Hungriest Fighters in Every UFC Division

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJuly 29, 2014

Hungriest Fighters in Every UFC Division

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    Possessing the hunger to fight is found, not given.

    It's a sense of belonging, or rather self-entitlement, that fuels monumental success.

    Hunger not only serves as a physical and mental catalyst when the Octagon door closes, but it puts every other fighter in the division on notice that you mean business.

    But hunger doesn't last forever. It is often met at the gates of excellence by pure skill and perfected technique, as the hungry fall to unflappable champions of sport.

    However, until that flame dies out, we are left to marvel at their carnage.

    Here are the hungriest fighters in each UFC division right now.

Women's Bantamweight

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    Cat Zingano

    Injuries and personal conflict have helped steer Cat Zingano's path to a title in the wrong direction, but as an undefeated dynamo capable of pushing through any in-cage turmoil, she poses the biggest threat to Ronda Rousey's throne to date.

    Her appetite for beautiful brutality should allow her to step over Brazilian Amanda Nunes at UFC 178, regain her divisional footing and focus her attention on the bantamweight strap.

     

    Sarah Kaufman

    Kaufman knows what it's like to lose to Rousey in devastating fashion.

    But through all of the negative outlooks the 28-year-old could have owned after her 2012 armbar defeat, her UFC run has been exceedingly positive.

    A back-and-forth war with heavy-handed Jessica Eye and a dominating decision victory over Leslie Smith have given Kaufman the performances she needs to make another run at the queen.

Flyweight

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    John Dodson

    Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson is a handful for any flyweight these days, but consensus top contender Dodson truly gave him a run for his money back in early 2013.

    As a fighter who believes he is faster and more equipped than the champ, The Magician is as dangerous as he's ever been.

    If Dodson can make a quick recovery from an ACL injury and maintain his in-cage ferocity, Johnson could finally taste divisional defeat by the end of next year.

     

    Ian McCall

    For someone who commanded the sort of hype that surrounds champions when he came into the promotion, McCall has been fending off the critics since day one.

    Unfortunately for Uncle Creepy, his success inside the Octagon over the past two years has not only been capped by fighting Johnson twice, but he really hasn't been all that lucky.

    In any case, McCall remains one of the more promising contenders in the division—one who has displayed the hunger to win any way he can in order to get to the top.

    Add that mentality to his natural build and power, and you have one of the more intriguing contenders in the UFC right now.

Men's Bantamweight

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    Renan Barao

    Let's call a spade a spade.

    Barao was absolutely demolished by current champion T.J. Dillashaw back at UFC 173.

    That sort of embarrassment doesn't settle in so easily when it comes to a professional mixed martial artist, especially one who relinquished all of his pound-for-pound promise with the loss.

    Their rematch is set for late next month at UFC 177, so Barao should be as hungry, if not more, as any other fighter on this list.

    His legacy is at stake.

     

    Raphael Assuncao

    As Barao's original opponent for UFC 173, only to pull out of the fight due to a rib injury, Assuncao really has his eyes set on Dillashaw—not only for the belt itself, but because Assuncao defeated the champ back at UFC Fight Night 29, so he feels like the title should be his.

    That sort of divisional leapfrog turns blood into boiling magma.

    Hopefully the well-rounded Brazilian gets a shot at the title by early 2015 because he'd be a great matchup for either Dillashaw or Barao.

Featherweight

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    Chad Mendes

    Mendes has deserved a shot at champion Jose Aldo's hot seat for a long time now.

    He has always been at the top of the division, but considering the fashion in which Aldo beat Mendes in back at UFC 142 (first-round knockout), the Team Alpha Male standout's leaping progress has subsequently turned to inches.

    Not a problem.

    Mendes remains as hungry as he's ever been, but he needs Aldo healthy in order to win a belt that he's had his sights on for almost three years.

     

    Cub Swanson

    Now the owner of a six-fight winning streak, a rejuvenated Swanson believes he has what it takes to not only defeat Aldo, but defeat anybody standing in his way.

    As one of the better strikers in the division, one who incorporates speed and timing into each one of his attacks, Swanson holds more promise than he ever has.

    But in a division that is growing exponentially, can he maintain his newly found aggression and calculated carelessness en route to a title shot?

Lightweight

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    Ben Henderson

    Once a champ, always a champ at heart.

    That's the type of thinking that has implanted itself into the head of Henderson.

    His belief that he is the best lightweight in the world will forever keep him afloat in a division drenched in unique skill sets and unpredictable fight styles.

