The 10 Best Unranked UFC Fighters

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2014

The 10 Best Unranked UFC Fighters

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The UFC ranking system is a reasonable way to gauge talent, new and old.

    But somewhere along the lines, divisional breakouts are lost in the mix. Some escape obscurity and reach their weight class' Top 15, while others simply tread water.

    At this point in time, a bunch of talented contenders are clawing their way up the ladder en route to more exposure, high-profile matchups and greener bank accounts.

    Here are those competitors and why they are the best unranked fighters in the UFC right now.

Justin Scoggins

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    Justin Scoggins is the flyweight version of Michael McDonald.

    He may not possess "Mayday's" padded resume, but the 22-year-old is certainly on his way.

    Equipped with devastating knockout power, timely takedowns and the ability to transition on cue, he is quickly becoming one of the division's most feared up-and-comers.

    He put this on display in his last bout opposite Will Campuzano, recording six takedowns and absorbing only four significant strikes over three rounds.

    Capable of prolonged Octagon success, the undefeated youngster is not only close to ending his unranked tenure but could find himself in the title picture by the end of 2015.

Jared Rosholt

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    Nowadays, UFC heavyweight prospects are far and few between.

    Daniel Cormier was the last big name to come along, and he decided to pack up and chase Jon Jones.

    Nobody is saying that 10-1 (2-0 UFC) wrestling standout Jared Rosholt is the next Cormier, but his collegiate record of 125-27 at Oklahoma State University suggests he could come close.

    Obviously, he needs to sharpen his other tools like striking and grappling, but as an ultra-athlete at the prime age of 27, "The Big Show" is destined for big things in the division.

Chris Holdsworth

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    USA TODAY Sports

    What's not to like about bantamweight Chris Holdsworth?

    He's the winner of The Ultimate Fighter Season 18, trains at Team Alpha Male, is lean for his weight class, is only 26 years old and already has a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

    On paper, that looks like the recipe for Octagon success.

    But to little surprise, the lean 135-pounder still has much to prove. His ability to out-hustle and outpoint opponents should be less pronounced as he challenges more polished foes.

    That said, you can't knock the hustle, and he's been hustling since turned professional.

Sergio Pettis

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Granted, Sergio Pettis has not realized his potential since making his promotional debut last November, but a 2-1 record in a growing division is, well, a 2-1 record in a growing division.

    Both of those victories came via decision, which is not what you want to see from the brother of lightweight champion Anthony Pettis and a Duke Rufus protege, but the kid is still only 20 years old.

    At his age and with his already well-rounded skill set, Pettis will flourish in due time.

    It's the wait that has deterred fans and slightly lowered expectations for a fighter who was 9-0 with six finishes before signing with the UFC.

Tony Ferguson

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    While other names like Abel Trujillo, Michael Chiesa and Danny Castillo may jump out when it comes to a list of this caliber, it's actually Tony Ferguson who commands more lightweight leverage.

    As the owner of a 5-1 UFC record, including a knockout of Ramsey Nijem in 2011 to win The Ultimate Fighter Season 13, "El Cucuy" is a ticking time bomb waiting to exhale.

    Whether it's his aptitude for D'arce chokes or his ability to stretch the cage and size up an opponent, Ferguson has become one of the most dangerous divisional problems not being talked about today.

    The fact that he possesses grittiness and has never been taken down inside the Octagon is simply icing on the cake.

Max Holloway

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Hawaiian sensation Max Holloway was 20 years old when he made his UFC debut in 2012, losing to current top contender Dustin Poirier by submission.

    That's crazy.

    Despite the loss, Holloway possesses boundless talent. He's known to launch unorthodox knees and kicks inside the cage

    The now 22-year-old has honed his skills in a featherweight division full of hungry veterans, compiling a record of 5-2 since his initial loss to "The Diamond."

    As long as he can continue to flourish under the bright lights and utilize his length to disrupt the opposition, Holloway should escape divisional limbo by the end of the year.

Diego Sanchez

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Diego Sanchez is unranked?

    It bothered me, too.

    That's not to say that the nine-year UFC veteran deserves to be mentioned amongst the lightweight division's cream of the crop, but as one of the more unavoidable cage animals in the sport today, some might think he deserves a Top 15 spot.

    In any case, ranked or unranked, "The Dream" remains hellbent on biting his mouthpiece, puffing his chest and going toe-to-toe with anyone who is willing to go to war with him.

    He just has to learn to be a little more calculated before his window closes for good.

Brandon Thatch

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Have people forgotten about Brandon Thatch?

    It seems like his name is always left out of conversations pertaining to the next group of contenders for champion Johny Hendricks.

    Thatch is nowhere near a title shot, but his overall ceiling is that high.

    He hasn't fought since last November, but "Rukus" has already showcased the elite striking and well-rounded grappling skills that will carry his career to stardom so long as he stays healthy and active.

    It's only a matter of time before we see the 28-year-old with seven knockouts and four submissions in 11 career victories compete again.

    And when we do, this whole business about being unranked will be buried with his opponent.

Patrick Cote

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Just like his chin, Patrick Cote continues to stick around.

    Whether as a middleweight who was unable to withstand the dominance of former champion Anderson Silva or as a welterweight who has won two straight, the Canadian always finds a way to remain relevant.

    At the age of 34, especially as a guy who has absorbed relentless punishment to the head over the years without ever being finished by strikes, Cote's opportunities are becoming limited.

    If he ever wants to make another run at the top of the weight class, now is the time.

    From a fan's perspective, why not add the power and durability of "The Predator" to a divisional VIP room that already boasts the likes of Johny Hendricks, Robbie Lawler, Jake Ellenberger, Hector Lombard and Matt Brown?

Thiago Alves

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Speaking of welterweights, Thiago Alves is slowly but surely making his way back up the divisional ranks.

    After a two-year layoff mostly due to a debilitating shoulder injury, the former top contender has finally made his return.

    He recently captured a unanimous-decision victory over hard-nosed finisher Seth Baczynski in April at UFC on Fox 11.

    As a fighter who possesses the natural athleticism, raw power and killer instinct to attack, "The Pitbull" should recapture his footing amongst the best 170-pounders in the world sooner than later.

    Of course, he still needs to work on his takedown defense and remain healthy to do so.

     

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