The UFC’s current list of champions is an impressive one. Collectively, the nine champions have competed in 154 professional MMA bouts and have only lost 11 times. But while many of these champions have looked unbeatable at times, no one can stay on top forever. The MMA landscape is always changing and young hungry fighters are always waiting in the wings to step into the spotlight.

So, who is the top threat to each division’s champion?

Women’s Bantamweight

It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago UFC President Dana White was saying that women would never fight in the UFC. Now, in 2014, the UFC has two women’s divisions and the most dominant champion in the UFC just might be Ronda Rousey. She isn’t just undefeated either, as no one has even been able to take her into the championship rounds.

The biggest threat to Rousey right now is recent UFC signee Holly Holm. While Rousey’s grappling ability is out of this world, her striking is still developing. She has made great strides in that department, but Holm is an elite striker.

Every fight starts on the feet, and that is Holm’s world. Holm is a national kickboxing champion and an 18-time world boxing champion in three weight classes. Holm would be no match for Rousey on the ground, but things would be very interesting on the feet.

Flyweight

When it comes to pure technical brilliance, UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson just may be the best in the game today. His footwork is incredible, his grappling is strong, his wrestling is top notch and his striking just keeps getting better and better.

Although it is still extremely early on in his MMA career, Henry Cejudo is the biggest threat waiting to challenge Johnson at flyweight. In many ways, wrestling is the backbone of MMA. Elite wrestlers have frequently transitioned well into MMA. Cejudo isn’t just elite, though. He is an Olympic champion.

Johnson is a solid wrestler in his own right, but Cejudo is on a whole other level. As we all know, the fighter who can dictate where the fight takes place is the fighter who wins nine times out of 10. Granted, Cejudo has a lot of work to do with the other facets of his game—and on the scales—but his wrestling alone is enough to make him a real threat.

Bantamweight

To say that T.J. Dillashaw taking the UFC bantamweight title from Renan Barao was an upset would be a huge understatement. Dillashaw shocked the MMA world with his performance at UFC 173. Under the tutelage of Duane Ludwig, the Team Alpha Male product’s striking has gone to another level, making him a very dangerous competitor.

Although Dillashaw just gave him a beating, Barao remains the biggest threat to Dillashaw’s title reign. Barao wasn’t just a champion when Dillashaw beat him, he was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. That was for a good reason. With a varied striking attack and an elite ground game, Barao was undefeated for over nine years before he ran into Dillashaw.

Barao is still one of the most dangerous fighters in the world. At only 27 years old, he hasn’t even hit his physical peak yet. Outside of Dillashaw’s teammate, Urijah Faber, Barao has the best chance of taking the belt.

Featherweight

UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo is a monster. The guy destroys people, plain and simple, and he has all but cleaned out the division. The only time Aldo was defeated, he was only 19 and the bout took place in the lightweight division.

The fighter waiting in the wings to topple Aldo is Team Alpha Male’s Chad Mendes. Aldo beat Mendes by knockout in their title clash in 2012, but Mendes is a completely different fighter now. Since the loss to Aldo, Mendes has gone 5-0 with four knockouts.

Mendes is a naturally gifted athlete with great wrestling and a much-improved striking game. Ever since Mendes started working with Ludwig, his striking game has gone to another level. Aldo’s biggest weakness has always been his cardio, and Mendes simply doesn’t get tired.

Lightweight

If your favorite fighter to watch isn’t UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, then you are wrong. Pettis is a young and talented fighter with great charisma and a flare for the spectacular. Every time he steps into the cage there is a good chance you are going to see something that you have never seen before.

The kryptonite for any flashy stand-up fighter is a suffocating grappler, and that is exactly what Khabib Nurmagomedov is. Nurmagomedov has an International Master of Sports ranking in sambo, pankration and hand-to-hand combat, plus a black belt in judo. He is also a Russian National-level freestyle wrestler. If there is one fighter tailor-made to take Pettis out of his comfort zone, it is Nurmagomedov.

Pettis has shown a slick submission game off his back, but Nurmagomedov is a beast when he gets on top. His ability to suffocate and control fighters is amazing.

Welterweight

When current UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks gave former welterweight kingpin Georges St-Pierre all he could handle in a split decision loss, it was clear it was only a matter of time before Hendricks would be wearing UFC gold. After a hard-fought win over Robbie Lawler to claim the vacant title, Hendricks is the champ in one of the most talent-rich divisions in all of MMA.

