10 UFC Fighters That Are One Win Away from Being 'in the Mix'
When asked about the potential title aspirations of an up-and-coming fighter, UFC president Dana White commonly describes that person as being "in the mix."
Typically, a fighter in the mix is not next in line for a shot at a championship, but they are unofficially being considered for a future crack at the belt. Also, in the event of an injury to the top contender, an "in the mix" fighter is a prime candidate to replace him.
Being labeled "in the mix" is a high-pressure event. Should your next performance be spectacular, you're likely about to be groomed for a title opportunity. However, a less-than-impressive showing proves that you aren't ready for a shot at the big time.
Here is a look at 10 fighters who are only one win away from being considered "in the mix."
Currently, Team Alpha Male's TJ Dillashaw is amid a four-fight win streak inside the Octagon, and each performance has been more impressive than the last. The only thing missing from his current resume is a win over a world-ranked fighter.
As the No. 10 bantamweight in the UFC, Dillashaw has more than a few names sitting above him on the totem pole. However, four of those fighters are coming off of a loss and will be easy to pass.
Considering that there are few true contenders for the UFC Bantamweight Championship, getting into the mix at 135 pounds is a little easier at this point in time. Expect Dillashaw to get a booking against a Top 7 opponent next, and a win will have him in title talks by year's end.
Although some would consider Pat "Bam Bam" Healy to already be in the mix at lightweight, the fact that he was recently stripped of his biggest career win and suspended due to a failed drug test means he needs to earn his spot all over again.
Currently, Healy is ranked as the No. 9 lightweight under champion Benson Henderson. Considering the weight of Healy's performance against Jim Miller, there is no question that one more win puts Healy right where he needs to be.
Due to the incredibly shallow talent pool at 125 pounds, this slide was almost titled "Any Flyweight in the Division." After all, with only 14 guys, one impressive victory could help any fighter stand head and shoulders above his peers.
However, in hopes of avoiding a copout, I selected Ultimate Fighter contestant Louis Gaudinot as the flyweight closest to being considered "in the mix" without having earned this distinction previously.
Gaudinot finds himself ranked No. 6 in the division despite having only one win there. If anything, that should display how easy it is to jump in the flyweight rankings. With one more victory, the green-haired stud will be in a position envied by most.
There is something about a flawless record that is immediately marketable. No current champion, not even Anderson Silva himself, can boast the fact that he has never been defeated. For that reason, lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov has a competitive advantage over his divisional peers.
With wins over UFC mainstays Thiago Tavares and Gleison Tibau, Nurmagomedov has already proven that he is more than just a big fish in a small pond. In addition, the young Sambo master recently broke the UFC record for most takedowns in a single fight.
Should Khabib come out successful over a Top 5 opponent in his next fight, it's hard to imagine that his then-record of 21-0 wouldn't label him not only as "in the mix," but as a top contender as well.
Any Female Fighter
If you thought that the flyweight division was understaffed, wait until you get a look at the UFC women's bantamweight division. With only 13 women on the roster, the division has seen appearances from nearly half of it's participants despite only three fights having taken place.
No matter who you are, if you are a woman currently contracted to the UFC, let this be your motivation: One impressive win will put you into the spotlight and force the UFC to put their marketing machine firmly behind you.
It may seem odd to think of Cub Swanson as not being "in the mix" at featherweight, but at this point in time, it's true. Should Swanson's name be announced in a title matchup, there would be tremendous uproar.
For anyone following the division, you are aware by now that both Ricardo Lamas and Chan Sung Jung have been skipped over while forced to watch lightweights Frankie Edgar and Anthony Pettis come down and steal the title shot that they have already earned.
Not only are those guys clearly at the top of the contender list, but former contender Chad Mendes is also unwilling to cede his spot for someone like Swanson.
With Lamas and the Korean Zombie scheduled to meet, one of them will soon drop out of contendership, while the winner will likely get a title shot. That would put Swanson one fight away from being in the mix and two fights away from a crack at the belt.
Costa Philippou is in a similar position to TJ Dillashaw. Despite losing his UFC debut, the Greek Cypriot has been on a hot streak as of late, and has some quality wins under his belt to prove it.
However, the five-fight winning streak possessed by the Serra-Longo student doesn't quite match the credentials of his middleweight peers. It will take a solid win at the expense of a UFC mainstay before Philippou is considered "in the mix."
Currently, Philippou is ranked No. 6 in the division. He earned this ranking most recently by defeating Tim Boetsch by TKO in December.
Rafael Dos Anjos
Do you guys remember the UFC debut of Rafael dos Anjos? You know, that fight where Jeremy Stephens unloaded an uppercut that would have made Ryu from Street Fighter jealous.
It's hard to believe that he is the same guy who is slowly and quietly building his way to title contention.
With wins in eight of his last 10 appearances, the Brazilian is currently riding the momentum of four consecutive victories. And, although his last win was hotly disputed as one of the worst decisions in recent memory, the 28-year-old currently sits as the No. 10 lightweight.
At UFC on Fox Sports 1 #2, dos Anjos will meet No. 6 contender Donald Cerrone in the evening's co-main event. Considering that the last two men to defeat Cerrone received title shots, dos Anjos is staring at his ticket to the big time.
With the momentum of five consecutive wins on his back, Matt Brown went from the chopping block to the penthouse in less than 18 months. Most recently, the Ultimate Fighter stud turned in a thriller against top prospect Jordan Mein, which earned Fight of the Night honors.
Due to his tendency to exclusively fight unranked opponents, Brown himself isn't ranked. While his next opponent, Thiago Alves, is also unranked, his history as a former title challenger makes this the biggest fight of Brown's career.
Considering that the welterweight division is one of the most clouded divisions in all of mixed martial arts, the fact that Brown could see his name pop up in the middle of title talks is incredible.
Wrestling standout Phil Davis was once considered to be "in the mix." However, that status vanished following a one-sided beatdown received at the hands of Rashad Evans in early 2012.
The loss was so bad that Davis was demoted from the main event on FOX to a preliminary card matchup against a promotional newcomer. Ironically, that fight was ruled a no contest, which left "Mr. Wonderful" winless for 18 months.
Since that time, Davis has secured back-to-back victories and is now the No. 8 light heavyweight on the planet.
While the memory of his loss to Rashad is still fresh on our minds, Davis has the chance replace it in his next fight. He is currently scheduled to meet No. 1 contender Lyoto Machida at UFC 163 in August.