People seem to moan and complain constantly about the lack of interesting fights leading up the main event of fight cards. It's a common complaint that is heard time and time again. Luckily for us fans, the UFC is poised to deliver one of it's most intriguing cards in a matter of days.
The UFC has always had to toe a thin line between guaranteeing pay-per-view buys with well-established fighters and showcasing their developing talents. Joe Silva did a phenomenal job of balancing those prospects and stars with UFC 123.
While most casual fans will be drawn in to see Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, B.J. Penn and Matt Hughes the most important fights of the night for the future of the UFC involve Gerald Harris, Phil Davis, George Sotiropoulos and Edson Barboza.
Edson Barboza kicks the night off on the preliminary portion of the card that most will not see unless time permits. Barboza is a young lightweight prospect who has drawn heaps of praise all across the Internet for his electrifying stand-up skills.
A former Muay Thai competitor, Barboza will walk into the Octagon with some of the best striking within the 155-pound division. His submission skills are largely untested, but with a solid showing, the UFC could already have another future exciting title contender at lightweight.
The other three mentioned have slots within the televised main card of the evening. The UFC brass will surely hope for exciting and dominant performances from Sotiropolous, Davis and Harris in order to push them up the ladder and into title contending slots.
The opening fight of the night pits the Australian George Sotiropoulos against former Ultimate Fighter contestant Joe Lauzon. Sotiropoulos has shown a history of exciting ground work while in the UFC. He opened up his stint in the organization on the popular reality TV show as well and parlayed his success there to a full-time gig with the organization.
After putting on absolute clinics against Billy Miles, Roman Mitichyan, George Roop and Jason Dent, Sotiropoulos earned a big-time test against Joe Stevenson in his native country this past February.
He passed with flying colors. His grappling based style has proven incredibly exciting, even for the pickiest fans. A win against Lauzon throws Sotiropoulos right into the top-five in the UFC lightweight division. A future title shot could very well be on the line come Saturday depending on how dominant the Australian is against Lauzon.
Perhaps the most promising prospect of the bunch, Phil "Mr. Wonderful" Davis takes on Tim Boetsch on the main card as well. The former Penn State wrestler has shown nothing but immense talent during his three fights within the UFC.
He uses his wrestling incredibly well and trains extensively on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu to make the most out of his wrestling background. Davis has already been crowned as a future top-five light heavyweight, someone who has a legitimate shot at obtaining gold within the UFC.
The thing with Mr. Wonderful is, not only does he have all of the raw talent in the world, but he also has one of the best personalities around. I mean look at the following quote from an interview found on UFC.com.
"I had another roommate and he let him out and I’ve never seen him again so when I started fighting, people said I should name myself after the cat, Mr. Wonderful.”
That's the kind of stuff that the casual fans of MMA eat up. It's almost impossible to not envision a day when he headlines a UFC card precluded by funny interviews that have the masses eating out of the palm of his hand. I expect a huge push for Phil Davis at UFC 123, he has all the makings of a future star.
Often looked over, Gerald Harris has finally been promoted to the main card for his upcoming matchup with newcomer Maiquel Falcao. Probably best known for his disgusting knockout slam of David Branch, which just happened to be shown countless times on ESPN in the days following, Harris has always had a knack for getting his name out there.
After a solid showing on The Ultimate Fighter where he lost to eventual winner Amir Sadollah, Harris was disappointed to find out he was not asked back for the season finale.
So he went out and posted stoppage victories and called into a radio show that had Dana White as a guest and pleaded for a shot with the UFC. White told him to call him the next day, and Harris has gone undefeated in the UFC since, stopping all three of his opponents.
Harris has a down-to-earth personality, one that fans would be sure to rally around. He is willing to work hard to constantly get better and keep improving. And it sure doesn't hurt that his exciting style leads fans to want to see him fight. It's a complete win-win-win.
At the end of the day, fans are going to turn into UFC 123 to watch Rampage, Machida, Penn and Hughes. That's obvious. But at the same time they will be treated to three, possibly four, of the biggest young talents under the UFC banner.
Skip the beer runs and the bathroom breaks this time around. Stay glued to the television all night long as you get a chance to see the future stars of the UFC in action. It's not everyday you get to see the future Rampage Jacksons and B.J. Penns fighting alongside the actual ones.