The MMA landscape is a confusing place, with some fighters getting unjustly over-hyped while true talents aren’t marketed to their potential.

Here’s a glimpse at some fighters who you’re going to want to be aware of, broken down by their weight division.  Keep in mind that I’m trying not to include all of the champions and big name guys who you should probably already know about, so excuse my omissions (though you’re more than welcome to comment about it).


Cain Velasquez

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At UFC 121 in October, Cain Velasquez gets his shot at Brock Lesnar with the UFC Heavyweight Championship on the line.  With many people saying that there’s a significant chance that Cain Velasquez is going to defeat Lesnar, you might want to start getting to know him now.  I’ve heard plenty of people say that the only reason Brock was able to overcome Shane Carwin is because Carwin got significantly gassed (winded / tired) as the fight went into the second round, given that Carwin wasn’t experienced enough to know how to breathe right.  You can’t blame the guy, since he’d never had a fight go into the second round, and Brock is not the type of fighter who typically gets to a second round.  Cain Velasquez is more than ready for the fight to extend past 5 minutes of a first round, as he’s won three fights against notable fighters (Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo and Denis Stojnic) in the second or third rounds.  Also, Brock Lesnar won’t be able to rely on a clumsy submission hold to beat Cain Velasquez, a purple belt in jiu jitsu.  Having knocked out Minotauro Noguiera and having “two-time All-American collegiate wrestler” on his resume, Cain Velasquez could be too much for Brock Lesnar.

Roy Nelson

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Though some people like to discredit Roy Nelson because of his significantly large belly, those people might want to watch the former IFL Heavyweight Champion in the Octagon.  He’s a smart / crafty fighter whose reputation and accomplishments have earned him a shot at becoming Number One Contender in the Heavyweight division (following Cain Velasquez’s title shot) in a UFC 117 fight against Junior Dos Santos.  Most people probably don’t expect him to win, while others just don’t want him to win because they don’t like his style (or look).  It wouldn’t surprise me if Roy Nelson got a chance to fight the winner of Lesnar / Velasquez.  One thing’s for sure, I’d like to see him fight one of those guys either way, regardless of whether or not a championship is on the line at the time.

Brendan Schaub

I’m certainly not trying to compare Brendan Schaub to Cain Velasquez, but the runner-up in The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights is a guy to keep your eye on.  He’s got two straight wins after losing to seasoned veteran Roy Nelson.  As both of those victories have come in the opening 80 seconds of the fight, it could be that the lights were just too bright for Schaub in his big league debut, especially against a crafty fighter in Nelson who wasn’t going to let him explode with his heavy hands on him.

Bobby Lashley

Chances are good that you’ve heard of Lashley, especially if you are a fan of professional wrestling.  The reason I include him here is because he is undefeated at 5-0, and most people might not even know that he’s doing mixed martial arts, as Strikeforce doesn’t get the kind of ratings and exposure that UFC does (unless Fedor is involved).  Lashley has a fight coming up in August, and at this point we’re not sure who it’s against, but as it’s on Showtime, you don’t have to buy it on pay per view.

Matt Mitrione

This fighter comes with NFL experience under his belt, and although he hasn’t fought any significant opponents, he has defeated Marcus Jones and Kimbo Slice in two straight UFC fights.  The next task for him will be late September when he fights Joey Beltran at UFC 119)

Jon Madsen

He’s an undefeated Heavyweight at 5-0, with three victories coming in the UFC – though all have been by decision.  I don’t expect him to be challenging for the championship anytime soon, but it is interesting to note that he wrestled Brock Lesnar in high school and the two reportedly got into an out-of-gym altercation at the time which both still remember.

Light Heavyweight (205)

Jon “Bones” Jones

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Jon Jones was undefeated at 9-0 before his fight with Matt Hamill back in December, where he suffered his first loss due after being disqualified for illegal elbows.  “Bones” Jones quickly rebounded, however, with a victory over Brandon Vera in March by first round knockout.  Jon “Bones” Jones is an exciting fighter who could very well pose a threat to the top guys in the UFC Light Heavyweight Division once Dana White and the decision makers determine he’s shown enough in the octagon to warrant a high profile fight.  August 1st the spotlight shines on Jones as he fights Vlad Matyushenko in the main event of the event on Versus.  Maybe after that he’ll get a shot at Evans, Rampage, Machida or someone else to help determine whether he deserves a title fight.

Ricardo Romero

This guy has 6 straight wins since 2008; and although it wasn’t against a top-tier opponent, he did win his UFC debut at UFC 116 against Seth Petruzelli.

Honorable Mention – current Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion “King Mo” Lawal

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If you don’t know about this guy, go do some research, especially if you’re a football fan who likes big tackling takedowns.

