Charles Oliveira and the 20 Most Mouth Watering Prospects in MMA Today

Sean SmithAnalyst IJune 24, 2011

Charles Oliveira and the 20 Most Mouth Watering Prospects in MMA Today

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    With some of the great fighters in the history of the sport such as Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture having recently retired, and others like Anderson Silva and Fedor Emelianenko soon to follow, it is time for a new breed of MMA superstars to arise and take the places of those legends.

    UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones has already reached the top of that mountain, but who else will follow Jones' lead? Despite a recent setback against Jim Miller, Charles Oliveira appears to have the tools to become one of those fighters who will achieve greatness.

    Let's take a look at 24 other fighters who have the potential to do the same.

20. Jonathan Brookins

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    Despite winning TUF at lightweight, Jonathan Brookins has decided to return to featherweight for his next fight in the UFC. The last time we saw Brookins fight at featherweight for Zuffa, he was dominated by Jose Aldo.

    However, there is plenty of room for Brookins to improve and become one of the best featherweights in the UFC. Most notably, Brookins has a ton of adjustments to make in his striking form.

19. Karlos Vemola

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    After a disappoint loss to Jon Madsen at heavyweight, 25-year-old Karlos Vemola decided to cut to 205 pounds.

    In his first light heavyweight fight, Vemola rag-dolled Seth Petruzelli en route to a first round technical knockout.

    Vemola will look to continue to use his incredible strength at 205 pounds in his next fight against Ronny Markes in August.


18. Court McGee

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    The winner of Season 11 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), Court McGee looks to have the determination it will take to become successful in the UFC.

    Since his win over Ryan Jensen in his first post-TUF fight in the UFC, 26-year-old McGee has been battling injuries. Expect McGee to come back better than ever when he does return, though.


17. Alexander Gustafsson

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    At only 24-years-old, Alexander Gustafsson is only a win or two away from becoming a light heavyweight contender in the UFC. Since losing to Phil Davis, who has since graduated from this list, Gustafsson has earned back-to-back submission victories.

    Gustafsson has also begun training with Davis since their fight, which has appeared to have a substantial impact on Gistafsson's ground game. Gustafsson's next test will come against Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 133.

16. Matt Mitrione

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    The oldest fighter on this list, 32-year-old Matt Mitrione got a late start to his MMA career after playing in the NFL with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.

    Still, Mitrione has shown to be a quick learner and his 4-0 record in the UFC could be a sign of big things to come for this late-bloomer. Mitrione will attempt to extend that record to 5-0 in his fight on Sunday against Christian Morecraft.


15. Nik Lentz

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    26-year-old Nik Lentz has 26 professional fights under his belt and will be looking to take another step toward becoming a contender with a win over Charles Oliveira at UFC Live on Versus 4.

    Lentz may not produce the most exciting fights on a consistent basis, but he continues to find a way to win. If Lentz beats Oliveira, look for plenty of people to jump on "The Carny" bandwagon.


14. Michael McDonald

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    At 20-years-old, Michael McDonald is the youngest fighter on this list. However, he already has 14 fights and two UFC victories under his belt.

    In a bantamweight division looking for new challengers, McDonald could earn a chance to become the youngest UFC champion ever if he able to keep his six fight winning streak going for a few more fights.

13. John Makdessi

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    John Makdessi has thoroughly dominated the first nine opponents of his career with his flashy striking. In his last fight, Makdessi knocked out Kyle Watson with a spinning back fist.

    It looks like Makdessi is ready to test himself at the next level, as he will take on Paul Taylor in his next lightweight fight.


12. Dave Herman

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    After earning a big win over Jon Olav Einemo in his UFC debut, 26-year-old Dave Herman is ready to make his case at becoming a heavyweight contender.

    In only five years as a professional, Herman has already gained plenty of experience in 23 fights.

11. Tyron Woodley

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    Undefeated in eight professional fights, 29-year-old Tyron Woodley has nearly surpassed the role of prospect.

    However, his lack of wins against elite competition keeps him eligible for this list. Still, Woodley is bordering on contender status in the shallow Strikeforce welterweight division.

10. Jason Young

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    Taking the UFC 131 fight on short notice, Jason Young was a heavy underdog against Dustin Poirier in his UFC debut. However, Young put on an excellent performance and some thought Young should have been awarded the decision that went Poirier's way.

    Still, Young's striking display in that fight paints a bright picture for his future in the UFC.


9. Dustin Poirier

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    Despite beating Josh Grispi, who had recently been pegged as a number one contender, Dustin Poirier recently admitted after his most recent fight against Jason Young that he does not see himself as a true contender at featherweight quite yet.

    Still, 22-year-old Poirier brings exciting potential and is sure to be a force a 145 pounds for the forseeable future.



8. Johny Hendricks

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    Johny Hendricks appeared to have hit a major road block in his loss to Rick Story in 2010. However, that loss now looks much less damaging after Story recently defeated perrenial welterweight contender Thiago Alves.

    In college, Hendricks was a four-time All-American wrestler, but he has developed knockout power to go along with his wrestling credentials. At 27-years-old, there is still plenty of time for Hendricks to climb his way to the top of the welterweight division.


7. Robert Drysdale

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    Considering he is one of the most accomplished jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world and the fact that he trains fighters who are already near the top of the sport, it may seem crazy to mention Robert Drysdale as a prospect.

    However, Drysdale only has three wins in his short MMA career, so he has to be considered a prospect in MMA terms right now. Older than most fighters on this list, Drysdale has a much smaller window of time to reach the top, but he has all the tools.


6. Renan Barao

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    At 24-years-old, Renan Barao has already earned 26 wins in his professional career. Barao's only loss came in his first career fight in April 2005.

    After beating Cole Escovedo at UFC 130, Barao will likely get a step up in competition for his next opponent.

5. Shane Del Rosario

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    A two-time WBC Muay Thai Heavyweight Champion, Shane del Rosario is one of the most promising talents in MMA. Already, del Rosario has posted an 11-0 record with none of his fights going longer than seven minutes.

    Unfortunately, del Rosario was recently forced out of a bout with Daniel Cormier because of a car accident. Hopefully, del Rosario will be able to get healthy and back to fighting very soon.



4. Charles Oliveira

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    Despite his recent loss to Jim Miller, 21-year-old Charles Oliveira still plans on becoming the youngest champion in UFC history.

    It won't be easy, but Oliveira has the skillset to string some victories together and make that goal become a reality. Oliveira's first step toward reaching that goal will come against Nik Lentz on Sunday.



3. Edson Barboza

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    An accomplish muay thai fighter prior to beginning his MMA career, Edson Barboza brings a spectacular striking arsenal into each of his fights.

    In his last fight, Barboza sealed victory over Anthony Njokuani with an incredible spinning heel kick. Now, Barboza will look to continue his rise in the lightweight division with a win over Ross Pearson.


2. Chris Weidman

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    Under Matt Serra, Chris Weidman has become recognized as one of the brightest prospects in MMA.

    A two-time All-American at Hofstra, Weidman has since developed a well-rounded ground game and has shown improvement in his striking. At 27-years-old, there is also still room for Weidman to continue his progression.

1. Roger Gracie

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    It seems strange calling Roger Gracie a prospect considering everything he has accomplished in his career as a jiu-jitsu practitioner, but he does only have four MMA fights under his belt and can't be considered a contender quite yet.

    However, Gracie's next fight will be against Muhammed Lawal. A win over Lawal will make Gracie a serious light heavyweight contender and will graduate him from this list.


    Sean Smith is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. For the latest insight and updates on everything MMA, you can follow Sean on Twitter here.