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Michael Bisping and the 20 Best Fighters from the UK

Craig AmosFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 10, 2017

Michael Bisping and the 20 Best Fighters from the UK

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    Michael Bisping is set to take on Brian Stann this Saturday, Sept. 22, at UFC 152. The Count is hoping to parlay a victory over Stann into a title shot against Anderson Silva and an opportunity to take the champ's belt home to England.

    As it stands, Bisping is the UK's best hope for a UFC title. He has been integral in growing the UFC brand in his native land, a place he rules as the de facto pound-for-pound king.

    That does not suggest, however, that the country is lacking for talent beyond Bisping. Indeed, there is a considerable mix of veteran talent and expansive potential riding behind the Count's title push. 

    Here, we will take a glance at the UK's 20 best current fighters. The list contains a healthy dose of faces familiar to UFC fans, as well as a few men who have distinguished themselves through other channels.

20. Paul McVeigh

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    Division: Bantamweight

    MMA Record: 18-7-0

    Best known for failing to make The Ultimate Fighter house after losing to Louis Gaudinot in the reality show's preliminary round, McVeigh has not made much of a name for himself outside the British Isles. 

    The Scot, however, brings a well-rounded game and aggressive mentality to the cage each time he fights which is good enough to endear him to anyone familiar with his career. 

    Chances are McVeigh will fade away rather than make an international splash, but that doesn't mean he isn't a good fighter, nor does it mean he is out of place on this list.

    So here he is. 

19. Curt Warburton

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    Division: Lightweight

    MMA Record: 11-3-0

    Warburton, formerly of the UFC, has beat everyone he was supposed to beat, he just can't figure out how to make it to the next level and surprise anyone.

    On his resume are three names recognizable to most MMA fans—Ross Pearson, Spencer Fisher and Joe Lauzon. Warburton actually beat Pearson, but that fight was back in 2008. More recently, he lost convincingly to both Fisher and Lauzon.

    Warburton's career is of the good-not-great mold; he has dominated the local circuit but has been outclassed on the big stage. 

18. Vaughan Lee

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    Division: Bantamweight

    MMA Record: 12-8-1

    Was the victory over Kid Yamamoto a flash in the pan or a glimpse at the type of fighter Lee can become?

    At 1-2 in the UFC, Lee may not have many chances left to prove himself in the mainstream. He's looked good at moments but has only been able to sustain himself for an entire fight one time while with the promotion. Otherwise it's just been a nice combination here, a quick sprawl there, then defeat.

    Lee's next fight will be telling of how resilient a fighter he is. It will also be telling of the direction his career is headed.

17. Philip De Fries

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    Division: Heavyweight

    MMA Record: 9-1-0

    Britain's de facto heavyweight kingpin has found success beating up his countrymen on the UFC circuit. At 2-1 under the promotion's banner, De Fries has defeated both Rob Broughton and Oli Thompson, his only career loss coming at the hands of Stipe Miocic.

    De Fries is primarily a submission specialist, though he has shown a willingness to slug it out on the feet during his UFC tenure.

    Chances are he won't find himself decked out with a golden belt any time soon, but De Fries could potentially secure a role as a niche, submission-based heavyweight gatekeeper going forward.

    The Brit's next bout is scheduled for Dec. 29 at UFC 155. His opponent will be Matt Mitrione.

16. Jimi Manuwa

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    Division: Light Heavyweight

    MMA Record: 11-0-0

    He's looked like an absolute juggernaut during his brief MMA career but Manuwa hasn't really defeated anyone of note. He'll get the chance to change that, however, since he is poised to make his UFC debut later this month when he takes on Kyle Kingsbury at UFC on Fuel TV 5. 

    With heavy hands and brutal knees, Minuwa embodies a threat every time he enters a fight. How easily top-notch opponents can nullify his tricks is the question that will determine his effectiveness at the highest level.

    Before long, we'll see whether this apparent sensation is, or isn't, the real deal.

15. Phil Harris

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    Division: Flyweight

    MMA Record: 21-9-0

    Harris will make his UFC this October against Darren Uyenoyama. The Brit might be in tough for that match as both men like to press for submissions and Uyenoyama is more liable to sink one in.

    Still, Harris' arrival in the UFC was a long time coming and he'll look to make the most of the opportunity by pushing his current 5-fight win streak to six. 

    Historically, Harris has been inconsistent, stringing together win streaks before dropping consecutive contests. Now that he is on the big stage he'll need to run hot for awhile if he wants to parlay his promotional debut into continued mainstream recognition.

