Fighters Set to be Big by 2013
April 13, 2012 § 2 Comments
1. Alexander Gustafsson
At UFC on FUEL TV 2, Alexander Gustafsson will face the returning Thiago Silva in Sweden. Many expect the young Swede to win on home turf and if that is how the fight goes, I can’t imagine it will be too long before Gustafsson gets a title shot. Right now he is not really viewed as a title contender but given the state of the light heavyweight division and his young age, by 2013 Gustafsson will be a force within the UFC.
2. Antonio Silva
Recently drafted over from Strikeforce after getting knocked out of the heavyweight tournament by Daniel Cormier, Antonio “Big Foot” Silva is set to make his UFC debut against Roy Nelson at UFC 146. With the current heavyweight division being as stacked as it is, I imagine “Big Foot” will be involved in a number of high-profile matches by 2013 and will have amassed a following based, if not on his success, purely on morbid fascination. His crushing victory over Fedor will live long in the memory and will grant him a certain longevity of credence.
3. Gilbert Melendez
Not many lightweight challengers remain for the Cesar Gracie fighter to face in Strikeforce. Although Dana White has spoken against it, it can’t be long before Melendez is in the UFC. There are so many big fights out there in the UFC’s most hectic division. The fans want to see a title unification fight and end this perpetual run of rematches that has congested this accordion of a division.
4. Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier has come out of nowhere and now he is just one fight away from perhaps being somewhere special. If he can maintain his 100% record and beat Josh Barnett in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Finale then he may well find himself filling an Overeem-shaped hole in the UFC.
5. Rhonda Rousey
Strikeforce womans champion Rhonda Rousey has garnered a pretty sizeable fan base already. Instantly marketable with her good looks, charismatic personality and not to mention her lethal fighting ability, she could be the figurehead of womans MMA for years to come. Her arm snapping finish of Meisha Tate continued her arm bar gimmick. There is something wholesome about Rousey, unlike with previous womans kingpin ‘Cyborg’ Santos (the female version of Overeem) there isn’t a stomach churning size disparagement between her and her opponents. If the UFC decides to finally create a womans division, Rousey will in turn become one of the most recognisable fighters in the world.
6. Renan Barao
Described by Joe Rogan as being the ‘best fighter in the world without a belt’, Renan Barao is ripping through the batamweight division like a merciless Brazilian tornado. A string of highlight reel knockouts and an Aldo-esque striking game has earned him a lot of fans.
7. Michael Bisping
Will Michael Bisping finally shake off his tag as the perennial nearly man? Once again the Brit was on the verge of a title shot only to lose a razor close decision to Chael Sonnen. Unlike the Henderson and Silva fights, this loss does not seem to have dropped him too far down the pecking order. Looking through the middleweight division it does appear that he is locked in a five way battle for a title shot (Munoz, Belfort, Weidman, Palhares and himself). A win over any one of these fighters could propel him into a title shot. Next up he is surprisingly fighting a resurgent Tim Boetsch at UFC 148.
8. Rory MacDonald
An extremely well-rounded Canadian welterweight who trains out of Tristar Gym in Montreal… seem familiar? Rory MacDonald is very much the protegé of UFC welterweight champ George St. Pierre. Described as one of the so-called ‘new breed’ of MMA fighter, MacDonald seems unstoppable in his rise to the top. The one blemish on his young record is a loss to current UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit. There is a feel of the Jon Jones about him and his situation in relation to training partners and title aspirations. It must have crossed GSP’s mind that he is training a young killer who is gunning for his belt. With Nick Diaz out the picture, Fitch losing and BJ retiring, MacDonald may only be two wins away from a title shot. Jake Ellenberger and Martin Kampman will decide the next number one contender and the Hendricks-Koscheck fight effectively knock one of them out of the race. A fight with Jake Shields or a rematch with Carlos Condit (should he lose to GSP) will have the young Canadian challenging for the title.
9. Chris Weidman
Chris Weidman, like Bisping, is on the cusp of a middleweight title shot. Young and unbeaten, Weidman is viewed by many as the next big thing in the middleweight division. In his last fight he beat former title challenger Damian Maia. He hasn’t been given his next opponent yet but all the would be title challengers are currently occupied so a contendership showdown fight is unlikely and probably unadvised. With the middleweight division being as deep as it is, a slow and steady stream of middle of the road middleweights may be lined up as the title picture gets pruned. A fight with Yushin Okami, Chris Leben or Ronny Markes may be next.
10. Edson Barboza
His wheel kick knock out of Terry Etim at UFC RIO extened this young Brazilians unbeaten streak to 10 fights. Lurking in the shadows of the crowded lightweight division, Barboza seems to be only one or two wins away from a title shot and if he continues with his current lethal form I can’t think of many fighters who can stop him. The winner of Miller and Diaz will likely face the winner of Henderson and Edgar but it’s reasonable to assume that the champion at the end of that will have to face ‘Junior’.