Which UFC Champions Are Losing Their Next Title Defense?

I've said this on multiple occasions: 2016 is the year of the underdog. The amount of jaw-dropping upsets we've gotten within the past nine months is truly shocking. To somewhat put it in perspective, four of the last six UFC PPV's have all ended with a title change via first-round-finish. The days of dominant, long-reigning champions seem to be slowly coming to an end. As the sport evolves, styles collide in unpredictable ways. Today, I decided to look at the current list of belt holders and predict whether or not they will drop the gold in their next fight. Without further ado, let's get to it:

Joanna Jedrzejczyk (Strawweight Champion)

Alongside the next champion on the list, Joanna Jedrzejczyk is undoubtedly the best fighter in her division. Undefeated as a mixed-martial-artist, she obtained the belt in March of 2015, by brutally picking Carla Esparza apart. Since, she has successfully defended the strap three times, defeating the likes of Valérie Létourneau and Cláudia Gadelha. The latter name is extremely important, because I sincerely believe Gadelha represents the toughest challenge the 115 lb. division has to offer (at the moment). Her next fight will be against Karolina Kowalkiewicz. Already being dubbed as a  'Polish Civil War,' both of them heavily rely on volume. However, I'm sticking with JJ. She punches a little harder, has a limitless gas tank, and is currently in her prime.

Next Opponent: Karolina Kowalkiewicz
When: UFC 205
Will She Retain: Yes

Demetrious Johnson (Flyweight Champion)

The only Flyweight champion in UFC history (since September, 2012), Mighty Mouse symbolizes greatness. Tremendously underrated, this guy is one of the most well-rounded competitors in MMA. From his striking, to his clinch and ground game, everything he does is on an elite level. With eight consecutive title defenses, he has decisively beaten world-class opposition such as Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez, and John Dodson. A man on a mission, he's looking to break Anderson Silva's record for most title defenses in a row. Set to fight the winner of TUF 24, I really don't know why you wouldn't put your money on DJ. Sure, we could witness another 'GSP vs. Serra' situation, but I highly doubt it.

Next Opponent: TUF 24 Winner
When: TUF 24 Finale
Will He Retain: Yes

Dominick Cruz (Bantamweight Champion)

When talking about Dominick Cruz, people often say that his hardest adversary is sitting in front of the mirror. This warrior has been through the worst the sport has to offer. A number of wicked knee injuries kept him away from MMA for almost 4 years! On the sidelines, he was able to redesign, rebuild, and reclaim. The way in which Cruz returned after such a long period of time to regain the belt he never lost this past January (with no signs of ring rust) is unprecedented. We might never see it again. Following a razor-sharp decision victory against T.J. Dillashaw and an easy 25-minute session with Urijah Faber, The Dominator is sitting pretty atop the 135-pound division. Whoever the next challenger is, I believe Dom has the skill to come out on top.

Next Opponent: T.J. Dillashaw or Cody Garbrandt 
When: TBD (Likely Around December)
Will He Retain: Yes

Conor McGregor (Featherweight Champion)

2015 unquestionably belonged to Mystic Mac. Plain and simple. With KO victories over Chad Mendes and Jose Aldo, he cemented his status as MMA's biggest draw, shattering a stunning amount of records. While his plans featured big money bouts with Rafael Dos Anjos and Georges St-Pierre, Stockton's golden boy wasn't with the sh*ts. His loss against Nate Diaz completely changed his perspective, forcing him to focus solely on Diaz. After getting the win back this past August at UFC 202, we don't really know what Conor's future holds. A lot of people (including myself) don't believe he'll ever go back to 145. The cut is too grueling and very unhealthy. Therefore, relinquishing the strap without getting to defend it in order to chase the Lightweight strap makes sense.

Next Opponent: Eddie Alvarez
When: UFC 205
Will He Retain: No (Won't go back to 145)

Eddie Alvarez (Lightweight Champion)

Finally, we get to Philly's Assassin. Eddie Alvarez is extremely underappreciated among the MMA fan base. Honestly, if you exclusively watch the UFC product, you can make a solid case for your dissatisfaction. Since 2012, all of his victories had come via split decision. Regardless, Alvarez proved to be a very dangerous man when he knocked RDA cold on his feet last month. After years of searching, the Underground King was ultimately crowned. Sadly, I don't believe his reign will be long. Even if Eddie's gritty wrestling and solid hands are enough to beat the majority of the division, his first title defense will be against Conor McGregor. While I do believe Alvarez has a chance to defeat the Notorious, Khabib Nurmagomedov is next in line. In my humble opinion, this is the worst possible match-up for Alvarez. Nurmagomedov is strong as a bear, and his wrestling is unmatched. Regardless of the opponent, Eddie has some tough fights ahead of him.

Next Opponent: Conor McGregor
When: UFC 205
Will He Retain: No

* Part Two will feature the rest of the current UFC champions, including Michael Bisping, Tyron Woodley, and Stipe Miocic.

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