15 UFC Fighters Brimming with Untapped Potential

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

15 UFC Fighters Brimming with Untapped Potential

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    The UFC possesses some of the most promising athletes in the world.

    As long as these gifted fighters continue to shuffle into the organization, the UFC's depth and ability to provide exciting fights will continue to maturate.

    Sure, some fighters have busted onto the scene quicker than others, but that's not to say those leftover aren't making their case for improved arsenals.

    Here are 15 UFC fighters brimming with untapped potential and destined for divisional contention in the near future.

John Moraga

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    When a flyweight possesses one-punch KO power, the division better be on its toes.

    The bottom line is that John Moraga can flat-out fight. His recent first-round destruction of Ulysses Gomez proved just that.

    As long as the 28-year-old can improve his overall standup and continue to showcase a sound ground game, he should have no problem building on an already impressive 11-1 professional record.

Marcus Brimage

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    Marcus "The Bama Beast" Brimage is truly an animal inside the Octagon.

    He's powerful, smart and possesses explosive hands. The only problem is that all three of his UFC victories have gone to the judges.

    Regardless, at 27 years of age, Brimage is one of the most promising fighters in the featherweight division.

    He should definitely see an upgrade in competition after beating down Jimy Hettes at UFC 152 on the back of 111 total strikes.

Matthew Riddle

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    Many people overlook Matthew Riddle's potential solely because he's known as the "silly dude" from the seventh season of The Ultimate Fighter.

    On the contrary, Riddle may be an easy going guy outside of the cage, but he's a killer inside of it. He touts a sick submission game and respectable power.

    Not to mention, all 10 of his professional fights have been in the UFC. That's fairly impressive.

Nam Phan

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    As one of the most soundly technical boxers in the featherweight division, hard hitting Nam Phan has a lot to look forward to.

    His record may not indicate his true maturation since his days on the 12th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but don't be fooled. Phan can flat-out bang and his professional experience makes up for a lackluster wrestling game.

    If the 29-year-old can improve his takedown defense, he should be able to string more wins together within an evolving weight class.

Bryan Caraway

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    Dropping down from featherweight to bantamweight may be the greatest career decision Bryan "Kid Lightning" Caraway will ever make.

    The fact of the matter is, Caraway was unable to utilize his suffocating grappling skills against bigger and stronger opponents at 145 pounds. 

    In just one fight at his new weight, the 28-year-old has showcased some serious ground and pound ability.

    Going forward, it's key for Caraway to keep his focus and improve his hands. If he can do that, the sky's the limit.

Michael Johnson

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    Everybody knows how good Michael Johnson can be.

    His striking is vastly improving and his athletic wrestling pedigree has enabled him to keep fights standing.

    As long as "The Menace" can keep his hands going and stay away from everything submission-related, his true potential will show over the next 12 months.

    He's scheduled to take on the formidable Danny Castillo next week at UFC on FX: Browne vs. Silva.

Andrew Craig

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    Currently undefeated in his professional career at 8-0 (2-0 in the UFC), middleweight Andrew Craig has become one of the better prospects in the organization.

    He's gritty, possesses an admirable chin and composes himself as if a world-class veteran.

    At 26 years old, his overall game is relatively unpolished, but if Craig can keep winning fights, his skill set will improve along the way.

Sam Sicilia

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    Sometimes, power is all you need.

    In Sam Sicilia's case, that's never more true.

    It may be slightly premature, considering The Ultimate Fighter alum has only fought once in the UFC, but Sicilia's power could lead him to title contention somewhere down the line.

    With great cardio, a solid wrestling game and natural finishing instincts, the 26-year-old's potential speaks for itself.

Shawn Jordan

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    Quite possibly the most athletic heavyweight in the UFC today, former-LSU fullback Shawn "The Savage" Jordan has the MMA world at his fingertips.

    People already know who Jordan is so his potential is relatively skewed alongside other guys on this list.

    However, the 27-year-old is only getting better. A recent loss to veteran Cheick Kongo will surely give Jordan the perspective he needs to improve his cardio, takedown ability and striking techniques.

    He should have no problem rebounding in fashion.

Paul Sass

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    For some reason, England's Paul Sass is relatively unmentioned in discussions about the most promising young athletes in the UFC today.

    In retrospect, it's borderline impossible to ignore a guy who has won each of his three UFC fights by way of first-round submission.

    Not to mention, a guy who has never lost in his professional career (13-0).

    Whenever it may be, the 24-year-old will have his day to shine. He may even be the second-coming of Michael Bisping, as far as international appeal goes, within the lightweight division.

Brad Tavares

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    Middleweight prospect and semifinalist on the 11th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Brad Tavares is the epitome of potential.

    With respectable striking, KO power and four tough UFC fights under his belt, the 24-year-old has nowhere to go but up.

    If Tavares can improve his wrestling and pickup some submission techniques on the way, he should have no problem finishing fights.

Steven Siler

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    To be honest, Steven Siler probably has some of the worst punching power in the UFC featherweight division.

    However, what Siler lacks in his hands, he surely makes up for with his submission ability.

    A total of 13 of his 21 professional wins have come by submission.

    The funny thing is, "Super" doesn't command a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he just uses his length to put opponents in vicarious positions on the ground.

    Considering he's strung together three straight UFC victories, the 25-year-old seems to be the real deal.

Dennis Bermudez

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    Out of every fighter on this list, regardless of weight class, featherweight Dennis Bermudez might possess the most potential.

    He may have lost to Diego Brandao on the finale of the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but in hindsight, Bermudez is the more well-rounded fighter.

    With awesome wrestling, outstanding cardio, powerful ground and pound and timed submissions, the 25-year-old has all the keys to someday contend for a title.

    If he can keep his cool early in his fights and not try to brawl once the cage door shuts, Bermudez should see his win column explode over the next few years.

Mike Easton

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    Mike Easton is arguably the biggest name on this list, but that doesn't mean the current bantamweight contender doesn't have room for improvement.

    The bottom line is that the UFC world hasn't seen the best that Easton can offer. He just simply hasn't ended fights the way he's capable of ending them.

    Once "The Hulk" puts it all together, Dominick Cruz could be without his belt by the end of 2013.

Ryan Jimmo

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    Canada's Ryan Jimmo has exploded onto the UFC map.

    His debut KO over Anthony Perosh at UFC 149, which took a grand total of seven seconds, was everything a striker like Jimmo could ask for.

    However, considering his UFC career hasn't even eclipsed a total round, crowning him the next big thing may be a bit too much.

    With that said, as long as Jimmo doesn't blow his next fight, he should have no trouble climbing the light heavyweight ladder on the back of his powerful hands, strong counter-striking and overall athleticism.

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