10 Fighters That Will Be Household Names by the End of 2012

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2012

10 Fighters That Will Be Household Names by the End of 2012

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    How do you judge a fighter's overall appeal?

    Is it his ability to finish fights or his knack for pulling out a close victory?

    How do these guys get recognized by ordinary UFC fans? 

    Is it through PPV events, The Ultimate Fighter or new media?

    Whichever aspect these athletes encompass, they are nonetheless on the rise.

    By the end of 2012, based on production inside the cage and management's disposition to make them relevant, these 10 fighters will become household names.

Diego Brandao

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    Diego Brandao may or may not already be recognizable by MMA fans from his time on The Ultimate Fighter, but the Brazilian's abilities inside the cage provide him with much more potential.

    Brandao is one of the most explosive standup specialists in the featherweight division, a weight class that often lacks one-punch KO power.

    Well, alongside great jiu-jitsu and an outstanding fight-finishing prowess, the 24-year-old is quickly becoming one of the most promising talents in the organization.

    His next fight against Darren Elkins at UFC 146 this weekend will ultimately reveal to fans exactly how relevant he is after winning TUF.

    By the end of the year, it isn't that crazy to think Brandao could be scratching at the door of becoming a  top-five featherweight.

Stipe Miocic

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    Stipe Miocic comprises the new class of heavyweights that is currently turning one of the UFC's most shallow weight classes in to one of the deepest and most talented.

    Undefeated at his profession at 8-0, Miocic has shown glimpses of stardom during his short UFC stint.

    From knocking off brawler Joey Beltran in his debut to securing a KO victory over Phil De Fries in his most recent fight, the 29-year-old has a ceiling as high as anybody.

    He can strike, throw knees in the clinch and get in and out of his opponent's range with ease.

    Miocic should be considered a serious threat in the heavyweight division by the end of the calender year.

John Hathaway

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    John "The Hitman" Hathaway has done nearly everything that has been asked of him.

    At 15-1, 6-1 within the UFC, Hathaway has put his talents and youth to use, becoming one of the company's most heralded prospects.

    He has already tallied impressive victories over Diego Sanchez and Rick Story, as well as losing a close battle to Mike Pyle, so it isn't inconceivable that the 24-year-old could push the issue of becoming a top welterweight contender by the end of the year.

    The division may be crowded at the top, but Hathaway has the raw striking skills to potentially outlast anybody on their feet, including Carlos Condit and Jake Ellenberger.

Jimy Hettes

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    Over his first two UFC bouts, Jimy "The Kid" Hettes has shown the ability to finish relevant featherweights with ease.

    He recently outstruck a very talented Nam Phan 81-to-16, including 11 takedowns, as well as submitting a wily Alex Caceres in his debut.

    The fact of the matter is that Hettes has the potential to become one of the best fighters in the division.

    He's only 24 years old, sports some of the best cardio around and has submissions for days.

    Bottome line, Hettes shouldn't be overlooked and may in fact grab the No. 1 featherweight contender reigns within the next year.

Phil De Fries

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    Phil De Fries may have lost his most recent bout against Stipe Miocic, but the England-based 26-year-old still possesses some of the best talent in the division.

    At 6'5", 250 lbs, De Fries is an intimidating force, even in the eyes of the biggest of heavyweights.

    He often uses that size to smother opponents in the clinch and on the ground, evident in his victory over Rob Broughton in his UFC debut.

    It may take some time for him to get going as a serious contender, but De Fries has the potential to knock off a top heavyweight by the end of the year.

Ryan "Big Deal" Jimmo

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    Not many people know who Ryan "Big Deal" Jimmo is.

    To be honest, I had to do some research myself.

    But regardless of his lack of mainstream recognition, Jimmo is destined to become a top-10 UFC light heavyweight.

    That's saying a lot.

    Already scheduled to face Anthony Perosh at UFC 149 for his promotional debut, the 30-year-old black belt in karate has all the tools in the world to be wreak havoc on opposing competitors.

    If his days as the MFC light heavyweight champion tell us anything, it's that Jimmo has a knack for being relevant wherever he goes.

Lavar Johnson

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    Despite being shot two times almost three years ago, which was considered to be near-fatal, Lavar Johnson has quickly made his MMA life worth living.

    Since coming over from Strikeforce earlier this yer, Johnson has KO'd both Pat Barry and Joey Beltran in the first round, which has rightfully cemented him as one of the most heavy handed heavyweights around.

    Johnson is 34 years old, but his will to fight and will to move on from his devastating past can surely make up for lost time.

    He's scheduled to face Stefan Struve this weekend at UFC 146, a fight he took on one month's notice.

    Barring a victory, Johnson could be in line to face a top-five contender by the end of the year.

Hector Lombard

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    The former-Bellator middleweight champion should already be a household name, but on the grand stage that is the UFC, Hector Lombard's stardom is borderline limitless.

    That potential, alongside his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, has been recognized by the UFC, which is why Lombard is scheduled to face Brian Stann in his debut at UFC on FOX 4 in August.

    That fight will instantly make Lombard a household name to nearly every UFC fan around, not to mention his explosive striking skills that could leave Stann unconscious.

    With that said, his transition to the UFC may be slow.  But with a talented background and an irregularly bulky frame for a middleweight, Lombard may be contending for the title within the next year.

Michael Mcdonald

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    If it wasn't for a hand injury, Michael McDonald would be scheduled to fight Urijah Faber at UFC 148 for the interim bantamweight championship instead of Renan Barao.

    That opportunity has seemingly passed the 21-year-old by, but his UFC career is literally just getting started.

    Currently undefeated within the organization, including huge wins over Miguel Angel Torres and Alex Soto (KO of the Year candidate), McDonald has made a name for himself as "that bantamweight who has one-punch KO power".

    But still, regardless of his success inside the Octagon over his past three fights, McDonald is still relatively unknown to the common UFC fan.

    As his hand heals, the California native will be waiting in the helm for yet another chance to challenge the winner of Faber vs. Barao for interim championship rights, albeit the return of Dominick Cruz

    When that time comes, fans will finally realize McDonald has the potential to break Jon Jones' record as the youngest champion in UFC history.

John Dodson

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    Similar to Diego Brandao, John Dodson made a name for himself after winning The Ultimate Fighter as a bantamweight.

    Now, as an up-and-coming addition to the newly installed flyweight division, Dodson has seemingly immersed himself to become a top contender by the end of the year.

    His standup is explosive, his takedowns are unique and his cardio is some of the best around.

    As far as becoming a household name, time is only a formality.

    It's inevitable that Dodson becomes one of the most recognizable fighters in the UFC.

     

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