UFC on Fuel TV 7: Up-and-Comers You Don't Want to Miss on Saturday's Card

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2013

May 26, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Paul Sass reacts after a quick submission win over Jacob Volkmann (not pictured) during UFC 146 at the MGM Grand Garden event center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC makes a return to England for UFC on Fuel TV 7 with a card that lacks a ton of name recognition, but offers plenty of rising prospects a chance to shine.

Wedged between a star-studded UFC 156 card and a historic UFC 157 card, it's easy to consider this event a throwaway card. However, missing out on Saturday's action means missing out on some future title challengers.

These fighters may not carry a whole lot of name recognition now, but will be ready to take the next step if they can emerge victorious in England Saturday afternoon. These are the top rising stars you want to keep a close eye on come fight time.


Paul Sass

Sass is one of the more promising prospects in the lightweight division with a 13-1 record that includes 12 wins by way of submission.

The 24-year-old will try to make a statement against veteran Danny Castillo after being handed the first loss of his career by Matt Wiman at UFC on Fuel: Struve vs. Miocic.

Sass has one of the best resumes as a submission artist in the organization, but Wiman was able to outgrapple him with superior wrestling. Castillo has the wrestling chops to test whether or not Sass learned anything from his loss to Wiman.

If Sass can prove that he has evolved after losing for the first time, he'll be right back on track.


Gunnar Nelson

Nelson made his UFC debut in September of 2012 at the UFC on Fuel: Struve vs. Miocic card. Everyone who tuned in found out that Nelson is a bad, bad man.

The 24-year-old prospect wasted little time in choking out a much bigger DaMarques Johnson. Earning his 17th submission victory by way of rear naked choke in the first round to take his record to 10-0-1.

Nelson will look to make his mark once again when he takes on Jorge Santiago, who will make his return to the organization as a welterweight. Santiago will be another large opponent and a big step up in competition from Johnson.

If Nelson is able to put in another dominant performance, he'll be well on his way to UFC stardom.


Dustin Poirier

Poirier isn't exactly an unknown commodity—he's already headlined a UFC on Fuel event. But he is one of the best fighters under the age of 25 and could be knocking on the door for a title shot.

Since dropping down to featherweight Poirier has been an elite prospect. Upon entering the UFC, he built up a four-fight win streak before losing in a fight of the year encounter with Chan Sung-Jung. Poirier has since rebounded with a submission victory over Jonathan Brookins.

Rebuilding that win-streak won't be an easy task. His opponent, Cub Swanson, is eager to stake his claim for a title shot and has elite stand up skills that will test Poirier early and often.

If Poirier can get the fight to the ground and control someone like Swanson, he'll be lining himself up for a title shot in the near future.