8 Sleeper Picks Who Will Contend for UFC Titles in 2013
Sometimes, the next title contenders are obvious in a division. Take heavyweight for example: After Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez do battle, if Alistair Overeem is victorious in his fight against Antonio Silva, you know that Overeem will be fighting for the heavyweight title.
Sometimes it's not so obvious, and an unknown comes up to fight for the title in almost no time. Nate Diaz is a perfect example. In 2011, he had just lost two straight at welterweight and decided to come back down to lightweight. Then, he won three straight and will be fighting for the lightweight title in just two weeks.
He was a sleeper pick for a title fight in 2012. Let's take a look at some sleeper picks for 2013.
Flyweight: John Moraga
The flyweight division is rather weak to begin with at the moment. You have Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez, Ian McCall and John Dodson at the top of the division, and then everyone else.
John Moraga has a chance to make a run at the title in 2013. He is 11-1 in his career, and his only loss came to current No. 1 contender, John Dodson.
His next fight is against Chris Cariaso at UFC 155, and if he pulls out the win, he will be only one or two wins away from a title shot.
Bantamweight: Urijah Faber
He's not exactly a sleeper pick, but nobody is talking about Urijah Faber in 2013.
Faber was last seen in action at UFC 149 where he dropped a decision in an interim title fight to Renan Barao. He will be back in action at UFC 156 taking on Vaughan Lee.
It's an interesting fight for Faber, as he usually fights the top tier opponents, and Lee is not exactly at the same level as Dominick Cruz and Barao.
Should Faber beat Lee, one more win after that will probably earn him yet another title shot.
Featherweight: Ricardo Lamas
Ricardo Lamas is the best featherweight that no one is talking about. Lamas is 3-0 since joining the UFC and has earned three big victories.
In his debut, he knocked out Matt Grice inside of one round. In his next fight, he submitted Cub Swanson with an arm-triangle and earned submission of the night in the process.
In his most recent fight, he earned a decision over a fighter who was considered by many to be in the top five of the division, Hatsu Hioki.
Next up he will face Erik Koch in what should be a No. 1 contender fight. After that he should be next in line for a title shot.
Lightweight: Donald Cerrone
Donald Cerrone is 6-1 in his UFC career. He won four straight fights since joining the UFC, then lost a decision to Nate Diaz. Since that time he has won two more, looking very impressive in the process.
Everybody is talking about Nate Diaz, Gray Maynard and Anthony Pettis at lightweight, but they all seem to be overlooking Cerrone.
A win against Pettis in his next fight will put him in line for either a No. 1 contender fight or a title shot.
Welterweight: Demian Maia
During his time at welterweight, Demian Maia has amassed a total of three minutes and 17 seconds in the cage. During that time he has won two fights, one by TKO and one by submission.
Maia walked through Rick Story and was the first person to ever finish him in his career. Story even fought Martin Kampmann for 15 tough minutes. Nobody finished Story though.
Maia took him out with no problem, and with his outstanding jiu-jitsu and strength in the welterweight division, he is a serious threat to anyone.
One or two big wins will put him in line for a title shot.
Middleweight: Alan Belcher
Alan Belcher receives the least attention of any contender in the middleweight division. Belcher is on a four fight winning streak with four finishes. In his last seven fights, Belcher is 6-1, with his lone loss being a split decision to Yoshihiro Akiyama.
Belcher will face Yushin Okami in his next fight, and with an impressive showing, he will likely get a fight with a top contender.
Light Heavyweight: Glover Teixeira
Light heavyweight is one of the most talked-about divisions, which makes a sleeper pick difficult to find. However, Glover Teixeira is probably the least talked about contender in the division.
Teixeira trains with Chuck Liddell and has years of experience in MMA. He has lethal hands and deadly jiu-jitsu, which makes him a tough out for anyone.
Teixeira contending for the title in 2013 might be a bit of a stretch, but who'd have thought we'd see Chael Sonnen fight for the title in 2013?
Heavyweight: Fabricio Werdum
Heavyweight is at no shortage of contenders these days. There are several guys in line to fight for the title, but they have to fight in the meantime.
Fabricio Werdum has a real chance to fight for the title in 2013. Should several top contenders fall or should Werdum perform extraordinarily well in his early fights in 2013, he could be fighting for the title by the end of the year.
Tim McTiernan is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. For the latest news on everything MMA, follow him on Twitter @TimMcTiernan.