9 Fighters Who'll Be Competing for a UFC Title in 2015
Each year new contenders launch themselves to the front of the divisional line and reach for ultimate Octagon glory.
Hot on the tails of each and every champion, these increasingly dangerous title threats do whatever is needed to reach the top.
This includes shocking the masses and subduing the competition.
In tradition with those men and women who keep weight-class kings busy, here are nine fighters who'll be fighting for a title sometime next year.
Holly Holm is not just a boxer turned cage fighter.
She is a bona fide future title threat, assuming all the pieces fall into their rightful places.
Those pieces include Holm's overall learning curve, her ground game and her ability to overcome experience with raw athleticism and strength.
So long as Holm's hands find a home early into her promotional career, her marketability and high finishing rate would be too dynamic to not reward with a title shot.
Ian McCall already showcased his potential opposite current UFC flyweight kingpin Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson on two separate non-title fight occasions.
He did not win either one of those matchups, but that's mostly due to the fact that bad luck and unfortunate decisions have somewhat tainted this promotional career thus far.
In any case, as long as "Uncle Creepy" stays busy and keeps beating bordering top contenders like Brad Pickett, McCall's strong well-rounded repertoire will one day be featured under the brightest of lights.
Not to mention he's on the short list of divisional top dogs who have yet to challenge and fall to the champ.
While Dominick Cruz has grown accustomed to sitting behind desks and straightening his tie, his dynamic athleticism and peppering striking will soon transform the former champ back into one of the best fighters in the world.
All he needs is a clean bill of health.
That seems as likely as Matt Brown being in a boring fight these days, but Cruz seems ready to go against Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 178.
Remember, Cruz is still only 28 years old, only 20 fights deep into his career and has the mental fortitude to overcome the last three years.
Hate him or love him, the man who has taken over for Chael Sonnen's fallen microphone seems to have what it takes to one day fight for a championship.
But since yapping his gums isn't going to turn into a title shot anytime soon for Irish featherweight Conor McGregor, he'll have to rely on his raw skills to climb the divisional ladder.
Fortunately for the 26-year-old rising superstar, he has plenty of it.
From unorthodox strikes to thunderous ground-and-pound, all McGregor has to do to capture a shot at gold in 2015 is to remain offensively lethal and tactically entertaining.
Jim Miller and Edson Barboza aren't Gilbert Melendez and Khabib Nurmagomedov, but Donald "The Cowboy" Cerrone has looked phenomenal against unsuspecting lightweights the UFC has thrown his way.
Cerrone will find it much more difficult to land head kicks and consistent punches when he takes on the upper echelon of the division, but his abilities are obvious.
The only scenario that would deter the veteran from working his way to a title shot in 2015 is if Nurmagomedov turns out to be as dominant as he has looked and cleans out the roster.
In any case, Cerrone will certainly get his chance to shine and potentially redeem previous UFC loses to champion Anthony Pettis and top contenders Rafael dos Anjos and Nate Diaz (assuming he signs).
Now that Matt Brown has unfortunately fallen behind in the divisional race, only a few welterweights contenders remain.
And beyond the obvious choices of Rory MacDonald, Nick Diaz and even Georges St-Pierre, there lies a menacing Cuban by the name of Hector Lombard.
As one of the most overpowering 170-pound dynamite throwers in the game, Lombard arguably possesses more striking power than that of champion Johny Hendricks.
But if the 36-year-old knockout artist doesn't find a happy medium between his power, patience and main event conditioning, then the idea of him fighting his way to a title shot quickly fades.
Out of all the names on this list, middleweight sensation Luke Rockhold might be considered the least likely to fight for a title in 2015.
Now whether that's because he got walloped by Vitor Belfort in his promotional debut or the fact that there are a battering ram of division hounds in his way, there's no denying that the former Strikeforce champion has "it."
"It" is often left for the likes of a Jon Jones or Jose Aldo, but sometimes it is meant to describe the best up-and-coming title threat out there.
That doesn't mean that Rockhold will accomplish what some of the very best champions in the UFC have done over the past few years, but he is capable of earning a future title shot on the heels of timely kickboxing, strong grappling skills and a natural frame built for 185-pound success.
Sometimes power is all you need.
In light heavyweight Anthony Johnson's case, power is the very tool that is going to earn him a title shot in 2015.
Johnson's recent success in his second stint with the UFC has been fueled by his ability to use his punching power to keep wrestlers at bay and well-rounded boxers against the cage.
Obviously "Rumble" is going to have to worm his way past the likes of Rashad Evans and Alexander Gustafsson, but he's got the offensive weapons and takedown defense to do that relatively soon.
For the first time in a long time, the UFC heavyweight division doesn't have a definitive top contender to challenge champion Cain Velasquez outside of Fabricio Werdum.
Former champion Junior dos Santos has already been beaten badly twice by the champ and heavy hitters like Roy Nelson, Mark Hunt and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva simply don't have the well-rounded skill sets to make a title run in a year's time.
However, Alistair Overeem does.
Now while other relevant choices like Travis Browne and Stipe Miocic make more sense, neither one of them possess the credibility and marketing prowess of Overeem.
The towering veteran needs to build off of his dominant performance over Frank Mir back at UFC 169, but if he can pace himself and remain classically potent, 2015 will be the year of "The Reem."
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