Who Is the Future of Each UFC Weight Class?
The future is bright for the UFC. In the past, it has combined home-grown talent with outside stars and created one of the most prolific, showstopping spectacles in the Milky Way.
But what it needs most is certainty. It needs to know that each and every one of its superstar-rich divisions is being managed accordingly.
For this to happen, one distinguished and significant athlete needs to step up and take the reins in each division. They must transcend their respective weight classes, map their own courses and dictate the rungs on the divisional ladders.
Fortunately for the UFC, these names are already gracing the roster. Whether they've already reached their potential or are destined to peak in the future, they're there.
Women's Bantamweight: Ronda Rousey
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Ronda Rousey is as good as her historic submission success and undefeated professional record indicate.
Based on that, she's the obvious candidate to lead a freshly founded and highly motivated women's bantamweight work force.
Rousey not only became the first woman to win inside the Octagon when she defended her predetermined UFC championship opposite Liz Carmouche back in February, but she's also currently scheduled to serve as a new coach on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.
That type of exposure and evolving promise gets noticed in a world often dictated by the question "What have you done for me lately?"
Rousey will certainly remain the division's titleholder if she can continue to harness the drive and determination that have made her an international sensation in such short time.
Flyweight: Joseph Benavidez
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Some are going to be put off about this, but Joseph Benavidez, not Demetrious Johnson, is the future of the UFC flyweight division.
Sure, the current champion is one of the quickest fighters on the planet, but his recent output has been too close to call. That said, it's very unlikely he's going to keep the belt for too much longer.
Once Benavidez gets his hands back on "Mighty Mouse," he'll finally live up to the elite hype that accompanied him when he made his promotional debut back in 2011.
More or less, the division was built for him.
Bantamweight: Michael McDonald
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The natural power Michael McDonald possesses in both of his hands is incomparable to nearly any of the UFC's contracted bantamweights.
With this special talent, if you want to call it talent, "Mayday" consistently sports an advantage over even the best contenders in the division.
What makes the young star even more interesting is the fact that he's already tasted championship defeat at the age of 22. That should allow McDonald to evolve as a complete fighter not only physically but also mentally.
Also, with the careers of Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz either on the ropes or on the decline, a rematch with Renan Barao sometime in 2014 is inevitable for the talented youngster.
Featherweight: Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor seems like an unlikely choice to lead a growing featherweight division, but when you consider the possibility that Jose Aldo could ignite a move to lightweight, and top contenders like Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes are nearly 30, the Irish phenom poses a serious and immediate threat.
The 24-year-old has competed in only one fight inside the UFC's Octagon, but the essence of his skill set has been witnessed nonetheless.
If McGregor can maintain his maturity and prolong his finishing capabilities, the top prospect has all the potential in the world.
Lightweight: Jose Aldo
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As previously mentioned, Jose Aldo's departure from the UFC featherweight division to venture into lightweight territory is beginning to seem more likely.
If he runs through Chan-Sung Jung at UFC 163, his decision to leave a hungry pack of contenders behind would make sense.
The fact of the matter is that the accomplished Brazilian has looked dominant over the past few years. He's beaten every fighter the UFC has thrown into his cage and has made it look relatively effortless (except his close bout with Frankie Edgar).
As a 26-year-old world champion and pound-for-pound finalist, Aldo will be in need of greener pastures as soon as next year. Once he decides to roam freely, the 155-pound scene will never look the same.
Welterweight: Johny Hendricks
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Before this slide enters the rabbit hole, let's start off by saying that Rory MacDonald is a sensational fighter and a legitimate title threat heading into the future.
But—and you had to know there would be a but—he doesn't possess the titanic arsenal currently at Johny Hendricks' disposal.
MacDonald can't stop fights with one shot like "Bigg Rigg" can. It's as simple as that.
Sure, GSP 2.0 has years to make up for a lack of striking power when compared to Hendricks, but it's not like Hendricks isn't good at anything else.
He's a sensational wrestler with top-heavy conditioning and a love for the game—basically the perfect ingredients for an impressively tenured welterweight champion (Georges St-Pierre).
Middleweight: Gegard Mousasi
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Nothing is set in stone, but former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi is entertaining the notion of moving down to the UFC's middleweight division.
If that happens, he'll bring a well-deserved degree of hype with him, something that hasn't been seen within one of the promotion's smallest contender stockpiles since Chael Sonnen nearly ended Anderson Silva's timeless reign.
People need to know that Mousasi is already one of the best light heavyweight fighters on the planet, and he already tasted massive success as a middleweight roughly five years ago. If he makes a move back to a division run by Brazil's finest, all hell will break loose.
Of course, this is all assuming the Iranian boxer decides to cut some extra fat and that the best fighter in the world is able to dispose of a hungry Chris Weidman.
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones
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With excellence in his back pocket and athletic dynamite at his side, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones has grown into the sport's most transcendent fighter.
His stranglehold on one of the most packed and versatile divisions has been astonishing. He's made his destruction of some of the biggest names in the business look pedestrian at most.
From Chael Sonnen to Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans to Vitor Belfort, Jones has picked apart completely different styles in completely different ways en route to forming his own unbreakable tendencies.
As long as the UFC keeps him away from the heavyweight division and uses his power for good, "Bones" will reign supreme for nearly another decade.
Heavyweight: Cain Velasquez
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Is there really any other name in the UFC heavyweight division that rings louder than Cain Velasquez?
If there is, be sure to let us all know.
The bottom line is that, even after tasting defeat on national television at the hands of a bruising boxer, Velasquez had the drive and innate focus to take back what he believed was rightfully his.
After a bloody finish over Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, a brutal attack of Junior dos Santos to regain the title and another quick finish over Silva, the 30-year-old has once again earned a target on his own head.
But with the greatest conditioning ever seen in the heavyweight circuit and wrestling for days, Velasquez has everything he needs to deflect any and all opponents aiming his way.
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