for Dana White’s UFC, VegasOdds has taken a look back at the year, so far, and what it has meant for the champions, as well as the challengers.
Men’s Flyweight (125 lb)
Champion – Brandon Moreno
The flyweight division is the lightest men’s division currently in the UFC.
Since the start of the year, the men’s flyweight division has seen two different champions. Deiveson Figueiredo came into the year as the division’s reigning champion following his title win against Joseph Benavidez six months earlier.
Elsewhere, after going on an impressive five-fight unbeaten run, including wins over fellow challengers Kai Kara France and Jussier Formiga, Brandon Moreno quickly established himself as the division’s outright top contender.
The UFC matched Moreno and Figueiredo against one another during UFC 256, at the very end of 2020.
Despite putting in a display that was worthy of being crowned the best fight of the year, the judge’s could not separate the pair and after the bout was declared a draw, Figueiredo kept hold of his title.
However, following what was a truly enthralling first encounter, the UFC was left with no choice but to set up a mouth-watering title rematch this year.
UFC 263 in June saw Moreno rematch Figueiredo and after improving all the areas required to topple his Brazilian rival, the talented young Mexican went on to claim a stunning third-round submission victory.
With the rivals’ scores now even, UFC 270 – the first pay-per-view of 2022, will see Moreno defend his title for the first time during a trilogy bout against former champion Figueiredo.
Men’s Bantamweight (135 lb)
Champion – Aljamain Sterling
Arguably the most controversial champion currently on the UFC’s roster is men’s bantamweight champion, Aljamain Sterling.
The start of the year saw Russian striker Petr Yan hold the belt.
However, after racking up five consecutive wins in three years, Sterling quickly rose to the top of the bantamweight division’s list of contenders.
Giving the New York-born grappler the chance to fight for his first title, the UFC matched Yan against Sterling at UFC 259 in March earlier this year.
Despite coming into UFC 259’s title bout as the betting underdog, Sterling ended up coming away with the belt after seeing his hand raised by way of a rare disqualification.
Yan had dominated UFC 259’s title fight but despite being well up on the judge’s scorecards as the fight entered its championship rounds, after some confusion coming from his corner, the Russian made an impulsive decision to throw an illegal knee.
Having clearly and cleanly connected with the challenger’s head, upon review, referee Mark Smith made the decision to call the fight off and hand Sterling the strap – by default.
Although often viewed as a champion by technicality only, Sterling’s credibility has frequently been questioned by Yan, as well as large sections of fight fans.
The American was set to defend the bantamweight title during a rematch before the end of the year. However, after being forced to withdraw following recent neck surgery, the UFC recently opted to match Yan against number three ranked contender Cory Sandhagen.
Yan and Sandhagen’s bout will take place at UFC 267 on October 30 with the winner set to be crowned the division’s new interim champion.
Men’s Featherweight (145 lb)
Champion – Alexander Volkanovski
UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski is arguably one of the best mixed martial artists currently competing.
The Australian-born fighter is currently listed as number three in the UFC’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Having made his UFC debut all the way back in 2016, Volkanovski is yet to taste defeat, and after beating former champion Max Holloway and then successfully defending his title during a rematch last year, 2021 saw the Aussie prepare for his second title defense.
Despite fighting just once during 2021, largely due to a battle with COVID-19, Volkanovski’s fight against challenger Brian Ortega at UFC 266 in September was one of the best title fights in the promotion’s history.
Round three of the pair’s epic title fight saw the champion somehow escape multiple submission attempts from Jujutsu-ace Ortega.
Following what was an enthralling fight, which ended up going to the judge’s scorecards, Volkanovski, who was crowned the fight’s winner by way of a unanimous decision, was able to successfully hold onto his belt.
In light of his incredible performance at UFC 266, Volkanovski will now head into the new year as one of the division’s most impressive champions.
Despite the champion’s dominance though, fans can probably expect to see a rare trilogy showdown against Holloway in the near future.
Men’s Lightweight (155 lb)
Champion – Charles Oliveira
The UFC’s lightweight division is often referred to as one of the promotion’s most ‘stacked’ divisions.
Having been previously dominated by wrestling stud Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Russian’s shock retirement at the end of 2020 meant the first half of this year saw the title back up for grabs.
