Eddie Wineland, Mark Hunt and the 5 Most Surprising UFC Title Contenders
Wineland, who is currently the No. 5 bantamweight in the UFC, lost his first two bouts for the promotion in 2011 when he fell short in decisions to Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez. Since then, he has won back-to-back fights against Scott Jorgensen and Brad Pickett.
No disrespect for Wineland, who has been a top competitor within the division for years and is coming off perhaps the biggest win of his career over Brad Pickett at UFC 155, but considering that he has only won half of his past four fights, the decision to give him a title fight was a bit surprising to some.
Nevertheless, Wineland is a former WEC bantamweight champion and is very confident in his ability to reclaim his throne. In fact, he already warned Barao that he is coming to take the title.
Wineland isn't the only one who is gunning for a title at the moment that most wouldn't have predicted, however. Here are four other rather surprising contenders on the UFC roster.
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A legend of the sport, many thought that Mark Hunt's best days were already behind him by the time he signed with the UFC in 2010. He was on a five-fight losing streak at the time and lost his Octagon debut against Sean McCorkle at UFC 119.
Since that night, Hunt has been one of the hottest fighters in the entire sport. He has won four straight bouts, including a crushing knockout against Stefan Struve at UFC on Fuel 8.
The #RallyForHunt Twitter bandwagon began almost immediately following the announcement that Alistair Overeem was pulling out of his scheduled UFC 160 fight with Junior dos Santos. Fans jumped on board, attempting to get the "Super Samoan" on the card as Overeem's replacement.
It now appears as though Overeem and dos Santos will be moved to another date, but Hunt's impressive winning streak as well as the massive support he has received from fans may put him in serious title contention sooner than we could have ever imagined.
One of the most surprising possible championship contenders has to be UFC newcomer Cat Zingano, who will be fighting former Strikeforce women's bantamweight champion Miesha Tate at the next The Ultimate Fighter season finale in her very first UFC bout. The winner is expected to get the next title fight against Ronda Rousey at some point.
Not only has Zingano not fought in the UFC before, she hasn't competed in any Zuffa-owned promotion, which makes it all the more interesting that she has been pushed into such a high-profile fight so quickly.
Then again, given the lack of depth in the division at the moment, there really weren't many other obvious options to be the next challenger for Rousey.
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At 13-1 in his career with his only loss coming at the hands of fellow flyweight top contender John Dodson, John Moraga still has to be considered one of the more unexpected title contenders as we move further into 2013.
Moraga has won each of his two UFC fights in impressive fashion, but his name is still relatively unknown by the casual fans of the sport. Even some who follow the sport more closely will probably have never seen Moraga compete by the time he competes against current 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson at or around UFC 161.
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After a long feud with UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva ended in two losses to the Brazilian, many believed that Chael Sonnen would fade back out of the spotlight and into a role as more of a gatekeeper for the division.
Not so fast.
Sonnen kept his name on all of the MMA websites by immediately turning his attention to another top fighter—UFC light heavyweight champion Jon "Bones" Jones.
Jones took the bait and it wasn't long before the two were booked as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter and in a title fight at UFC 159.
Despite having not competed at 205 pounds in nearly eight years, Sonnen now has a chance to be considered the top light heavyweight in the world. All he has to do is beat a guy who has never tasted defeat.
That should be no problem, though, right?