14. Jack Marshman

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    Division: Middleweight

    MMA Record: 11-1-0

    In addition to having a great last name, Marshman carries some heavy hands, which have led to eight knockout victories. Recently, he showed a new wrinkle to his game by submitting Andrew Punshon via triangle choke last weekend, on Sept.15.

    If Marshman hopes to turn his sterling at-home reputation into international notoriety, he'll have to hook up with a more influential organization than BAMMA. He would no doubt find some degree of success if given the opportunity.

    The only loss of Marshman's career came against Tom Watson, a fellow British middleweight who you will be introduced to shortly. 

13. Ronnie Mann

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    Division: Featherweight

    MMA Record: 21-5-1

    Mann had his first professional fight in 2003 when he was just 17 years old. Since that time, he has developed into a solid all-around fighter, currently in the employ of Bellator Fighting Championships.

    Though his record won't blow you away, it looks a little more impressive when you consider two of his losses were to Hatsu Hioki and Pat Curran, a pair that few fighters can claim wins over.

    While Mann has been around for a while now, he is still just 25 years old and is more likely to hit his stride than see his skills degenerate in the near future.

12. Che Mills

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    Division: Welterweight

    MMA Record: 14-5-0

    Mills is a one-dimensional striker but that dimension is pretty nasty.

    It's unlikely that it will ever be enough to get Mills very close to a UFC title but it does mean he'll probably put on some entertaining scraps for the promotion.

    Last time out, Mills was completely outmatched by Rory MacDonald, a result that will likely lead some to question his ranking on this list. But, what else was to be expected? Of course he got dominated. Even so, performing to expectation does not warrant a drop in any sort of rankings.

    Besides, it isn't as though Mills phoned in the MacDonald fight. To start the first and second rounds, he outstruck the Canadian dynamo, flashing flurries from his varied striking arsenal that makes him a legitimate danger to anyone willing to stand up with him.

11. Jim Wallhead

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    Division: Welterweight

    MMA Record: 23-6-0

    Wallhead is a 28-year-old journeyman who has lost just one time in his past 11 fights. Though he has not competed since 2010, he has a Bellator fight versus Lyman Good scheduled for Sept. 28.

    Formerly competing as high as light heavyweight, Wallhead now resides in the welterweight division where he will be working towards a shot at Ben Askren next year. 

    "Judo" is a well-rounded fighter, as evidenced by his seven knockouts, nine submissions and seven decision wins. He owns a victory over noted British striker Che Mills, which he scored back in 2009.

10. Ross Pearson

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    Division: Featherweight

    MMA Record: 13-6-0

    After winning The Ultimate Fighter and starting his UFC career 3-0 it appeared Pearson was destined for big things. Then he lost to Cole Miller and everything sort of went downhill from there.

    Over his past five contests Pearson is a pedestrian 2-3, having suffered a pair of stoppage losses. For his next fight he will take on George Sotiropoulos this December at UFC on FX 6.

    It is not inconceivable that Pearson turns things around and gets back to his winning ways, but with every fight, he looks less and less like the "The Real Deal." At this point, gatekeeper looks like the ceiling for the Brit.   

9. Terry Etim

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    Division: Lightweight

    MMA Record: 15-4-0

    Etim has carved out a spot for himself on the UFC's stacked lightweight roster, posting a 6-4 record with the promotion since 2007. 

    At 26 years of age, Etim most certainly has some fight left in him but, from what he has shown to this point, he is more likely to remain a lower-tier gatekeeper than emerge as a title challenger.

    That's not entirely a knock on the soft-spoken Brit, more of a commentary on the incredible depth of the UFC's 155 pound fighter stable.

    Etim does not have a fight scheduled for the near future, but he'll probably want to get back in the Octagon and erase the memory of being posterized by Edson Barboza via spinning wheel kick as soon as possible.

8. Tom Watson

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    Division: Middleweight 

    MMA Record: 15-4-0

    Watson has been a fixture on the British MMA circuit for the past several years and will get his shot at the big times when he debuts in the UFC later this September.

    Watson will hope that his heavy hands carry him through the fray when he takes on Brad Tavares in Nottingham, England. 

    With wins over Jon Maguire, Matt Horwich, Murilo Rua and Jack Marshman, "Kong" has proven himself a game competitor. Watching his transition to the UFC should be an interesting storyline to follow over the remainder of 2012 and into 2013.

