3 Best Fighters in Every Weight Class Outside of UFC

Riley KontekFeatured ColumnistAugust 6, 2014

3 Best Fighters in Every Weight Class Outside of UFC

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    Frank Micelotta/Associated Press

    The UFC is home to some of the best fighters in the world. However, it does not possess all of the best talent in mixed martial arts.

    There are a number of top stars outside the UFC who could easily be in contention if they were in the company. They are housed by such organizations as Bellator, World Series of Fighting, One FC and other top companies.

    So, who are the three best fighters in each division outside the UFC? Let's take a look.

     

    Note: The women's strawweight division will not be included, as the division is still in its infancy.

Heavyweight

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    1. Vitaly Minakov
    2. Marcin Tybura
    3. Sergei Kharitonov

    There are actually a good amount of heavyweights outside the UFC with high-level skills and an ability to fit in the UFC ranks well. Three of the best are Bellator champ Vitaly Minakov, Polish uber-prospect Marcin Tybura and Strikeforce vet Sergei Kharitonov.

    Minakov had much hype around him coming into Bellator, and he hasn't disappointed yet. The Russian has been mowing down everybody with his powerful striking and overwhelming wrestling ability. He is definitely world ranked when it comes to the overall heavyweight rankings, which include UFC fighters.

    Tybura, 28, is young and undefeated, two things that make him the future of the division. Though his striking could use some development, he is a ferocious ground-and-pound fighter with masterful submissions. Look out for this guy in the near future.

    Kharitonov should be familiar, as the Russian was involved in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. He was in the semifinals but was tapped out there and reverted back to his pro kickboxing career. However, he still takes MMA fights and remains one of the best around.

    Imagine the depth these guys could add to a UFC heavyweight division looking for more talent.

Light Heavyweight

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    USA TODAY Sports
    1. Emanuel Newton
    2. Liam McGeary
    3. Maxim Grishin

    The light heavyweight division is not the most talent laden. In fact, it's hard to really find a ton of talent outside the UFC that is of high quality.

    Emanuel Newton, the Bellator champion, is truly a high-quality fighter. The unorthodox striker uses underrated wrestling, good athleticism and solid kicks to frustrate opponents. He is the most underrated light heavyweight in MMA, mostly because he's not in the UFC.

    Liam McGeary is also in Bellator and is quickly becoming one of the hottest light heavyweights in the game. This British knockout artist has been laying waste to all who step in his way, leading him to his current undefeated record (8-0). He is also a top prospect in the sport.

    Maxim Grishin is another Russian fighter who is near the top of the rankings but is on the outside looking in. He has spent some time in the U.S. training, where he has shaped himself into a more well-rounded fighter. He has a good future ahead of him.

    Though there isn't a ton of talent in the 205-pound division, these three guys are at the top end of that short list.

Middleweight

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    1. Yushin Okami
    2. Mamed Khalidov
    3. Alexander Shlemenko

    The middleweight division of the UFC is missing some big stars. Three of them are WSOF title contender Yushin Okami, Polish superstar Mamed Khalidov and Bellator champion Alexander Shlemenko.

    Okami is a UFC veteran who got released about a year ago. He was with the company a long time and is arguably the best Japanese fighter in UFC history. However, now he is with WSOF and will be fighting Dave Branch for the title in the coming months.

    Khalidov has long been a cult favorite among MMA fans, as the Polish veteran may be the best middleweight fighter to never compete in the Big Three organizations. He has torn up the KSW promotion in Poland, where he has knocked off UFC veteran after UFC veteran. Not only has he beat those UFC vets, but he has finished them in impressive fashion.

    Shlemenko, though he isn't the biggest middleweight (5'11", 185 lbs), has dominated the 185-pound weight class with his precision striking and aggressive style. He has basically cleaned out the Bellator middleweight division and been a key in the company gaining a lot of its Russian talent.

    These three fighters are very different but are similar in the fact they are elite talents.

Welterweight

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    1. Ben Askren
    2. Douglas Lima
    3. Rousimar Palhares

    The UFC welterweight division has most of the best talent the world has to offer. However, there are three guys who are UFC level and could be quite competitive.

    Obviously, the top welterweight in the world not under UFC contract is Ben Askren. The former Bellator champ was not signed by the UFC, so he inked a deal with One FC and is on track to becoming the promotion's champion soon. He may also have one of the best wrestling pedigrees in MMA.

    Douglas Lima is another top guy, as he currently holds Bellator gold. Though he's a good jiu-jitsu fighter, it's his stand-up that has been sending shock waves lately. His leg kicks and one-punch knockout power have earned him keynote wins and made him one of the most dangerous men in the world.

    The third-best non-UFC welterweight is a UFC veteran in the form of WSOF champion Rousimar Palhares. He had a long UFC tenure, but a questionable sportsmanship history got Palhares the ax. The leg-lock specialist remains elite, though.

    Any one of these guys would be a great add to the UFC, even if Palhares in particular does have some past issues.