    Now Henderson may in fact be the best fighter in the promotion without a belt outside of Anderson Silva and Junior dos Santos, but until he gets his revenge on current champion Anthony Pettis, he will never be considered the best 155-pounder in the game.

     

    Donald Cerrone

    One look at Cerrone's success over his past few fights and it's easy to see that he's as hungry as any other fighter in the sport today.

    No longer does The Cowboy get into his own mind and ruin success that is otherwise taken over and sculpted by natural dexterity and fluidity.

    At this point in his career, Cerrone may only have one more title run left in his tank, but at his current pace, the 31-year-old could very well earn a rematch with Pettis in 2015.

Welterweight

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    Robbie Lawler

    Lawler wants champion Johny Hendricks, and Hendricks wants Lawler, per Ariel Helwani of The MMA Hour.

    Can you blame them?

    Their welterweight showdown for the vacant title back at UFC 171 was a war of attrition that former divisional kingpin Georges St-Pierre could have never produced.

    That memory has sunk itself into the thick skull of Lawler, forcing him to dispose of top title threats like Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown in pursuit of a rematch with Bigg Rigg.

    As far as anyone is concerned, "Ruthless" should be the last guy you want on your tail.

     

    Rory MacDonald

    Now that GSP is out of the picture, MacDonald can finally make a real push for the title.

    Not that he wasn't trying all these years, but it would have been near impossible for him to challenge his professional predecessor for a UFC championship.

    In other words, MacDonald's time to shine is now.

    His skill set has transformed into one of the more difficult to defend, and his mental resilience is plenty capable of handling the fatigue that comes along with a tough run at the belt.

    If MacDonald isn't hungry to put the rest of the division to shame, then I'll cash my chips in right now.

Middleweight

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    Vitor Belfort

    No more bulk, no problem.

    Belfort is officially taking an "el naturale" approach to this thing we call MMA (or so we are to believe).

    That means that his hunger will have to fill a void left by low testosterone levels, unwanted energy dumps and everything that comes with being a 37-year-old professional fighter.

    With all of that said, it's impossible to ignore Belfort's confidence and simple planning.

    He'll do anything to win another UFC title.

     

    Luke Rockhold

    Many people wouldn't put Rockhold in this position, but as one of the more physically gifted middleweights in the UFC today, he seems to finally be making the noise that is needed to challenge for a world title.

    As a former Strikeforce champion, Rockhold knows what it takes to train and execute to perfection. He just has to wait his turn, remain focused and let his potent striking take over.

    Once he does that, the stars will align and people will understand how good this guy can really be.

Light Heavyweight

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    Daniel Cormier

    Alexander Gustafsson's out, Cormier's in.

    Jon Jones is fighting nonetheless.

    That means that Cormier will finally get the chance to back up each and every word he's been spitting in Jones' direction since "DC" made his promotional debut no more than one year ago.

    Now while that doesn't seem like enough time to go from beating Dion Staring to challenging the best mixed martial artist in the world, Cormier's skill set gives him the tools capable of forcing Bones into making a deadly mistake.

    However, until Cormier's hand is actually raised at UFC 178, we're forced to take his hunger with a grain of salt.

     

    Alexander Gustafsson

    Hunger isn't even the right word to describe Gustafsson's feelings toward the light heavyweight crown.

    It should be more like obsession. Or even the sense of loss that swells over you when your favorite toy is stolen on the playground.

    For the Swede, the title that Jones currently holds is his. For him, he did enough at UFC 165 to knock off one of the very best pound-for-pound fighters of all time.

    Heck, many of us still share his heartbreak.

    Regardless, The Mauler stands as the only man to bring Jones to the absolute brink. If he can get his hands on the champ one more time, "his" title may actually become just that.

Heavyweight

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    Fabricio Werdum

    Werdum has waited years for his title shot.

    But as a guy who doesn't really hold the sort of appeal to the masses that, say, an Alistair Overeem does, the Brazilian had to do things the hard way.

    And that was to knock off anyone standing between him and a shot at Cain Velasquez.

    Well, the time has come.

    Werdum will fight Velasquez in November at UFC 180, and we'll finally find out if his heralded grappling skills are enough to stifle the champ's big-block motor.

     

    Junior dos Santos

    Is every fighter in the world the same?

    No.

    But no other fighter competing today knows what it feels like to be the hands-down second-best fighter in the division behind a man who is incapable of being defeated.

    That is the situation that JDS finds himself in every day of his professional existence.

    It's a sad reality when you think about it because Dos Santos is such a prolific contender and former champion, but that's the sort of mental obstacle that sparks unbelievable comebacks.

     

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