Daniel Cormier and 10 Other Stars UFC Should Most Want to Showcase
The UFC can never have enough superstars.
As the biggest mixed martial arts promotion in the world, its financial and combative appetite can only be fulfilled when talent is plentiful.
So, on the heels of cash cows Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva exiting the cage for the foreseeable future, it makes sense for the UFC to try and grow what it already has.
Whether it's an up-and-coming bantamweight with championship potential or a light heavyweight who has never gotten his due, there are countless candidates to turn into recognizable studs.
Outside of the obvious champions and household names already in place, here are 10 fighters the UFC should most want to showcase in an effort to refine its product.
As the UFC expands, so does its international marketing scheme.
And last time I checked, the promotion didn't have too many high-level Asia-based fighters in its midst. That's why it's even more important to hold on to a veteran like Tatsuya Kawajiri and cradle his divisional potential.
For those who are not familiar with the 14-year journeyman, he's one of the more accomplished professionals you'll ever find competing at 145 pounds.
Now while the majority of his work has been done as a lightweight, Kawajiri stands to weave his way into the featherweight Top 10 by the end of the year. Once he gets there, his overseas popularity and overall Octagon presence should help fuel a seamless transition to stardom.
Despite Ronda Rousey and her rise to superstar status, the UFC women's bantamweight division is still in its budding infancy.
Chicks like Amanda Nunes are sometimes overlooked simply because an unknowing fanbase has been unable to connect with the best female fighters on the planet outside of a core group of lucky draws.
But based on the Brazilian's ability to finish fights, as she has done it eight times in nine victories, it shouldn't take long before each and every Octagon onlooker knows her name.
At only 25 years of age, Nunes is as promising as they get. Sure, her resume is slightly blemished with a loss to Alexis Davis, but since her arrival in the UFC, "The Lioness" has been spectacular.
If the UFC wants to think long term and plan for a future without Rousey as its perennial champ, Nunes is a name it should push full-steam.
Having the hardest name in the sport to pronounce doesn't help Khabib Nurmagomedov's chances of breaking into the American mainstream.
But as one of the very best contenders in the UFC lightweight division, the Russian could have 23 Z's in his last name and nobody would care.
The fact of the matter is Nurmagomedov has been so dominant and perfectly equipped that fellow divisional studs want nothing to do with him.
Can you blame them?
Blessed with exceptional wrestling skills, a tumultuous and aggressive demeanor and an outstanding ability to overwhelm his opponent, the 25-year-old is arguably the most well-groomed athlete in the weight class.
Once he's able to bust onto the pay-per-view scene and capture an American audience, his overall appeal will grow exponentially.
With Urijah Faber looking like the UFC version of Dan Marino (never winning a championship), why not let another Team Alpha Male standout get a chance at gold?
Besides a recent split-decision loss to Raphael Assuncao, The Ultimate Fighter alum T.J. Dillashaw has been as good as it gets in the bantamweight division. Chalk it up to elite wrestling, evolved striking and a limitless gas tank.
But despite his overall dominance of late and a would-be ability to maintain relevance atop the division, the UFC has seemed reluctant to springboard Dillashaw to the front of the pack.
Now while that might have been done on purpose to keep him in check and allow him to gain experience before making a run at a title, the 28-year-old can't be held back anymore.
Because with Faber pushed aside and Dominick Cruz trapped in purgatory, Dillashaw is the perfect choice to challenge champion Renan Barao next.
For some odd Twilight Zone reason, Phil Davis hasn't caught on like many other UFC light heavyweights (i.e. Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira).
He has the resume to show for his outstanding performances and the wrestling accolades to scare any unsuspecting opponent into a corner. But somehow, he's never been given the definitive nod.
Now while Davis did have a No. 1 contender's bout with Rashad Evans a few years back and ultimately lost, the opponents the UFC has thrown his way almost serve as a slap in the face.
Wagner Prado? Vinny Magalhaes?
