Though just 24, 2012 was supposed to be Koch's year. Unfortunately, an injury interceded and forced him out of a title fight with Jose Aldo.
But don't sleep on the youngster in 2013—he may or may not receive an automatic title shot, but the chances are good he'll compete for UFC gold one way or another before December 31.
Appropriately nicknamed "New Breed," Koch is as athletic, explosive and well-rounded as they come, effectively embodying the new era of mixed martial artist. These attributes will make him a serious title player at featherweight for years to come, and he isn't likely to wait before making a great big splash, even if he has to wait in the wings for Frankie Edgar to have a go at it.
Of course, taking out a champ like Aldo is no menial task, so projecting a title win for Koch might be premature. But rest assured, he'll, at the very least, put up a more competitive effort than a lot of people think.
Other 2013 Featherweight Contenders:
Frankie Edgar - Recently a lightweight champion, Edgar was ushered into a featherweight title shot upon his arrival in the division. Alas, fate intervened and opponent Jose Aldo withdrew from the contest because of injury. It will eventually happen though, probably in 2013.
Chan Sung Jung - He's been on the shelf for awhile, but the "Korean Zombie" remains very much in the UFC featherweight title picture. It's hard to believe Sung Jung won't get a shot before the end of 2013.
Cub Swanson - He had an absolutely electric 2012. If he keeps the pace, he'll parlay that into a 2013 title shot.
Ricardo Lamas - Since defeating Swanson in 2011, Lamas upset Hatsu Hioki, positioning himself within striking distance of a title shot. Perhaps he'll finish the run next year.
Chad Mendes - Though only one win removed from a failed title shot, Mendes remains at the top of the UFC featherweight class, and could re-engage a champ in 2013. More likely though, 2014 will be his year.