We continue the series here with a look at the light heavyweights not currently employed by Zuffa.
From Bellator competitors to international competitors, top-flight light heavyweights are being discovered from all corners of the globe.
With a boom in eastern European talent, the division once thought of as one of the thinnest weight classes in the sport is quickly earning a reputation as one of the deepest talent pools in all of MMA.
Who are the best at 205 pounds outside of the Zuffa umbrella?
Fast rising 20-year-old Jonas Billstein is a product of Combat Club Cologne in Germany.
Busting out of the gate, Billstein established himself as one to watch by winning his first nine contests, including a unanimous decision win over Hans Stringer.
Billstein tasted defeat for the first time in his most recent bout, tapping to a triangle choke at the hands of Attila Vegh in June at Heroes Gate 4.
Ethan Garrison has built an 8-0 record on the American regional MMA scene, finishing seven of his opponents, six in the first round.
Garrison has displayed a very well-rounded skill set, finishing three opponents by way of TKO and four with the rear-naked choke technique.
Standing at 6'4", Garrison does a good job of finding his range and capitalizing on his usual reach advantage.
The reigning and defending cage light heavyweight champion, Vanttinen lost in his most recent outing to Attila Vegh at a Rock and Brawl event in Finland.
Before the tough decision loss, Vanttinen had built a 10-fight win streak, including wins over talented fighters such as Victor O'Donnell, Edwin Dewees and Antoni Chmielewski.
Vanttinen makes his return October 1st against UFC veteran and former TFC light heavyweight champion Victor Valimaki at Fight Festival 31 in Helsinki.
Vegh has made quite a name for himself in eastern Europe, establishing himself as one of Slovakia's top exports.
With a record of 24-4-2, Vegh is currently riding a four-fight win streak, including big wins over Marcus Vanttinen and, more recently, Jonas Billstein.
A true fighting spirit is seen in Vegh who, after earning the hard-fought unanimous decision over Vanttinen, fought again just seven days later for the KSW promotion, retiring Grigor Aschugbabjan with a vicious second-round TKO.
Christian M'Pumbu exploded onto the American scene in Bellator's Season 4 Light Heavyweight tournament, finishing all three opponents by way of TKO on his way to claiming the belt.
M'Pumbu was no newcomer to the tournament structure, having won the Fire of Peresvit Openweight Tournament in 2006 and the Star of Peresvit Openweight Tournament in 2007, which included a submission win over UFC heavyweight Stefan Struve in the second round.
Yoshiyuki Nakanishi is known by most fans as the reigning and defending DEEP light heavyweight champion, having won the belt in their 2010 tournament.
The Team M.A.D. product has shown a diverse submission skill set to accent his four knockout victories, earning wins with a key lock and Achilles lock.
With notable wins over Christian M'Pumbu and Katsuyori Shibata, the judo-sambo specialist owns a 10-2 record.
Widely known as the "Kimbo Killer," Seth Petruzelli has been credited by many as not only being the man to end the promotional myth that was Kimbo Slice, but also as the man who ended the promotional nightmare that was EliteXC.
Following his run on TUF 2, Petruzelli lost to Matt Hamill and Wilson Gouveia before being let go, with a win in the UWC promotion sandwiched in between.
A four-fight win streak ensued for Petruzelli, earning him a second shot with the UFC. His stay wouldn't last; he was finished by Ricardo Romero and Karlos Vemola, despite being in control of the Romero fight early.
Rebounding with a win over Dave Mewborn in the fast rising World Extreme Fighting promotion, Petruzelli was invited to Bellator Fighting Championships for a 230-pound catchweight fight with the UFC veteran. An impressive striking display from Petruzelli led to a devastating knockout in the second round, after which he announced his plans to enter the next Bellator 205-pound tournament.
Petruzelli is also known as having the youngest sponsor in mixed martial arts in the world to my knowledge, as the nine-year-old creator of the hit children's book The Big M (www.TheBigM.net), Kaleb Brown, is an avid fan and supporter of the Silverback.
A veteran in the sport at 16-6-1, Newton was at one time the MFC middleweight champion.
After taking the belt from Roger Hollett following a rear-naked choke win over David Heath, Newton dropped the belt to Trevor Prangley in his very next fight.
The loss to Prangley marked the beginning of a three-fight skid for Newton, from which he has rebounded nicely, having won his last four fights.
He holds notable wins over Kyacey Uscola, Heath, Hollett and UFC veteran Rodney Wallace.
Glover Teixeira is known to the casual fan mostly as the man who first defeated Sokoudjou, knocking him out at an early WEC event.
Teixeira, however, has many notable wins in his career, including Matt Horwich, Daniel Tabera, Marcio Cruz, Antonio Mendes and Marvin Eastman.
With impressive wins at light heavyweight and over the 205-pound limit, Teixeira is expected to settle permanently at the 205-pound limit when Zuffa comes calling.
Per MMAJunkie.com, issues with his green card have stalled the move back to America, but Teixeira is hoping they will be settled within the calendar year.
Jimmo is the reigning and defending Maximum Fighting Championship middleweight champion.
Having won six-straight fights after losing in his professional debut, Jimmo got his first shot with the UFC as part of The Ultimate Fighter: Season 8.
Matched up with Antwain Britt in his preliminary fight to get into the house and onto the show, Jimmo dropped the decision and left the show.
Utilizing his wrestling and impressive clinch work, Jimmo continued his win streak upon leaving, building his record to 15-1.
Jimmo's notable victories along the way come in the form of Emanuel Newton, Wilson Gouveia, Zak Cummings and Jesse Forbes.
Having already defended the MFC belt once (Zak Cummings), Jimmo prepares for an October 7th bout with UFC and PRIDE vet Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou for his second defense.
Continue Reading: Ranking MMA's Top 10 Heavyweights Outside of Zuffa Umbrella
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