10 Fighters Who Are Ready for Their UFC Title Shot

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

10 Fighters Who Are Ready for Their UFC Title Shot

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    Every fighter currently gracing the UFC roster is aiming to get a shot at promotional gold one day.

    Some names are higher on the food chain than others, but the goal remains the same.

    Over the past two years, divisional standouts have conducted their best acts in order to surpass their peers. Others have failed in the process.

    From the pool of remaining contenders who have never fought for a UFC championship and aren't scheduled to fight for one, here are 10 individuals ready to take a shot. 

Cat Zingano

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    Injuries have derailed Cat Zingano's championship run, but she'll eventually get her chance to dethrone the most dominant female fighter in MMA history.

    Zingano may not look like the perfect antidote to Ronda Rousey's Octagon perfection, but she stands out among the rest of the division's eager contenders.

    Blessed with natural strength, an iron chin and ferocity to tread the deepest of waters, the 31-year-old has all the tools to pull off the impossible and capture bantamweight glory.

    Not to mention she stands undefeated at 8-0 and is coming off a third-round TKO finish over former title contender Miesha Tate.

    Following her professional struggles and personal tribulations surrounding her husband's death, fans are pushing for Zingano to be the kryptonite to the champion's superhuman success.

Raphael Assuncao

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    T.J. Dillashaw has done the impossible and conquered one of the very best fighters in the game today.

    However, despite his unfathomable efforts and perfected game plan, Dillashaw was not originally scheduled to challenge Renan Barao for the bantamweight championship.

    The challenger was supposed to be Raphael Assuncao.

    That is, the same Assuncao who beat Dillashaw back in October via split decision. The same 31-year-old veteran who has strung together six straight victories.

    Dillashaw's future title defense has yet to be mapped out, but outside of an immediate rematch opposite Barao, it would be irresponsible if Assuncao wasn't granted a shot at the belt. 

Cub Swanson

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    Cub Swanson has done everything that has been asked of him.

    He has won each of his last five fights, secured four finishes during that span and looked elite opposite divisional standouts Dustin Poirier and Dennis Siver.

    However, through untimely injuries and more profitable title contenders like Chad Mendes at the UFC's disposal, Swanson has somehow been unable to grab what is rightfully his.

    It's unfortunate that he's now scheduled to fight Jeremy Stephens late next month. "Lil' Heathen" is as dangerous as they come. With that being said, there's no way Swanson gets passed over again with another dominant Octagon output. 

Dustin Poirier

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    Outside of the aforementioned Swanson, Dustin Poirier is the next featherweight contender on the cusp of a title shot.

    At just 25 years of age, "The Diamond" has already displayed the top-level skill set and Octagon experience to become the next big thing.

    Defeats at the hands of Swanson and Chan Sung Jung have served as professional hiccups, but his recent finishing rate and overall dominance suggest he's over those outcomes.

    Poirier is currently unbooked. It's possible he'll get the winner of Swanson vs. Stephens in what would be a bout to become the No. 1 contender and face the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Mendes. 

Khabib Nurmagomedov

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    Khabib Nurmagomedov may be the most underrated title contender in the UFC today.

    He's respected and sometimes feared, but in a sport that is often dictated by unbeaten streaks and unparalleled performances, the Russian should be at the front of every line.

    With an unblemished 22-0 professional record, the 25-year-old seems more than ready to get a shot at the lightweight championship following Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez.

    "The Eagle" may not be the most popular fighter in the promotion, but with elite wresting and an uncanny ability to suffocate his opponents, it's only a matter of winning one more fight before he gets his shot at gold. 

Matt Brown

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    Matt Brown deserves a title shot yesterday, today and tomorrow.

    Arguably the hottest fighter in the sport after recording six finishes in his last seven fights, "The Immortal" has beaten every unsuspecting opponent the UFC has thrown his way.

    From flashy top prospects to tactical veterans, the 33-year-old has destroyed them all.

    Unfortunately for heavy-handed Robbie Lawler, he's the next man on Brown's radar.

    Their July showdown at UFC on Fox 12 is going to be one of the most highly anticipated bouts of the year and will produce champion Johny Hendricks' first title challenger. 

Ronaldo Souza

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    It's unfortunate that former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida leapfrogged fellow Brazilian Ronaldo Souza. "Jacare" truly deserved a shot at Chris Weidman's belt.

    Unbeaten since 2011, Souza has demonstrated the elite grappling arsenal and evolved punching power to disrupt any top name in the middleweight division, including Weidman.

    His UFC success has been slightly derailed by an injury during his training camp for his last fight with Francis Carmont, but the 34-year-old still won that bout handily and should rebound by the end of the year.

    Assuming he can continue his winning ways, Souza could be looking at an early 2015 title shot. 

Tim Kennedy

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    Staying in the middleweight division, it could be time for Tim Kennedy's recent Octagon success to lead him to the promised land.

    Many people would argue that he hasn't done enough in just three UFC appearances, but a one-punch knockout win over Rafael Natal and a five-round schoolyard beatdown of Michael Bisping would suggest otherwise.

    In any case, he has only lost to fellow Strikeforce alum Luke Rockhold since 2010. That's pretty impressive, considering the Army staff sergeant is often a one-trick pony (that's a good thing in his case).

    If Kennedy can log one more impressive performance, maybe opposite Vitor Belfort, he'll be a lock for a title shot. 

Daniel Cormier

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    Nobody is more ready for a UFC title shot than light heavyweight standout Daniel Cormier.

    Undefeated at 15-0, including a recent belittling of Dan Henderson at UFC 173, the 35-year-old has been praying for a chance to throw champion Jon Jones around since his professional career took off.

    While Jones is leaps and bounds better than any fighter Cormier has ever faced, including Henderson and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, Cormier's athletic prowess and overwhelming evolution would give him a good chance to capture UFC gold.

    At this point, Alexander Gustafsson and potential scheduling woes are the only things that stand in Cormier's way. 

Anthony Johnson

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    Few fighters can return to the biggest MMA promotion in the world, make one of the very best light heavyweight contenders look like a mere prospect and still fly under the radar.

    Anthony Johnson is one of those fighters, and he's accomplished all of those things in just a matter of three rounds.

    Now an owner of a seven-fight win streak, "Rumble" has seemingly shed the immaturity issues that plagued his first stint in the UFC.

    His power, precision, timing and technical game-planning have never looked better, making him one of the most dangerous title threats to Jones.

    If Johnson can get past Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC on Fox 12, he could be positioned for a bout to become the No. 1 contender with Cormier, assuming the UFC makes "DC" wait.

     

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