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The Most Overlooked Contender in Each UFC Weight Class

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistSeptember 3, 2013

The Most Overlooked Contender in Each UFC Weight Class

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    These days, to be a sure-fire title contender in the UFC, you need to be on the good side of Dana White's VIP list.

    That means winning three or fours fights in a row doesn't necessarily land you in the club.

    Instead, fighters now have to not only outperform their competition inside the cage, but they have to surpass their peers on the divisional wait list.

    But as good as all of these key contenders truly are, some are simply overlooked.  Chalk it up to stacked divisions, unforgettable losses in the past or uneventful victories (if there is such a thing).

    In any case, flying under the radar these days isn't all it's cracked up to be.  It makes that title shot even more elusive than ever.

    Here are the most overlooked championship threats in each UFC weight class.

Women's Bantamweight: Liz Carmouche

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    People aren't really considering Carmouche a serious title threat for one reason and one reason only; she's already tasted defeat at the hands of a Ronda Rousey armbar.

    But what sometimes goes unforgotten is how close she was to pulling off an upset as she rode the champ's back before losing her grip.

    Add in her apparent ability to rebound from defeat, and "Girlrilla" makes a perfect candidate to sneakily reclaim a title shot sometime next year.

     

Flyweight: Ian McCall

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    It's a shame that McCall's UFC record (1-2-1) doesn't quite mirror his overall ferocity inside the Octagon.

    Sure he's had his troubles of capitalizing when a grand opportunity presents itself, but sometimes you have to take the good out of fighting guys like Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez.

    Regardless of what many suspect from a rather lack luster arrival to the promotion, especially considering the hype that "Uncle Creepy" brought with him, McCall is still at the top of the flyweight's very thin stockpile.

    Mixed martial arts' Rollie Fingers just needs that one standout victory to position him back where he belongs.

Bantamweight: TJ Dillashaw

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    As of right now, with Dominick Cruz still sidelined and interim champ Renan Barao running a muck, the scarce amount of serious bantamweight contenders can be counted on one hand.

    Better yet, they can easily be labeled The Old, The Young and The Unforgotten.

    The Old being Urijah Faber of course, The Young being hard-hitter Michael McDonald and The Unforgotten being the ultra-talented T.J. Dillashaw.

    Dillashaw hasn't quite made that jump yet, but if three-straight finishes equates to anything in today's UFC, it's that a guy can't be taken lightly.

    If the Team Alpha Male standout can continue to evolve as a potent striker, his path to contention should only have one or two more stops on the way.

Featherweight: Cub Swanson

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    It's not that Swanson is overlooked more so than he is unrewarded.

    Now the proud and hungry owner of a five-fight win streak, including four finishes, the former WEC top contender has done absolutely everything that has been asked of him.

    He possesses one of the hottest current streaks in the sport outside of obvious UFC champions, he's beaten down more relevant featherweights over the past 12 months than Chad Mendes has and he's an exhilarating fighter who's missing a brake pedal.

    If Dana White doesn't give the California kid another shot at Jose Aldo's streak before birthing a Anthony Pettis superfight, loose screws are hitting the floor as we speak.

Lightweight: Josh Thomson

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    Outside of his recent decapitation of Nate Diaz in April, not many people are familiar with Thomson's overall masterpiece.

    Before coming over from Strikeforce and instantly throwing his name into the lightweight crock pot, "The Punk" forged success over names like Gilbert Melendez, Pat Healy, K.J. Noons and Duane Ludwig.

    He's been around the block to say the least and knows exactly what it takes to received a well-deserved shot at promotional gold.

    Another impressive finish should be all it takes to land Thomson in a No. 1 contenders bout.  One that could see a fourth installment with former top-dog Melendez.

Welterweight: Matt Brown

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    What Matt Brown has done over the past two years is borderline historic.

    He went from losing every fight in 2010 to becoming one of the hottest and most feared welterweights in the business.

    Now some people will equate his success to barbaric acts of pressure pushing and cage control that will soon run thin, but instead, Brown's professional somersault can be attributed to evolutionary instinct.

    Bottom line, the guy knows when to go for a win and how to do it.  A deadly combination for somebody who possesses great skills from head to toe.

    And the fact that "The Immortal" has only absorbed 33 total strikes over his last three fights, it's easy to see that Brown has turned into a more calculated and methodical barbarian.

     

Middleweight: Ronaldo Souza

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    With all the deserved hoopla surrounding a middleweight rematch between champion Chris Weidman and former pound-for-pound assassin Anderson Silva, not too many people are paying attention to the future of the weight class.

    As one of the weaker and less top-heavy divisions in the UFC, the middleweight contender list is shortening by the month.

    Perennial pretenders like Michael Bisping and Yushin Okami can't seem to get over the hump, while foreign champions like Luke Rockhold and Hector Lombard can't keep their heads on straight.

    That leaves a perfect opening for a well-decorated and well-disciplined "Jacare" Souza.  A man whose only defeats over the last decade were at the hands of Gegard Mousasi and the aforementioned Rockhold.

    The bottom line is that a world-class submission expert like Souza can't be stored on the shelf forever.  Eventually his storied career and impressive UFC debut will be rewarded with a title shot.

    Maybe one that will offer him the opportunity to revenge a fellow Brazilian.

     

Light Heavyweight: Gegard Mousasi

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    Mousasi is as accomplished as they come. 

    With 34 professional wins and the ability to say he's never been knocked out, the Dutch kickboxer has practically done it all.

    But like fellow former Strikeforce champion and MMA legend Dan Henderson, careers are sometimes lost without UFC gold.

    That means that Mousasi still has something to work towards.  And at the astonishing age of 28, he's got a lot of time to do it.

    Once Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson finish their business and Phil Davis occupies his time with Chael Sonnen, "The Armenian Assassin" will be ready and willing.

Heavyweight: Stipe Miocic

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    Why not Miocic?

    Sure he doesn't possess the resume of a Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva or Fabricio Werdum, but he just took the best knockout specialist in the division out of his element for three-straight rounds.

    That has to mean something.

    Remember, this is a guy who was a Stephan Struve knockout away from carrying a 10-0 professional record into 2013.

    Now 4-1 inside the Octagon with a win over Roy "Big Country" Nelson, the Ohio product has officially re-entered his name into the heavyweight lottery.

    In a division often depicted by heavy-handed henchman and guys willing to test the likes of champion Cain Velasquez, Miocic fits right in.

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