Fantasy Top Contender Fights for Every Weight Class
Each UFC division encompasses its own world of in-cage lunatics, obsessed practitioners and formidable title threats.
From January to December, these differing Octagon entities wage war on one another until they reach the bittersweet top.
But along the way we are reminded that certain fighters hold more appeal than others. Some have what it takes to not only dismantle the hungry wolves around them, but run the pack.
These are what we call top contenders. And for them, getting a shot at the championship is all that matters.
So in the celebration of open-mindedness and wishful thinking, here are fantasy top contender fights for each UFC weight class.
Women's Bantamweight: Gina Carano vs. Cat Zingano
Not only do their names rhyme, but Gina Carano and Cat Zingano both have what it takes to potentially upset the undefeated queen of mean Ronda Rousey.
It may take a little bit for the UFC to close in on Carano, but upon her eventual signing (assuming the money is right), Zingano would serve as a perfect welcoming party.
When she left the sport for Hollywood, Carano was considered one of the most well-rounded female fighters in the world, so fighting an undefeated gamer like Zingano would shed some light on her potential within the UFC's growing roster.
It would also give Rousey some time to rest before she faces murderers' row in 2015.
Flyweight: Ian McCall vs. John Dodson
From John Moraga to Chris Cariaso, the UFC is quickly running out of throwaway contenders to challenge flyweight phenom Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson.
The depleted 125-pound roster has not only made it difficult to sell the weight class as a whole, but it has created a divisional limbo in which no true top contender can be chosen.
John Dodson is obviously a good choice, but injuries will set him back until at least the new year. But that doesn't mean he can get right back into the thick of things when he returns.
Who better to welcome Dodson back to the Octagon than flyweight bowling ball Ian McCall?
As two of the very best small guys in the world, they are the last two top dogs to have never fought. That's why this makes more sense than any other contender matchup in the division.
Bantamweight: Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz
Need I say more?
As the quintessential top contender who can never get over the championship hump, Urijah Faber is at a point in his career where only one last title run exists.
It's even going to be harder for the veteran to make that sprint to gold considering his Team Alpha Male partner in crime TJ Dillashaw is currently running the bantamweight division.
So, why not start things off on a vindictive note and challenge the likes of former UFC bantamweight kingpin Dominick Cruz one last time?
The trilogy needs to be settled, Faber needs a more well-rounded opponent than Alex Caceres and Cruz needs to prove he can still compete with the best.
Featherweight: Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson
Cub Swanson seems unstoppable.
His striking has vastly improved through both technique and confidence, and his overall ability to pick an opponent apart has never looked better.
He seems ready to challenge for the title.
But with champion Jose Aldo on the shelf for the foreseeable future and top contender Chad Mendes having dibs on the title when he returns, Swanson could be forced to fight one more time.
That's where Frankie Edgar comes in.
As a footwork guru capable of plugging any featherweight's game plan in a matter of minutes, the former lightweight prince would truly give Swanson a run for his money.
Lightweight: Josh Thomson vs. Donald Cerrone
If Josh Thomson can finish Nate Diaz with a head kick, can you imagine how explosive a fight opposite Donald "The Cowboy" Cerrone would be?
The two lightweights are tailor-made to do battle.
Thomson obviously has a little more work to do in the momentum department, but a win over Bobby Green this weekend at UFC on Fox 12 would be a step in the right direction.
As for Cerrone, fighting a well-known name like Thomson, someone who bewildered Diaz and nearly upset Benson Henderson, could very well propel him to a shot at the title sometime next year.
Welterweight: Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler
A rematch between Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler would be absolutely fantastic.
Their first encounter produced one of the better welterweight contests of 2013. Lawler came from behind to secure a split-decision victory on the heels of a monstrous third round.
Now I know Lawler is scheduled to take on bruiser Matt Brown this weekend at UFC on Fox 12, with the winner set to earn a shot at Johny Hendricks' strap, but stirring up the contender pot has never been a big issue for the UFC.
People obviously want to see a rematch between Hendricks and Lawler, but MacDonald is a key divisional draw for the promotion, one who could hold the most promise financially outside of a Georges St-Pierre return.
Middleweight: Anderson Silva vs. Lyoto Machida
Remember, some of these fall directly into the realm of fantasy.
Obviously, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida would never fight each other, right?
As Black House training partners, they would never put their friendship aside for a chance to avenge their respective defeats at the hands of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, would they?
Crazier things have happened.
And as two professionals who usually bend for the sake of the promotion and its commissioner, Silva and Machida could very well touch gloves one of these days.
Light Heavyweight: Rashad Evans vs. Alexander Gustafsson
Alexander Gustafsson out, Daniel Cormier in.
Once Gustafsson rests up and is ready to return, former UFC champ Rashad Evans should be there to welcome him back.
As someone who has struggled to stay healthy himself and remain relevant in a title picture he once dictated, Evans is still a huge ticket for the UFC to cash in on.
Not to mention the winner of Gustafsson vs. Evans would set up the biggest rematch in light heavyweight history, assuming Jon Jones can get past "DC" come September.
Heavyweight: Junior dos Santos vs. Travis Browne
Striker vs. striker. Brazilian vs. Hawaiian.
Junior dos Santos vs. Travis Browne would have Fight of the Year written all over it.
JDS can still be considered the best heavyweight in the world not named Cain Velasquez, but the champ has gotten the best of "Cigano" so much that another matchup right away seems highly unlikely.
That's why Browne should go out of his way to challenge dos Santos, re-establish his position within the division since flopping against Fabricio Werdum back in April and pry his way to a title shot.
As for JDS, finishing Browne could give him that final push for another shot at heavyweight gold.
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