10 Best Additions to the UFC Roster in Early 2013

Craig Amos@@CAABRMMAFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2013

10 Best Additions to the UFC Roster in Early 2013

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    2013 has been a busy year for the UFC. The promotion has already hosted 13 events, put on eight title fights and visited six countries.

    Beyond the flurry of activity in early 2013, it has been a huge year for the UFC in terms of talented added. Several prospects, unheralded surprises and household names have made the Octagon their new home, bolstering the UFC's already prestigious roster.

    Here we will examine who among the fighters that have made the jump to the UFC in 2013 represent the most impactful additions. 

    For clarity's sake, 2013 additions will consider the date of a fighter's debut or return to the UFC, not the date they signed a contract with the promotion.

    In terms of criteria, the rankings consider current talent level, upside and marketability. On the whole, they attempt to order debuting fighters in terms of their overall value to the UFC.

10. Dustin Kimura

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    Debut: UFC 156, Aldo vs. Edgar

    Result: Won vs. Chico Camus

    Age: 24

    Division: Bantamweight

    Unheralded as a prospect, Kimura earned Submission of the Night honors at UFC 156.

    He didn't receive too much attention for his performance and has no upcoming fight scheduled, but his grappling technique looked outstanding, so I was sure to find a place for him on this list.

    At just 24 he looks to have some real upside, and even if he never blossoms into a title contender, chances are high that the UFC has found a mid-level guy to round out their 135-pound division at the very least.

9. Robbie Lawler

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    Return: UFC 157, Rousey vs. Carmouche

    Result: Won vs. Josh Koscheck

    Age: 31

    Division: Welterweight

    Lawler spent the last few years floundering in Strikeforce, but showed that he still has it when he triumphantly returned to the UFC, making short work of Josh Koscheck.

    The veteran's return to the Octagon, where he had last competed in 2004, coincided with a drop to welterweight, where he last competed during that same fight back in 2004.

    It's doubtful that Lawler captures the strap at 170, or even earns the chance to fight for it, but he remains exciting and recognizable, and those are two traits welcomed in any UFC division.

8. Luke Rockhold

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    Debut: UFC on FX 8, Belfort vs. Rockhold

    Result: Loss to Vitor Belfort

    Age: 28

    Division: Middleweight

    Rockhold's first UFC fight could fairly be termed "disastrous," but when you can make your debut as a headlining fighter, your value to the promotion is explicit. 

    Besides, it's not like Rockhold is done as a middleweight contender. He remains a top 10 fighter at 185 and is more likely to rebound than fade away.

    He is a talented, well-rounded competitor, and even if he never replicates the championship success he found in Strikeforce, he's easily good enough to hold down a job as a gate-keeper.

7. Gegard Mousasi

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    Debut: UFC on Fuel TV 9, Mousasi vs. Latifi

    Result: Won vs. Ilir Latifi

    Age: 27

    Division: Light heavyweight

    Mousasi's long-awaited UFC debut was somewhat underwhelming, but it was still a win. Had he beat an opponent with a greater profile, say Alexander Gustafsson for example, he might just top this list. 

    Still, Mousasi is a good get for the UFC because he has been one of the more recognizable names operating outside the organization for several years now. Opinions range on how good of a fighter he truly is, but few rank him less than decent.

    His upside remains high at 27, and it's not inconceivable he earns a title shot at 205. Or at 185 for that matter, since he has been flirting with a return to middleweight.

    Either way, Mousasi was a great 2013 addition for the UFC.

6. Jordan Mein

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    Debut: UFC 158, St-Pierre vs. Diaz

    Result: Won vs. Dan Miller

    Age: 23

    Division: Welterweight

    Mein's value to the UFC is both significant and multi-faceted.

    He is extremely talented, which is an obvious prerequisite to being an asset.

    He is young, which means he'll be around for a long time to serve the UFC.

    He is exciting to watch, which aids in allowing his employers to deliver a well-received product to fans.

    He is Canadian, which means he is particularly marketable to a niche audience and will prove a welcomed addition to any card that takes place north of the border.

    Of course, some of the hype surrounding Mein dissipated when he was schooled by grizzled veteran Matt Brown, but he is still, right now and even more so in the future, a wonderful addition to the UFC.

5. Conor McGregor

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    Debut: UFC on Fuel TV 9, Mousasi vs. Latifi

    Result: Won vs. Marcus Brimage

    Age: 24

    Division: Featherweight

    McGregor's April UFC debut was electric. He scored a Knockout of the Night in just 1:07, announcing himself to the sport's mainstream audience.

    The Irishman has a bright future with the promotion, possessing the type of power rarely seen in the lower weight classes and the killer instinct to put it to good use.

    His nationality must also be appealing to Dana White and his chums, as Zuffa continues to push the UFC into new markets.

4. Ronaldo Souza

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    Debut: UFC on FX 8, Belfort vs. Rockhold

    Result: Won vs. Chris Camozzi

    Age: 33

    Division: Middleweight

    "Jacare" is one of the most accomplished and effective jiu-jitsu practitioners in mixed martial arts. His striking is coming along too, as is his wrestling, which makes him an unbelievably dangerous competitor.

    In fact, he has to rank as one of the most viable contenders to Anderson Silva's title, if for no other reason than because he possesses the equivalent of one-punch knockout power with his submissions.

    Souza's entry into the UFC is a tremendous boon to the middleweight division. He is an exciting, aggressive fighter, a grappling lover's dream and a legitimate title contender.

