The UFC's Best Non-Champion in Each Division

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJune 4, 2012

The UFC's Best Non-Champion in Each Division

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    Divisional depth is something that the UFC has grown accustomed to.

    Some of the organization's most prominent fighters may not even command their respective weight classes, making each division more competitive than ever.

    And while seven champions currently serve as the UFC's growing foundation, the talent does not stop with the title.

    Here are the best non-champions of each division.

Flyweight Division: John Dodson

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    This was more or less a process of elimination.

    Potential titleholders Joseph Benavidez, Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson still have to hash out the flyweight championship mini-tournament before a division king is crowned.

    That leaves fighters like John Dodson waiting in the wings.

    Dodson, following his victorious stint on The Ultimate Fighter, has become one of the more dynamic fighters in the division.

    His stocky build and quick wrestling will ultimately prolong his success at 125 lbs, which has also been responsible for Dodson's recent victory over Tim Elliot at UFC on FOX 3.

    As it stands right now, in the midst of a flyweight championship trial run, Dodson is the best non-champion in the division.

Bantamweight Division: Renan Barao

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    Many would argue that Urijah Faber belongs here, but the fact of the matter is that Renan Barao is not only a more complete fighter at the moment, but he'll be riding more momentum when the two meet for interim title rights at UFC 148 in July.

    Faber surely encompasses more recognition not only amongst the public media but relatively all social UFC fans, but Barao has been dominating the sport for his entire career.

    Sporting a professional record of 30-1 (3-0 in the UFC), the Brazilian has made a living out of elite submissions and unorthodox striking.

    His frame is similar to injured titleholder Dominick Cruz in the way he uses his reach to pepper his opponents, and at 25 years old, his current reign as a top contender should provide the bantamweight division with a bright future.

Featherweight Division: Chan Sung Jung

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    After choking out Dustin Poirier at UFC on FUEL TV in May, which many people consider the Fight of the Year so far in 2012, Chan Sung Jung has become an obvious choice for a title shot sometime this year.

    And even though Eric Koch is one heck of a fighter, "The Korean Zombie" should be the one facing Jose Aldo at UFC 149.

    Jung has prevailed over better opponents during his brief UFC stint and has showcased talents inside the Octagon that many people would consider that of a bona fide finisher.

    The Korean fighter seemingly has all the ingredients to give Aldo a run for his money.

    Jung possesses a world-class chin, exceptional power—evident by his quick KO of Mark Hominick—and his submission game is arguably the best in the featherweight division.

    Bottom line, if you submit Leonard Garcia, KO Hominick and submit Poirier in consecutive fights, you more or less have to be considered the No. 1 contender.

    That's just the way it goes.

Lightweight Division: Nate Diaz

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    I could catch some heat for this, but Nate Diaz deserves to be here.

    The fact of the matter is that nobody in the lightweight division has finished Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller the way Diaz has—and in consecutive bouts, to boot.

    The Californian has showcased a knack for brawling against guys who may be more well-rounded than he is, but Diaz's persistence and hard-noised striking has translated into perennial success.

    If it wasn't for this wacky UFC rule that once a champion loses his title he automatically receives a rematch, Diaz would probably be the most likely choice to face Benson Henderson at UFC 150.

    If you're still not a believer, consider this.

    The only two lightweights around who could pose any threat to a Diaz title shot are Gray Maynard and Clay Guida, two guys Diaz has fought and lost to by split decision.

    Those two guys have not even come close to performing as well as Diaz over the past year, specifically his sheer destruction of Cerrone and Miller, two top fighters in the division who were riding their own respectable winning streaks.

    Whether you like his antics or not, it's hard to argue that Diaz isn't the best non-champion fighter at 155 lbs.

Welterweight Division: Martin Kampmann

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    After looking at his most recent fights, alongside other top contenders in the weight class, it's becoming more evident by the hour that Martin Kampmann is the Nate Diaz of the welterweight division.

    He's somewhat underrated, while deserving a title shot by the end of the year.

    Kampmann's improbable victories over his past two fights, including a comeback submission of Thiago Alves and a KO victory over Jake Ellenberger after being rocked early, has launched him into the upper echelon of fighters at 170 lbs.

    Add in a win over Rick Story at UFC 139 and you have one of the hottest non-champions in the entire organization.

    For Kampmann, a kickboxing specialist who has showcased one of the best takedown defenses in the division, a title shot against interim champion Carlos Condit should be the only thing on his mind.

    The only problem is that Johny Hendricks stands in the way.

    While I respect Hendricks and his recent victories over Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck, Kampmann still seems like the more talented and complete fighter.

    Minus Hendricks' left hand, alongside a recent suspension to Nick Diaz, Kampmann seems like the best bet to command the No. 2 spot within the welterweight division.

    Of course, I'm setting Georges St-Pierre aside until he can get healthy and properly defend his title.

Middleweight Division: Chael Sonnen

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    Does this come as a shock?

    Unless you live under a rock, it shouldn't.

    Chael Sonnen is hands down the best non-champion middleweight around, having recently dismantled top contenders Michael Bisping and Brian Stann.

    Sonnen is nearly one month away from his rematch with Anderson Silva at UFC 148, which is arguably the biggest rematch in UFC history.

    If you consider the fact that Sonnen ragdolled Silva for 24 minutes the first time around, calling him the best fighter in the division doesn't sound so crazy.

    But he lost, and as it is in any sport, losing means you aren't the best.

    However, that hasn't taken away from Sonnen's comeback run, which has featured world-class wrestling and unbeatable cardio.

Light Heavyweight Division: Rashad Evans

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    This was by far the toughest division to settle.

    With names like Rashad Evans, Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida making up the light heavyweight class, you could honestly pick either one of them for this list and get away with it.

    But besides the head-to-head battle between Evans and Machida, there's one thing that separates each and every one of these fighters.

    It's their championship bouts against the incomparable Jon Jones, albeit Henderson has yet to face the phenom.

    The deciding factor is that Evans is the only guy to survive all five rounds, giving Jones problems on his feet on multiple occasions.

    Now while this seems like more of a testament to the dominant tendencies of Jones, it also reveals the distinct edge that Evans possesses over the rest of the pack.

Heavyweight Division: Cain Velasquez

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    Can Velasquez is the man.

    He's the quintessential undersized heavyweight who just seems to have what it takes inside the cage.

    He seems to be the only fighter besides the suspended Alistair Overeem equipped enough to one day end Junior dos Santos' current title run, even though he has already fallen victim to the champ.

    He has beaten and brawled with Brock Lesnar, Antonio Silva, Minotauro Nogueira, Ben Rothwell and Cheick Kongo.

    He's responsible for making UFC 146 the bloody event that it was and he's arguably the most well-rounded athlete in the heavyweight division.

    Even with a clean Overeem patrolling in the near future, Velasquez should be able to harness his abilities and maintain dominance amongst his peers.

     

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