UFC: The Biggest Sleeper in Each Weight Division
Sometimes, the best fighters come out of nowhere.
For every highly-touted prospect like Jon Jones or Georges St-Pierre, there’s a guy like Frankie Edgar or Forrest Griffin who defy all expectations and find themselves with championship gold around their waist.
Am I saying every fighter on this list is capable of winning a title belt in the world premier MMA organization?
Of course not.
But all of these fighters have quietly been making noise in their respective weight divisions, and most of them are just a win or two away from getting a fight with a highly ranked opponent.
All of these fighters have a ton of potential to make waves in their respective division and are currently flying under the radar, but chances are, people will know their names soon.
Flyweight: Chris Cariaso
After a decent two fight win streak at bantamweight that was highlighted by a controversial win over Takeya Mizugaki at UFC 144, Chris Cariaso is set to take his talents to the flyweight division.
Cariaso is one of the more underrated fighters in the UFC, and other than a split-decision loss to top 135 lb. prospect Michael McDonald in his Octagon debut, Cariaso has overcome every obstacle put in front of him by Sean Shelby.
“Kamikaze” has always been seen as an undersized bantamweight, and when he fights Josh Ferguson next week at UFC on Fuel 4, we’ll get a chance to see if that was actually the case.
Bantamweight: Ivan Menjivar
For being one of the most experienced fighters in the UFC’s bantamweight division, Ivan Menjivar has somehow found himself flying under the radar despite a 3-0 UFC record.
Menjivar has fought in several different weight classes and competed with the likes of Georges St-Pierre, Matt Serra and Urijah Faber over the course of his 11 year career, but he’s never been closer to a major title fight than now.
If Menjivar can find a way to take out another tough veteran in Mike Easton at this Saturday’s UFC 148 event, he will likely find himself a win or two away from a shot at UFC gold.
Featherweight: Ricardo Lamas
Ricardo Lamas has become a top ten featherweight out of nowhere.
Lamas struggled through a lackluster WEC career that saw him leave the promotion with a 4-2 record that’s only highlight was a decision win over Bart Palaszewski in his promotional debut.
However, after the UFC-WEC merger, Lamas decided to try his luck in the 145 lb. division, and he has been highly successful since dropping the weight, going 3-0 with big wins over highly-regarded fighters Cub Swanson and Hatsu Hioki.
Hioki was considered to be one of UFC champion Jose Aldo’s biggest threats before Lamas took him out, and with such a huge feather in his cap, Lamas is likely inching towards a title fight.
Lightweight: Paul Sass
Hopefully, after earning his second Submission of the Night award in three fights, we’ll get to see Paul Sass on the main card when he returns to the cage in October.
The British lightweight is a submission machine, with this patented triangle choke earning him the “Sassangle” moniker that fans are starting to catch on to.
With a 13-0 record with 12 of those wins coming by submission, nine by triangle, Sass has been tapping out everyone in his path, and if he can get his ju jitsu going against Matt Wiman at UFC on Fuel 5, he may walk out of the cage as a contender.
Welterweight: Siyar Bahadurzada
In a division full of intimidating fighters like Thiago Alves and Diego Sanchez, Siyar Bahadurzada may be the scariest of the bunch.
“Siyar The Great” has a legitimate ground game, but be prefers to throw leather with his opponents, and his powerful strikes have done their fair share of damage throughout his MMA career.
Bahadurzada is already off to a solid start in his UFC career, scoring an incredibly brutal 42 second KO of Paulo Thiago in his Octagon debut, and despite an injury forcing him out of a planned bout at UFC 149, he should be back and looking to take out the rest of the welterweight division shortly.
Middleweight: Francis Carmont
One of the training partners of Georges St-Pierre, Francis Carmont has found ways to stand out in his pair of Octagon performances.
He started off by easily out pointing a tough veteran in Chris Camozzi in his UFC debut, but he was even more impressive in his second fight in the organization.
After a rough first round that saw him get beat up by UFC newcomer Magnus Cedenblad, Carmont dug deep and found a way to fight back, eventually forcing his Swedish opponent to tap out in the second round.
With a 2-0 record and a solid camp in Tristar MMA behind him, Carmont will get thrown to the wolves soon, especially if he can defeat Karlos Vemola next Wednesday at UFC on Fuel 4.
Light Heavyweight: James Te-Huna
One of the rising young stars in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, for some reason, James Te-Huna doesn’t get quite as much respect as fellow up-and-comers like Phil Davis and Alexander Gustafsson.
Obviously, this is mostly due to fighting somewhat lesser competition during his UFC tenure, and unfortunately for Te-Huna, his shot at a name opponent was recently taken away from him.
Te-Huna was set to fight Brandon Vera at the UFC on Fuel event next week, but the recent run of injuries caused Vera to be pulled and thrown into matchup with Shogun Rua in August.
If he can take out Joey Beltran in his next fight, Te-Huna will have won four of his five bouts inside the Octagon and will have finally earned a step up in competition.
Heavyweight: Travis Browne
The UFC heavyweight division is deeper than it’s ever been at the moment, and because of that, guys like Travis Browne are getting lost in the shuffle.
While he hasn’t gotten a fight with a top-tier opponent yet, Browne has fought some of the better mid tier fighters in the promotion and has a win over fellow up-and-comer Stefan Struve.
With a 13-0-1 record and nine career wins by knockout, Browne is the type of heavyweight fighter that is extremely easy to promote once he starts to make a name for himself.
Browne will get a nice taste of mainstream exposure in his next fight when he takes on Ben Rothwell at UFC on FOX 4 in August, and a win there could snag him a fight against the Cain Velasquez’s and Frank Mirs of the division.