MMA Fighters with the Most Interesting Storylines Right Now
Thus far in 2014, the stories revolving around UFC fighters have given us plenty to talk about. Many fighters have become interesting due to the stories, good and bad, surrounding them.
As we enter the hot summer months, I will profile nine of those fighters for you. I will discuss what has made their storylines interesting. I will tackle what has transpired that has made these nine fighters more intriguing than others.
I will give you big names and title contenders in this list. I will not waste your time with random stories about others—they are not that interesting.
Let's start at the lightest weights and move our way up, shall we?
It feels terrible to include the word "interesting" in Cat Zingano's story, but her return to the UFC is compelling. The stories that interest us are not always rosy.
She was set for a title shot against Ronda Rousey and a coaching stint on The Ultimate Fighter, but an injury forced her off the show and out of the fight. Soon after, tragedy struck when her husband passed away.
Now, we are nearing a return date for Zingano. Ariel Helwani reported via UFC Tonight that she is eyeing a September return and that the UFC is in the early stages of selecting Amanda Nunes as her opponent.
Zingano has always been a tough competitor, but nothing can prepare one for what she has had to go through in the past year. When she makes her return to the cage, it will be an emotional night for her and her fans. There will be a huge outpouring of support for the talented contender.
From injuries to tragedy, she has had to deal with a lot on her plate. It will be great to see her step back in the Octagon for competition later this year.
Perhaps I am being a prisoner to the moment, but I would be hard-pressed not to mention Diego Sanchez in this slideshow.
He walked away from UFC Fight Night 42 with one of the most egregious decision wins in MMA history. He was beaten in every round by Ross Pearson, but the judges saw it differently than everyone else. They awarded the win to Sanchez.
This is just another contentious decision that Sanchez has won inside the Octagon. Martin Kampmann and Takanori Gomi are two other victims of poor judging, thanks to Sanchez's ability to steal rounds with a mean look and errant punches.
The larger story is the mean look and errant punches. That is how he is able to steal fights. His style of reckless abandon, with or without offensive production, convinces judges to give him rounds. It is worth noting to highlight where the sport can improve.
Sanchez's erroneous decision win pushes him into having one of the most interesting storylines in the UFC.
Another UFC Fight Night 42 competitor lands on the most interesting storylines list—former UFC lightweight titleholder Benson Henderson.
What makes him interesting? The fact that he is the top-ranked contender to the title.
Anthony Pettis, the champion, is set to coach The Ultimate Fighter Season 20 opposite Gilbert Melendez. After the season airs, the two will then clash for the gold this winter. That puts the title on hiatus for other contenders until 2015.
What will Henderson do? Will he wait it out? Not likely. He loves to stay active.
In his post-fight speech, he demanded that those who want the title should come see him first. It is a great mentality to have, but it most certainly makes his road toward the title very difficult. He will remain active as the No. 1-ranked contender in the division, while the title is defended late this year.
Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown
Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown are two of the most interesting fighters in the UFC right now, and they are included in the same slide because they will meet on July 26 in a title eliminator in the welterweight division.
Lawler was once one of the brightest prospects in the welterweight division. After dropping two straight, he was released from the UFC and spent years outside of the organization fighting at middleweight, where he would collect multiple title belts.
Upon his return to the UFC, he dropped back down to 170 pounds and became one of the fiercest fighters in the division. He returned as an instant threat to the title. And he nearly captured the vacant belt against Johny Hendricks earlier this year.
As for Brown, he is the owner of an unlikely seven-fight win streak.
If you were to poll anyone about the most exciting contenders in 2014, Brown's name would not be on the tip of their tongue. He was just an exciting fighter who loved to scrap. His "technical brawling" is aptly named, and it has worked for him.
Lawler vs. Brown is one of 2014's most anticipated fights, and it could very well deliver some of the best action. There is a lot to be excited about with this fight, and it is just about a month away from materializing.
Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz
Anderson Silva and Nick Diaz will almost always appear on a most interesting list. They demand our attention in just about everything they do, but now they are linked together.
Per a UFC Tonight report (h/t Damon Martin of Fox Sports), both Silva and Diaz are interested in fighting each other for Silva's Octagon return. That is an amazing development.
Diaz has been out since losing to Georges St-Pierre but has popped back into the MMA realm from time to time. If he only wants big fights, it does not get much bigger than Silva's return to the UFC.
"The Spider" has been sidelined ever since breaking his leg against Chris Weidman last December. His progress to get back in the cage has been remarkable and a constant watching point on social media.
His interesting storyline centers on what he does when he returns. Is he interested in another run at the title, or will he simply look for fun fights?
Either way, both of these men have our interest. And linking them together is just about the best thing that can happen.
UFC 175 was set to feature the grudge match between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva, but Silva failed to show for his pre-fight drug tests. He was replaced with Vitor Belfort.
Insert excitement here.
Soon after the announcement, there were questions about Belfort's previous issues in Nevada. There was a question as to why he did not fight Weidman for the belt, and "The Phenom" came forth with an answer.
During a random drug test in February, he tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone.
Now, the question surrounding Belfort is whether he can even be licensed by Nevada for the bout against Sonnen in July. We will find out on June 17. It is hard to imagine how the commission could license a fighter who was just popped for a positive test.
The No. 3-ranked middleweight is in a precarious position now, but that only makes his storyline more fascinating to us all.
There may not be a more interesting figure in the UFC than Jon Jones.
The light heavyweight champion has struggled to find outright fan support. He has had an up-and-down tenure in the UFC, but that was to be expected of such a young man entering fame and fortune. Now, he has settled into a role of being a polarizing champion.
Over the past few months, he has been linked to both Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier. He has even gotten into a bit of trouble on social media. However, all that can be set in the past as he signed on to fight Gustafsson officially.
The rematch is on, and it should be one of the biggest events this year for the UFC.
Their first encounter was the first time Jones had ever been in trouble inside the Octagon, but now we will get to see how the champion improved since that night in Toronto. We continually find out more and more about him, and that will continue up until his rematch against Gustafsson.