In my fan-post today I want to talk about potential future Contenders to each UFC belt – and the roads these fighters could or should take to earn a title shot. For each weight class I’ll discuss the guys I’m looking out for, why I think they’re poised to have an impact in the future, and what they need to prove in order to get there.
There's no rules in regards to age, as I'm merely stating who I think could potentially end up partaking in a title fight.. but the younger the better. (Sorry, Yuri Alcantara) I won't talk about the guys already scheduled to fight for the title either. (Sorry, Chad Mendes)
Please take this with a grain of salt, for that’s all an opinion on a website is worth in reality.
So continue, if you're interested. (or, as per my other fanpost - merely bored)
1.) Renan Barao - 27-1 (1)
After losing his debut MMA fight, Renan Barao has gone 27 fights over the course of 6 years, undefeated. His recent win over Brad Pickett (UK) was extremely impressive and he would have to be considered the greatest prospect at Bantamweight in the UFC, at only 24 years old.
His wins are usually netted via finishes, only 8 fights out of his 27 victories have gone to decision - he is entertaining both on the feet, as well as the mat - where he has submitted the majority of his opponents.
I think Renan needs one more fight, against a strong wrestler - before he is given a shot against the winner of Cruz/Faber. Someone like Scott Jorgensen or Joseph Benavidez would be a good litmus test for Barao'.. although there is always the possibility he is merely out-wrestled and loses a decision, the shot at the title going with it.
2.) Michael McDonald - 14-1
'Mayday' turned Pro at the age of 16. 16. At 16 I was was marvelling at the tennis ball sized/shaped lump on my ankle due to not being co-ordinated enough to merely ride a skateboard through my relatively flat neighborhood without giving myself a hideous injury.. this kid was beating up a guy with the same name as a terrible Mexican yeast water (or 'Beer', for non-beer drinkers) in a promotion named 'Gladiator Challenge'. Fuck.
His only career loss so far was at the hands of previous WEC bantamweight champ Cole Escovedo, McDonald had aged by this stage though and was at least at the point in his life where his balls had dropped.
18 years old and fighting a former WEC champ.
This kid, is special.
His recent win over Soto probably isn't a huge indicator, as Soto was a late fill in, and on debut.. talk about a tough draw for Alex Soto.. But I'm looking forward to seeing how Mcdonald progresses - I think he just needs to keep doing what he's doing. A fight over the winner of Alex Caceres and Edwin Figueroa would be fun for the fans, but I tend to think he should be up against guys with experience from now on - as we don't want young guns knocking each other out of the picture so early on.
Wherever it is, it's still impressive.
1.) Erik Koch - 13-1
Erik 'New Breed' Koch, 23 y.o, is an impressive and entertaining young fighter who I've had an eye on for a while now. His sole loss was to a very strong wrestler in Chad Mendes (who is undefeated, and about to fight Aldo for the title) over a year ago. Erik has 7 submission wins in his career already - but his knock-outs have been absolutely top shelf.
Having recently defeated a grinder in Jonathan Brookins, by decision - Koch is scheduled to fight arguably the other hot prospect in the division.. if he wins this fight I feel he needs to prove himself against another wrestler in order to make himself the clear contender - possibly Mike Brown.
and speaking of his next fight..
2.) Dustin Poirier - 11-1
Poirier, at 22 years old is the other young gun making waves at 145 - in my opinion he has faced stiffer competition than Koch to get where he is, with victories over Josh Grispi (who was in full hype mode at the time) and Pablo Garza (flying triangle, anybody?). Poirier proved himself to be too much for those two fighters and has now been matched up against Erich Koch in a "Future contender for a contender fight" fight.
If Poirier defeats Koch - I think he needs to be put in against the winner of Manny Gamburyan and Diego Nunes (as Nunes could also justfiably be on this list, but I want to see him further prove himself after the Florian fight before getting onboard) - as either way that would be a good step up for him to see if he's got what it takes.
Both these guys at 145 have time on their sides and are very skilled at a young age.
The lightweight class is so utterly stacked, there's a host of legitimate future contenders and it is busy at the top. Fighters not directly involved in the title shot already (Edgar/Bendo), guys like Jim Miller, Melvin Guillard, Donald Cerrone, Gray Maynard, Clay Guida, Nate Diaz, Joe Lauzon, Dennis Siver, Matt Wiman and Anthony Pettis make it a daunting run to challenge for the belt for any young prospect.. So much so that I'm not sure I can name two guys that I can legitimately see navigating a path through the minefield of hard-nosed veterans that lies ahead. So here are two young guys that I'm watching out for, as I've been impressed with them so far. Hell, the potential of Aldo and Gilbert Melendez coming to the UFC LW division further intensifies the utter insanity that is already present there.. (unless Jorge Masvidal pulls a Michael Chandler.)
