The UFC heavyweight division has quickly become one of the most exciting in the industry. With a handful of top ranked fighters battling it out for contendership, there are many fresh up and comers who may soon become championship contenders themselves. Here’s a look at a handful of up and coming heavyweights that have huge potential for moving up in the division.
Jon Madsen (6-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC)
Jon Madsen has a strong wrestling background which has enabled him to neutralize all three of his UFC opponents in decision victories. While his last four fights have all been won by decision, he holds one TKO and one KO victory on his resume.
We know from his past four fights that Jon Madsen has no trouble going the three rounds. In a division where some of the fighters are known to gas badly (Shane Carwin, Todd Duffee,) conditioning and wrestling credentials can take a rising prospect far.
After losing The Ultimate Fighter season 10 during the tapings to Brendan Schaub by KO, Madsen may seek a rematch that would go on his record. Whether or not Madsen can take his wrestling skill set and add to his arsenal may be what determines how long he’ll stay undefeated.
Possible Next Matchups: Brendan Schaub, Todd Duffee, Ben Rothwell, Shane Carwin, Gabriel Gonzaga
Mike Russow: (13-1 in MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Mike Russow is the flabby looking guy who beat the chiseled knockout record-holder Todd Duffee by KO midway through the 3rd round. Russow is a big man. His impressive 13-1 record in MMA is complimented strongly by his variation in wins.
Mike Russow has eight submission victories, three KO’s, and two decision victories. He has only been defeated one time and it was by submission.
Mike Russow is clearly an up and coming UFC prospect to be reckoned with. When asked about his win over Todd Duffee, Russow said his own performance sucked and that he got lucky. It’ll be interesting to see what Russow is capable of when he performs at a level he’s proud of.
Possible Matchups: Jon Madsen, Brendan Schaub, Shane Carwin, Ben Rothwell, Karlos Vemola
Travis Browne (10-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC)
Travis Browne holds an impressive 10-0 record eerily similar to Shane Carwin’s record before fighting Brock Lesnar.
The difference is, Travis Browne has won matches outside of the first round before. Sporting eight wins by KO, one win by decision, and one by submission, this 6' 7" giant eliminated James McSweeney with ease and looks to solidify his striking status when he fights Cheick Kongo next.
If Browne can win his next fight decisively, he’ll likely be considered a knockout king, but the greatest question will still remain: Is he as one dimensional as Kongo?
Next Matchup: Cheick Kongo at UFC 120.
Matt Mitrione (2-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC)
Seth Petruzelli will forever be known as the guy who sank Elite XC by beating Kimbo Slice, but Matt Mitrione’s greatest accomplishment so far is kicking Kimbo Slice out of the UFC by way of TKO.
With a record of just 2-0 in MMA, both fights being in the UFC, much is still unknown about Mitrione and how likely he is to succeed. Mitrione shows a good amount of potential with his weird style of grappling and his knockout power. He’ll get his first true test in the octagon on September 25th, against Joey Beltran at UFC 119.
Next Matchup: Joey Beltran at UFC 119
Todd Duffee (6-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC)
Todd Duffee holds arguably the greatest debut in the history of the UFC, beating Tim Hague in a record seven seconds. While the hype machine quickly grew behind him, much was still unknown.
In his fight against Mike Russow, Todd Duffee looked good in the early rounds but began to show signs of fatigue, and ended up getting KO’d in the third round. Where he will go from here is still uncertain, but he’ll definitely be getting another chance to show his skills soon.
Possible Next Matchups: Brendan Schaub, Ben Rothwell, Jon Madsen, Karlos Vemola, Gabriel Gonzaga, Shane Carwin
Karlos Vemola (7-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC)
Karlos Vemola shows a lot of great promise in his record, with three of his wins being by knockout, and four by submission. Unfortunately, his debut ended up being an unanimous decision loss to Jon Madsen. There are worse ways to lose and Karlos is still under contract with the UFC, so he’ll likely have another chance in the octagon soon.
Possible Next Matchups: Ben Rothwell, Gabriel Gonzaga, Mike Russow, Brendan Schaub
Brendan Schaub (6-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC)
Brendan Shaub was one fight away from being the Ultimate Fighter season 10 winner, but Roy Nelson knocked him out in the first round of the finale.
Since losing, Schaub has made quick work of his next two opponents, making him 2-1 in the UFC, and raising his status and ranking significantly.
Schaub has gone on record saying he wants tougher competition, and that his loss to Roy Nelson was actually good for him. There are many exciting possibilities for where Schaub will go next.
Possible Next Matchups: Gabriel Gonzaga, Todd Duffee, Mike Russow, Jon Madsen, Ben Rothwell
Stefan Struve (19-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC)
Stefan Struve bounced back from a poor debut against Junior Dos Santos with a solid three fight winning streak. His streak was put to an end with another early KO loss, this time to Roy Nelson. While his next fight is against an unknown in Christian Morecraft, what will really determine whether or not Struve is any kind of future prospect is how well he does against better ranked competition.
If Struve continues to get KO’d in the first round whenever he fights a top 20 fighter, he will probably stop being considered a prospect, but for now, with 23 fights under his belt at just age 22, there's still plenty of time for improvement.
Next Matchup: Christian Morecraft, UFC 117