UFC: Jon Jones and Up-and-Coming Fighters for Each Weight Class
The UFC is packed with young talent. A new crop of fighters have moved into MMA and started to establish themselves among the UFC elite.
This article will look at each weight division's best up-and-coming fighter in the UFC. I will also make mention of Jon Jones, perhaps MMA's fastest rise-to-the-top story.
Bantamweight: Demetrious Johnson
Johnson is an extremely fast and conditioned athlete with a combined UFC/WEC record of 4-1.
His sole career loss was a close decision to Brad Pickett. Demetrious bounced back from that loss with a four-fight win streak, most recently earning a unanimous decision over the former bantamweight champ Miguel Torres.
Johnson suffered a broken fibula in that fight from a checked leg kick, but was still able to pull off the win with clean stand-up along with dominant wrestling and positioning on the ground.
Look for Johnson to continue to climb the bantamweight ranks or possibly make a drop to 125. There has been talk of the UFC adding a weight class.
Featherweight: Chad Mendes
Mendes is a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler and an undefeated mixed martial artist.
Mendes has not been taken down in his UFC/WEC career. Chad is hard to hit and implements good ground and pound to grind out decision victories. Mendes is in contention for a shot at the belt, but Kenny Florian's drop to featherweight might throw a wrench in Mendes' plans. The UFC may entertain the idea of a Florian vs Aldo fight.
Mendes is set to fight Rani Yahya in August. He should look to put together his ground and pound and avoid submissions.
Lightweight: Anthony Pettis
Despite his recent loss to Clay Guida, I am still picking Pettis as the lightweight division's up-and-coming fighter. I believe he has the ability to bounce back from this loss and put together a string of wins in the UFC. Pettis stayed dangerous off his back and on his feet during that entire fight against Guida.
He obviously needs to tighten up his takedown defense and keep fights standing, as he will out-strike most opponents. Pettis is the kind of fighter that will accomplish the growth he needs to be back on top.
Welterweight: Rory MacDonald
MacDonald came back from a hard-fought loss to Condit to earn a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz. What is impressive is the fact that the rest of his wins have been by submission or TKO/KO. He packs good jiu jitsu, good boxing and strong take downs.
MacDonald has a big fight coming up against Mike Pyle in August.
Rory has not been taken down in the UFC and will put that statistic to the test against Pyle, as he tries to submit MacDonald.
Middleweight: Brian Stann
Stann, the former WEC light-heavyweight champion, is my pick for up-and-coming fighter in the middleweight division. When looking at the middleweight division, I do not see too many other options.
Stann is steadily improving and I do not feel there are many fighters that will be able to handle Stann's powerful punching.
Brian has been going off of strength and athleticism for a while now. However, we have recently seen an improved stand-up game and I think his size advantage will also play a role in his continued climb to title contention.
Light-Heavyweight: Phil Davis
Two-time Big Ten champion, four-time All-American, 2008 NCAA wrestling champion for Penn State and undefeated in MMA.
Need I say more?
Davis avoids most of his opponents striking attempts and has not been taken down in the UFC. I see a trend here with my picks. He has successfully made 35 passes on UFC opponents and overwhelmingly out-strikes his opponents on the ground.
Davis has his biggest fight coming up against former champ Rashad Evans on Aug. 6, and it's going to be a good card. Look for Davis to take Evans down and to win by ground and pound or submission.
Heavyweight: Travis Browne
With his big knockout-of-the-night win over Stefan Struve, Browne is looking good. Browne's record sports 11 wins with one draw against Cheick Kongo. Travis goes for submissions, hits hard and has also not been taken down in the UFC. Browne will need his well-rounded game to help him earn continued success in the heavyweight division's stacked stable of fighters.
He has the ability and is surrounded by great talent at the Lloyd Irvin Team.
I wanted to take time to mention Jon Jones. Jones was able to climb the MMA ladder in what seemed like no time at all.
Three years is all it took to go from his first pro fight to holding the light-heavyweight title in the UFC. Jones' first three fights were only separated from one another by a week's time, with his fourth having a two-week break from the previous fight.
Jones entered the UFC and quickly established himself as not only an entertaining, but an extremely talented, fighter. Jones would have been my pick for the light-heavyweight up-and-coming fighter, had he not won the title so quickly.