We continue our "Prospects the UFC Should Sign" series, which will take us division by division, breaking down the top prospects who should be signed by the company.
The lightweight division arguably has the deepest pool of talent in the UFC at this current time. Ruled by Benson Henderson, the division is stocked with top-level guys who at any moment could catapult themselves up the ranks from a lower mid-card level.
Here are five lightweights that the UFC should ink as a means of continuing to develop top-level prospects.
Note: Here is last year's top-five list. Of the five, none were signed by the UFC.
Last Fight: Unanimous decision victory vs. Ryan Healy
There are two very solid reasons why the UFC should sign Canadian Jesse Ronson. The first is because of his high-level skills, and the second is because of his awesome nickname, "The Body Snatcher."
Ronson has made a name for himself winning some big fights in his native land of Canada, utilizing six knockouts and three submissions to score a 75 percent finishing rate. In his 12 wins, Ronson has defeated UFC employee Pat Healy's brother Ryan, Alex Ricci and Tony Hervey.
The kid has wicked power and a respectable ground game. Plus, at age 27, his best years are still ahead of him.
Last Fight: Submission victory vs. Kurt Southern
Brazil is home to many top-level fighters, but there are few better prospects at lightweight in the South American country than Jonatas Novaes. The 31-year-old grappling ace has made more than a few appearances on American soil and looked impressive in doing so.
Of his 11 wins, eight have come via tapout. "Peixe Frito" owns big-time wins over the likes of Kurt Southern, Drew Fickett and Ryan Thomas (Fickett and Thomas are UFC veterans).
His weapon of choice so far has been the armbar, utilizing the technique to near perfection. The UFC needs to jump on this guy before he gets anchored with another organization.
Last Fight: Submission victory vs. Yui Chul Nam
A veteran of the Legend FC promotion in Asia, Jadamba Narantungalag is one of the best lightweights currently fighting in the Far East. The Mongolian wrestler has righted the ship after losing his first two professional MMA bouts to shoot off eight victories.
He utilizes a top-heavy attack, forcing opponents to deal with his wrestling, ground-and-pound and submission attack. Half of his wins have come via submission, with his biggest win to date coming against Japanese standout Akihiro Gono.
As the UFC expands into China and other potentially prosperous markets, this Mongolian may be a valuable marketing tool in attracting rambunctious crowds. He must get past Japanese fighter Koji Ando in his next outing with Legend FC.
Last Fight: Unanimous decision win vs. Luis Palomino
Brazil's Luiz Firmino has come on strong as of late, taking on top competition with relatively successful efforts. The 31-year-old Firmino is hard to call a prospect, especially considering that he is a veteran of the prestigious Pride organization.
"Buscape" is known for his top-level submission game and all-around grappling chops. The tough Brazilian owns notable wins over the following fighters: Bellator veterans Luis Palomino and Toby Imada, The Ultimate Fighter veteran Johnavan Vistante, Japanese standouts Masakazu Imanari and Kazuyuki Miyata and regional standout Ryan Healy.
That kind of resume cannot be ignored for much longer.
Last Fight: Unanimous decision win vs. Toby Imada
James Krause, known humorously as "The James Krause," was given a shot with the UFC when he was eliminated in the opening round of The Ultimate Fighter: Live. However, he came out flat and was not able to show his top-level ability.
At just 26 years of age, Krause is a veteran of 23 professional fights. The RFA, Bellator and WEC veteran has finished 17 of his victories and has beaten the likes of Toby Imada, Joe Jordan, Amir Khillah, Ran Weathers and UFC employee Michael Johnson.
Krause should be given another opportunity to show he belongs. He is exciting and could be a potential mainstay at 155 pounds.