Edit: Due to an exemption decision on Cris Cyborg’s positive drug test I have revised the UFC title holder prediction
There’s nothing I love more than making a prediction and watching it come true. So I decided to launch an annual article where I predict the entire year in professional sports (college sports will be in a separate article). Join me on a journey of what I see playing out in what’s already been a crazy 2017.
NFL Super Bowl:
Atlanta Falcons defeat New England Patriots (34-27)
Atlanta’s high powered offense averaged 33.8 points per game in the regular season, and they have only improved on that in the playoffs with impressive wins over the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. Despite New England having Tom Brady (who I’m pretty sure may be a vampire in disguise because the man never ages), I just think the overall talent of Atlanta will be too much to overcome.
Cleveland Cavaliers defeat San Antonio Spurs (4-2)
It’s been a common assumption since the last seconds ran off the clock in last years NBA Finals that Cleveland and the Golden State Warriors would be destined to meet for the third year in a row in basketball’s biggest showdown. However, I believe the Cavaliers exposed a weakness in the Warriors’ game when it comes to dealing with physical play. I think San Antonio are the perfect fit to pull an upset and send the Oakland darlings home early. The Cavs should be the fresher team heading into the finals and both LeBron James and the Cavs will be able to exorcise some demons against the Spurs.
MLB World Series:
Toronto Blue Jays defeat St. Louis Cardinals (4-1)
The Toronto Blue Jays were well on their way to the World Series when they ran into an incredibly hot Cleveland Indians team. I don’t think the Indians have shown enough consistency to accomplish the same this year. The Cardinals had a rough year by their standards but I fully expect them to rebound with a great pitching rotation and timely hitting. Ultimately, this is the Blue Jays’ year.
English Premier League:
This is probably the easiest prediction to make because it requires little-to-no thought. Fiery Italian manager Antonio Conte was handed the keys to one of the richest clubs in the world and has gotten his money’s worth. Conte switched to the rarely used 3-4-3 formation after bringing back former Chelsea defender David Luiz from Italy’s PSG. Luiz has brought welcome stability on defense and the resurgence of stars Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have the Blues on top of the table by nine points and cruising to a Premier League title.
Portland Timbers defeat Atlanta United 2-1
For my first reach of the year we turn to the fastest growing sport in the country, Major League Soccer, North America’s top domestic soccer league. With competition not starting until March 3, the only thing we have to go on here are off-season acquisitions and a little bit of educated guessing. We’ve already learned that the Timbers’ manager Caleb Porter plans to use start player and U.S. Men’s National Team member Darlington Nagbe in his preferred position of left midfield. He’s had his most productive years there and has already shown early on with the national team that he’s still a terror at the spot.
Atlanta United are entering thir first MLS season but have already looked incredibly ambitious. United hired former FC Barcelona and Argentina National Team manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino. With such a talented coach and truly amazing youth team, I believe Atlanta will be the top of a shaky Eastern Conference from day one. However, the Timbers’ depth and experience will prove too much in the final and Soccer City USA will have their second title in three years.
NHL Stanley Cup Finals:
Columbus Blue Jackets defeat Minnesota Wild (4-3)
Okay, this is my first and only homer pick, but there lies some merit in it. The Columbus Blue Jackets have been the shock of the hockey world. Projected by most to fight for finishing dead last, the Jackets have instead been one of the most dominate teams in hockey, including winning a franchise-record 16 games in a row. The Blue Jackets are currently fighting neck and neck with the Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild for the best record in Hockey.
The Wild have been the class of the Western Conference all year, leading in points and having double the highest goal differential at 50. The wild had an impressive 12 game win streak of their own and have really set themselves apart from the rest of the conference. It remains to be seen if both teams can carry their regular season momentum into the playoffs, but I think there’s a good chance they do and match up for a thrilling final series that will see the Blue Jackets outlast the Wild for their first title in franchise history.
UFC Champions (At Year’s End):
Strawweight: Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes
Featherweight: Cris “Cyborg” Justino
Flyweight: Demetrius Johnson
Bantamweight: Cody Garbrandt
Featherweight: Artem Lobov
Lightweight: Conor McGregor
Welterweight: Tyron Woodley
Middleweight: Michael Bisping
Light-Heavyweight: Anthony Johnson
Heavyweight: Francis Ngannou
Conor McGregor defeats Floyd Mayweather by 6th Round TKO
My bonus prediction is on the heavily rumored but still unofficial boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr.and Ireland’s Conor McGregor. This would be the fight of the century, one of those truly incredible events that we’re lucky if we ever see in our lifetime. The best pound-for-pound boxer ever putting his 49-0 record on the line against the king of the UFC. There are so many factors and so much hype surrounding this fight now that both fighters have confirmed this is the only fight they want in their respective careers. I can only imagine the level this will continue to grow once a date is announced. With revenue expected to approach or surpass $1 billion you can bet everyone will have an opinion. I believe Conor’s speed, awkward movement, and power will surprised and eventually floor the undefeated Mayweather somewhere around the 5th or 6th round.
Featured Image Credit: Kevin Diestch/UPI