Mixed martial arts had some unbelievable moments in 2018. Khabib Nurmagomedov jumping over the cage and into the stands after his win against Conor McGregor. Amanda Nunes knocking out Cris Cyborg in the first round. Jon Jones returning (after some more drama). Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez joining ONE Championship. And the list goes on...
Okamoto: Max Holloway will win a lightweight championship
Max Holloway will win a lightweight championship in 2019. Now, whether it's the undisputed title currently held by Khabib Nurmagomedov or an interim belt ... there's a good chance it could be the latter. I only envision Nurmagomedov fighting once in 2019 -- and going in, Holloway isn't the No. 1 option to face him. But Holloway is headed to 155 pounds at some point in 2019. And when he does, there will be a title on the line. And this prediction says Holloway walks away with it.
Helwani: The UFC will either radically change or get rid of its rankings
Is this a bold prediction or a wish? You be the judge. Either way, it's high time the UFC cleans up its rankings. They are broken and the cause of way too much controversy. I'm also not even sure the people who vote on these rankings are actual human beings. I mean, have you ever met any of these people in person? Life at Zuffa HQ would be so much easier without them. Bonus: The UFC will finally induct Frank Shamrock and Jens Pulver into its Hall of Fame. Talk about long overdue.
Rosenstein: Khabib Nurmagomedov will suffer his first professional loss
Khabib is a beast. Plain and simple. He's mauled literally every fighter he's gone up against in the Octagon. That said, I think his unblemished record comes to an end this year if/when he faces Tony Ferguson. This is the fight that needs to be made (despite how many times it's been attempted). And when it happens, Ferguson will shock the world and have his hand raised at the end.
Ferguson isn't the striker Conor McGregor is, but in my opinion he possesses a lot that the Irishman does not: a stronger ground game and a stronger wrestling background. This will be key against arguably the best grappler in MMA. But I think he can get it done.
Wagenheim: Conor McGregor will not win a fight in the Octagon
This might not seem so daring a prophesy to anyone who has scanned the recent resume of "The Notorious." His last UFC victory was in 2016, he didn't even step into the cage in 2017 and he was demolished in his only 2018 appearance. I actually considered going bolder and predicting that McGregor, whose post-Floyd lifestyle is a bit rich for the UFC's pay scale, will not even fight in MMA in 2019. That actually would have been a two-part forecast, with the second piece being that UFC president Dana White will suffer from a yearlong bout of indigestion.
But the McGregor family now has another mouth to feed, and daddy is going to have to find a side gig to complement his whiskey-hawking racket. Surely the public won't be suckered into forking over mega-dollars, euros and yen to watch the Irishman dance with a 125-pound Japanese kickboxer, right? So welcome home, Conor, to the eight-walled workplace.
If there's one thing McGregor has shown he loves (almost) as much as money, it's a challenge. He's always seeking the next mountain to climb, never looking back ... except in 2016, when he lost to Nate Diaz. McGregor didn't hesitate to angle for a rematch. He's spoken of his use of positive visualization in the leadup to his fights, so he likely had envisioned himself beating Diaz. He just needed a second take to manifest that as reality inside the cage.
McGregor's self-belief is off the charts, so it's hard to imagine him conceding that Khabib Nurmagomedov is a better fighter and simply moving on. He's already said he wants another go at the smothering Dagestani. I suspect he will accept no other UFC booking. And even though that lightweight title shot is rightfully Tony Ferguson's, the UFC always chases the money. So Khabib-Conor II seems inevitable. And I've already let it be known -- see above -- how I expect that encore to play out.
Sandhu: The UFC will introduce a 165-pound weight class
With the flyweight division basically stripped down to it's bare bones at this point, I'd like to think the UFC would want to replace it with a division that would be stock full of marquee names and pay-per-view draws and box office attractions.
Momentum appears to be building, with more and more lightweights and welterweights throwing their name into the hat for a new 165-pound weight class and some of the matchups are mouth-watering.
You could, in theory, pit Conor McGregor vs. George St-Pierre to crown the first ever three-weight champion in UFC history. Sign me up.
Murphy: Ariane Lipski will compete for the UFC's flyweight title
You want bold? How about someone who hasn't yet debuted in the UFC earning a title shot? By the time 2019 is out, Ariane Lipski will have a date booked opposite Valentina Shevchenko for the flyweight belt.
The queue behind Shevchenko is still forming; women's flyweight has no established hierarchy. The UFC will look to book compelling challengers, and "The Violence Queen" checks all the boxes.
With a fight on the first card of the year opposite a known name in JoJo Calderwood, Lipski has enough time and skill to rack up multiple wins. Should that happen -- and I boldly predict it will -- she'll have put pen to paper on a title-fight contract before we flip the calendar to 2020.