Just last week the UFC made two quiet signings. Tom “Kong” Watson and Jimi Manuwa were both signed to UFC contracts. They are two of the top fighters from the United Kingdom. There are now currently 19 fighters in the UFC who call the UK home. That is the 4th highest total of any country represented in the UFC today behind the United States (187), Brazil (57), and Canada (22).

Fighting has been a great tradition in the UK. Boxing has always been a huge sport there. They have a great history of legendary fighters. You have boxing pioneers like Ted “Kid” Lewis and Bob Fitzsimmons to some of the best boxers in the last 40 years like Lennox Lewis, Joe Calzaghe, Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, and Ricky Hatton. There is no doubting the skill and heart these fighters have shown.

Fast forward to the modern age of combat sports where MMA is king. In MMA’s early days the UK fighters were just known as brawlers or strikers. You had Ian Freeman and James Thompson (who is still fighting today) two of the sports better known names. The biggest knock on the fighters from the UK is usually that they lack the wrestling experience and ground game to be highly competitive with their American, Brazilian, and Canadian counterparts. Over the last couple of years though a lot of that has changed.

It all started when Michael “The Count” Bisping was a contestant on The Ultimate Fighter season 3 in 2006. The coaches were UFC Hall of Fame members Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock. Bisping was on Tito’s team and went on to win the show. This brought great attention to the sport in the UK and new gyms were popping up all over the place. In 2009 they had a season called UK vs US. Bisping coached the UK squad and Dan Henderson coached the US side. They fought at UFC 100 and Henderson won by way of a brutal KO. The UK fighters represented themselves and there respective countries very well.

I just wanted to list the top 20 fighters today from the UK.

1- Michael “The Count” Bisping (22-4) – Fights in the UFC as a Middleweight -England

UFC Michael Bisping

Like I mentioned previously, Bisping won season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter. He is a top contender in the middleweight division right now. His biggest career wins have come against “Mayhem” Miller, Dennis Kang, Chris Leben, Jorge Rivera, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Dan Miller, Matt Hamill, and Eric Schafer. He has only been KO’d once in his career to Dan Henderson and his other 3 losses have come against great fighters. Chael Sonnen, who he lost a very close decision that a lot of people would make the argument that he won, former Pride Champion Wanderlei Silva, and former UFC Light Heavyweight champ Rashad Evans which was also a very close fight. Bisping is a fighter who in my opinion is very underrated. He is a guy you love to hate. He is very confident, borderline cocky. I feel that you have to be confident in this sport to succeed or you are beat before you step in the cage. He has very good take down defense that is one of the main reasons he has fared so well against the American fighters with superior wrestling.

Bisping was supposed to fight Tim Boetsch at UFC 149, but had to pull out due to an injury. He  is now scheduled to fight Brian Stann at UFC 152.

2- Tom “Kong” Watson (15-4) – Fights in the UFC as a Middleweight – England

Tom Kong Watson

Tom Watson has just signed a multi-fight contract with the UFC. He was the BAMMA Middleweight Champion before coming over to the UFC. He successfully defended his belt 3 times. There has been a lot of hype in MMA circles about Watson for quite some time now. He has a Muay Thai and BJJ background. Watson fights out of Southhampton, Hampshire, England but also trains out of Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Training at Jackson’s has really elevated his game and has allowed him to go up against some of the sports elite fighters on a daily basis. Like I wrote in one of my earlier blogs, 15 MMA Fights That Need To Happen, I would really love to see Watson and Bisping square off to see who the top dog in UK MMA is.

Watson’s first scheduled fight in the UFC is against Brad Tavares on September 29, 2012 at the UFC on Fuel TV 5 in Nottingham, England

3- Jimi “Poster Boy” Manuwa (11-0) – Fights in the UFC as a Light Heavyweight – England

Jimi Manuwa UFC

Manuwa was first offered a UFC contract in 2011, but turned it down so he can get a little more experience. Some would say you never turn down an opportunity like that because if you lose a fight you might throw away that once in a lifetime chance. Manuwa was so confident in his abilities that he made that tough decision and now he feels he is ready to make some noise in the 205 lbs division. He was the UCMMA Light Heavyweight Champion, and defended that belt 5 times. Out if those 11 wins,10 are by way of KO or TKO. Manuwa is 32 years old. He was born in Nigeria, and moved to England when he was 10 years old.

He is also scheduled to fight on the UFC on Fuel TV 5 card in Nottingham, England but has no opponent yet.

4- John “The Hitman” Hathaway (16-1) – Fights in the UFC as a Welterweight – England

John Hathaway UFC

John Hathaway has been a prospect for quite some time now. He is just entering his prime at 25 years old, and is poised to make a run in the Welterweight division. He holds notable career wins over Rick Story, Paul Taylor, Diego Sanchez, Pascall Krauss, and Kris McCray. He has good size at 6’1 and his very well-rounded. He trains out of London, but has spent some time in the US training as well with American Top Team and at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu with Eddie Bravo.

He is also scheduled for that Nottingham, England card against fellow UK fighter John Maguire.

5- Paul “The Sassangle” Sass (13-0) – Fights in the UFC as a Lightweight – England

Paul Sass UFCPaul Sass is one of the top prospects to come out of England in quite a while. His submission game is extremely potent. 12 of his wins have come by submission and 10 of those subs have been either a triangle choke or triangle armbar. His biggest wins have been against Michael Johnson and Jacob Volkmann. He resides in the ultra deep, lightweight division so it will take quite a few more wins to get in the title picture, but if he keeps getting big victories he will get there one day. He will have to work on his stand up some to get to the next level.

He is fighting striker Matt Wiman at the UFC on Fuel TV 5 card in Nottingham, England in September. That card is turning out some of the top talent in the UK.

6- Paul “Semtex” Daley (29-12-2 Draws) – Fights in Bellator as a Welterweight – England

Paul Daley BellatorDaley who is a veteran of the UFC, Strikeforce, BAMMA, and now Bellator is widely known as one of the best welterweight strikers in all of MMA. His fight with Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce Welterweight title was one of the best first rounds that I have ever seen. Daley holds big wins against Duane Ludwig, Martin Kampmann, Scott Smith, Dustin Hazelett, John Alessio, and Jorge Masvidal. He has always had trouble against strong wrestlers, but has shown improvements of late.

He will debut at Bellator 72 against Rudy Bears.

7- Terry Etim (15-4) – Fights in the UFC as a Lightweight – England

Terry Etim UFCTerry Etim is known a great submission fighter. The 26-year-old Liverpool native stands 6’1 which is quite tall for a lightweight. he was on the wrong end of one of the best KO’s in UFC history when Edson Barboza landed a perfectly timed wheel kick back at UFC 142 in Brazil. Etim has wins over Sam Stout, Justin Buchholz, and Matt Grice.