At some point the men in charge need to pull their heads out of the sand, take a deep breath and understand how efficient and effective Davis could be in the limelight.
I guess he'll just have to suffocate Anthony "Rumble" Johnson in the meantime and like it.
Whether it's his likeable personality or overwhelming cage presence, former Strikeforce kingpin Luke Rockhold is a UFC superstar in waiting.
A promotional debut loss to Vitor Belfort obviously slowed down the process, but a recent liver-kick knockout of Costas Philippou has reestablished his worth as a bona fide middleweight contender.
It's going to take him some time to leapfrog prominent names like Michael Bisping, Lyoto Machida and Ronaldo Souza, but the 28-year-old has plenty of wiggle room to do it.
If the UFC was smart, it'd make a great effort in promoting Rockhold as one of its top draws. A co-main event slot following a potential victory over Tim Boetsch would be just what the doctor ordered.
With a bolstered contract to show for his fighting capabilities, UFC lightweight dynamo Gilbert Melendez is no longer a free agent.
He's back where he belongs, with the most competitive MMA promotion around.
Now while he will coach opposite divisional titleholder Anthony Pettis on The Ultimate Fighter Season 20, the UFC still has a long way to go in backing one of the sport's biggest Mexican fighters.
Because with the right pieces in place and Melendez at the top of his game, there's no telling how big he can get once he's able to hoist UFC gold.
In order for that to happen, the right doors need to be unlocked. A highly touted role on national television is a darn good start.
It's no secret. The UFC needs to fill the empty void left by former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre.
It has popular divisional names at its disposal like Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald and even Nick Diaz if he decided to make a comeback, but they still don't possess that high-caliber champion we've all grown accustomed to.
That's where Johny "Bigg Rigg" Hendricks comes into play. He's the guy who can take the reins and pick up the pieces from a rather harsh departure for GSP.
Hendricks possesses one-punch knockout power to appease the most casual of fans. He possesses the on-camera persona to make any welterweight title fight interesting and noticeable. And he possesses the intangibles to maintain dominance until GSP finally returns to action to partake in the biggest rematch of all time.
But what the UFC needs to do, assuming Hendricks gets past the very wily Robbie Lawler at UFC 171, is to throw the power wrestler to the wolves. Give him the key to the city and see how big his brand can get.
That's the only way it'll know exactly what it has with the bearded barbarian.
He's undefeated at 14-0.
He's an Olympic wrestler with remarkable athleticism.
He is Daniel Cormier and he's about to take the UFC light heavyweight division by storm.
After running through some of the very best heavyweights in the world over the past few years, "DC" has finally made the weight cut everybody has been waiting for.
But we weren't quite sure what we would get from a guy who hasn't cut down so much in years.
Luckily for us, we got one of the best 205-pound athletes on the planet. One who looks poised to wreak havoc on anybody and everybody. This includes top contenders like Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira, Rashad Evans and Phil Davis.
Now, we don't know fur sure what Cormier's future holds, but even as a 34-year-old with only five years of professional experience, he's on the fast track to Cain Velasquez stardom, and the UFC needs to do everything in its arsenal to secure that potential.
I know I'm going to catch some flack for this, but I truly believe Conor McGregor carries the potential to be the biggest star in MMA.
Sounds crazy, huh? But take a second to hear me out.
At just 25 years of age, McGregor is already the most popular Irish-born fighter in the world. As a matter of fact, he's already one of the most popular featherweights in the UFC despite only fighting twice.
The reason why the hard-nosed, high-octane Irishman has been able to attract so much attention is because he possesses something only a few guys in the sport have. He has the X-factor.
Not to sound like Simon Cowell, but McGregor does in fact have the X-factor.
His style of fighting is simply scintillating. His on-camera persona is brash and in-your-face, which is always a good thing in this sport, and his Octagon product basically speaks for itself as he's already become a marked man in the 145-pound division.
Once his health catches up to his skill, the sky is the limit for McGregor. Call me crazy, but I can see this guy doing 400,000 pay-per-view buys in his sleep.
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