Lightweight

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    1. Eddie Alvarez*
    2. Justin Gaethje
    3. Will Brooks

    Yes, Eddie Alvarez has an asterisk next to his name. Why, you ask? Well, because it has been rumored, per Tristen Critchfield of Sherdog.com, that he is close to signing with the UFC to fight Donald Cerrone. So for now, he is included.

    Alvarez is the Bellator champion and has been in the world's top 10 seemingly forever. His pair of fights with Michael Chandler are legendary, with their second fight winning him back the Bellator championship.

    WSOF champion Justin Gaethje is just behind Alvarez, as the lightweight buzzsaw has been mowing down opponents left and right. His striking is nasty, while his wrestling is incredibly underrated.

    Will Brooks is another Bellator fighter who has moved himself into this position by beating Chandler. Brooks is a highly athletic wrestler who has recently put himself on the map with his increasingly impressive performances.

    These men continue to show that the lightweight division is possibly the deepest in the sport.

Featherweight

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    1. Pat Curran
    2. Patricio Freire
    3. Shinya Aoki

    Bellator is home to the best two featherweights outside the UFC. Not only that, they are set to fight each other very soon.

    Pat Curran and Patricio Freire, who have fought each other once in the past, both possess the all-around skills and toughness to make a bout with anybody close. Curran won the first fight between the two, but it was very close and could have gone either way.

    Freire is a multiple-time Bellator tournament winner, while Curran is a two-time Bellator champion and multiple-time Bellator tournament winner. There is no doubt they are among the best in the world.

    Then there is Shinya Aoki, the Japanese grappling wizard who has dominated the Asian MMA scene for years. He has improved his striking in recent fights, though his ground game is what has brought him to prominence in this sport.

    These three have very different styles, but are all high-level competitors who would fit in the UFC well.

Bantamweight

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    1. Marlon Moraes
    2. Bibiano Fernandes
    3. Eduardo Dantas

    WSOF, One FC and Bellator, each have one of the three best bantamweights in the world outside the UFC. In fact, they are all guys who could be very competitive and potentially challenge for the title if they were in the UFC. Even more interesting, they are all Brazilian.

    Marlon Moraes is a vicious striker with horrendous kicks who has wreaked havoc in WSOF. He was a relative unknown until he started with WSOF and is now world ranked due to his nasty style and ability to dominate opponents.

    Bibiano Fernandes was thought to be coming to the UFC not long ago, but he instead opted to sign with One FC. It is a shame, as he had a chance to contend for a title quickly. The Brazilian is a dominant ground fighter with great athleticism, which has brought him great success in recent years.

    Finally, Bellator champion Eduardo Dantas has established himself as a top bantamweight in the world. Despite a hiccup in a non-Bellator fight to Tyson Nam, Dantas has been dominant, as the Nova Uniao fighter has used improved striking and gnarly ground skills to destroy opposition.

    All three of these men would really make the UFC 135-pound division incredibly deep.

Flyweight

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    1. Adriano Moraes
    2. Pietro Menga
    3. Marcin Lasota

    The flyweight division needs to add some new fighters, and there are plenty of guys who could seamlessly fill in. The three best right now who have proven their worth in 2014 are Adriano Moraes, Pietro Menga and Marcin Lasota.

    Moraes, despite losing his One FC debut in controversy, has rebounded well to show how great he can truly be. At 25 years old, he is still young and getting better, which is scary to any man he steps in the cage with.

    Menga is possibly England's best fighter to not be in the UFC in any weight class. He is a striker with underrated submission skills and literally just won another fight over the weekend in the BAMMA organization.

    Lasota is another one of the many Polish fighters finally breaking out into the mainstream. Like many of them, Lasota is a vicious grappler with great submissions, something that has been a trademark of most Polish MMA fighters.

    Include guys like Alexandre Pantoja and Sean Santella, and there is plenty of talent available at 125 pounds.

Women's Bantamweight

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
    1. Ediane Gomes
    2. Larissa Pacheco
    3. Miriam Nakamoto
    • Honorable Mention: Cris "Cyborg" Justino, Gina Carano

    Yes, I added an honorable mention. That's because Cris Cyborg does not have a 135-pound fight set in stone and Gina Carano, though in discussions with UFC, does not have a fight booked, nor has she fought in a long time.

    So, I included the three best women not in the UFC who have a fight booked or are already in the division.

    Formerly ranked in the top three at featherweight, Ediane Gomes has dropped to 135 pounds and will fight Tonya Evinger at Invicta 8. If the skills translate from 145 to 135, Gomes is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

    Larissa Pacheco is just 19 years old and is already a top prospect in MMA. She is well-rounded, aggressive and powerful, a trademark that has led her to a 10-0 record thus far as a pro.

    Miriam Nakamoto is coming off a knee injury suffered in her Invicta title fight with now-UFC fighter Lauren Murphy, but before getting injured, she looked like she could have been on her way to a title win. Her muay thai is top-of-the-line and she has some of the most brutal knees in all of MMA. If you don't believe me, watch pretty much any MMA fight she has been in.

    These three women, plus Cyborg and Carano, could really bolster the UFC's 135-pound roster.