Etim was scheduled to fight Joe Lauzon at the next UFC on Fox event August 4, 2012. This would have been a great match up of submission specialists, but Etim had to pull out of the fight due to an injury. Lauzon will now fight Jamie Varner instead.

8- Brad “One Punch” Pickett (21-6) -Fights in the UFC as a Bantamweight – England

Brad Pickett UFCThe 33-year-old London, England native trains with American Top Team down in Florida. He is a top contender in the bantamweight division in the UFC. He has wins over Demetrious Johnson, Ivan Menjivar, and Damacio Page. Pickett is always a very exciting fighter to watch. He was in consideration to replace Dominic Cruz against Urijah Faber for the Interim Bantamweight Title. The fight was ultimately given to Renan Barao who stopped Pickett at UFC 138 in Birmingham, England.

Pickett’s next fight will be against Yves Jaboiun at the UFC on Fuel TV 5 card in Nottingham, England on September 29, 2012.

9- Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson (13-6) – Fights in the UFC as a Featherweight – England

Ross Pearson UFCPearson was the winner of the TUF UK vs US. He defeated Andre Winner to earn the UFC contract. Pearson is a real tough challenge for anyone in this division. He is always a candidate for fight of the night because of his fan friendly style of striking. He has shown great improvements since he has been training with Team Alliance in California. Ross is a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and Brown Belt in Judo. He recently lost by TKO in an exciting fight against Cub Swanson at the UFC on FX card in Atlantic City, NJ on June 22.

Pearson was just named as one of the coaches opposite George Sotiropolous in TUF’s second international season called UK vs Austraila ” The Smashes.” He will move up to 155 lbs for this fight.

10- Che Mills (14-5-1 NC) – Fights in the UFC as a Welterweight – England

Che Mills UFCChe Mills is a very highly regarded striker. He is big for the welterweight division. He does need some work on his ground game as was shown in his last fight against rising star Rory MacDonald at UFC 145 where was stopped by way of TKO in the second round. He does have the ability to put away anyone in the division if they chose to stand up with him. MacDonald really brutalized him on the ground though. Maybe he should take a few months to try to improve that aspect of his game.

Mills next scheduled fight is against Duane “Bang” Ludwig at UFC on Fuel TV 5 in September.

11- Jim Wallhead (23-6) – Fights for BAMMA as a Welterweight – England

Jim Wallhead BellatorWallhead is a Black Belt in Judo and he also trains extensively in Muay Thai. He is a long time member of Team Rough House in Leicestershire, England. At 28 years old he is in the prime of his career right now. With 29 career fights he is a real veteran of the sport. His biggest career wins have been against Che Mills, Frank Trigg, and Joey Villasenor. He a has also fought for Bellator and hopefully will return to re-enter their welterweight tournament. Wallhead has one 9 out of his last 10 fights.

He has no scheduled fight at this time.

12- John “The One” Maguire (18-3) – Fights for the UFC as Welterweight – England

Maguire was the OMMAC and UCMMA Welterweight Champions and he defended the UCMMA belt 3 times before getting the call from the UFC to fight in Birmingham, England at UFC 138. He has won 10 out of his last 12 fights. The 29-year-old fights out of Cambridge, England and is a Brown Belt in BJJ. His biggest wins have come against DeMarques Johnson, Justin Edwards, Jake Bostwick twice, and Dean Amasinger. I feel he has potential to be a solid fighter in the UFC for some time.

Maguire is scheduled to meet fellow Brit and #4 on my list John Hathaway at the UFC on Fuel TV 5 card in Nottingham, England.

13- Conor “Notorious” McGregor (11-2) – Fights for Cage Warriors as a Featherweight – Ireland

McGregor won the Cage Warriors 145 lb belt when he submitted Dave Hill in the second round at CWFC 47 in June. McGregor fights and carries himself with extreme confidence. He has said his dream is to fight in the UFC and I don’t think that is too far-fetched. I think he would be a nice addition to the UFC’s 145 lb stable. He has won 7 straight fights.

McGregor is scheduled to defend his belt against Jim Alers on September 1,  2012 at Cage Warriors Fight Night 7 in Amman, Jordan.

14- Andre Winner (14-6) Fights for BAMMA as a Lightweight – England

Andre Winner UFCWinner was a finalist on TUF 9 UK vs US. He lost to Ross Pearson but did fight in the UFC compiling a 2-4 record against tough competition. He has won two in a row for BAMMA, but the UFC lightweight division is so stacked that it will be tough for him to get back. Maybe should consider a move to 145.

Andre will fight Rob Sinclair for the Lightweight title at BAMMA 10 at London’s Wembley arena on September 15, 2012.

15- Phil “S11″ Defries (8-1-1NC) Fights for the UFC as a Heavyweight – England

Phil DeFries UFCPhil De Fries is a good size for heavyweight. At 6’5 and about 240lbs he is big enough to so he won’t get over powered and just light enough that he won’t be too slow for the lighter heavyweights. The 26-year-old Sunderland, England native is a Purple Belt in BJJ and also trains at Aliiance Jiu- Jitsu. His only loss came in his last fight against rising prospect Stipe Miocic.

He is scheduled to fight Oli Thompson at the UFC on Fox card on August 4, 2012. The card will be held at The Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.

16- Dan ” The Outlaw” Hardy (24-10-1 NC) Fights for the UFC as a Welterweight – England

Dan Hardy UFCDan Hardy is no doubt a fan favorite. He is also a favorite of UFC President Dana White and Matchmaker Joe Silva. The reason I say this is because Hardy lost 4 consecutive fights after winning his first 4 in the UFC. Usually a 4 fight losing streak will result in a fighter being cut or being forced to drop down a weight class. There were a few factors in the decision.

Hardy is an exciting fighter that always likes to go for the KO, he also is a big draw when the UFC has cards in the UK. In Hardy’s losses he has fought some really tough competition too. He lost to George St- Pierre in a title fight. St-Pierre beat him handily but could not get Hardy to submit on an armbar attempt no matter how far he torqued his arm back. Then he lost to Carlos Condit by KO, Anthony Johnson by decision, and Chris Lytle by guillotine. Hardy does need to work on his wrestling and submissions. He has been living in Las Vegas for a while now and has been doing just that. The 30-year-old is also a Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. He won his last fight in impressive fashion by KO’ing “Bang” Ludwig in the first round at UFC 146.

He is scheduled to meet Amir Sadollah at the UFC on Fuel TV 5 card in his hometown of Nottingham, England on September 29, 2012.

