8 Under-the-Radar UFC Fights We Are Looking Forward To

Dan Hiergesell@DHiergesellFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2015

8 Under-the-Radar UFC Fights We Are Looking Forward To

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    Despite oversaturated cards and crowded divisions, the UFC still puts on the best fights around.

    But unless you're looking for the right matchup, some worthwhile Octagon encounters will fall by the wayside.

    Fortunately, the promotion's upcoming lineup has already been fine-combed for these entrancing dynamos. Some of these bouts stand out among the rest and possess the ability to steal the show.

    Here are eight under-the-radar fights we are looking forward to watching, even if we don't realize it.

Thomas Almeida vs. Brad Pickett

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    At 19-0, bantamweight knockout artist Thomas Almeida may be the most unmentioned prospect competing in the UFC.

    With 18 finishes to his name, including a recent first-round TKO of four-year UFC vet Yves Jabouin, the exciting 23-year-old is ready to take the division by storm.

    But with a crafty scrapper like Brad Pickett standing in his way, Almeida is going to have to be at his very best come UFC 189 on July 11.

    He'll have his chance to impress on a pay-per-view main card headlined by the most anticipated championship showdown since Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen—Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor.

    That's added pressure for the youngster as he aims to thwart Pickett's quick and awkward striking.

Claudia Gadelha vs. Jessica Aguilar

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    As one of the best pound-for-pound female fighters in the world, former World Series of Fighting strawweight champion Jessica Aguilar is going to be expected to win her UFC debut at UFC 190 on August 1.

    She will be fighting in front of a presumably sold-out Brazilian crowd and attempt to get past a formidable force in Claudia Gadelha.

    Gadelha recently lost her first professional fight in a strawweight title eliminator opposite current champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk back at UFC on Fox 13 via split decision, despite landing seven takedowns.

    Needless to say, the 26-year-old Brazilian is one of the division's best fighters and a true title contender moving forward.

    Aguilar will have her work cut out for her in a situation that usually deflates UFC newcomers, but a near five-year win streak (including a victory over former UFC champion Carla Esparza in in 2011) suggests that the veteran is ready for the big leagues.

Mike Swick vs. Alex Garcia

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    Mike Swick is a fan favorite and for good reason.

    As a fast-twitch striker capable of landing unforgettable finishes, the injury-plagued welterweight is always a welcome sight on any fight card.

    But after a 30-plus month absence from the Octagon, Quick will have the tough task of fending off hungry Tristar prospect Alex Garcia in his comeback at UFC 189 next month.

    Garcia recently dropped a decision to a streaking Neil Magny, but he remains one of the more athletic and powerfully potent features in the division.

    The 35-year-old Swick must utilize his five-inch reach advantage and attempt to outpoint the youngster as he aims to capture his first UFC victory since August 2012.

Rick Story vs. Erick Silva

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    Welterweight Rick Story is a hired gun around these parts. The UFC often gifts him rising prospects, which Story in turn chews up and spits out.

    His success as the division's VIP bouncer doesn't necessarily reflect his natural skill set but more so his fight IQ, endurance and ability to absorb and inflict damage.

    Now while that doesn't bode well for Erick Silva at The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 finale later this month, the Brazilian encompasses a unique presence early in fights.

    Having recorded all six of his UFC finishes in the first round, Silva has the potential to overwhelm Story from the start and sap his Octagon wherewithal.

    It's a matchup that will surely produce fireworks on June 27.

Edson Barboza vs. Paul Felder

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    While losses to Donald Cerrone and Michael Johnson have diminished Edson Barboza's lightweight aura, the Brazilian is still capable of bouncing back in fashion.

    Dressed with elite kicks, unparalleled speed and suave technique, the 29-year-old is a highlight reel waiting to happen.

    He will take those talents into the cage with him when he meets rising divisional star Paul "The Irish Dragon" Felder at UFC on Fox 16 on July 25.

    As a relatively unknown Octagon entity, Philadelphia's own Felder possesses the evolved striking pallet to catch the entire 155-pound crop off guard.

    His spinning backfist finish over Danny Castillo at UFC 182 was equally impressive as Barboza's infamous wheel-kick knockout of Terry Etim back in 2012, but he'll need to be near-perfect to outpoint Barboza on the feet.

Demian Maia vs. Neil Magny

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    Seven is widely considered to be a lucky number. But when it comes to UFC welterweight Neil Magny's seven-fight win streak, luck has nothing to do with it.

    Hard work, self-belief, evolved technique and a newfound ability to finish fights have fueled Magny's recent Octagon success.

    However, Brooklyn's finest is now being thrown into the arms of the always formidable Demian Maia, who may well represent the best grappling the UFC has ever showcased. The two welterweights meet in August at UFC 190.

    The Brazilian will be Magny's toughest test to date. A victory would end all speculation as to whether or not his improved divisional status can hold up.

Jake Ellenberger vs. Stephen Thompson

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    Despite losing three of his last four UFC bouts, Jake Ellenberger is still one of the most talented athletes in the welterweight division.

    But in a weight class littered with gritty strikers, rising prospects and top-tier veterans, The Juggernaut must win to earn his keep.

    That means he'll have to solve the always puzzling skill set of budding karate expert Stephen Thompson at The Ultimate Fighter 21 finale on July 12.

    The main event will be Ellenberger's third headliner in the UFC and Thompson's first, who will look to make it five in a row and move up into the Top 10.

    The matchup will favor Wonderboy every second it stays on the feet. It's a must-win for Ellenberger as he aims to utilize his strong wrestling.

Josh Thomson vs. Tony Ferguson

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    Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson has been one of the most consistent UFC lightweights over the past four years.

    Having posted an 8-1 record during that span, including five first-round finishes (six in total), The Ultimate Fighter Season 16 winner is a name we should all know and respect.

    His offense is intrusive, his submissions are undeniable, and his overall work ethic stands out among the best 155-pound fighters in the world.

    But besides dominating performances opposite Gleison Tibau and Abel Trujillo, the 31-year-old has yet to truly cash in on a big name.

    That's what former Strikeforce champion Josh Thomson represents as the two meet on July 15 at UFC Fight Night 71.

    Ferguson must contend with The Punk's well-rounded striking and unwavering confidence to make 2015 the year of the Boogeyman.

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