7. John Maguire

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    Division: Welterweight

    MMA Record: 18-3-0

    Maguire owns a notable 2009 loss to Tom Watson, but really seems to have hit his stride of late, having reeled off seven straight wins since August, 2010. 

    The Englishman relies on a solid submission game to finish off his opponents, something he most recently did in April when he armbarred DaMarques Johnson.

    Maguire's next bout will come September 29, when he takes on fellow Brit, John Hathaway, on the neutral grounds of both men's native England. 

6. Paul Daley

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    Division: Welterweight

    MMA Record: 30-12-2

    One-dimensional, inconsistent, unfocused, immature—all adjectives commonly used to describe Paul Daley. 

    But despite these criticisms, Daley has managed to rise pretty high as a mixed martial artist, using his explosive striking to overcome his limited ground game.

    The peak of Daley's career came in 2010 when an invitation to the UFC culminated in a title eliminator against Josh Koscheck. Unfortunately, the Brit fell off pretty quick.

    Daley lost the match then blew his chance at redemption when he sucker punched Koscheck after the final bell.

    Since being released from the UFC by a scandalized Dana White, Daley has gone on to post a 7-3 record in various promotions.

5. Paul Sass

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    Division: Lightweight

    MMA Record: 13-0-0

    He doesn't have the tools of a lot of the guys ranked behind him on this list but he certainly wields the most dangerous.

    That, of course, would be his fabled triangle choke, which has been responsible for nine of his 13 career wins.

    Given Sass' heavy reliance on a single aspect of MMA there are questions about how he'll fare against the sport's top competition. But, until someone stops him from going to that fruitful well, why should he employ any other strategy?

    Sass' next fight will be opposite UFC veteran Matt Wiman. That contest will be a part of the UFC on Fuel TV 5 card, from England.

4. Dan Hardy

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    Division: Welterweight

    MMA Record: 24-10-0

    Though just 1-4 over his past five contests, Hardy remains near the top of the British MMA scene in both terms of fanfare and ability.

    Hardy has been saddled with some tough competition since rising up the UFC rankings and his record reflects that. Still, the Outlaw is a dangerous striker capable of finishing even the most hardened combatants.

    Though he probably won't ever land another title shot, nor seriously threaten a top welterweight contender, Hardy is a strong gatekeeper who embodies a tough contest for any opponent. 

    We've already seen his ceiling, so some of the aforementioned fighters like Paul Sass, John Maguire and Tom Watson may eclipse his star, but the chances are just as high that none make it to where Hardy made it. 

3. John Hathaway

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    Division: Welterweight

    MMA Record: 16-1-0

    Though not as well known as Dan Hardy, Hathaway has the better recent track record of the two, even if he hasn't had to deal with the strength of schedule on Hardy's plate.

    Despite lesser competition, the biggest name on the Hardy-Hathaway joint hit list might just be Diego Sanchez, who Hathaway obliterated back in 2010. Rick Story, another Hathaway victim, is up there too.

    Most recently, Hathaway put away German standout Pascal Krauss at UFC on FOX 3.

    At just 25 years of age, Hathaway will have plenty of time to make additions to his aforementioned hit list as he continues his ascend up the UFC's welterweight ladder. 

    Hathaway's next bout will be against fellow Brit John Maguire, on Sept. 29, at UFC on Fuel TV 5.

2. Brad Pickett

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    Division: Bantamweight

    MMA Record: 21-6-0

    Since 2008, Pickett has posted a healthy 10-2 record. During that time, he has scored victories over Demetrious Johnson, Ivan Menjivar and Damacio Page.

    Only Renan Barao and Scott Jorgensen have been able best the Brit within that time frame.

    In addition to finding success in the UFC's tough 135-pound weight class, Pickett has established himself as one of the more entertaining and exciting fighters the promotion fields. 

    His talents will next be on display at UFC on Fuel TV 5, when he combats Yves Jabouin on the soil of his native England. 

1. Michael Bisping

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    Division: Middleweight

    MMA Record: 22-4-0

    This should come as no surprise given Bisping's iconic position as the de facto face of British MMA. 

    Though the Count has not yet captured a UFC title, he is a perennial contender who seems endlessly on the verge of landing that elusive opportunity and has firmly entrenched himself as a consensus top-10 middleweight.

    Until another fighter from the UK makes some serious waves in a major promotion, Bisping will remain the nation's most accomplished and reputable mixed martial artist by a wide margin.

    Bisping will take on fellow 185-pound contender Brian Stann, Saturday, Sept. 22.

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