17- Ronnie “Kid Ninja” Mann (21-5-1 Draw) Fights for Bellator as a Featherweight – England

Ronnie Mann BellatorRonnie Mann was born in Thailand. His Mother is of Japanese descent. Mann is a Brown Belt in BJJ and 11 of his wins have come by submission. He is 3-2 in Bellator and lost a decision to 145 lb champ Pat Curran. Mann needs to improve his wrestling in order to be successful in North America.

Mann has no fight scheduled at this time. Hopefully he will be in the next featherweight tournament next season.

18- Curt “The War” Warburton (10-3) Currently fights for BAMMA and Total Combat as a Lightweight – England

Curt Warburton UFCWarburton is a 31-year-old from Bishop Auckland, England. He is a former welterweight that has a 1-2 record in the UFC losing to Spencer Fisher and Joe Lauzon. He also holds a victory over Ross Pearson back in 2007.

Warburton last fought in March and has no scheduled fight at this time.

19- Paul “Metabolic” McVeigh (18-7) Fights in Cage Warriors and BAMMA as a Bantamweight – Ireland

McVeigh holds the Cage Warriors 135 lb title. He has defended this belt 5 times. He also holds the Cage Contender Belt as well. He is 5-2 in his last 7 fights. McVeigh is a Brown Belt in BJJ and fights out of Glasgow, Scotland, although he is of Irish descent. McVeigh has 12 wins by way of submission. McVeigh was a contestant on TUF Team Bisping vs Team Miller and lost a close decision to current UFC flyweight Louis Gaudinot.

McVeigh has no scheduled fight at this time.

20- Paul “Relentless” Taylor (11-6-1 NC) Fights in the UFC as a Lightweight – England

Paul Taylor MMATaylor has also fought at welterweight earlier in his career. He has a 4-5 record in the UFC. He was wins over Gabe Ruediger and Peter Sobotta. Taylor comes from a kickboxing background and 6 of his wins have come by KO. Taylor’s losses in the UFC came against some tough competition. Those losses were to Sam Stout, John Hathaway, Chris Lytle, Paul Kelly, and Marcus Davis.

He was supposed to fight Anthony Njokuani at Wednesday’s UFC on Fuel TV card, but had to pull out because of an injury. He was replaced by Rafael Dos Anjos.

This concludes my list. You can see a good number of these fighters compete on the UFC on Fuel TV 5 card in Nottingham, England on September 29, 2012. It’s shaping up to be a great card.

One of things I love most about MMA is the fact that the best fighters in each weight class have no choice but to meet each other in the cage. When I was a kid, before MMA was around I was a big Boxing fan. There were some great match ups back then. Leonard-Hagler, Chavez-Whitaker, Jones-Toney to name a few. The big names used to actually fight back then. Now you have this fiasco which is Mayweather- Pacquiao. If they were in the UFC they would have been finished with a trilogy by now. Granted, there have been some cancellations this year due to injuries. With the way these MMA fighters train and spar there is a high tendency for them to get hurt.

I just want to remind everyone of the great title fights that are scheduled in MMA in the next few months and some other exciting non-title match ups that I am really looking forward to seeing as well.

1- UFC Middleweight Champ Anderson Silva VS #1 Contender Chael Sonnen

Silva Sonnen 2

This fight takes place this Saturday July 7, 2012 at UFC 148. It will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is the fight that everyone is talking about right now. It is the rematch of a classic fight that took place at UFC 117 in August 2010. The first fight was had so much anticipation because of the way Sonnen was speaking in a derogatory way about Anderson Silva. He was the first guy to come out and say he was going to take it to Silva. The thing that made this fight so memorable was that Sonnen did just that. For 4 1/2 rounds Sonnen won the stand up, take downs, and basically controlled where there the fight was going. He showed zero fear of Anderson in this fight . Ultimately Silva’s greatness shined through and he submitted Sonnen with a triangle-armbar in the 5th round.

In the months leading up to the rematch it has been more of the same stuff from Sonnen. He has been on numerous MMA podcasts and talk shows and has continued his verbal onslaught against the champ. Just last week Anderson finally had enough. He was on a conference call with MMA journalists and Chael Sonnen when he finally snapped back at Chael with much venom. He said through his interpreter Ed Soares:

“First of all Chael is a criminal. He’s been convicted of crimes. He doesn’t deserve to be inside the Octagon. I am going to break his face and break every one of the teeth in his mouth.”

Then he continued:

“What I’m going to do to inside the octagon is something that’s going to change the image of the sport. I’m going to beat his ass like he’s never been beaten before. I’m going to make sure his arms are broken, his legs are broken. He’s not going to be able to walk out of the octagon by himself. I can guarantee that.”

This was truly out of the blue and Sonnen had no response. Some people think Sonnen is getting into Silva’s head, but I counter by saying is that really a good thing for Chael? We’ll see Saturday night.

2- UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St-Pierre VS UFC Interim Champ Carlos Condit

UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St-Pierre VS UFC Interim Champ Carlos Condit

This fight will take place on November 17, 2012 at UFC 154. It will be held at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

I am anticipating this fight very much. First of all I want there to be one champion once and for all. GSP has been out of action since he beat Jake Shields at UFC 129 in April 2011. He had a severe knee injury. This a horrible injury for any athlete, but for a fighter like GSP who relies so much on his speed and agility it is particularly devastating. He has released several videos of his rehab sessions over the months and it seems like he is progressing well. If any one has the determination to come back even stronger than before it is St-Pierre.

Carlos Condit was a former teammate of George’s down at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque , New Mexico. They weren’t the closest of friends, but there is little doubt that in all the time they spent together there they had to have seen each other train and spar extensively. There is no animosity between the two fighters. It will be interesting to see if Condit will be able to stop GSP’s relentless wrestling attack. If Condit can keep this fight standing as much as possible it will work in his favor. Condit has solid power in both hands as well as wicked knee’s and leg kicks. Again two great fighters facing off for all the marbles.

3- UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Jon Jones VS #1 Contender Dan Henderson

UFC Light Heavyweight Champ Jon Jones VS #1 Contender Dan Henderson

This fight will take place on September 1, 2012 at UFC 151. It will be held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This is a fight I can’t wait to see. It is the classic fight of the wily veteran against the young lion. Dan Henderson had his first pro fight when Jon Jones was 9 years old. He has accomplished so much in this sport both in the UFC and especially over in Japan in Pride. He was the 1st Pride fighter to hold belts in two weight classes at the same time. He is also the former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion. He never lost that belt either. He gave it up to come back to the UFC and try and win a belt in the one organization that he has not yet succeeded in doing so yet. He poses a unique challenge to Jones. He has the uncanny ability to connect with his big right hand in mostly any fight against any type of challenger. He has never fought a guy as gifted and with the reach of Jon Jones though.