Two years ago, if someone said Lawler was the biggest threat to the UFC welterweight title, the natural response would be to either break out in laughter or slap some sense into the person who uttered the statement. But that’s exactly what Lawler is today. He has looked phenomenal in his UFC return on his way to a 5-1 record with three knockouts.

Lawler has already proved that he can bring the fight to Hendricks, but he has looked even more motivated in winning two fights over tough opponents since losing in his title bid.

Middleweight

Many questioned current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman’s championship pedigree when he initially won the title. His knockout win over longtime champion and MMA legend Anderson Silva was seen as a fluke. Weidman’s first title defense may have ended in a freak injury to Silva, allowing the skepticism to continue, but his second title defense—a dominant performance against former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida—erased any questions about his worthiness.

There are a handful of dangerous fighters in the middleweight division, but there is one that no one is really talking about. But they should be. That man is Yoel Romero.

Romero is a real title threat. He has devastating power to go along with his Olympic wrestling pedigree. Romero claimed the silver medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2000 Olympics.

Weidman’s striking has grown leaps and bounds since he entered the UFC and won the title, but his bread and butter is still wrestling. Romero has the wrestling chops to put Weidman on his back, a position no one has put him in yet, and control him.

Light Heavyweight

Without question, Jon Jones is the pound-for-pound king of MMA right now. Since destroying Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to win the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 128, Jones has done nothing but get better. He has defended his title seven times, four by way of stoppage. Jones hasn’t just beat good fighters, he has beat some of the greatest fighters in MMA history.

Daniel Cormier is the next in line to challenge Jones for the light heavyweight title, and he has all of the tools to beat Jones. However, he isn’t the biggest threat to the title. That distinction belongs to the resurgent Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

Now that Johnson isn’t killing his body to fight at welterweight, he can finally cash in on all that natural ability. Just like Jones, Johnson is a former NJCAA National champion wrestler. And just like Jones, Johnson is a freak athlete. The difference between them is that when Johnson hits someone, they go to sleep. Johnson’s vicious power was put on display when he destroyed MMA legend Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the first round at UFC on Fox 12.

Heavyweight

The heavyweight division in MMA has always lacked the depth of talent seen in the lighter weight classes, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some truly great fighters there. UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is one of the best fighters in the sport today, and arguably in the history of the sport.

Velasquez is dangerous for many reasons, but the biggest reason has to be his cardio. He can go and go and go, unlike any other heavyweight in the world. Although he has all the tools to finish fights, his biggest weapon will always be his ability to break the will of his opponent.

The fact that Velasquez has only faced two different fighters in his last five bouts shows the lack of depth in the division, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a stud on his way up. That stud is Stipe Miocic.

Miocic is a talented striker and a former NCAA Division I wrestler, giving him a skill set very similar to the one Velasquez possesses. Miocic has some work to do on his game still, but, after a few more fights, he has the potential to be a serious threat to the champion.

  • Jupiters Thunderbolt

    If Holm is the biggest threat to Rousey then Ronda has nothing to worry about. Holm has demonstrated zero ability to avoid the clinch, and that will prove to be her undoing. She’s not going to drop Ronda with one shot, which means she’ll be flying through the air about as fast as Alexis Davis did. Game over inside of a minute.

  • Oh Really

    Really? This is who you picked as the biggest threats? Holm will be dominated by Rousey who is physically strong, 10x better on the ground and the clinch. Rousey’s only real threat is Cyborg. She has the strength to match Rousey, Bjj blackbelt, and violent striker…but there are questions if she can even make the weight.

    Cejudo is a prospect not a threat. The dude has only 6 fights. His biggest win is over Ryan Hollis. The first 4 guys he face have records of 0-6,v0-10, 4-11, and 4-6. Mighty Mouses biggest threat is Ian McCall who beat him the first time the fought (regardless of the bs judging).

    For Ligthweight what about Gilbert Melendez? He dominated Strikeforce. Many think he should have the belt already after his fight with Benson…but you would rather look at a guy like Nurmagomedov who has beat maybe 1 top ten in his career.

    At MW you over look top fighters like Jacare, Rockhold, Belfort…at LHW you overlook Cormier and Gus…basically your entire article you bounce back-and-forth between real challengers and potential challengers or prospects that need to win more challenges to even be considered for a shot…is this a prospect article or is this a current threat article?

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