In a sport that is constantly looking for new stars, a handful of mixed martial artists under the UFC’s banner have already laid the foundation for what could be a promising 2018.
Take a look at any of the various divisions and you will find names that many fans and pundits will likely be invested to see compete, in hopes these fighters can rise to mainstream prominence.
Prior to her bout vs. Joanna Jędrzejczyk, UFC Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas wasn’t given much of a chance to win. Now, she’s the world champion and everybody wants to see her defend her title.
The aforementioned Jędrzejczyk, while already a star, is currently making the case for either a rematch vs. ‘Thug Rose’, or perhaps a crack at newly minted women’s flyweight champion Nikko Montano. And should Nikko emerge victorious in that potential bout, the sky's the limit for the UFC’s first Navajo champion.
In terms of the women’s bantamweight division, Amanda Nunes rules the roost, but her last opponent, Valentina Shevchenko can have a popular year in 2018. Heck, she may get and win a trilogy fight with Amanda, and become the champ or perhaps become the flyweight champ sometime next year.
While 2017 has yet to come to an end, we already know what’s in store for us next year, with many of the ‘pot-stirrers’ and winners of some 2017’s most shocking results.
I for one cannot see how far welterweight Darren Till will take his career, after he recently and soundly defeated one of the sport’s most popular fighters in Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone.
Then there’s Colby Covington, who has become ‘THE’ fighter to hate in the UFC. While he does have a loyal and appreciative fan base, many on the other side of the fence cannot wait to see him humbled; and rest assured, if he does not lose, his brand will grow even larger.
Also in the same weight class as Till and Covington, is Kamaru Usman, widely regarded as a “problem” inside the octagon, with many fighters turning down the UFC’s offer to fight him. While partially biased, I expect big things for “The Nigerian Nightmare”, a man I am honoured to share the Titan FC broadcast booth with.
There is also his fellow African brethren Francis Ngannou, who Kamaru introduced me too last year. Here is a monster of a man who is coming off an incredible knockout of Alistair Overeem last Saturday. That was a title eliminator bout with Francis now next in line to face champion Stipe Miocic.
And we have barely scratched the surface as to what may come to be in 2018, for many of those on the UFC’s roster, primed to have a big 2018. From LHW Dominick Reyes to FW Brian Ortega.
And my goodness: take a look up and down the remaining UFC shows in 2017 and one can easily see how next year, the headline makers may not be the names we have all been accustomed to seeing.