Home UFC From Heavyweight to Bantamweight: Seven Future UFC Champions

From Heavyweight to Bantamweight: Seven Future UFC Champions

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There’s no doubt about the future belonging to the young. And with fighters such as Jon Jones and Anthony Pettis already making an impact in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, let’s take a quick look at those who may put the UFC belt around their waist sooner than we think. From Heavyweight to Bantamweight, here’s a list of seven future UFC Champions. And as always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Heavyweight: Stefan Struve

Age: 23
Record: 21-4

The greatest thing about Stefan Struve is his physical potential. If the 6ft 11 Dutchman bulks up to the point where he has to cut down to 265lbs, it will be extremely hard to stop him. But it’s not all about Struve’s height. Stefan Struve has already fought equally tall and perhaps physically stronger fighters in Christian Morecraft (6ft 6) and Sean McCorkle (6ft 7). Struve’s height in combination with elite level Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu skills, and a constantly improving striking, which makes him a dangerous opponent for anyone in the UFC Light Heavyweight division. Struve’s next fight will be against Travis Browne, on the main card of UFC 131 in May.

Light Heavyweight: Phil Davis
Age: 26
Record: 9-0

What hasn’t being said about Phil Davis? Yes, it’s still too early for “Mr. Wonderful” to challenge Jon Jones, but Davis is still without a doubt one of the biggest rising stars in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. Phil Davis is still improving, learns from his mistakes, looking to become a well-rounded MMA fighter. And if everything goes as planned for “Mr. Wonderful”, he will definitely become a legitimate challenger for the UFC Light Heavyweight title in 2012.

Middleweight: Court McGee
Age: 26
Record: 13-1

There’s no doubt about Court McGee being an excellent fighter, with great wrestling and heavy hands. But in my opinion, the most important thing about Court McGee is his mental strength, which serves as foundation for his success as a Mixed Martial Artist. The things McGee went through in his private life will make him stronger, and help him to become a Champion in the UFC. “The Crusher” is currently 2-0 inside the Octagon, defeating Kris McCray and Ryan Jensen, both via submission. Court McGee was expected to face Jesse Bongfeldt on June 11 at UFC 131, but was forced to pull out of the fight due to a knee injury.

Welterweight: Jake Ellenberger
Age: 25
Record: 24-5

Jake Ellenberger is currently one of the top contenders in the UFC Welterweight division, enjoying a three-fight winning streak inside the Octagon. Ellenberger’s victories over the KO artist John Howard and the BJJ maverick Carlos Rocha proved his well-roundness as a Mixed Martial Artist and an ability to adapt to any fighting style. The Juggernaut’s toughest tests are still ahead, but the Reign Training Center definitely shows the signs of someone who can become the new Georges St. Pierre of the UFC Welterweight division.

Lightweight: Edson Barboza
Age: 25
Record: 8-0

Twenty-five year old Edson Barboza is all about pure violence. The young Brazilian reminds me of Jon Jones, with unpredictable striking, relatively similar physical attributes and the most important, full confidence in his abilities to become a Champion. Barboza impressed against his toughest test to date in Anthony Njokuani at UFC 128, leaving the Octagon with a Unanimous Decision victory and Fight of the Night award. Barboza is around 3 fights away from getting into the title shot mix of the always stacked UFC Lightweight division.

Featherweight: Josh Grispi
Age: 22
Record: 14-2

Josh Grispi was unjustly criticized for his performance against at UFC 125. Tasting defeat is an integral part of this sport, especially for a 22 year old fighter.  Grispi choked out Mark Hominick two years ago, and is still the original UFC Featherweight title challenger. In my opinion, “The Fluke” definitely has what it takes to go on and defeat Aldo on any given day. Josh Grispi will fight George Roop at TUF 13 Finale on June 4th, with sights on getting back on track for the UFC Featherweight title shot.

Bantamweight: Renan Barao
Age: 24
Record: 25-1

Under the radar and over the top, Renan Barao is probably the most exciting prospect in this list. At the age of just 24, Barao has a complete Mixed Martial Arts arsenal, and an impressive record of 25-1, with 12 submissions and 6 knockout finishes. Renan Barao made his USA debut in June of last year, continuing the path of destruction against the previously unbeaten Anthony Leone (Armbar) at WEC 49. The young gun then went on victimizing the 10-1 at WEC 53 via a Rear Naked Choke. Renan Barao will make his Ultimate Fighting Championship debut in May at UFC 132 against Demetrious Johnson.

