On the Outside Looking In: Featherweight Free Agents

While this is a not necessarily a list of true free agents, it represents fighters who are not under contract with UFC, Strikeforce, or Bellator; the top three televised promotions in North America.


The 145 class is where we start seeing a large part of the top 25 outside of major North American promotions. The UFC's featherweight division is young relatively speaking and is basically introducing the class to a wider audience this year. With the addition of featherweight, some UFC lightweight fighters now have the opportunity to compete at a possibly more natural weight (although it's hard to imagine 145 as natural for Kenny Florian), so we may see some of these fighters start taking over the ranking once they've settled into making the weight cut. The UFC currently has 30 fighters under contract, Bellator has 13 and Strikeforce merely showcases fights in that class every once in a while. If and when Zuffa decides to merge Strikeforce, adding a stable of top talent featherweights would eventually strengthen their dominance. With the instability of the Japanese promotions constantly on the brink of folding, coupled with the boon of emerging UFC lower divisions it is entirely possibly that we could see many great Japanese mainstays stateside in the next year.

Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2)

SBNation Rank: 2

Fight Matrix Rank: 3

Hioki is hands down the best mixed martial artist not in the UFC. When he is eventually signed he would immediately get a title shot. I’m not implying absolute certainty with these statements I’m stating them as fact. Wins over the likes of Jeff Curran, Rumina Sato, Ronnie Mann, Masenori Kanehara, and two wins (including one sub) over recent UFC title challenger Mark Hominick anchor his stellar resume. The recent decision victory over Marlon Sandro for the Sengoku title only cemented dominance. Of his four losses, three were split decisions. MMA fans know that once Hioki touches down in the UFC, epic featherweight fights will surely follow.


Kazuyuki Miyata (11-7-0)

SBNation Rank: 16

Fight Matrix Rank: 8

Miyata is a Japanese Olympic caliber Freestyle wrestling convert who began his career as lightweight and immediately dove into deep waters in respect to his competition. Early losses were to Royler Gracie, Genki Sudo, Kid Yamamoto, and Vitor Ribero in K-1 Hero’s, so he was clearly offered few easy fights. Don’t let the record fool you though. Since ‘Little Hercules’ dropped to 145, he has been suplexing opponents with reckless abandon during a 6-fight winning streak. Miyata would be an exciting major force in any promotion's featherweight division.


Bibiano Fernandes (8-3-0)

SBNation Rank: 10

Fight Matrix Rank: 11

Fernandes is another Brazilian BJJ black belt who has incredible punching power. Fernandes likes to use that striking to daze opponents enough to gain an advantageous position before submitting them. The 31 year old has wins over Masakazu Imanari, Bellator champ Joe Warren, Hioyuki Takaya, and Joachim Hansen. ‘Flash’ is frustrated enough with Dream over finances to take an offer with most any suitor, and losing the Dream belt to Takaya in a rematch last year only makes the transition easier.


Joachim Hansen (21-10-1)

SBNation Rank: 23

Fight Matrix Rank: 9

Hansen is another veteran of the Japanese MMA scene, fighting in Shooto, Pride, K-1, and Dream. The Norwegian began his career as a lightweight and recently dropped all the way down to the bantamweight class. Hellboy has taken on some of the best lower weight fighters of his generation including wins over Rumina Sato, JZ Cavalcante, Caol Uno, Yves Edwards, Kazayuki Miyata, Shinya Aoki, and Hideo Tokoro. A supremely well rounded fighter, Hansen will be another impact fighter in any organization he fights for and it would be a joy to see him fight live on US television. His next opponent will be a featherweight bout against another veteran prospect, former Strikeforce LW title contender Miysuhiro Ishida on the absolutely stacked lower weight showcase at Dream 17 – Fight for Japan card on May 29th.


Micah Miller (17-4-0)

Fight Matrix Rank: 25

Miller isn’t just a token American on this list, he’s a great fighter. UFC vet Cole Miller’s younger brother went 2-2 in the WEC but has grown in experience since then taking on quality opponents in Yoshiro Maeda (UD loss), Anthony Morrison (sub win), and Michihiro Omigawa (UD loss). He’s only been finished once in his career, a TKO loss to current UFC tough guy Josh Grispi. Since the Omigawa bout, Miller has reeled off three wins in US regional promotions against Bruce Connors, Diego Saraiva, and Isaac DeJesus. In other words he’s beaten the best the regional promotions have to offer and the 21 year old needs to take another step up in competition.


Masenori Kanehara (16-9-5)

SBNation Rank: 17

Fight Matrix Rank: 36

Kanehara is one of the Japanese fighters I think would benefit most by training in one of the US camps. I say this only because I think his potential has yet to be fully reached and he could stand to learn better MMA striking defense. After graduating from the Japanese regional ZST (which accounts for the draws on his record), Kanehara scored wins over Chan Sung Jung, Michihiro Omigawa, and Kid Yamamoto in Sengoku. These wins are balanced by losses to Hioki (UD), and most recently two devastating KOs at the hands of Marlon Sandro and Yoshiro Maeda. The 28 year old Japanese fighter would be just outside ‘the mix’ in the UFC or an immediate contender in either Strikeforce or Bellator.


Takeshi Inoue (19-5-0)

SBNation Rank: T25

Fight Matrix Rank: 21

Takeshi is in a similar situation to his countryman Kanehara in regards to good wins balanced by recent losses. Inoue's resume includes wins over Rumina Sato (TKO), Alexandre Franca Noduiera (TKO), and Gerald Lovato (sub), with recent losses to Hioki and Miyata. ‘Lion Takeshi’ has earned his nickname due to his tenacious fighting style and the fact he has never been finished in his career…he would make a fantastic addition to any North American organization. Inoue faces Koichiro Matsumoto next weekend at Dream 17.

\The FanPosts are solely the subjective opinions of Bloody Elbow readers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloody Elbow editors or staff.

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