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MMA Contenders and Pretenders That Will Be Revealed in May

Nathan McCarterFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2013

MMA Contenders and Pretenders That Will Be Revealed in May

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    Major MMA events are few and far between in the month of May, but that may be a blessing after a hectic April.

    No Bellator, no Invicta, and only two UFC events are showcased in the month.

    The leader of MMA comes forward with one free event and one on PPV. UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Rockhold and UFC 160 will find their way to television screens on the 18th and 25th, respectively. You have plenty of time to plan your parties.

    Even with only two events, there are plenty of contenders and pretenders on the cards. They will ultimately be revealed when the action starts. This is a look at just who these men are.

Contender: Jussier Formiga

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    Jussier "Formiga" da Silva is currently ranked fifth in the official UFC rankings, but his initial showing inside the Octagon left a lot fans wondering why he was so highly ranked.

    He was completely dominated by John Dodson. But it is important to remember it was his first fight inside the Octagon. He will fare much better with his second trip.

    Chris Cariaso will be his opponent.

    Cariaso poses some unique challenges, but it is without question a step down from Dodson. Formiga does not have to deal with the power and speed of Dodson in this contest. The Brazilian will enter as a sizable favorite, and should come away with his hand raised.

    He will meet Cariaso at UFC on FX and show just why he is a contender in the flyweight division.

Contender: John Lineker

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    John Lineker dropped his UFC debut via a guillotine choke, but he rebounded with a unanimous decision against Yasuhiro Urushitani.

    Lineker is currently ranked eighth in the flyweight division.

    The division is still growing, and a win over the likes of Azamat Gashimov will make him a viable contender in the division. This is not the welterweight division with a long list of amazing contenders. Two wins will move him into a good position.

    Lineker had won 13 straight before his Octagon debut, but now with that out of the way, he'll start putting another streak together with his second straight win. Lineker is an exciting flyweight contender.

Contender: Winner of Hacran Dias vs. Nik Lentz

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    Both of these featherweights are impressive. Nik Lentz has earned himself a spot in the rankings at No. 10.

    We have not seen Hacran Dias since last June. He has won nine straight fights which includes his UFC debut against Yuri Alcantara.

    The winner of this fight will not only be in the next UFC rankings, but they will be seen as a potential title contender with another win or two. The featherweight division is quickly becoming one of the most stacked in all of MMA.

    No matter if one fighter has a dominating performance, the other will not be a pretender. This fight will be a case of who can control where the fight takes place. The winner emerges as another premier contender in the division.

Pretender: Rafael dos Anjos

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    Three straight contenders on the UFC on FX card, but it is not until the main card until we get to a pretender.

    Rafael dos Anjos has won three straight in the lightweight division, but none have been over contenders. Former contender who turned out to be a pretender Evan Dunham will give him a big test.

    Dos Anjos may in fact win this fight, but in the process, he will be exposed.

    Anyone who thinks he is becoming a title contender in the division will pull the reins back after this fight. Dos Anjos is currently ranked No. 10 in the division, but he is a step below the actual contenders.

Pretender: Costa Philippou

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    Costa Philippou may be the biggest pretender going right now.

    He is 5-1 in the UFC with five straight wins. None more impressive than his TKO of Tim Boetsch. However, he is simply not the sixth best fighter in the division, where he is currently ranked.

    Philippou will be taking on Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza at UFC on FX, and he will quickly see what the elite of the division looks like. Jacare will submit him.

    If, by chance, Philippou gets past Jacare, I will happily eat crow. It is simply a tall task I do not think he is currently capable of. He's not a contender. The 33-year-old is a gatekeeper in the division. It is an important role. Get past him, and you are a contender.

Contender: Luke Rockhold

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    The main event of UFC on FX features a key middleweight bout between Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold.

    Make no mistake about it, my labeling of Rockhold as a contender is not picking him to win this fight. I am still on the fence concerning this matchup. Just know that a loss will not make him a pretender.

    We know Belfort is a contender. He is an exceptional talent that we have seen compete against the very best for years. How many have nearly beaten Jon Jones? And Belfort is coming off a TKO of Michael Bisping.

    Rockhold will be competitive in this fight, win or lose. He will show in this fight why he was the Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, and why he is a legit threat in the division. He may not win this particular fight, but he is clearly one of the top in this weight class.

    For the UFC fans who have not had the privilege of watching him fight, you will be surprised at the talent hidden away in Strikeforce.

Pretender: Khabib Nurmagomedov

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    Khabib Nurmagomedov is undefeated. 19-0 and 3-0 in the UFC. That is impressive, but he is not yet a contender.

    Do not sleep on Abel Trujillo. That's who Nurmagomedov will meet at UFC 160.

    Much like the Rafael dos Anjos fight, this matchup will show the difference between the elite lightweights and the next step down. Nurmagomedov just isn't quite there, but he is a nice prospect to keep an eye on.

    Nurmagomedov's grappling could very well be the difference in this fight. I am just not expecting an easy win that makes you believe Nurmagomedov is ready to be a contender in 2013.

Pretenders: Gray Maynard & TJ Grant

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    I know what you are saying: "The winner of this fight will be the next contender for the belt. So, why does this say they are pretenders?"

    They are listed as pretenders because after this fight, there will not be anyone thinking they have a legitimate chance to beat Benson Henderson. It is not a lightweight title fight that will enthuse anyone. Harsh, but true.

    This is a big test for TJ Grant, and Gray Maynard is a top lightweight. They just are not good matchups against Henderson, and this fight will not do anything to make fans want to buy the potential PPV.

    Technically, you can say they are contenders by virtue of actually challenging for the belt. This fight will do nothing to make you believe they actually have a chance to wear gold, and that's why they are pretenders.

    If the winner of this fight goes on to win the lightweight championship you can ridicule me later, but I highly doubt you'll get that chance.

Pretender: Mark Hunt

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    Mark Hunt has had a lot of fans rallying for him. I, too, have been loving his resurgence. However, I'm realistic.

    Hunt has had favorable matchups and avoided some bad spots. When he takes on Junior dos Santos, he will look like the mid-level heavyweight he is. The former champion will make him look bad.

    There is always the chance Hunt could land one fight-altering shot, but it is unlikely in this particular fight.

    Hunt will have his chance to prove everyone wrong, and build an even bigger rallying fanbase. Dos Santos will put a swift stop to all of this at UFC 160.

Pretender: Bigfoot Silva

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    Yes, he is fighting for the title. So, why is he here?

    Did you watch UFC 146? That is going to happen again.

    For those of you that missed it, Bigfoot Silva already fought Cain Velasquez back at UFC 146. He didn't just get dominated, he got obliterated. He was a bloody mess, and he did nothing in that fight to even give you an inkling that he could challenge Velasquez.

    He can't.

    This is going to be a violent repeat of their first fight. Velasquez is going to maul Silva one more time, just as easily, for his first defense of his heavyweight crown.

    Silva is a pretender. It's just a shame Velasquez has to re-prove it in a title match not many are clamoring to see.

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