Considered a legitimate top contender, the UFC opted to match Charles Oliveira against newcomer Michael Chandler, who had previously marked his promotional debut with a stunning knockout win over Dan Hooker.
UFC 262 in March this year saw Oliveira and Chandler go head-to-head for the right to be crowned the new king at 155 lb.
Despite being many fans’ pick as the bout’s underdog, a brilliant performance from Oliveira saw Chandler succumb to a second-round defeat.
Although Oliveira currently holds the bet, this year could very well see the lightweight’s championship change hands for the second time.
Set to launch his first title defense on December 11 at UFC 269, Oliveira will take on outright top contender and fan-favorite Dustin Poirier.
Men’s Welterweight (170 lb)
Champion – Kamaru Usman
Following his title win against Tyron Woodley back in 2019, UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman has now firmly cemented his place in the GOAT conversation.
Continually compared to the likes of former two-weight champion and Hall-of-Famer Georges St-Pierre, Usman remains unbeaten in all of his 14 fights in the UFC.
This year has seen the Nigerian powerhouse successfully defend his title twice against two different opponents.
The start of 2021 saw Usman agree to defend his title against former training partner and top contender Gilbert Burns.
Despite being regarded as the biggest threat to the champion’s reign, Burns ended up being no match for Usman, who stopped the Brazilian challenger in the fight’s third round.
Looking to continue his impressive level of activity, the African champion then defeated long-time rival Jorge Masvidal by way of a vicious second-round knockout in a fiery title rematch earlier this year.
Looking to make it a trio of title defenses in 2021, Usman is set to return to action on November 6, when he will face bitter-rival Colby Covington in an eagerly anticipated rematch at UFC 268.
Men’s Middleweight (185 lb)
Champion – Israel Adesanya
Having held the title since his victory over Robert Whittaker in 2019, UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is well on course to become one of the sport’s most appreciated fighters in recent history.
Although the middleweight division has not seen its title change hands throughout the course of this year, fight fans did see Adesanya try his hand at competing at 205 lb.
Having made the decision to move up a weight class and challenge Jan Blachowiz for the chance to join an exclusive club of ‘champ-champs’, although Adesanya came up short, there are no questions over his ability at 185 lb.
Currently unbeaten at middleweight, the New Zealander will be confident he can continue to defend his belt throughout 2022.
Despite his next title defense being unconfirmed, there are rumors Adesanya will return to action at UFC 271 in February next year and face off against Whittaker in what will be a mouth-watering rematch, three years in the making.
Men’s Light Heavyweight (205 lb)
Champion – Glover Teixeira
Following former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ decision to vacate the title in favor of a move up to heavyweight, the UFC opted to match Blachowicz against top-five challenger Dominick Reyes.
UFC 253 saw Blachowicz dismantle Reyes by way of a vicious second-round knockout.
Following his impressive title win, the month of March saw the UFC opt to match Blachwicz against natural middleweight Adesanya.
After dominating Adesanya for the duration of UFC 259’s main event, Blachowicz successfully defending his title for the first time.
However, after returning to action at UFC 267 at the end of October, fight fans watched on as Brazilian veteran Glover Teixeira snapped the title away from Blachowicz in dramatic fashion.
Teixeira was the fight’s huge betting underdog and after two rounds of domination on the ground which ended in a rear naked choke submission, the South American was crowned the promotion’s oldest champion at 42-years-old.
It is now unlikely that Teixeira’s first title defense will come before the end of 2021, but the Brazilian can probably look forward to a huge 2022 with a potential blockbuster against Jiri Prochazka now on the cards.
Men’s Heavyweight (265 lb)
Champion – Francis Ngannou
The start of the year saw the UFC crown a new heavyweight champion.
Man mountain Francis Ngannou faced Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 in March in an eagerly anticipated rematch, and despite being many fight fans’ underdog pick, the Cameroon-born striker put in an incredible performance on the feet before knocking the former champion out in the fight’s second round.
Despite now being the division’s outright champion, Ngannou was forced to watch on as the UFC sensationally matched Ciryl Gane against Derrick Lewis in an interim title shot earlier this summer.
Following Gane’s stunning technical display, which left Lewis unable to match him, the Frenchman is now set to face Ngannou in what will be a rare unification bout.
The pair are scheduled to meet at UFC 270 on January 22, 2022.