1.) Edson Barboza - 9-0
Undefeated Edson Barboza is one of the more entertaining young strikers coming though the LW ranks right now, his fight with Anthony Njokuani, whilst close, was a great showcase from both guys that it isn't just wrestlers to look out for at 155.
Barboza has great Muay Thai, as shown is his stoppage of Mike Lullo via leg-kicks - and is scheduled to fight Terry Etim next, which is quite an intriguing bout and the second time in a row he will take on an English fighter. Ross Pearson gave Barboza some grief, but never really had him in serious trouble - and Ross Pearson is a tough bastard, no two ways about it.
If Barboza gets through Etim, which I think he might - he could be matched up against someone with a bit more experience around the middle of the pack or slightly higher.. I'm thinking someone like Mac Danzig, or Evan Dunham. From there, provided he kept winning, the UFC could move him slowly into the picture by having him fight someone like Nate Diaz.
Personally I'd like to see him win one more, and if he looks impressive I think a fight with Anthony Pettis would be entertaining as hell.
2.) Tony Ferguson - 13-2
Despite his recent win against Yves Edwards being somewhat controversial in many peoples eyes, Ferguson is still green in the UFC and did very well against someone of Yves' Calibre and experience. He obviously needs work, but he could potentially become someone to watch out for if he gets his training together and reaps rewards because of it.
I think Tony could be challenged in two ways - test his toughness against Ross Pearson, or see if his wrestling is up to scratch against Danny Castillo. Had he K.o'd Edwards or dominated a decision I'd say step him up slightly higher against someone like Siver or Matt Wiman, but due to how the fight went down I think he should stay around the middle of the pack for at least another bout or two.
1.) Jake Ellenberger - 26-5
At 26 years old Jake Ellenberger has a lot of experience.. and not against guys you've never heard of in events you've never seen or don't know about either. Granted, he has lost to Jay Hieron, Rick Story and Carlos Condit - but at 26-5, they're not exactly no-namers.
I think in a rematch with Story these days things would go differently.
More recently 'The Juggernauts' hands (and knees) have looked heavy, physically he looks in great shape - and he absolutely manhandled Jake Shields.. although who knows if Shields' personal problems affected him in that one. It would be understandable if so.
On a 5 fight win streak against good competition, Ellenberger is being put against Diego Sanchez which, in a few ways, is a similar style fight to what a rematch with Rick Story would look like. I like this fight and think it should be fun to watch, with Ellenberger finishing Diego.. hard as that might seem to be. (He wasn' even k.o'd when BJ gave him a head-vagina)
Once through Sanchez, it'll depend on how Carlos Condit goes against Josh Koschek as to how soon he can fight for the title.. he's probably going to have time to get another fight in - and if so - I think a tussle with the winner of Thiago Alvez and Martin Kampmann to determine the next contender is in order.
2.) Rory Macdonald 12-1
Rory mac' - another great up and comer if I ever did see one. Rory is 22 years old and has one loss, in a fight he was dominating before gassing - to a former WEC champ and brief contender in Carlos Condit. Hell, if the ref didn't stop the fight 10 seconds from the final bell there is a good chance he would have won a decision, or at least gotten a draw should Carlos have been given a 10-8 round in the third.
Rory is a phenom, the kid is outstanding and is a testament to the new wave of MMA fighters that will soon become the norm. Guys who train everything from the get-go, in MMA gyms, with MMA trainers.
Rory recently pulled out of a fight which was scheduled to be on this weekend against Brian Ebersole, a fight I didn't like that much.. not sure why. I get the feeling Rory would have steamrolled Ebersole, but also was worried about Ebersole's crafty way of somehow winning each time that I think he is destined to lose.
Once fit, I think Rory needs to fight someone who will try to get in his face and pressure him.. or even just another guy with a name, to see him in action.
A fight against Dong Hyung Kim, Rick Story or Paulo Thiago would be a good way to welcome him back after his injury lay-off.
3.) Erick Silva - 13-1 (1)
Erick Silva burst onto the scene in his UFC debut with a left jab, overhand right combo that landed so perfectly that I thought I would show it again for anyone who forgot or missed it:
He's 27 years old, has a good record - and will be welcoming Golden Glory fighter/coach (I think?) Siyar Bahadurzada to the UFC in his next fight. It should be a good striking display if they both stand, I'm hoping Silva wins and continues to move forward.
