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5 Under-the-Radar Contenders in the UFC

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJuly 31, 2014

5 Under-the-Radar Contenders in the UFC

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Like water in a desert, legitimate title contenders are hard to come by.

    Even in an international powerhouse like the UFC, the hard hitters and prolific practitioners who challenge calculated champions often lay an egg.

    That's why it's not only difficult to predict how a fighter will perform in the biggest fight of his or her life, but more importantly it's proof that the contender line never gives us the insight we want.

    Some fighters fly under the radar and never get the chance to shine, while others are pushed to the front only to fall harder than their predecessors.

    So in celebration of those names who don't get the divisional recognition they deserve, especially when it comes to one day fighting for a championship, here are five UFC contenders currently flying undetected.

Honorable Mention: Ovince Saint Preux

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    Not to draw any ill-advised or unwarranted comparisons, but Ovince Saint Preux is putting together the type of light heavyweight wins that champion Jon Jones did upon his promotional arrival.

    Obviously, their skill sets are night and day at this point in time, but OSP remains one of the very best athletes in the division.

    As a fighter who often falls back on raw talent rather than tactical execution, the 31-year-old has been able to impressively finish three out of his four UFC opponents.

    He'll face the most accomplished foe he ever has when he takes on Ryan Bader at UFC Fight Night 47, but that doesn't mean Saint Preux can't rise to the occasion and become the next big thing in the division.

Dennis Bermudez

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    Growing like a sponge in water, rising contender Dennis Bermudez has become a problem for other unsuspecting featherweights.

    His game offers power strikes in bunches, slick transitions, heavy takedowns and the aptitude to fight tooth and nail.

    Now the owner of a seven-fight win streak after submitting Clay Guida, which served as his second straight Performance of the Night award, the 27-year-old hasn't tasted defeat since Diego Brandao beat him out for The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 rights.

    As part of one of the most rapidly evolving weight classes around, it's going to be tough for Bermudez to quickly ascend the divisional ladder.

    However, with a 7-1 promotional record in his back pocket and the fight style that attracts fans of all shapes and sizes, he's finally starting to raise some eyebrows.

Stipe Miocic

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    There's something about heavyweight Stipe Miocic that people tend to sleep on.

    It may be his relatively low popularity among fans compared to other divisional threats such as Alistair Overeem, Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt.

    However, as arguably the best athlete in the division and fueled by a background in wrestling and boxing, the 31-year-old holds as much promise as any other name in the weight class.

    He's one of the quickest strikers on his feet, and he's one of the most patient. He has only been taken down twice in his UFC career and has only ever been out-struck in his loss to Stefan Struve.

    The point here is that Miocic is a killer.

    He's going to showcase his skill set on the big stage one day; don't be surprised if he puts forth a strong push for the title.

John Lineker

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    With the flyweight division thinner than leftover apple pie, rising contenders like John Lineker don't need to do much to stand out.

    Take Chris Cariaso, for instance. He defeated three fighters outside of the division's top 10, then he gets a shot at champion Demetrious Johnson.

    It's highly likely that the 24-year-old would essentially only have to win one more time before being granted an opportunity to capture UFC gold.

    With hands made out of wrenches and hammers, Lineker may actually serve as Johnson's biggest test to date, especially if he can maintain the ferocious cardio he displayed in his last Octagon appearance opposite Alptekin Ozkilic.

Bobby Green

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Bobby Green has the confidence of a champion.

    There's no disputing that.

    He also possesses the patient striking, elevated takedown defense and head movement to one day challenge for ultimate divisional bragging rights.

    What he did to Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 12 was nothing short of tactical brilliance.

    What was supposed to be a close-knit battle turned into Green having his way with a 13-year veteran, despite the bout being ruled a split decision.

    Nonetheless, Green is starting to turn heads in a division that encompasses some of the very best young fighters in the game today.

    All he has to do is keep bobbing and weaving, and things will play out in his favor.

Dustin Poirier

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    Outside of his uber-suave ability to walk away from a finish like it was a movie explosion, Dustin Poirier is one of the most well-rounded and readily equipped featherweights around.

    He's one who can get it done wherever a fight may go.

    However, since dropping a loss to Cub Swanson back at UFC on Fuel TV 7, the 25-year-old hasn't been mentioned all too much when it comes to the division's top title threats.

    Instead, he has found himself in a lose-lose situation opposite rising superstar Conor McGregor when the two meet at UFC 178.

    McGregor is not ranked higher than Poirier. A win won't give "The Diamond" the key victory he needs to fight for No. 1 contender rights, either.

    In any case, Poirier isn't going to lay over and die for anyone. He'll do whatever the promotion asks of him until it's time to battle the likes of Jose Aldo, Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes.

     

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