Photo: Tracy Lee

  • I would rly like to see court be a champ! great fighter great guy. Phil yes, idk about Struve, he’ll be a memorable fighter and he’ll being us alot of classic fights but idk about champion, meh anywaysz greta post

  • I think struve will need to work mega hard on wrestling to even be nearly a champ so power wrestlers in that division and maybe ellite jiu jitsu is a tad strong at this point in his career the rest i reckon are all good calls ellenberger is a beast!

  • Anthony Pettis has a good chance of becoming a champ sooner than we may think. Edson Barboza may also have a good chance, but we haven’t seen him fight long enough.
    I really can’t see any HW, LHW, MW, WW, FW fighters becoming champs anytime soon as long as guys like Cain, JDS, Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, GSP, Aldo are still around IMO, however it’s still MMA so anything is possible.

  • Somebody PLEASE tell me why Stefan Struve is on this list???what idiot put him on this list??? Lmao

  • Terrible List!!!

  • Barboza is become on of my favorite fighters. I can see him being champ in the near future. As for the others, i’m reluctant to say. Most will probably fight for the belt at one point in time.

  • good list, but if u wanted to be really cheeky about it u could say:
    HW- jon jones
    LHW- anderson
    MW- gsp
    WW- jon fitch

    but i get what u were doing bringing in the younger fighters with the potential to be great, cool piece

  • Please, don’t take it personal 🙂

  • struves always great to watch, it’s like a freakshow fight but its legit at the same time 🙂
    but he’ll never have power in his hands and he’s shown aggressive jits but only against people who are clearly 2 levels below him

  • i said thae exact same thing when the champs where: Brock, Machida, Anderson, GSP, and BJ Penn. Now only 2 are still champions.

  • I really want to see what jon jones can do if someone is able to put him down on his back. I just a true champion who comes out of adversity. i dont think he will be able to get up from under the likes of carwin brock or maybe even cain unless he puts on the bulk!

  • Anton would you entertain the idea of dropping the welterweight division to 165 and having a 175 division and adding a 195 and 240. I think with the arrival of strikeforce and the size differences in some fighters (hardy vs johnson) there may enough fighters to fill the division.

    Possible champions
    Bj penn 165
    Fitch 175
    GSP 185
    Anderson Silva 195
    Frank Mir 240

  • I agree with your sentiment here. Struve is a good mid-range fighter but he’s lost to the 2 elite opponent he’s fought (JDS and Nelson) . And he already has close to 30 fights under his belt so I don’t really believe that he’s going to drastically improve and evolve to the level needed to be a UFC champion anytime soon.

  • You forgot Edgar lol.

  • The LW division is by far the most stacked and exciting division. there are soooooo many world class fighters at LW. Barboza or any other LW will have a real hard time trying to get a title shot nevermind actually winning the belt as the division is top to bottom pure class.

  • possible Future Champs in the UFC by 2011/2012 could be:
    HW- Carwin
    LHW- Jones
    MW- Sonnen
    WW- GSP
    LW- Pettis
    FW- Erik Koch
    BW- Cruz

    Just a wild guest , i mean you never know
    in 2009 all Champion were suppose to stay champions
    Lesnar,Machida,Silva,GSP,Penn

    but by 2010 it was:
    Cain,Shogun,Silva,GSP,Frankie
    2011 is to close to call yet , but you never know in MMA .

  • Gotta represent my boy Edson Barboza from right here in The Armory.

    Sure, I’m alittle biased considering he’s a friend but the guy has nasty striking and his wrestling is improving everyday. His BJJ is still developing but we got some of the world’s best BJJ instructors (Cyborg Abreu, Pablo Popovitch, Raphael Chaves, Rodrigo Cavaca, Buchecha Almeida and Thiago Abreu).

  • well there is a problem with the sonnen situation. with him being suspended to fight till later this year due to money laundring etc….. with the rumor of him being on TUF as a coach would also push his return back till late 2011/ early 2012…. then with the superfight between anserson and gsp (provided gsp wins)… it would take some time for the location of that even to be picking since it is ‘the biggest fight in ufc history’ (another ‘biggest fight’ i might add 😛 )

    that fight would take place around march/april i reckon and the winner would want some time off….. i hate to say it seeing what chael did in his last fight but i dont think he will fight for the title this or next year

    and plus the world is going to end in 2012 so its not looking good :/

  • @riddle
    i think gsp would then try hole titles in 175 and 185…. also personally i dont want mma turning into boxing with all the divisions like ‘super middle fly bantemweight’ and stuff

  • i cannot picture seeing

    Struve, a guy who hasnt beaten any top 10 competition and gets his faced smashed almost every fight hes in

    Court, who looked pretty bad against his last nobody opponent, lost in the TUF house and beat a guy whos on a 3 fight lossing streak

    and Edzon who i believe lost his last fight and fights in the most talented division in the UFC

    being champs anytime soon…especially with Cain, Frankie/Maynard, and Silva dominating those divisions

  • u say struve needs to work on his wrestling, which is correct, but his two losses in the ufc are by first round ko. that being said struve will never be champ.