    He does own a recent loss to Luke Rockhold, who ranks lower on this list, but he has looked immaculate in recent outings, which is why he comes in at a better spot.

3. Daniel Cormier

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    Debut: UFC on Fox 7, Henderson vs. Melendez

    Result: Won vs. Frank Mir

    Age: 34

    Division: Heavyweight

    When you get an undefeated fighter with the ability to challenge for the heavyweight, and possibly light heavyweight title, that's a nice addition.

    Cormier isn't as thrilling to watch as some of the other guys on this list, but in terms of actual effectiveness he might just be No. 1.

    His friendship with current heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez is a hindrance for any potential immediate title fight, but there is plenty for him to do in the division. Or, should he decide to make the drop to 205, he would instantly become the greatest threat to Jon Jones' seemingly unstoppable reign.

2. The Strikeforce Lightweights

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    Isn't categorizing a handful of fighters into a single group and ranking that group against individuals kind of cheating? You betcha, but I've compromised by ranking each fighter internally, so that's something, right?

    The following is an ordered list of the top-five Strikeforce lightweight imports the UFC has welcomed in 2013.

    The brackets following each fighter's name contains the following information: Debut event, debut result, division.

    5. Ryan Couture (UFC on Fuel TV 9, Lost vs. Ross Pearson, 30)

    Couture will probably never replicate what his father did in the UFC, but he owns a recognizable name and may have what it takes to hold a roster spot.

    His UFC debut was most certainly a disappointing one, but starting off with Ross Pearson isn't exactly easy.

    4. K.J. Noons (UFC 160, Lost vs. Donald Cerrone, 30)

    Perhaps I'm holding out hope for Noons too long and should have bumped him for Bobby Green or Isaac Vallie-Flagg, but I still think "The King's" upside is the highest of the three. 

    His name is almost more valuable to the UFC at this point, having just debuted on a pay-per-view main card in what was a highly anticipated affair.

    3. Josh Thomson (UFC on Fox 7, Won vs. Nate Diaz, 34)

    Thomson's debut couldn't have gone any better than it did. It will be interesting to see whether he just had the perfect game plan or if he is actually a top fighter in the UFC's 155-pound division.

    Regardless of his exact position, he's undeniably a good fighter and can figure into some interesting fights moving forward.

    2. Pat Healy (UFC 159, No-contest vs. Jim Miller, 29)

    Healy was cutting through the Strikeforce ranks before transitioning to the UFC, but he appears not to have missed a beat. His victory over Jim Miller was discounted for a positive post-fight drug test, but the performance remains relevant. Unless you're convinced it was the marijuana that made him fight so well.

    1. Gilbert Melendez (UFC on Fox 7, Lost vs. Ben Henderson, 31)

    That he debuted in the UFC as a title contender demonstrates his value to the promotion. That he came within an eyelash of winning the title just shows how good a fighter he really is.

    In Melendez, the UFC gained a guy that most see as a top-25 pound-for-pound competitor, one that should be a part of some big fights over the next couple of years.

1. The WMMA Bantamweight Division

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    Each of the previous entries on this list bolstered the UFC roster in some sense, whether through adding promising young talent, a marketable name or an immediate title contender. But none changed the face of the promotion, nor the sport, like the UFC's introduction of a women's division earlier this year.

    We could probably leave it at that, but in keeping with the theme of ranking individual fighters, let's take a look at the most influential female mixed martial artists to have debuted in 2013 so far.

    The bracketed information next to each name is: Debut event, debut result, age.

    5. Cat Zingano (TUF 17 Finale, Won vs. Miesha Tate, 30)

    In terms of pure talent, Zingano ranks better than five on this list (I would have her at No. 3), but she isn't as recognizable as a couple of her colleagues, and missed an opportunity to change that when she went down with an injury, forcing her out of a TUF coaching role.

    Still, Zingano is a title challenger in a new, shallow division, so she is already playing a valuable role for the organization.

    4. Liz Carmouche (UFC 157, Lost vs. Ronda Rousey, 29) 

    It seemed that Carmouche was kind of randomly selected to fight Rousey at UFC 157, but she showed that she is a serious talent, even in defeat.

    Her performance gained her a little notoriety, and she's now a fairly recognizable name by WMMA standards.

    3. Miesha Tate (TUF 17 Finale, Lost vs. Cat Zingano, 26)

    Behind Ronda Rousey, Tate is the biggest name on the UFC's WMMA roster. Her budding rivalry with Rousey and upcoming part as her counterpart on The Ultimate Fighter make her a key piece of the division.

    She is also talented, though the threat she actually poses to the champion is somewhat contentious at this point.

    2. Sara McMann (UFC 159, Won vs. Sheila Gaff, 32)

    McMann is an Olympic silver medalist in wrestling who maintains a perfect 7-0 MMA record. She is a much more low-key personality than Tate or Rousey, but she is charismatic in her own way, and, as WMMA gains popularity, she will become a star.

    She also happens to be the biggest threat to Rousey's title right now.

    1. Ronda Rousey (UFC 157, Won vs. Liz Carmouche, 26)

    The face of WMMA, Rousey became something of a rock star in 2012 and will only become more firmly entrenched in the spotlight going forward.

    With a UFC title and a TUF coaching job locked down, you'll be seeing and hearing a lot from her over the next several years.

    Love her or hate her, she is the forerunner of change in the sport, and that is huge for the UFC.