15 UFC Fighters Who Will Leap Forward in Their Next Bout
The UFC has become more diverse than ever.
Each weight class possesses an elite champion, worthwhile contenders and a core group of rising stars.
Some of these talents have already made a name for themselves while others wait their turn.
With that said, here are 15 names destined to leap forward in their next bout.
It may come as a surprise, but Matt Hamill is on his way back to the UFC.
"The Hammer" was once considered a top contender in the light heavyweight division until back-to-back loses to Rampage Jackson and Alexander Gustafsson derailed his career.
But despite those struggles, the 35-year-old wrestler has decided to give it another go after a 12--month absence.
In order for Hamill to be taken seriously within a monstrosity of a weight class, he needs to win in spectacular fashion at UFC 152.
Justin Lawrence may not have won The Ultimate Fighter, but the 22-year-old is arguably one of the most talented fighters produced from the popular reality show in recent memory.
For Lawrence, an upcoming bout with featherweight top prospect Max Holloway could prove career defining.
If "The American Kid" can secure yet another highlight reel KO inside the cage, then he would most certainly jump to the top of the division.
Sticking with The Ultimate Fighter talents who came up short on the show, Michael Johnson will have his own shot to leap forward after his fight at UFC 151.
Johnson will be taking on Danny Castillo's three-fight win streak. It will also mark the first time in Johnson's career that he's being featured on a PPV card.
The 26-year-old has a distinct opportunity to make his name of the household sort and showcase why he deserves to be considered a future contender.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Vinny Magalhaes will be making his comeback to the UFC when he takes on Igor Pokrajac at UFC 152.
Magalhaes hasn't competed inside the Octagon since 2009, losing to Elliot Marshall by unanimous decision.
Currently known as one of the best grappling and submission talents in the world, one who possesses numerous gold medals in the World Jiu-Jitsu circuit, Magalhaes is in search of a big win to prove he's a light heavyweight threat.
Taking care of a boxing-orientated tough guy like Pokrajac is priority No. 1.
Ed "Short Fuse" Herman has successfully reestablished himself as a relevant middleweight name after suffering a career-threatening knee injury back in 2009.
Since his return last year, Herman has produced three consecutive finishes, two by submission and one by TKO.
Jake Shields will try to dismantle Herman's momentum in the middleweight division when the two meet at UFC 150 this weekend.
Shields is still considered one of the best submission experts in the game and will no doubt serve as the biggest test for Herman in his lengthy career.
If Herman can secure yet another decisive finish over a contender like Shields, his stock will shoot through the roof.
Since falling off the map after losing four fights in a row, including a title bout against welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, England's Dan Hardy is finally rebounding.
After dismantling Duane Ludwig at UFC 146 via a vicious KO, people are starting to remember how useful Hardy's power truly is.
His upcoming bout with fan favorite Amir Sadollah may not be a huge jump in competition, but with a win over a well-respected veteran, Hardy could be launched back into the division's top 10.
Jimy Hettes has an extremely bright future within the UFC.
The 25-year-old has won both of his UFC fights with relative ease and looks like the real deal.
With a brown belt in Judo and a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Hettes encompasses a vast array of skills.
He's fairly lengthy for a featherweight and transitions on the ground with the best of them.
If he can submit or KO Marcus Brimage at UFC 152, Dana White and Joe Silva would have to significantly increase his competition.
The Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson is one of the UFC's biggest budding stars.
Dodson looked great against Tim Elliot in his return to flyweight and seems ready to use his compact stature and eccentric speed to pepper his competitors for years to come.
His upcoming fight with Jussier da Silva, the former Shooto South American champion, will allow Dodson to showcase his title potential.
Da Silva is currently ranked one of the best flyweights in the world. The only loss in his career came against top UFC contender Ian McCall back in 2011.
If Dodson can stop Da Silva and ruin his UFC debut, he'd immediately warrant a 2013 title shot.
Throughout every name on this list, Brazil's Erick Silva has the most to gain.
With black belts in Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Silva has literally demolished every UFC fighter in his path, despite being disqualified for illegal head strikes in his fight with Carlo Prater.
Regardless, the 28-year-old seems ready to take the division's top dogs by storm, and it all starts with Jon Fitch at UFC 153 in Brazil.
Fitch is one of the most respected and well-rounded contenders the UFC has, so a victory over him would propel Silva to the top of the heap.
Not to mention the chance to perform in front of his home crowd.
Dana White and Joe Silva can't dodge Cub Swanson's impressive revival for too much longer.
Currently a candidate for Fighter of the Year, Swanson has racked off two second-round TKO victories over the last seven months against a hard-nosed George Roop and wily Ross Pearson.
Evident by those finishes, Swanson has showcased a revamped standup game. The sort of standup game that made him a title contender when he fought in the WEC.
If he can secure yet another TKO victory over the formidable Charles Oliveira at UFC 152, then he'd most definitely receive a bout with a top-five featherweight in 2013.
It's been a long time in the making, but the UFC is finally letting Travis Browne off the leash.
In the past, they've been somewhat reluctant to throw Browne against a top-five heavyweight in the UFC.
But on the back of an undefeated 13-0-1 record with impressive UFC victories over Stefan Struve and Chad Griggs, an upcoming bout against a tenured contender like Antonio Silva was inevitable.
Browne was originally scheduled to face the recently successful Ben Rothwell, but Rothwell came down with the injury bug that's hitting so many training camps.
In a way, Browne should be happy. Silva is a much bigger name to destruct and one that could push him to the top of the division, especially in the absence of Frank Mir.
Alan Belcher is arguably the most underrated veteran in the UFC.
Since debuting back in 2006, "The Talent" has been one of the biggest gamers the middleweight division possesses.
He has posted a 9-4 record inside the Octagon and has finished all but one of those wins by TKO or submission.
At 28 years old, Belcher seems to be peaking. That's probably why he's set to take on his biggest career opponent in Vitor Belfort at UFC 153 in Brazil.
If Belcher can finish Belfort, sort of like how he suffocated the bulky Rousimar Palhares in his last bout, then he may actually get his wish to face Anderson Silva sometime next year.
Currently undefeated at 9-0, boxing specialist Stipe Miocic is finally getting the chance to headline a UFC event.
His opponent will be the always formidable Stefan Struve, who has finished two of his last three victories via submission, at UFC on Fuel TV 5 in September.
For Miocic, one of the UFC's most promising stars, a victory over a top heavyweight like Struve would set his career on fire.
If the Mirko Cro Cop lookalike can get his hands on "Skyscraper" and use his power wrestling, there's no doubt he'll come out on top.
Brian Stann is probably the most established contender on this list, but he still possesses room to leap.
The bottom line is that Stann is in search of a future title shot against Anderson Silva.
In order to do that, he has to get past Michael Bisping, who's arguably the most prominent boxer in the division.
Stann's only loss as a UFC middleweight came against Chael Sonnen, so if he can keep that streak alive against a hungry Bisping, he'd probably be in line for a title shot against the greatest of all time.
Glover Teixeira is still a mystery amongst many UFC fans.
He's either known as the guy that Mauricio "Shogun" Rua didn't want to fight or the guy that's going to end Quinton "Rampage" Jackson's career at UFC 153.
Either way, Teixeira's reputation after just one Octagon submission suggests he's the real deal in the light heavyweight division.
Jackson may not be the name he once was, but he's still a prominent stepping stone for any fighter looking to sniff Jon Jones' title.
A highlight reel finish over one of the most popular fighters of all time would certainly bring Teixeira's name into the limelight and maybe even spark the matchup with Rua that was suppose to go down in the first place.
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