  • I think it was close. Edson definitely won the first round but clearly lost the second. As for the final round, it was pretty even. I think the fans and judges saw Edson take it because he ended the bout with a spinning heel kick. It left Njokuani dazed, and could have been KTFO if he connected with his heel and not his toes.

  • Jim Miller????

  • Don’t count out Jon Olav Einemo as a future HW champ. He’s 36years old, hasn’t fought in a while, but there is a good reason why he got Carwin in his first fight.

    I hope to see the same J-O that he was before his long layoff.

  • I definitely agree with Edson Barboza and Renan Barao, and maybe even Josh Grispi but the rest of the list is a bit of a stretch don’t you think Anton?

    Court McGee, Jake Ellenberger, Phil Davis and Stefan Struve have yet to impress me with anything.

    Some of my picks would look alittle like this:

    Heavyweight: Shane Del Rosario/Daniel Cormier (down the road); Alistair Overeem/Junior Dos Santos (near future).

    Light-Heavyweight: Roger Gracie (down the road); Gegard Mousasi (near future).

    Middleweight: Ronaldo Souza

    Welterweight: John Hathaway (down the road); Kim Dong-Hyun (near future).

  • i agree with stun gun, he is very well rounded and somewhat underrated but I cant see hathway being champ if he seriously doesnt improve his wrestling skills.
    Also Roger Gracie is a ****ing beast i hear hes facing King mo next and i think hes got a serious chance to beat him

  • I agree about Edson Barboza. That guy is a monster. I believe he will be LW champ in the near future.

    Del Rosario and JDS have a good chance at being HW champ.

    I don’t think Jon Jones is going anywhere anytime soon, being that he’s only 23 (barring injury or accident), so I don’t give Roger Gracie or Gegard Mousasi much of a chance at LHW.

    I could see Jacare as MW champ, after Anderson Silva retires of course.

    At WW, I see Anthony Johnson as a good candidate down the road, provided he doesn’t get poked in the eye. Dong Hyun Kim has a good shot too because of his toughness.

  • The Stun Gun gets no recognition, he is indeed underrated and very well rounded (Sambo, Kickboxing, Judo, Boxing and Wrestling).

    John is only 23, he’s from the generation that has no prior martial arts background. He’s been training in a MMA gym most of his life. You’re right, he needs to improve his wrestling. John has been focusing on his 10PJJ alittle too much. He needs to start wrestling again.

    Yea, Roger’s ground game is scary. It’s not flashy but it gets the goddamn job done. Definitely, I hope the rumors are true. I really want to see that match.

  • yeah i was thinking the same thing but if ufc does have a “monopoly” on everything then its wont make sense as the amount of fighters needing to fight with only one organsisation to go too its too much of a squeeze.

    so i dont think the idea of having many weight classes is a bad idra just the shear amount of belts per weight class in boxing is the bad thing.

    Ive said it in previous posts the way forward is for the ufc to go national and international with so calle mini leagues with a promotion based idea reign in your home town go to your state or city then to the country then even possibly worlds. i have thought about it throughly enough to know exactly but i think its an idea to spitball it around an find a way for it too work the idea seems good to me.

  • no when bj penn was lightweight champ numb nuts

  • I think the current weight classes are perfect. 15lbs between weight classes (and 20 between MW to LHW) is more than enough for a good competition.

    Hardy lost to Anthony Johnson not because of size, but because Dan Hardy is simply “not that good” in Wrestling. Johnson is still cutting too much weight, and will pay the price against a more well rounded fighter.

  • You guys forget Stefan Struve is still 23 years old. He already has a lot of MMA experience. He’s very intelligent and well rounded fighter – so in my opinion, the future is bright for him.

    Hey, just remember another Dutchman… Semmy Schilt. When Schilt started his career, he was just like Struve – underweight giant. Step by step, he bulked up and became one of the most dominant competitors in combat sports. Stefan Struve can definitely be the Semmy Schilt of MMA.

  • The only one i can see becoming Champ with his current skill set is Edson Barboza

  • I have to disagree, everybody thought Kim beat Karo. It was a bad call.