Jones is, in my opinion, on the best streak of any fighter in the world right now. The reason why I say this is because of the 13 month run he had from March 2011- April 2012. He consecutively beat four former UFC light heavyweight champions. They were “Shogun” Rua, “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida, and Rashad Evans. This is remarkable because he also won three of those fights by stoppage. He really is on another level now. Every fight he tries something new that is usually successful. In his last fight against Evans, he used elbow strikes as if they were jabs. His reach and athleticism are his best assets. The biggest question is how he will respond to being rocked by a big shot and there is a good chance he will experience that in this fight.

4- Urijah Faber VS Renan Barao – For The Interim Bantamweight Championship

Urijah Faber VS Renan Barao - For The Interim Bantamweight Championship

This fight will take place on July 21, 2012 at UFC 149. It will be held at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

This, as we all know, was supposed to be Faber-Cruz 3. Dominic Cruz had to pull out of the fight when he badly tore his ACL. He is expected to miss close to a year and a half of action. So the UFC had no choice but to crown an interim champ for the time being.

Barao has been on a serious roll in his MMA career. His last loss was in his first fight back in 2005. His biggest wins have come in the UFC against Cole Escovedo, Brad Pickett, and Scott Jorgensen. He is a big bantamweight with great striking and submissions. There is no doubting his record even though he hasn’t faced big names because a lot of those fighters down in Brazil are tough as nails. Just because us American fans haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean those guys weren’t dangerous fighters.

Faber on the other hand has fought a bunch of big names both in the UFC and in the WEC. He was the Featherweight champ in the WEC. He has fought Jose Aldo, Mike Brown twice, Dominic Cruz twice, Tyson Griffin, Cole Escovedo, Jens Pulver twice, Bibiano Fernandes, and Ivan Menjivar. That is Faber’s biggest advantage in this fight for sure. Faber has made comments that Barao hasn’t fought top competition before, but to not lose in 7 years in this sport is truly amazing. I think Faber would have had an easier fight against Cruz. This is a fight that is sure to be exciting.

5- UFC Heavyweight Champ Junior Dos Santos VS #1 Contender Cain Velazquez

UFC Heavyweight Champ Junior Dos Santos VS #1 Contender Cain Velazquez

This fight will take place on September 22, 2012 at UFC 152. It will be held at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

This is a rematch from the UFC on Fox 1 card. That fight was a much publicized event that was the first time the UFC aired a fight card on the Fox network. The event was an attempt by the UFC to pull in some casual MMA fans who were on the fence about the sport. Their philosophy was who doesn’t want to see a heavyweight title fight.

This was another case of the UFC pitting two fighters in their prime against each other for a title. Velazquez was the champ at the time. He was coming off of a 13 month absence from the sport due to shoulder surgery. He didn’t look to me like he was in tip-top shape at all, and it showed.

JDS is a young, charismatic Brazilian heavyweight who was a coach on the Ultimate Fighter season 13 opposite Brock Lesnar. He won the first fight with Cain early in the first round by clipping him behind the ear, then when Velazquez dropped he pounced on him and swarmed him with punches until the ref stepped in.

In the 2nd fight I am really interested in seeing if Cain can implement his game plan this time and take down Junior and use his ground and pound abilities to grind out a win. If Dos Santos can win, there are some big fights for him later this year with Daniel Cormier and possibly Alistair Overeem.

6- Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Champ Ronda Rousey VS Sarah Kaufman

Strikeforce Rousey vs Kaufman

This fight will take place on August 18, 2012 at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California.

Ronda Rousey is without a doubt the most talked about female fighter in the sport today. She only has five fights but already is the champion. There is no secret in her game plan. Try to lock up with you and use her Olympic level Judo to slam you to the mat and then slap on her signature move, the arm bar. So far no one has been able to derail this freight train. When you couple her skill with her good looks you have a star for sure.

Sarah Kaufman is the complete opposite of Ronda when it comes to her fighting style and her fight promoting style as well. While “Rowdy” Ronda likes to get into verbal warfare and stare downs with her opponents before the fight, Sarah goes about her business in a more quiet fashion. Make no mistake though, Kaufman is a killer in the cage. She has engaged in a few brutal fights in her career. She only has one loss to Marloes Coenen, and guess how? By arm bar. She has made it clear though that she will take this fight to Rousey in a way that Ronda hasn’t seen before. Should be fun.

7- Bellator Featherweight Champ Pat Curran VS #1 Contender Patricio Freire

Bellator Featherweight Champ Pat Curran VS #1 Contender Patricio Freire

This fight will take place on August 24, 2012 at Bellator 73. It will be held at the Harrah’s Tunica Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.

If you have read any of my earlier blogs there is no secret that Pat Curran is one of my favorite fighters right now. He always brings it every fight he is in. He was very competitive at 155 winning the tournament there, but losing by way of decision to former champ Eddie Alvarez. I always say I would love to see him come to the UFC and challenge Jose Aldo. Not saying he would win, but really, you never know.

“Pitbull” Freire is a fierce competitor as well with only one loss on his record. That was to former featherweight champ Joe Warren, who Curran just destroyed to win the strap. This will be a hell of a fight that I am anxiously waiting for. Going to be a good summer for MMA fans.

8- Demetrious Johnson VS Joeseph Benavidez For The First Ever Flyweight Championship

 Demetrious Johnson VS Joeseph Benavides For The First Ever Flyweight Championship

There is no date for this fight announced yet. These two fighters both won the 1st round eliminator fights to reach this title opportunity. Benavidez beat Yasuhiro Urushitani back in March and Johnson had to have two fights with Ian McCall to finally advance to the title fight. The first was a draw and the 2nd time he won by way of unanimous decision.

Benavidez is a very tough guy who’s only losses came at Bantamweight to champ Dominic Cruz in the WEC, and both came by way of decision. Johnson’s only losses came to Cruz as well in a bantamweight title fight and to Brad Pickett by unanimous decision. These two fighters, no matter who wins this fight, will be at the top of this division for a long time to come.

Now for some non-title fights that are scheduled in the next few months that I feel are great match ups for the fans and will go along way in deciding the rankings for future contendership.

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In MMA history there has always been those match ups the fans wanted to see but couldn’t because certain fighters were in different organizations. Before Zuffa acquired Strikeforce, the question always was how the Strikeforce fighters would fare against UFC fighters. Or back in the day how the Pride fighters and UFC fighters would match up. I want to list some fights that I would like to see. Whether the fighters are in two different organizations, same organization but different weight classes. I even will list some fighters who are in the same organization and weight class, but just haven’t met yet.

