The Most Underrated Fighter from Each UFC Weight Class

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2014

The Most Underrated Fighter from Each UFC Weight Class

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    Flying under the radar is not always a bad thing.

    Sure it has its drawbacks when title discussions start whirling, but it helps to step into the Octagon as a man trying to prove his worth.

    Time and time again, we've seen these underdogs rise to the occasion to capture victory that would otherwise seem impossible.

    With that said, here is the most underrated fighter in each UFC weight class today and why they'll eventually escape divisional limbo.

Women's Bantamweight: Amanda Nunes

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    Amanda Nunes can flat out fight.

    Her eight career finishes in just 12 fights exemplify her eagerness to attack opponents, overwhelm them and push them to the brink of defeat.

    However, her UFC stock still remains low as other well-known female fighters continue to grab attention from a limited, but growing, women's fan base.

    Once Nunes is able to harness a spot on a pay-per-view man card, her notoriety will begin to grow. Until then, the 25-year-old will continue to thrive as one of the more underrated women in the sport today.

Flyweight: Ian McCall

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    If you look at just Ian McCall's UFC record, you would think he'd be on the promotion's interchanging chopping block.

    But if you look closer, especially at his opponents and the way that he lost to them, McCall begins to look like a fighter struggling with bad luck.

    Outside of his lone promotional win opposite Iliarde Santos, "Uncle Creepy" has been unfortunate to battle flyweight standouts Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez in his other three appearances, and one of his fights with "Mighty Mouse" ended in a majority draw.

    Needless to say, McCall is a much better fighter than his recent record would indicate. But for some reason, he's consistently tossed aside when the next fighters in line to challenge Johnson's throne get brought up.

    Ignoring a sensational fighter like McCall could be considered a bad omen. He's practically a sleeping giant yearning to wake.

     

Bantamweight: Raphael Assuncao

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    A six-fight win streak is what it took for Raphael Assuncao to get a well-deserved title shot in a rather shallow bantamweight division.

    Unfortunately, injuries sidelined the 31-year-old Brazilian, handing a championship showdown with pound-for-pound dynamo Renan Barao off to T.J. Dillashaw (a man whom Assuncao defeated back in late 2013).

    In any case, it seemed like it took eons for the UFC to give Assuncao the big fight he deserved. Sure, fighters have to earn their keep, but it felt like the promotion was waiting for the stars to align to give a worthwhile veteran his chance at gold.

    Assuncao isn't the greatest finisher in the sport today, but he's not the type of guy to roll over and play dead. He's a gamer and gamers usually get rewarded in this realm of brutality.

    That's why he's still considered an underrated divisional threat, especially to a champion who seems unbeatable.

Featherweight: Cub Swanson

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    Jose Aldo this, Chad Mendes that.

    When it comes time for the next featherweight in training to capture UFC gold, Cub Swanson will be standing in the winner's circle.

    Now, while that may be an over-the-top prediction, Swanson's recent in-cage ferocity suggests he'll be stopped by no man.

    If he can stay off his back and maintain versatility and precision on his feet, the 30-year-old can beat any 145-pound contender the UFC throws his way.

    He just has to stay healthy to maintain the consistency that's going to send him to the top.

Lightweight: Jim Miller

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    Call it divisional stupidity, call it promotional stubbornness, Jim Miller continues to soar under the radar.

    As one of the most tenured fighters the UFC has to offer, Miller brings a certain type of charred grittiness to each and every one of his fights.

    Combine that with an excellent knowledge of grappling and pressure cooking, and Miller starts to look like one of the toughest outs in the division.

    Not for nothing, but there's a reason why he's never been knocked out and has only lost to former champion Benson Henderson and former top contender Nate Diaz since 2009.

    If Miller can maintain his full head of steam opposite Donald Cerrone in July, champion Anthony Pettis better start preparing for inevitable war.

     

Welterweight: Tarec Saffiedine

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    Now that Matt Brown has made his mark in the division, other guys like former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine are left to man the trenches.

    As one of the best fighters in the promotion when it comes to kicking brick walls, Saffiedine has displayed the sort of murderous muay thai that can eventually lead to a spot in the division's top five.

    The only problem is that more sexy fighting styles like that of Tyron Woodley, Hector Lombard and the aforementioned Brown continue to command the spotlight.

    But once those trains derail or pull into championship station, the 27-year-old Belgian will be there when the smoke clears.

Middleweight: Tim Kennedy

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    Tim Kennedy is an uber-smart fighter.

    He knows how to utilize his strongest assets to capture victory by any means necessary. Chalk that up to his storied career as an army staff sergeant.

    So while Kennedy's take-you-down, drag-you-out mentality inside the cage might not appease the masses, it's simply a product of intelligent combat.

    That said, the bruising 34-year-old remains underrated when it comes to the UFC middleweight title picture for that very reason.

    Are we to believe that Kennedy's dominating pressure and persistence can't result in an eventual title shot, like the one that Chael Sonnen received twice?

    Nobody knows for sure, but it would be ignorant to dismiss it.

    The top of the weight class certainly looks like murderer's row, but if any unsuspecting contender can throw a wrench in those gears it would be Kennedy.

     

Light Heavyweight: Rafael Cavalcante

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    Have people forgotten about Rafael Cavalcante?

    Sure, he doesn't possess the immediate recipe to bulldoze the light heavyweight division's finest, but he still packs one of the heaviest punches in the sport.

    As an owner of 11 finishes by knockout or TKO in just 12 professional fights, "Feijao" should command respect at every promotional turn.

    But as a veteran posted up just outside of the division's top 10, Cavalcante will look to decapitate Ryan Bader next month in order to preserve his future potential.

    Once that happens, the 34-year-old will open new doors that will lead to countless head-ringing knockouts.

Heavyweight: Brendan Schaub

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    When combing through a rather lopsided heavyweight division, Brendan Schaub usually isn't the first name that jumps out at you.

    Maybe that's why he makes this list.

    In any case, it's easy to brush over an athletic superman like Schaub because of the three one-punch knockouts he has sustained throughout his UFC career.

    But that was then and this is now, and Schaub is no longer the same fighter.

    He no longer welcomes back-and-forth exchanges. Instead, he lets patience, precision and an elevated wrestling game do his reaping.

    If he's able to ruin Andrei Arlovski's welcome home party this June, "The Hybrid" will have put together a three-fight streak that title runs are built around.

     

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