Johny Hendricks will have the chance to challenge for an UFC title if he can defeat Martin Kampmann at UFC 154. Hendricks has a list of accomplishments both in and out of MMA, but a look at his resume will reveal the man hasn't faced elite level competition for very long.
The KO of Jon Fitch was impressive, but that momentum seemed to be lost after a controversial win over Josh Koscheck in May. Mike Pierce is a tough guy too, but a split decision isn't what you want to attempt to impress Dana White and Joe Silva with.
Still, regardless of how you look at it, Hendricks is on the verge of a title shot and joins a number of guys who seemingly came out of nowhere to challenge for an UFC title. Some strung together quite a few wins like Hendricks to move up the ladder while others earned their shot based on the demand of MMA fans.
No matter how they earned it, these guys are some of the most unlikely title challengers in UFC history.
Johny Hendricks is a hell of a fighter, there's no denying that. Still, if you would've asked a MMA fan pre-UFC 141 if Hendricks would be possibly challenging for an UFC title in the near future, they may have needed a moment to look him up on Wikipedia.
Hendricks has strung together a number of solid wins over good competition, but didn't get the recognition of a fighter who had won 11 of his first 12 professional MMA fights before the Jon Fitch bout. All it took, however, was one punch from Hendricks, and he became an instant star.
He was expected to be more than capable enough of dealing with an aging Josh Koscheck in May, but eeked out a split decision that left many questioning who really won the fight. Hendricks will have a chance to erase that bad memory when he faces Martin Kampmann at UFC 154.
Randy Couture will always be one of the most popular stars to ever compete in the UFC. It's that distinction that placed him in a title fight against Tim Sylvia at UFC 68.
Couture was coming off the loss to Chuck Liddell in their rubber match in which "The Natural" said he was stepping away from the sport. It capped an ugly run in the UFC in which Couture alternated wins and losses after defeating Tito Ortiz for the title at UFC 44.
Sylvia was the king of the heavyweight division, amassing a 23-2 record, and had successfully defended the heavyweight title twice since defeating Andrei Arlovski. Sylvia seemed to have all the advantages, as he was the bigger fighter in both weight and height.
None of the advantages possessed by Sylvia seemed to phase Couture, as "The Natural" dropped the champion with his first punch of the fight. The rest of the fight saw Couture controlling every facet of the game en route to one of the most unlikely title victories from one of the most unlikely title challengers.
Brock Lesnar had all the fame and money in the world when he transitioned to MMA. Both helped contribute to his meteoric (sorry Mike Goldberg) rise in the MMA world. Lesnar's money allowed him to build a core group of some of the best coaches and training partners possible.
His fame propelled Lesnar into big money fights far before his skills were up to the challenge. Lesnar impressed fans by nearly taking out former UFC champion Frank Mir in just his second MMA fight, but after completely demolishing Heath Herring, Lesnar found himself against another former champ.
The fight against Randy Couture made absolutely zero sense in the terms of MMA as a sport. Couture was an established star who had years of experience to his credit, while Lesnar was the new kid on the block with only three professional fights. Yet, the fans were demanding that the two met and Dana White catered to the fans' needs at UFC 91.
Couture performed admirably given the huge size discrepancy but ultimately lost to Lesnar in the second round of their fight.
Dan Hardy had a nice seven-fight winning streak going into his battle with Georges St-Pierre at UFC 111, but was there any doubt as to who would have their hand raised at the end of this contest?
Hardy certainly created some doubt as he went on a tear through the media attempting to prop himself up as the conquering hero sent to save us from GSP's snuggy style of fighting. Hardy promised fans he would put his hands on GSP's chin, but those claims never came to fruition.
Hardy spent almost the entire fight on his back as St-Pierre controlled the action from bell to bell.
It should've came as no surprise to UFC fans considering how Hardy earned his title shot. After dropping an aging Rory Markham at UFC 95, Hardy engaged in a tightly contested fight with his rival at the time, Marcus Davis. Hardy's win over Mike Swick at UFC 105 was a signature win, but one solid win in the UFC doesn't constitute as a title challenger in my book.
Almost as unlikely as Hardy's title shot were the people who believed "The Outlaw" could stop the best of the best at 170 pounds.
There are very few men who have had a more checkered past in MMA history than Chael Sonnen. After spending years meddling in the middle of the pack, Sonnen exploded on the UFC radar by taking out Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt to earn a crack at Anderson Silva's title.
Sonnen talked a big game going in, with very few buying into the idea of him having any success against "The Spider." Sonnen not only had success but came within minutes of being crowned the new UFC champion.
His first title challenge seemed unlikely, but that has been out done by Sonnen's current bid at an UFC title. Sonnen will face the king of the light heavyweight division, Jon Jones, in April 2013. Sonnen hasn't competed at 205 pounds in years, and is coming off an ugly loss to Silva at UFC 148.
He also leapfrogged a number of worthy title contenders by having no issues with stepping up to face Jones. Sonnen's ability to trash talk and hype a fight is what gave him the shot at Jones' title in April. If this fight does go through with no injury concerns, Sonnen could quite possibly be the most shocking title contender in UFC history.