1 – UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos VS Ex Dream- K1- and Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem

UFC Dos Santos vs Overeem

This fight was supposed to go down at UFC 146, but after Overeem’s testosterone levels were not at sufficient levels for the Nevada State Athletic Commission the fight had to be canceled and Overeem was replaced by Frank Mir. Dos Santos. Dos Santos went on to TKO Mir in the 2nd round.

For me this will be a dream match up of stand up strikers that are on another level than every other Heavyweight in MMA. I think this fight will eventually happen. It all depends if JDS can get by Cain Velazquez for a 2nd time and if Overeem can return and meet all of the Commissions standards. If he can I think this will be an unforgettable fight that will be remembered as one of the best Heavyweights fights of all time. We have not seen JDS fight a guy that can stand up with him. As I mentioned in the beginning of this segment, Overeem was a K1 Champion. The stand up that is on display in K1 is the best kickboxing in the world. I am interested to see how Dos Santos reacts in the clinch if Alistair starts landing those wicked knees and elbows that he is famous for. If this fight somehow winds up on the floor who knows what will happen.

2 – UFC Welterweight Champion George St-Pierre VS Ex Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz

UFC St. Pierre vs Diaz

Again this is another fight that was supposed to already have happened. Last year at UFC 137 GSP and Diaz were scheduled to square off in a match that pitting the #1 Welterweight in the world against a guy in Diaz who was coming from Strikeforce and was considered by me and a lot of MMA fans to be the one guy whose style of fighting and fearlessness could be a real legitimate problem for St-Pierre.

GSP used to be a fighter who would finish his opponents like he did to BJ Penn, Matt Serra, Matt Hughes twice, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg and Jay Hieron. In 5 out of his last 6 wins he has won by decision. He has caught a lot of flack from fans and media for not finishing his opponents. You can make the argument that either he has lost his killer instincts or that he has evolved as a strategic fighter who now comes into a fight with a certain game plan and sticks to it no matter what. Regardless of your opinion he hasn’t lost in over 5 years and 9 fights. The fight was switched due to Nick Diaz’s failure to show up for a press conference that was promoting their fight. Diaz was matched up with BJ Penn and Carlos Condit was supposed to fight GSP instead. GSP then had to pull out of that fight due to injury. The Condit-St-Perre fight was rescheduled for early 2012, but after Diaz beat Penn convincingly at UFC 137 he was calling out St-Pierre in the cage saying George was faking the injury and that he wanted a piece of GSP. This enraged GSP. So much that he said” He’s(Nick Diaz) the most disrespectful human being I have ever met and I am going to put the worst beating you’ve ever seen on him in the UFC.”

This is very much against the normal even keeled personality and mannerisms that we are accustomed to seeing from St-Pierre. Many have said Diaz was really getting into his head and might cause GSP to be a little reckless when they fight and that would play right into Diaz’s hands. In December 2011 though it was revealed that George’s injury was worse than he originally thought. He tore his ACL and will be sidelined for at least 10 months. So Diaz was then have to fight Carlos Condit instead at UFC 143. Condit beat Diaz in a very close decision that some say should have went to Diaz. Diaz is currently suspended because he tested positive for marijuana for a 2nd time in his career. He will be able to return in February 2013. If GSP is till the champ by then and Diaz is the #1 contender, and assuming he is not still “retired” this fight will eventually go down and it will be amazing.

3- UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones VS UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva

UFC Jones vs Silva

This match up is one that only can take place if Anderson Silva agrees to move up a weight class. He has fought twice at Light Heavyweight in the UFC. Both of those fights ended up in KO wins. In 2008 he KO’d James Irvin and in 2009 he knocked out Forest Griffin. Anderson is currently recognized as the pound for pound greatest fighter in MMA and maybe the greatest fighter ever.

Jon Jones is maybe the one guy out there that has the ability to take that pound for pound and greatest ever title away from Anderson. Last year he ran off a most impressive streak of 4 straight wins against former UFC Light Heavyweight champions. He beat “Shogun” Rua, Lyoto Michida, Quinton Jackson, and Rashad Evans. This streak is something most fighters will never pull off in their whole career, never mind consecutively like that.

You would have Silva’s Muay Thai on display up against Jon Jones tremendous reach and creativity. Jones would have a weight advantage but with his slim build it would not be that much of a factor. Plus Anderson would be bigger for this fight as well. This fight would have to take place soon because Anderson is 37 and might retire sooner rather than later.

4- UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos VS Strikeforce Heavyweight Gran Prix Winner Daniel Cornier

UFC Dos Santos vs Cormier
This fight can happen maybe even sooner than JDS and Overeem. Cormier has 1 more fight remaining on his Strikeforce contract and if he can get a win in that fight and Dos Santos can get by his second fight with Cain Velazquez than Dana White has hinted that Cormier could maybe get a shot at Junior in his first UFC fight.

Cormier, who was on the US Olympic Wrestling Team did not even know how to throw a proper leg kick a few years ago. Now he is landing head kicks on Josh Barnett. It was his KO over “Big Foot” Silva that got a lot of peoples attention, but his unanimous decision over the much more experienced Josh Barnett that really solidified his position as a threat in the Heavyweight division.

If Cormier were to fight Dos Santos he would probably test the waters a but with his stand up, but I think he will be smart enough to know that is not a good idea. He will try to neutralize JDS’s standup with his wrestling. Junior has shown good takedown defense in his past fights with wrestlers Shane Carwin and Cain Velazquez but Cormier is on just another level than everyone else in this department. Would be a great fight.

5- UFC Lightweight Champion and Former WEC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson VS Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler

Henderson vs Chandler
This is one of those fights that probably won’t go down but I just want to point out that I think Chandler can match up well with “Smooth” Henderson.

Chandler fights with supreme confidence and heart and is a tough guy to beat. He won the belt in a thrilling fight with former champion Eddie Alvarez in a fight that coincidentally happened on the same night as Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua’s war of attrition. Because of this reason this fight was a little overlooked. This is without a doubt a fight of the year candidate. Chandler was in real trouble in this fight and was almost TKO’d. He was able to hold on and out will Alvarez and was able to submit him with a rear naked choke in the 4th round.

Henderson is a fighter who has paid his dues to get where he is at today. He was cut from one of the seasons of The Ultimate Fighter but did not let this deter him. His biggest asset is his incredible leg strength. He uses them to dish out a lot of kicks and can also take a good kick as well. He will fight Frankie Edgar in his first title defense, which is a rematch at UFC 150 in August.

6- UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo VS Former Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar

UFC Aldo vs Edgar
This is a fight that I think is destined to happen. After Edgar lost his title to Ben Henderson at UFC 144 Dana White was pleading with Edgar to drop down to featherweight and get an immediate title shot against Jose Aldo. Part of the reasoning was that Frankie doesn’t need to cut much weight to drop and the fact there is a lack of true contenders at 145 to oppose Aldo. In any case Edgar resisted and demanded a rematch with Henderson for the 155 belt. He made a strong point that he had to give 2 rematches as champion. To BJ Penn, who he won the belt from and to Gray Maynard. Dana relented and gave Frankie his rematch.

Aldo has been so dominant so far that only a guy like Edgar who has great foot work, wrestling ability, championship experience, and capacity to take a punch or kick can give Aldo a credible challenge. Whether this fight happens at 145 or 155 I think it will go down.

7- Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez VS Former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez

Melendez vs Alvarez
This is a fight that has a good chance of going down. Alvarez contract with Bellator is up and he has made it clear he wants to get paid. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney is very fond of Alvarez and would like to resign him but the main point of disagreement is the fact that Alvarez does not want to go back into the lightweight tournament. Bellator’s business plan is to make every fighter go through the tournament before they get a title shot. This reason alone can force Alvarez into leaving Bellator and join Zuffa.

This would be a perfect opportunity to match up Melendez and Alvarez. Melendez has a real lack of competition in Strikeforce right now. He keeps saying he wants Zuffa to bring in either a UFC contender or a top contender from elsewhere, so this can really work.

It would be a good fight between 2 similar fighters. Both have good stand up and submissions. Both guys are tough and have championship experience. Plus if Zuffa can sign Alvarez they will always have that option of bringing him to the UFC to add even more depth to the 155 lb division.

8- UFC Middleweight Contender Brian Stann VS Strikeforce Middleweight #1 Contender Tim Kennedy

UFC Stann vs Kennedy
Let’s face it, the main reason I put this fight on the list was the fact that both of these guys are real American war hero’s who happen to fight MMA and happen to fight in the same division.

Kennedy is an Army Green Beret – Special Forces Sniper who is an Iraq war vet and has received the Army’s Bronze Star for Valor under fire.

Stann is a Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corp who also is an Iraq War vet who has received The Silver Star, which is the nations third highest award for valor in combat.

If you put this fight on a card on the week of Veterans Day, Memorial Day, or Independence Day it would be a great moment for the sport and our country. It would be a competitive fight as well. Kennedy is a fighter who likes to out work and overwhelm his opponents with his aggressive grappling like he did against MMA vet “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler. Stann is more of a striker with great power and is working on his shortcomings in the ground department. It would make for a great fight.

9- UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva VS Former Bellator Middleweight Champion and current UFC Middleweight Contender Hector Lombard

UFC Silva vs Lombard
These 2 fighters have been on a collision course for a few years. Silva really hasn’t lost a fight since 2004 against Ryo Chonan in Pride. His loss against Yushin Okami in 2006 was because of a DQ due to an illegal kick from Silva. He is 35-4 in his career.

Lombard has an equally impressive record of 31-2. He hasn’t lost a fight since 2006 when he lost a decision to Gegard Mousasi in Pride 13. Granted I know he hasn’t faced nearly the level of competition that Silva has, but 25 straight fights without a loss is unbelievable in this sport where on any given night you can get touched on the chin and it’s all over.

This fight can definitely happen too. Especially with recent injuries to Michael Bisping, Brian Stann, and Vitor Belfort it opens up a lane for Lombard to take advantage of. He has to get by a tough Tim Boetsch at the upcoming UFC 149 event in July. If he can do that and Anderson can beat his nemesis Chael Sonnen for a second time then this fight might happen sooner than expected.

10- UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo VS Bellator Featherweight Champion Pat Curran

Aldo vs Curran
This another fight that is a long shot to take place. Curran is 17-4 in his career, but 4-0 since moving down to 145. He won the Bellator Lightweight tournament in 2010 then went on to lose to Eddie Alvarez by decision in the title fight. Then when he dropped to 145 he won the that tournament and went on to destroy Champion Joe Warren back in March of this year. That was his most impressive win. That is the fight that led me to believe he can hang with Aldo.

With Bellator moving over to Spike TV in January they are going to need some young stars to showcase so they will probably lock up Curran to an extended contract.

11- UFC Top 3 Lightweight Contender Nate Diaz VS Former WEC Lightweight Champion and UFC Top Lightweight Contender Anthony Pettis

UFC Diaz vs Pettis

This is a fight that a lot people think should happen next for Diaz and Pettis. Diaz is next in line for a title shot after Hebderson-Edgar 2. He has hinted that he would like to wait for the winner and get his title shot. Probably a smart move. If the winner of Henderson and Edgar comes out of that fight with an injury and had to take a significant amount of time off then maybe Diaz will decide to fight Pettis next.

This would be an interesting fight both on the feet and especially on the ground. Diaz has 7 wins in the UFC by way of submission and in his last fight he overwhelmed Jim Miller who is quite good in submissions himself. Pettis is very crafty in BJJ and would be a very tough guy to submit. I think Pettis can win the striking battle with his unpredictable kicks and fast hands.

12- Dream Lightweight Champion Shinya Aoki VS UFC Featherweight Contender Chan Sung Jung “Korean Zombie”

Aoki vs Korean Zombie
This would be a match up of 2 of the top Asian fighters in the sport today. With the existence of Dream now in turmoil, Aoki might be signing with another promotion. The UFC will certainly be interested. Aoki just came off getting KO’d in Bellator by Eddie Alvarez. He is one of the most dangerous submission fighters on the planet and I think he would be able to drop to 145 for the right fight.

“Korean Zombie” is one of the most popular fighters in the UFC today. He earned his nick name for his ability to take a punch and keep on moving forward. He has really evolved though in the last year or 2. He has learned to choose his moments of attack instead of just going shot for shot with his opponent.

13- Former Strikeforce Welterweight Champion and Current UFC Top Welterweight Contender Nick Diaz VS UFC Welterweight Josh Koscheck

UFC Diaz vs Koscheck
This is just a fight I have always wanted to see because of the attitudes of these two. It will be interesting to see how Diaz reacts to Koscheck running off at the mouth in the months leading up to the fight.

Diaz is a guy who doesn’t do too much talking before the fight, but when the cage door closes he seems to thrive on talking trash to his opponents. It is part of his game plan and seems to focus him on what he needs to do.

In this fight Diaz would actually be the fan favorite. Koscheck is the guy the fans love to hate. He would probably choose to slug it out with Diaz which would make for a great fight.

