Myles Jury, Justin Scoggins and the Top Young Guns to Watch for in the UFC
Mixed martial arts pundits love to rave about the "new breed" of fighter—the men and women who combine all facets of the game effortlessly and specialize in MMA rather than one discipline.
The days of being "the wrestler," "the striker" or "the grappler" are gone.
To succeed in today's UFC, you have to be great everywhere a fight goes, and this new breed of combatant embodies this well-rounded skill set perfectly.
These fighters are young, vicious and the future of the sport.
Click on to meet the top 10 young gun in the UFC.
Note: Fighters were chosen based on a combination of age (25 and under), UFC success and future potential. This list is meant to expose some lesser-known up-and-comers, so somebody like Rory MacDonald, despite being only 24 years old, did not make the cut. He has already arrived.
This isn't little league. Not everybody gets a ribbon.
The UFC is larger and more popular than ever, so the influx of young guns grows by the day.
As a result, some excellent fighters had to be left off the list, but to completely ignore them would be irresponsible and unfair.
Just outside the top 10, we have:
10: Julianna Pena
UFC Record: 1-0
Poor Julianna Pena.
After winning Season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter (with ease, I might add), she blew out her knee in training and now faces a lengthy recovery.
Luckily for her, the women's bantamweight division is low on qualified challengers for Ronda Rousey's strap, so once she heals up, she can vault right into title contention with a solid win.
If this setback doesn't take away from her dominance inside the cage, Pena will become a fixture in the Top 10 of her division moving forward.
9: Kevin Lee
UFC Record: 0-1
Kevin Lee might be the most impressive athlete on this list.
The 21-year-old out of Grand Rapids, Mich., started training for a career in MMA just six years ago. Before that, he played no sports and was not even sure if he was athletic.
He drew The Ultimate Fighter finalist Al Iaquinta for his first trip inside the cage, where he nearly ended the fight in Round 2 with a rear-naked choke but ultimately lost a unanimous decision due to Iaquinta's superior striking.
Still, Lee's future looks fantastic.
8: Sean Strickland
UFC record: 1-0
Sean Strickland popped onto most radars after his dominant win over The Ultimate Fighter veteran Bubba McDaniel at UFC 172, but "Tarzan" has been winning fights in impressive fashion his entire career.
At 14-0 with 11 finishes (seven by knockout, four by submission), he is the perfect example of the new breed of fighter who can do it all with grace and ease.
If he continues to develop and hone his skills inside the Octagon, he will make a nice home inside the Top 10 of the middleweight division.
7: Amanda Nunes
UFC Record: 2-0
Amanda Nunes is a bully inside the Octagon.
She ragdolls opponents to the canvas and goes to work with vicious ground-and-pound, and no one in the UFC has found a counter for this game plan yet.
She's 2-0 in the UFC with two first-round TKOs, and, in a thin division like women's bantamweight, she will likely fight for the title with one more dominant victory.
6: Luke Barnatt
UFC Record: 3-0
A former The Ultimate Fighter contestant, Luke "Bigslow" Barnatt morphed into quite the warrior after his stint on the reality TV show.
Despite failing to capture the show's title, he capitalized on his second chance inside the Octagon, going 3-0 with two finishes since the show's conclusion.
His striking looks fantastic of late, and his 6'6" frame gives him a considerable advantage over most 185-pounders.
He's developing well, and it looks like big things are on the horizon for this English standout.
5: Kelvin Gastelum
UFC Record: 3-0
Kelvin Gastelum is a treat.
He's a hard-working, humble and quiet guy outside the cage, but his fighting persona is classified by aggression, power and speed.
The TUF winner is a fantastic wrestler who has developed scary hands as well, and this combination is giving opponents—even veterans like Rick Story—fits.
Gastelum is often referred to as a "mini" version of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez because of his skill set and work ethic, and he has lived up to the hype thus far in his UFC career.
That's not a bad dude to be compared to, either.
4: Jessica Andrade
UFC Record: 2-1
Jessica Andrade combines powerful, crisp stand-up with sneaky takedowns, creating a crowd-pleasing formula that has led her to victory in two out of three trips to the Octagon.
The loss came to Liz Carmouche at UFC on Fox 8, and that bout served as both a significant step up in competition and a UFC debut for Andrade.
She wilted, but she came back and put on one of the most one-sided beatdowns in recent memory against Rosi Sexton at UFC Fight Night 30. She followed that up with a solid victory over former The Ultimate Fighter contestant Raquel Pennington at UFC 171.
Again, the women enjoy the benefit of fighting in a relatively shallow division, so if Andrade keeps doing what she has been—winning—she'll sniff title contention in short order.
3: Justin Scoggins
UFC Record: 2-0
How fun was Justin Scoggins at UFC 171?
Facing Will Campuzano, the 21-year-old flyweight Scoggins exhibited endless energy, quick, snappy punches and powerful, technical grappling during the night's prelims, earning a clear-cut and dominant unanimous decision.
Scoggins is bouncy, athletic and a fun character to watch, and at 21, he's only going to get better.
The flyweight division is thin on legitimate Top 10 talent, and Scoggins is primed to break into the fold and begin his journey toward champion Demetrious Johnson's title.
Looking good, kid. Looking good.
2: Myles Jury
UFC Record: 5-0
Another product of The Ultimate Fighter, Myles Jury unleashed his full potential inside the Octagon after leaving the reality show.
He's 5-0, defeating some tough dudes like Michael Johnson and Diego Sanchez in the process.
Jury, like the young standouts before him, effortlessly combines all facets of the game into one package of brutal and technical perfection, and he's scarcely out of position or overwhelmed in fights.
He dictates the pace, controls the action and strikes when the moment is just right.
His execution is thing of beauty, and I have a feeling that fans will get to see "Fury" test his skills against an elite competitor during his next trip to the cage.
1: Gunnar Nelson
UFC Record: 3-0
Do you feel cheated by this pick?
I wouldn't blame you if you do.
After his dominant first-round submission over Omari Akhmedov, everybody is talking about Gunnar Nelson and for good reason.
He's a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but calling him simply "a black belt" is an unfair assessment of his skills.
On the mat, he's a freakish talent who dominates opponents with his effortless, smooth and stoic attack. It's the perfect disposition for a high-level jiu-jitsu practitioner, and Nelson epitomizes it as well as anyone in the world.
Making him even more dangerous, he also possesses a black belt in Goju-Ryu, a form of karate that has led to decent success for him inside the Octagon. While he doesn't have a highlight-reel knockout yet, he dropped Akhmedov with a stiff punch to set up the fight-ending submission.
There is no doubt that Nelson can make a big-time run in the welterweight division.
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