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2014: Big Shoes to Fill

2014 is bringing in new champions to the UFC brass as old guards have changed in the 155, 170 and 185 pound divisions. Anthony Pettis has been on fire knocking out opponents and submitted Ben Henderson ending his tenure as lightweight champion since dropping his debut bout to Clay Guida in a fight one could argue that Guida's game plan was to snuggle for 3 rounds and avoid Pettis' arsenal of strikes. Pettis to many was the uncrowned champ since his showtime kick locked up a win against Henderson in the last WEC 155 title fight and it was just a matter of time til he was UFC champ. Josh Thomson vs Henderson will determine the next number one contender as TJ Grant is sidelined with concussion symptoms. Pettis would seem the most likely of current champs to fill the void left by Anderson Silva and GSP with looming bouts against star contenders such as Nate Diaz and a possible superfight against Jose Aldo in 2014 once he returns from injury.

In the welterweight division, its arguable that everyone in the top ten is capable of closing the year as champ given a string of wins. Jonny Hendricks seems to be the logical choice to fill the big shoes GSP walked away from but has his work cut out for him in when he faces heavy handed Robbie Lawler to crown a new champion in a stacked division. Whoever has an impressive win in the Tyrone Woodley vs Carlos Condit bout, even the Damien Maia vs Rory McDonald bout, can emerge as the number one contender. Lombard, Ellenberger, Brown, and Shields are also all looking to separate themselves from the pack with a probable return of Nick Diaz in 2014 adding excitement to the division GSP has ruled for years.

In the middleweight division, Vitor Belfort is set to challenge Chris Weidman for the title next coming off three consecutive head kick knockout wins including nearly dethroning 205 pound kingpin Jon Jones with an armbar. The undefeated champion with just over ten bouts will have his mettle tested given he gets past Belfort when Lyoto Machida faces Gegard Mousasi in a bout that will likely determine the next challenger once the dust settles in the upcoming title bout. The winners of Bisbing vs Kennedy and Rockhold vs Phillipou are looking to move one step closer into title contention while Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson have also indicated a return to 185. Jacare is the dark horse of the division who could be champion by the end of the year given he gets past Carmount in his next bout.

Thanks for reading,

Jason Bone

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