14- Former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez VS UFC Lightweight Melvin Guillard

Alvarez vs Guillard
This a fight that I have always had in the back of my mind. Say what you want about Melvin Guillard’s lack of submission defense but when you hear his name is attached to a card you know the fight will be exciting. Melvin can KO any man in his division with a knee, elbow, punch, or slam.

With Alvarez you get a guy who also prefers to bang it out with his opponents. Both of these guys are fearless and would make for an interesting fight.

15- UFC Middleweight Contender Michael Bisping VS BAMMA Middleweight Champion Tom “Kong” Watson

Bisping vs Watson
In this fight it would be “Kong” vs “The Count.” Bisping is regarded as the best fighter in the UK today. He has represented England well in the UFC and is a very under rated fighter. He has good stand up and under appreciated take down defense.

Tom Watson is a fighter that wants that crown of the top UK fighter. He is 15-4 in his career and has defended his belt successfully 3 times. Watson is a guy that can one day can be in the UFC so this fight is not out of the question for a card in London or Manchester in the future.

This concludes my list. Most of these fights can very well happen and some of them won’t but I think all of them would be fun to see.

In any sport where the fans favorite athletes get older and their production goes down, you always look at the future stars and prospects who will rise up and fill those shoes. MMA is no different. In the last few years we have seen some of our favorite fighters either semi-retire or retire for good. Big names like Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, BJ Penn, and Kenny Florian all have either called it quits for good or are taking a long break to contemplate whether coming back to the cage is something they want to put time, energy, and focus into anymore. I want to put the focus on some rising stars and young prospects in MMA that some people might not have heard of or on the cusp of greatness with another win or two.

Fighters who are not in major promotions but are on their way to being signed by either Zuffa or Bellator in the near future:

1. Mamed Khalidov – 185 lbs – 31 years old and fights with KSW promotion based in Poland. 

This Chechen born fighter is only known to true MMA hardcores. He has amassed a 25-4 record with 2 draws. He has 11 KO’s, 13 submissions, and 1 win by decision. In his 25 matches he is 22-1-2. He has notable wins over MMA vets like Jorge Santiago, Matt Lindland, Jason Guida, Igor Pokrajac, Jesse Taylor, Rodney Wallace, and James Irvin. He is regarded by many as one of the top Middleweights not signed by Zuffa. His nickname is “The Cannibal” and has backgrounds in Muay Thai, Wrestling, BJJ, and is a Black Belt in Karate. He certainly brings a level of intimidation when he fights.

2. Tom “Kong” Watson – 185 lbs – 29 years old and fights with BAMMA promotion of The UK.

This Middleweight fights out Southhampton, Hampshire, England. He is the BAMMA Middleweight Champion who has a 15-4 record with 7 wins coming by way of KO, 1 submission win and 7 wins by way of decision. His fighting style is based on Muay Thai, and BJJ. He has notable wins over Jack Marshman, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Alex Reid, Matt Horwich, and a TKO win over current UFC fighter John Maguire. He has a big reputation in Europe and maybe soon he will bring his talents across the pond to the US.

3. Conor McGregor – 145 lbs – 23 years old and fights with Cage Warriors Fighting Championships

This Featherweight who is a Dublin, Ireland native is a brash and confident young fighter. On Saturday June 1st he captured the vacant Cage Warriors Featherweight belt with a 2nd round submission by way of rear naked choke over English fighter Dave Hill. He has a pro record of 11-2, with all his wins coming by TKO and KO! 9 of his 11 wins have come in the 1st round. There is no doubt he hasn’t faced top competition yet, but he has shown that he possesses the confidence to take his skill set to the next level. He has said his dream is to fight in Vegas and in the UFC. In my opinion the UFC featherweight division is in need of more depth and McGregor can help with that.

Fighters who are currently fighting in the UFC, Strikeforce, or Bellator who are early in their careers or are just now getting fight fans attention:

Bellator Fighting Championships

4.  Alexander Shlemenko – 185 lbs – 28 years old.

Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko has an unbelievable pro record of 45-7 with 27 wins coming by way of KO. He holds impressive wins over MMA vets like Ikuhisa “Minowa Man” Minowa, Vitor Vianna, Brian Rogers, Brian Baker, Sean Salmon, and Matt Major. He had a hard-fought loss by decision over the much heralded and feared Hector Lombard. Shlemenko showed tremendous heart in this fight. He will fight Bellators season 6 Middleweight Tournament winner Maiquel Falcao for the belt vacated by Lombard when he left the promotion and signed with the UFC.

5. Pat Curran 145 lbs – 24 years old

Curran is 17-4 in his pro career. He fought most of his career at 155 and is 4-0 at his current weight class of 145. He lost to Lightweight standout and former champion Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 39 after winning the lightweight tournament. He then moved down to 145 and won that tournament and was rewarded with a fight with champion Joe Warren. His destruction of Warren with a 3rd round KO really put him on the map. He also hold wins over Marlon Sandro, Ronnie Mann, Toby Imada, and Roger Huerta. A Great athlete who I would like to see one day fight UFC Featherweight champ Jose Aldo.


6. Tyron Woodley – 170 lbs – 30 years old.

Woodley, the St. Louis, Missouri native has a division 1 wrestling background at Missouri University. He has a Pro record of 10-0. He has wins over fellow prospect Jordan Mein, Paul Daley, Tarec Saffiedine, and Andre Galvao. He has trained very hard with American Top Team in Florida to work on his stand up skills and has shown real progress. He will fight for the vacant Welterweight belt at the next Strikeforce card on July 14, 2012 against UFC vet Nate “The Great” Marquardt.

7. Tyler Stinson – 170 lbs – 26 years old

Stinson, who goes by the nickname of “The Evolution” is a promising up and comer in MMA’s welterweight division. He has a 23-8 record. He has a kickboxing background and is known to be an extremely tough and fearless fighter who likes to mix it up. He lost a close split decision to Tarec Saffiedine at Strikeforce- Rockhold vs Jardine in January. The Kansas native will fight Jordan Mein at the next Strikeforce event on July 14, 2012.

8. Jordan Mein – 170 lbs – 22 years old

Jordan Mein is let’s just say, old for his age! He had his 1st amateur fight at the tender age of 14! He has already amassed a Pro MMA record of 23-8 with 13 wins by KO. He has wins over experienced MMA fighters like Josh Burkman, Joe Riggs, Marius Zaromskis, and Evangelista Santos who Mein TKO’d with a nasty barrage of elbows. In his last fight he lost a close split decision to Tyron Woodley at Strikeforce- Rockhold vs Jardine. In his next fight the Canadian will meet fellow prospect on my list Tyler Stinson in a welterweight matchup of top contenders.

