We're in a nice position as MMA fans right now where we actually know exactly who each UFC champion is set to face next and, in some cases, who the next challenger in line is. This isn't always the case with injuries and muddled title pictures.
For now, it appears that we have a pretty good idea of how 2012 is going to play out. From a heavyweight division that was turned on it's head with Alistair Overeem's drug test failure to a welterweight division with two champions, both sitting out waiting to unify and a new challenger sitting out to wait out the guys who are already sitting out, let's take a look at exactly where each division sits.
Heavyweight Champion: Junior Dos Santos - Next Fight: May 26 - UFC 146 vs. Frank Mir
Title Picture: Mir would have been facing Cain Velasquez in the co-main event of 146 had Alistair Overeem not popped positive for elevated testosterone and had his license denied. That winner would likely have gotten the next title shot. It's not fully clear if Velasquez winning would get him a title shot now, but his new opponent, Antonio Silva, wouldn't seem to be "in the mix" as far as the championship goes. The winner of the Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier Strikeforce bout would have to be considered a challenger, but we've heard repeatedly that Showtime wants the winner to have one final fight in Strikeforce before moving over to the UFC. I guess Mark Hunt is out there if he keeps winning.
- Light Heavyweight Champion: Jon Jones - Next Fight: September 1 - UFC 151 (Not confirmed) vs. Dan Henderson
Title Picture: Jones has been steadily clearing out light heavyweight, dominating legendary fighters and raising his own profile. Aside from Henderson, the only fighters currently ranked in the top ten of our rankings that Jones hasn't fought are Phil Davis (who was recently dominated by Rashad Evans), Forrest Griffin (let's hope we never see that) and Alexander Gustafsson (maybe a bit too soon). After Henderson and Gustafsson, the challenger landscape becomes awful bare.
- Middleweight Champion: Anderson Silva - Next Fight: July 7 - UFC 148 vs. Chael Sonnen
Title Picture: We're past the period where it felt like Silva had beat every top quality 185'er available and a new divisional alignment has come about. Sonnen is the deserving number one contender, but there are guys who have performed well as of late who could conceivably fit into a title shot. Mark Munoz is the top ranked guy who hasn't had his crack at Silva yet, but Michael Bisping is probably the biggest "money guy" in the picture. The idea of Bisping was a bit crazy before, but he gave Sonnen fits, and had that been a five round fight I think Bisping would have taken it. Hector Lombard joining the UFC and fighting Brian Stann will have another guy added to the challenger list and Luke Rockhold is in Strikeforce, existing as another possible option somewhere down the road. Also, Alan Belcher was ranked #17 coming in to the Fox show, beat Rousimar Palhares who was #16 and now everyone thinks Belcher is a title contender.
- Welterweight Champion: Georges St. Pierre Interim Champion: Carlos Condit - Next Fight: TBD
Title Picture: This is complicated. GSP has been out for some time with his knee injury, not fighting in over a year. Technically, that's long enough that he shouldn't even be ranked anymore. Condit won the interim title, which doesn't really make sense if the point was for him to win the title and then sit around and wait for a GSP fight to 'unify' the titles. Johny Hendricks just won what was supposed to be a title shot by beating Josh Koshcheck this past weekend and how he's sitting out waiting for Condit to fight GSP so he can fight the winner. So he's basically the interim number one contender as the division stalls out. Nick Diaz might also be in the title picture, but between his retirement claims and the situation in Nevada, who knows.
- Lightweight Champion: Benson Henderson - Next Fight: TBD vs. Frankie Edgar
Title Picture: Edgar was expected to fight Henderson at UFC 150, but now that looks like it's getting bumped back a little bit. Gilbert Melendez is the most deserving lightweight in the world, but he's stuck in Strikeforce wasting his prime years fighting middling opposition. Nate Diaz's thrashing of Jim Miller makes Diaz the number one contender and it was said that he will not fight take another fight while waiting for his shot, so it's pretty clear how this all works for the rest of 2012. Anthony Pettis is going to be trying to get a shot in early 2013 also.
- Featherweight Champion: Jose Aldo - Next Fight: July 21 - UFC 149 vs. Eric Koch
Title Picture: Koch was supposed to fight Dustin Poirier a while back, but pulled out of that fight. Poirier won his replacement fight and was put into a fight with Chan Sung Jung while Koch gets moved to the title shot. It's all a bit strange. Still, Poirier vs. Jung will produce a clear title challenger since Hatsu Hioki is messing around saying he isn't ready for a title shot yet. Given the nature of the fight game, delaying title shots you could take because you want to risk that status with more fights is odd, but hey...it's his career.
- Bantamweight Champion: Dominick Cruz - Next Fight: July 7 - UFC 148 vs. Urijah Faber
Title Picture: Faber vs. Cruz III is happening just as much because the division needed to have some more contenders emerge as it is because the second fight was great (it was, by the way).