Who will hold the UFC Titles at the End of ’08?

Heavyweight

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The UFC’s Heavyweight divison is hurting for contenders.  Coming up Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Tim Sylvia are fighting for what is being called the “interim title”.  Randy Couture will probably be offered to fight the winner and I suspect will turn it down, though beating up on Tim Sylvia again could be a temptation.  I doubt Randy will be the guy unless somehow the Fedor fight works out.  I voted for Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but that vote could be blown in one week from now.  If he beats Sylvia I think he will have the title at year’s end.  Reportedly the winner of the Sylvia/Nogueira fight will get Fabricio Werdum, who would be a tough match up either way.  I just don’t know how many guys will even geta  title shot in 2008.  There are some good fighters, but most still have some work to do to get to number one contender status.  Arlovski may be out of the UFC.  Gonzaga has lost two in a row and just had a title shot which he lost to Randy.  Kongo has won a few, but is fight Herring, which won’t put him next in line.  Cro Cop is yet to do well, but could turn it around, but not by year’s end.  Crop Cop’s career may help him get quickly up the ladder though and his losses overlooked.   Frank Mir or Brock Lesnar won’t be on 2008 best case scenario.  Brandon Vera has to beat a few big names.  The winner of the Sylvia fight may have to defend twice in 2008.  Once to Werdum in the summer I imagine, and one more fight to someone else in the latter part of 2008.

Light Heavyweight

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This divison is the most complicated with the most talented fighters who are top contenders.  I believe there are up to 8-10 guys who are near deserving a shot.  However, they will fight among each other for the shot.  Right now Forrest Griffin will fight Rampage, but I can’t imagine him winning and even if he does I don’t see him holding the title in year’s end.  The question is who will get the title shots.  It seems that Machida and Silva are destined for a shot at the title or maybe will square off some time with the winner getting a title shot.  However, both have fights lined up for this spring.  I would guess Jardine and Liddell could fight with the winner getting a title shot.  Maybe even if Forrest beat Rampage, Jardine could earn a re-match with Griffin.  I would say more likely than that Shogun could earn a re-match with Forrest if he wins, if he can win one fight prior.  I really don’t think Rampage will hold the title at year’s end for some reason.  I have an eerie feeling that we haven’t see all of Shogun.  He is young and good.  He will hold the title some day, the question is will it be in 2008.  I picked Shogun, but it may be a long shot, because a lot has to happen for him to get a shot.

Middleweight

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It sure is hard to pick against Anderson Silva for this, isn’t it?  My prediction is simple, the winner of the Henderson vs. Silva match will have the title at the end of the year.  I have a feeling that the Okami vs. Tanner winner could get a shot at the Silva vs. Henderson winner.  Rich Franklin could get a shot if he beats Lutter and if Henderson wins.  He won’t get a third shot against Anderson.  I picked Dan Henderson because I think he stands a great chance against Silva with his great clinch and strong jaw.  There could be a sleeper in this class as well, someone like Matt Lindland or Paulo Filho who is yet to sign with the UFC, they may get a instant shot.

Welterweight

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The contenders are minimal here.  I was tempted to just put three guys as options (St. Pierre, Serra and Fitch).   I think St. Pierre will beat Serra.  I also think that if Fitch gets by Chris Wilson he will earn a title shot.  However, I would not be totally shocked if regardless of the outcome of the St. Pierre vs. Serra fight if Matt Hughes got Matt Serra.  If Serra somehow beats St. Pierre again, Hughes could get a shot at the title again, but not likely.  I think Fitch has earned it, and supposidly Parisyan is in line for a title shot as well, but I do not know if anyone of those guys will beat St. Pierre.  Marcus Davis is climbing, but he still needs to beat one of the top five in the divison before he can be talked about.  I also put B.J. Penn on the list because he still says he wants to take the welterweight title, but I doubt it will be in 2008. 

Lightweight

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I am sorry with the way B.J. Penn looked I couldn’t vote against him.  He is good.  He destroyed Joe Stevenson.  He looks determined and I do not know who can beat a focused and fit B.J. Penn.  He could become legendary if he wants to.  I believe he is in a league of his own.  Sean Sherk will be a tough fight, but I suspect B.J. to beat Sherk.  In the title mix you really just have Huerta, Florian and Edgar.  I would imagine each has to win one more fight before they earn a title shot and that win has to be over a quality guy.  Florian is lined up with Joe Lauzon already.  Edgar is expected to fight soon.  Huerta may get the next shot if he holds out until the summer.  I wouldn’t underestimate the second tier in this divison either (Tyson Griffin, Joe Lauzon, Clay Guida, and other up and comers like Danzig) but not in 2008.  One possibility is that Takanori Gomi signs with the UFC and will get the winner of B.J. Penn vs. Sean Sherk.  That is a good possiblity and he could very well hold the UFC title, but I would still pick B.J.

Interested to hear what your votes are, let me know and discuss it below!

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