Ultimate Fighting Championships

9. Renan Barao – 135 lbs – 25 years old.

Renan Barao fights out of Rio de Janeiro at the famed Nova Uniao gym where UFC Featherweight champ Jose Aldo comes from. He boasts an incredible pro record of 28-1. His only loss came in his 1st fight. He has a 3-0 record with the UFC with wins over the highly regarded Brad Pickett, and veterans Scott Jorgensen , and Cole Escovedo. He is a Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but his striking is equally dangerous. He is fighting Urijah Faber for the Interim Bantamweight belt as a replacement for the injured champion Dominic Cruz at UFC 148. This is a huge opportunity for Barao. I feel he will win and then beat Cruz and hold the belt for some time.

10. Rory MacDonald – 170 lbs – 22 years old.

Rory MacDonald has a pro MMA record of 14-1 with 6 wins by way of KO and 7 by submission. He is one of the highest rated prospects on any MMA website. He has so much potential as a future champion. He trains at Montreal’s famous Tristar Gym. Home of many UFC fighters, most notably UFC Welterweight Champion George “Rush” St-Pierre. He is actually GSP’s protege so they both say they have no interest in ever fighting each other if MacDonald ever reached that level. MacDonald says he would move up to Middleweight before he would fight St-Pierre. GSP says the same! Rory has UFC victories over Mile Guymon, Nate Diaz, Mike Pyle, and Che Mills. His only pro loss came at the hands of current UFC Interim Welterweight Champ Carlos Condit by TKO in a fight that he was winning on the score cards until a late comeback by Condit. MacDonald has a bright future and the supreme focus to accomplish his goals.

11. Michael McDonald – 135 lbs – 21 years old.

Michael “Mayday” McDonald is a California native and Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He has a pro MMA record of 15-1 with 9 victories coming by way of KO. He is 4-0 in the UFC. His most impressive victory to date was his last one against Miguel Torres at UFC 145. He answered a lot of questions that people had about him, like if he can take that step up in competition at such a young age. He put Torres away with a 1st round KO. What makes McDonald such a promising prospect to me is his maturity level. He has said the best thing to happen to him in his career was when he was TKO’d by MMA vet Cole Escovedo in 2009. This made him realize that he is beatable and made him a much more determined man. Wise words beyond his years. I can see future match ups with Urijah Faber, Dominic Cruz, and Renan Barao in the future. He can hold his own with all of them.

12. Joseph Benavidez 125 lbs – 27 years old.

Benavidez, nicknamed “Joe B-Wan Kenobi” is a Texas native who’s pro MMA record is 16-2. His only losses in his career came at the hands of Bantamweight Champ Dominic Cruz at 135 lbs. Now that the UFC has started the Flyweight-125 lbs division he is at his natural fighting weight. He trains with Team Alpha Male with MMA vet and Ex-World Champion Urijah Faber. They have a reputation of training extremely hard and finishing fights with guillotine chokes which he has finished four fights with. In his last fight he looked very impressive with a TKO of Yasuhiro Urushitani in the 1st round of a four man tournament set up to crown the very 1st UFC Flyweight Champion. He will fight the winner of Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson to see who will be crowned champ.

13. Siyar Bahadurzada – 170 lbs – 28 years old.

This UFC Welterweight was born in Afghanistan and his family moved to Holland when he was 15. He has a few colorful nick names like “The Killer, Siyar The Great, Afghan Killa, and Unstoppable”. He is 21-4 with with 11 wins by KO. He fights with the rough and rugged Dutch gym Golden Glory. Siyar has an aggressive style and he would prefer to KO an opponent instead of having a boring fight. Their was a lot of talk about him on MMA podcasts and websites in the few years leading up to his arrival in the UFC. He KO’d UFC vet Paulo Thiago with a quick right hand to the chin as Thiago was rushing in at UFC on Fuel TV that was held in Sweden. He was supposed to fight Thiago Alves on the UFC 149 card being held in Calgary, Alberta. He has a lot of potential in a suddenly deep Welterweight division. It will be interesting to see who the UFC can find to replace Alves. I am not sure how healthy he is but maybe a match with Amir Sadollah would be an interesting stand up match.

14.  Paul Sass – 155 lbs – 23 years old

The Liverpool, England native who goes by the nick name “Sassangle” because of his tendency to finish his opponents with the Triangle choke (9 out of his 12 career submissions has come by way of this move). He has a pro record of 13-0. He is 3-0 in the UFC with wins over TUF season 12 runner-up Michael Johnson, Jacob Volkman, and Mark Hoist. He is tall for this division, and no doubt his long limbs help him with his submission game. He has 2 submission of the night honors in hIs 3 UFC fights. Definitely catching the eye of UFC brass. We can expect big things from this Englishman in the near future.

15. Charles Oliveira – 145 lbs – 22 years old.

Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira is 16-2 as a pro. He has a 4-2 record in the UFC with 1 no contest. He originally came in the promotion as a Lightweight but after suffering 2 losses to Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller he decided to take his Black Belt in BJJ to the Featherweight division where he would face guys a little closer to his strength level. This was a smart move. He has looked very impressive on his first 2 fights at 145 in submitting Eric Wisely and Jonathan Brookins. In the fight with Brookins on the TUF 15 Finale he even looked sharp with his standup as well. I think Oliveira can make waves in this division especially with his abilities to finish a fight when hits the ground.

16. Max Holloway – 145 lbs – 20 years old.

Holloway boasts the title of being the youngest man in the UFC today! The Hawaii native is 5-1 as a pro and 1-1 in the UFC. He looked extremely impressive on the TUF 15 Finale on June 2, 2012. He picked apart Pat Schilling with wicked body work and good takedown defense. Needs a little work on finishing his opponents though, but that will come when he gets a little man strength. Many people compare his style to UFC star Anthony Pettis because of his flashy kicks and daring attempts for acrobatic maneuvers. Jeremy Stephens even brought him in to mimic “Showtime” Pettis in their recent match. Holloway can have a solid future with the UFC when he can fill into his frame and get stronger.

Current fighters that have established themselves already and are either young champions or top contenders:

  • Daniel Cormier- Heavyweight Gran Prix winner in Strikeforce
  • Benson Henderson- Lightweight Champion- UFC
  • Carlos Condit- Interim Welterweight Champion- UFC
  • Luke Rockhold- Strikeforce Middleweight Champion
  • Tim Kennedy- #1 contender for Strikeforce Middleweight Belt
  • Alexander Gustafsson- Light Heavyweight Contender – UFC
  • Hector Lombard- Bellator Middleweight Champion – now with UFC
  • Michael Chandler- Bellator Lightweight Champion
  • Nate Diaz- Top Contender- Lightweight- UFC
  • Anthony Pettis- Top Contender- Lightweight- UFC

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