Author's Note: Welcome, my fellow MMA enthusiasts and UFC die hards, to our weekly “Hunting the UFC” column for The Betting Predators website. In this article, you’ll find pertinent sports betting information pertaining to all things MMA, but more specifically, to the UFC. The enthusiasm surrounding MMA wagering is at an all-time high right now, and therefore, my goal is to provide you with valuable information that will help you gain an edge in your quest to beating the sports books and making money in the long term. The key here is “long-term,” as much of the information provided in these articles can be applied across multiple events and multiple pro MMA organizations. Now let's dive into this week's article.
This week we focus on "double champions" in MMA. A double champion is a fighter that is a champion in two separate weight classes simultaneously. You may be more familiar with the term “champ champ,” which was coined by the charismatic Irish-based fighter Conor McGregor, and also someone who achieved the status of double champion. This achievement seemed unattainable before, as no other UFC fighter had ever achieved such a feat in the organization at the time. But since that fateful night in New York on November 12th, 2016, there have actually since been a number of fighters who have achieved “champ champ” status. Let’s take a closer look at who those fighters are below and dive into a somewhat small, yet common trend that we may be able to take advantage of ahead of UFC 259: Adesanya vs. Blachowicz.
As noted above, Conor McGregor may be the UFC’s first ever “champ champ,” but other notable fighters and organizations have seen fighters achieve this fate as well. One of the most notable, and perhaps "convoluted" examples is Dan Henderson of the Pride Fighting Championships organization. For the novice MMA fan, Pride was arguably the gold standard of MMA before the UFC announced on March 27, 2007, that they had bought them out. Some of the best fighters of all time competed in the Pride organization, and Henderson was no different, winning Pride’s welterweight tournament to become welterweight champion in 2005. Due to Pride’s championship and tournament rules (not worth the time to explain here), he remained the champion into 2007, when he moved up in weight to compete for Pride’s middleweight championship. He subsequently knocked out MMA legend Wanderlei Silva to capture Pride’s middleweight title and technically become a double champion a month before the UFC would buy the Pride organization.
It would be nearly another decade before a fighter could claim double champion status in the world of mixed martial arts. And the aforementioned Conor McGregor would be that fighter to claim the status of “champ champ” in the UFC, but also to revolutionize the pursuit of it. Shortly after McGregor knocked out featherweight G.O.A.T Jose Aldo in 13 seconds to earn his first title, he was then scheduled to move up in weight and fight for his second title in March of 2016. Due to numerous circumstances and fights in between, however, he would not get that opportunity until November of 2016 in New York City. It is here, inside the hallowed halls of Madison Square, Garden that he would put on his best performance to date.
As a result of all the hoopla surrounding McGregor’s "champ champ" achievement, the pursuit of becoming a double champion proceeded to run rampant across the entire MMA landscape. With his friend and training partner Cain Velasquez not holding the heavyweight title, it was then light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier who was looking to add another title to his waist. Before coming over to the UFC, Cormier also won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament as an undersized heavyweight.
Once in the UFC though, he focused on a career in the light heavyweight division that eventually led to him being crowned the divisions' champion. Next up for him was the quest to become double champion, and he would get that chance in the summer of 2018 against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. In that bout, Cormier landed a slick punch that floored Miocic, followed by a couple of more blows, that made him officially UFC’s second double champ. UFC’s third double champ would be crowned just five months after Cormier, as Amanda Nunes would be the first and only female double champ, her utter destruction and domination of the bantamweight division forcing her to find new challenges outside of the division.
Henry Cejudo, who is also no stranger to combat success, would soon become the UFC’s fourth double champion after defeating Demetrious Johnson to capture the flyweight title and then stopping TJ Dillashaw. Dillashaw would fail a drug test shortly thereafter, which eventually led to Cejudo moving up and vying for the vacated belt against Marlon Moraes. All in all, the UFC organization, which had no double champions in its 23 year history, saw four fighters achieve that status in less than a three year span.
Bellator, the second biggest U.S. MMA organization and the UFC’s only real "competition" saw its champions invigorated by the sport’s double champ trend as well, with former UFC fighter and light heavyweight champ Ryan Bader moving up to heavyweight to pursue a second title. He knocked out the legendary Fedor Emelianenko to become a two-division champion. He wouldn’t be alone, as his Bellator counterpart, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, would gain double champ status by moving up from the featherweight division to the lightweight division to knock out now UFC fighter Michael Chandler.
Now that we've reviewed all the successful double champs, let's take a quick look at the ones who failed:
- B.J. Penn (UFC lightweight champion) moved up and lost to UFC welterweight champion, George St. Pierre
- Rory MacDonald (Bellator welterweight champion) moved up and lost to Bellator middleweight champion, Gegard Mousasi
- T.J. Dillashaw (UFC bantamweight champion) moved down and lost to UFC flyweight champion, Henry Cejudo.
A small sample, but interesting stat
At UFC 259, Israel Adesanya is looking to become MMA's latest double champ, as the current UFC middleweight champion is moving up to take on current light heavyweight champion Jan Błachowicz.
Fighters who have moved up in weight to challenge for double champ status are 7-2 (78%) overall in MMA double champ fight history, and there are actually two more fighters that you could argue achieved a form of double champ status by moving up in weight (although it's too convoluted of a story to even present in this article). Needless to say, this is a very small sample size, but the numbers point to most of the fighters moving up in weight class having success. At the end of the day, I believe Adesanya is the better fighter here (he stylistically he matches up very well against Blachowicz) and that he will become the UFC’s fifth double champion not only based on his skills and the matchup, but the small sample trend here as well.
Isreal Adesanya at -225 will be a bet for me this Saturday night.