1.) Chris Weidman - 7-0
Chris Weidman is a prolific grappler who is definitely someone to watch out for, provided he stays healthy. His recent win over Tom Lawlor was both technically brilliant and dominant - Lawlor has been around for a while so it was a statement of sorts.
Weidman proposes a threat that not a great deal of 185'ers do - a legitimate submissions game with the wrestling to take the fight to the mat. I think he needs another 2-3 fights before being seriously considered for a title shot, unless he is leap-frogged into a bout with someone at the top.
2.) Alan Belcher - 17-6
"Let me play you the song of my people.. on your head-bones" - Alan Belcher
Alan Belcher had been gone for a while before he returned and literally punched Jason Macdonalds ticket. Or more accurately, face and general head area. He's a talented guy who looks like he loves to fight.
I think he was robbed against Yoshihiro Akiyama in what is still one of my favorite fights to go back and watch - but think that in a division that is running out of serious contenders - he could well be in with a shot down the line.
Alan needs to get back in the ring again as soon as realistically possible to keep his momentum going, the two routes are either to have another tune-up/welcome back fight (Brad Tavares? Aaron Simpson?) or to step him up a bit higher and see if he has the stones. (Brian Stann? Demian Maia?)
1.) Phil Davis - 9-0
"Phil, Try your hardest to look like a Pterodactyl.. aand.. wow.. that's actually really fucking good man!"
Phil Davis has the weirdest body I've seen in a while. Sure, he's muscular as fuck - but the guy looks like he could jump of a tall building and hang-glide with his frigging outsretched arms and lats.
Phil's derailed a few guys in his undefeated run, he bested Brian Stann and also my other young gun to watch out for in Alexander Gustafsson (shakes fist, 'Damn you Phil!') - but he has a VERY tough test against him in his upcoming bout with Rashad Evans.
Part of me wants to see Phil beat Rashad, just to shake things up, but I honestly don't know if it's going to happen. If it does, I guess you'd almost have to give him to the winner of Jones/Machida - that would be a 6 fight win streak including a multiple no.1 contender in Rashad falling at his feet.
As mentioned though, I don't know about that.
If he loses to Rashad, maybe give him a fight against Thiago Silva who should be coming back soon after a drug-use related vacation, and let him get some more cage time. Or maybe he could welcome Mike Kyle to the UFC..?
2.) Alexander Gustafsson - 12-1
Alexander is a young but towering Swede.
At 6'5 he's tall, even if his reach isn't quite as far as you'd assume it might be for someone so lofty. He also looks like has some "toning" to do, at 24 years old I think he's just fitting into his adult body and can work on that moving forward.
With his only loss being to the aforementioned Phil Davis, he's only been to the judges scorecards once in his 12 wins - winning by KO, TKO and even submissions in 5 instances. A good spread of finishes and a great rate of finshing are the reasons why I like this kid.
His competition hasn't been too stiff, a fading and possibly 'out of the game' Matt Hamill being his best victory - so I think he needs to defeat Vladimir Matyushenko in his next fight (@ UFC 141) and then be put against guys a bit higher up.
I'm liking a fight with Stephan Bonnar after Matyushenko - if he beats Bonnar, give him the winner of Tito and Lil' Nog.
Heavyweight is probably the weight-class that lacks a number of young prospects, or up and comers - but there is one guy that I want to keep an eye on moving forward. (Obviosly the potential for Jon Jones to move up is present, but he'll probably be at LHW for a while I think)
1.) Stipe Miocic - 7-0
Stipe Miocic is a decent prospect, although 29 years old, he brings a good skillset to the octagon being a solid wrestler with good boxing. I don't see him challenging in the immediate or near future, but I am interested in him as a fighter and look forward to seeing if he can grow in the UFC and give us some entertaining wars.
He got through Joey Beltran in his first UFC fight with relative ease, and it would seem that he could logically fight almost anyone in the middle of the pack. Or maybe even the Morecraft/Barry Loser, if they're still around that is.
I think another fun fight would be Miocic vs Dave Herman.
Thanks for reading, I'm keen to hear from you guys to see if you tihnk I've missed/overlooked anybody!
In your opinion, Who on this list has the greatest chance of one day being a UFC Champion?
Renan Barao (22 votes)
Michael McDonald (6 votes)
Erik Koch (2 votes)
Dustin Poirier (3 votes)
Edson Barboza (3 votes)
Tony Ferguson (1 vote)
Jake Ellenberger (10 votes)
Rory Macdonald (29 votes)
Erick Silva (4 votes)
Chris Weidman (9 votes)
Alan Belcher (0 votes)
Phil Davis (7 votes)
Alexander Gustafsson (4 votes)
Stipe Miocic (0 votes)
100 total votes