    Who knows? Dong has a very solid ground game and his striking is overlooked. Hehasn’t faced an elite wrestler yet but he has displayed decent takedown defense.

  • “I see Anthony Johnson as a good candidate down the road, provided he doesn’t get poked in the eye.”

    Lol

  • With Barboza, he clearly dominated the first round in his UFC debut and then all sudden, he just laid back in the second round. He told us that it was a strategy gone bad. He said he didn’t want to waste too much energy in the first two rounds and he assumed Anthony would would tire down but instead, he found his rhythm and hurt him with a big knee.

    I think he has all the tools to capture the title.

  • Really? Fighters Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Frank Mir and Stephen Boonar commented on twitter that they felt like Kim won. Even Dana White stated that he felt like Kim clearly won.

    Meh, everybody has an off-night once in awhile. I’m willing to excuse his performance due to the fact he has improved considerably since that fight. His punches are crisper and his takedowns are coming along.

  • hes really the only one on the list that i disagreed on, yet i think Anthony Pettis and Cruz wud be more likely even though im not buyin into the Pettis hype yet still think thatd be a better choice even though Barbosa did have a great performance his last fight.

  • matt said BJ won rnds 1 & 2 and fitch won rnd 3 10-9. Fitch didnt do very much damage and just stayed in guard for the whole round.GSP does the samething and you dont see him winning 50-40 and Dana clearly said it was very close but he thought diego won.

    Those guys are veteran fans and fighters and probably know a whole lot more than you.

    As far as the Stun Gun goes, the guy is undefeated and has wins over Amir and elite grappler Nate Diaz. As of right now it wouldnt be much of a stretch to say the guy could be champ one day

  • I was replying to underdog numb nuts lol.

  • The Diego win over kampmann was pure horseshit and a sad day for MMA.

  • ha sorry my nuts are numb. but it is quite confusing why cant they be linked directly under each posts?

  • MMA has advanced far enough that skills alone are not going to make you champion. It takes an elite athlete to do that.

    Court McGee and Stephen Struve are not elite athletes and will never, ever be UFC champions. Period.

  • I like Barboza, Grispi and Barao on this list. McGee a tough fighter also with lots of potential too. Hard for me to see them champs. But they are young with lots of potential and maturity.

  • Dude he said 2011-2012 meaning in the next 2 years
    and i think is very possible, if Silva moves up Sonnen would
    be the one , him or Belfort or even if he dosen’t move up Sonnen
    could win the rematch, as far as Carwin well he could KO any man.

  • I like the idea of the list but I disagree with several of the choices. I think that most of these will be good future top 10 guys, but I think considering how many good guys are out there, few of them will be able to really get the gold. Like yea, Struve is young, and he is probably going to prove (although fighters of course don’t always go on a linear progression, see Duane Ludwig), but will he really peak at a time that is after the likes of Cain Velasquez, JDS, and Alistair Overeem ahve moved on? And even if that happens, what are the chances that another new heavyweight that isn’t even on our radar yet storms onto the scene. I like the Renan Barao pick okay. I like the Phil Davis pick, because even if he can’t beat Jones, I think Jones eventually goes to heavyweight anyhow. I feel likewise about Grispi and (to a lesser extent) Ellenberger, because I think Aldo and GSP will move up while those two are still in their primes, so they will have a decent shot. I don’t like the Barboza or the McGee picks, but for different reasons. I think Barboza just happens to fight in the best division in MMA, and I don’t know that of all the good guys out there, I think he is good enough to get the gold. For McGee I just don’t think he has enough talent, even at middleweight. Overall a fun idea, and a good try, but I doubt more than one or two of these ever really pans out.

  • *improve on line 5

  • Where did my comment go?

  • Wow! I guess people are on a weak streak here :-). If one posts a comment it should only be deleted by the person and nobody else. Unless of course it is of major offense to a lot of people. To whoever is responsible for the deletion I’d like an explanation. I know that what was written was not offensive at all.

  • I think Struve has the technical ability to beat a few ex champs and some new talent but i see him having huge problems with huge guys or explosive strikers… his height and physique wont serve him much advantage against guys like Carwin if he connects or Lesnar if he gets hold (not a Lesnar fan by the way). It only takes a single one sided loss to knock you right out of title contention and 3-5 Ws to put you back there and I cant see Struve putting a streak together over 3 or more top 5 HW’s now or in the near future… I dont see UFC gold in his future!! Good list of talent though I agree in most part with all the others cant wait to see more of them in 2011.