Middleweight (185)

Jake Shields

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Remember how I said I wasn’t going to mention the guys who you probably already know?  Well if you don’t know Jake Shields, that’s a big shame.  He was the reigning Strikeforce Middleweight champion until his contract ran up and Strikeforce said they weren’t going to be able to resign him, knowing the kind of money he would likely need.  Now he’s UFC bound, and when he says he’s looking to fight Anderson Silva, I’m not going to blink, because I’ve seen the guy fight and I know he’s serious.

Alan Belcher

He has won 4 of his last 5 fights, but his UFC 100 decision loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama was highly debatable, with some people thinking that the outcome was fixed to help promote Japanese superstar Akiyama.  All of his last 4 fights were superlatives, 2 Fight Of The Night (including UFC 100) and 2 Submission Of The Night wins.  Want to see a great fight?  Look no further than Alan Belcher’s next opponent – Demian Maia on September 15th at UFC Fight Night 22.  I really wouldn’t be surprised to see Belcher get a shot at Anderson Silva and/or the UFC Middleweight Title if he beats Maia (who recently fought Silva), though many people will tell you that Chael Sonnen could beat Silva for the belt, in which case it would be Anderson Silva’s rematch to follow up.

Mark Muñoz

Mark is on a three fight win streak after losing his UFC debut, which was at Light Heayvweight.  He won Fight Of The Night honors at at UFC 112 on a stacked card which included Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Anderson Silva and Damian Maia.  He next fights Yushin Okami on August 1st, a great opportunity to see him fight for free, as the card is on the Versus network.

Gerald Harris

Gerald is quickly becoming a favorite amongst celebrities.  He is undefeated in past 3 years, including three straight wins since joining UFC – two of which earned him Knockout Of The Night honors.  His next fight is yet to be scheduled, but given the fact that he has fought three times already in 2010, I’d expect that he wouldn’t get much past September before returning to the octagon.  In the meantime, here’s a clip of his fight-ending slam at UFC 116.

Welterweight (170)

Dong-Hyun Kim

I don’t know why more people aren’t talking about Dong-Hyun Kim.  He’s undefeated with 14 professional fights, 5 of them occurring in the UFC.  He’s certainly rising through the ranks, though with no high profile opponents as of yet I’m not surprised he hasn’t been given a title shot to date.

Carlos Condit

Carlos Condit came to UFC as the final WEC Welterweight Champion, a belt which disappeared when WEC merged with UFC.  He lost to Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut, albeit by split decision.  He has won two fights since then, including Fight Of The Night honors back in June.  Up next for him is Dan Hardy at UFC 120, which I fear might be a “trap” fight, as it occurs on Hardy’s  in London.  If he can get through that fight in October with a victory, we could be seeing Condit vs Georges St Pierre in the very near future.

Jay Hieron

Hieron has won 7 straight fights, compiling that streak without a single loss dating back three years.  His contract with Strikeforce recently ended and word is that he’s demanding a Welterweight Championship fight against Nate Diaz as part of his contract negotiations.  Whether or not he gets it, he’s certainly in the running for a championship opportunity one way or another.


Through everything I’ve seen, this is one of the more interesting divisions to watch for, especially if B.J. Penn has fallen off a bit.

Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos is on a three-fight win streak following a Fight Of The Night loss to Tyson Griffin 15 months ago.  He next fights Clay Guida on August 7th at UFC 117, which should be great, considering Guida has 3 of last 4 fights with superlative honors.

Evan Dunham

Dunham is undefeated at 11-0, gaining Submission Of The Night honors at January’s Fight Night 20 against Efrain Escudero.  I don’t like his split decision victories from last August and this June, but his next fight could be very telling – though at this point nothing is scheduled – he is expected to fight veteran Sean Sherk (a former UFC Lightweight Champion) in September at UFC 119.

George Sotiropoulos

The Aussie is 4-0 since making the move down to Lightweight, earning Fight Of The Night honors against Joe Stevenson back in February and victory over veteran Kurt Pellegrino at UFC 116.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a number one contenders fight was setup for Sotiropoulos in his next entrance into the octagon, but I also would’ve thought Jon Jones would’ve been given a similar chance before now, too.

Jeremy Stephens

Jeremy Stephens has won 3 of his last 5, two of those coming from Knockout Of The Night efforts, and his latest back in May at UFC 113 earned Fight Of The Night honors.  He is scheduled to fight Melvin Guillard in September.

Sam Stout

Stout has a current streak of three straight Fight Of The Night awards, having earned 5 such honors in total.  His most recent fight was a losing effort by split decision.  While Stout has only finished one fight in the past 3 years out of 8 fights, you’re bound to get your money’s worth when he’s booked.