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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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