The MMA Top Ten: 1.20.14 Top 10 Fighters That Could Regain Gold
Posted by Alex Rella on 01.20.2014
From Urijah Faber, Vitor Belfort, and Lyoto Machida to Dominick Cruz and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 former champions that have a chance to regain gold!
Ten Fighters That Can Regain Gold
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at ten former champions that can regain a title. This was one of the first lists I ever did two years ago so I decided to revise it for the different title pictures in MMA today. Three guys on that original list have since regained gold (Pettis, Velasquez, and Eddie Alvarez), not a great percentage but maybe I'll look smarter after a couple months with the fighters on this list. The former champions that qualified were fighters that held belts in Pride, UFC, Strikeforce, and Bellator. The rankings were based on the likelihood a fighter would regain gold based on their personal rankings, other factors going on in their division, and some other stuff including the current champ and my personal opinion
• Anderson Silva- He definitely has the potential to regain his title, but he'll be 39 if he returns and he seemed disinterested in the title already.
• GSP- He vacated the title on his own accord, but who knows if he'll ever return so I felt like writing about the guys who are definitely still competing.
• Pat Curran- I think Curran should win back his belt, but then again I never thought he would lose it to Strauss in the first place.
• Frankie Edgar- He'll always be one of the best fighters in any division he fights in, but his current fighting style where he doesn't go in for the kill keeps him out of the top ten.
• The winner of Jake Shields vs Hector Lombard- The welterweight division is open for the winner of this fight to make a run.
• Ronaldo Souza- He's been wrecking people ever since he lost to Luke Rockhold, but I'm not sure how he'll do against the better middleweights like Machida, Belfort, and Weidman.
10: The winner of Benson Henderson vs Josh Thomson
I rarely do ties or anything in the rankings, but this was a stacked list and I figured why not since only the winner of their fight will be able to remain in title contention. Josh Thomson only fought once last year, but it was an awesome victory over former number one contender Nate Diaz as he became the first person to ever knock him out. He was supposed to get a title shot against Anthony Pettis back in December, but the champ got hurt again. Thomson will likely get the next title shot when Pettis returns if he wins here. Benson Henderson has a bit of a harder road when it comes to getting another title shot. He's been beat twice by Pettis now, so he has to either hope some other lightweight knocks off Pettis or Henderson will have to go on a tear taking out all the top lightweights so the UFC is forced to give him another shot at Pettis. He's going to have to win a lot of fights either way. I'm hoping the former Strikeforce champ wins it, but I have a feeling Henderson will pull out another close split decision victory.
9: Gilbert Melendez
Gilbert Melendez unsuccessfully challenged for the UFC lightweight title last year as he lost to Benson Henderson by split decision back in April. He returned to win one of the best fights ever against Diego Sanchez at UFC 166 to remain at the top of of the division. I think Melendez is one of the best lightweights of all time so I think he has the potential to make another run at the title, but he has a habit of letting up a bit towards the end of fights so that could hold him back. It happened in his last two title fights with Josh Thomson and Henderson, that's why I couldn't rank him any higher this week. He was rumored to have a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 170, but unfortunately Melendez had to pull out. Hopefully it happens later in the year as it would be a great fight that could determine the next number one contender possibly.
8: Junior dos Santos
Junior dos Santos is the second best heavyweight in the world today, but unfortunately for him the best heavyweight in the world has destroyed him twice now. I hope JDS never gets back in the cage with Cain Velasquez, but he's only 29 and Velasquez isn't going to be champ forever. JDS is too good to not get another title shot at some point in his career. It might take a few years, but JDS should be able to beat any other heavyweight in the UFC right now. Hopefully he starts his comeback by wrecking Alistair Overeem when he returns to action most likely in the summer.
7: Carlos Condit
The former WEC and interim UFC welterweight champion is in fairly good shape when it comes to reclaiming gold. Now that GSP is gone and most of all the other top contenders have recently been knocked out of contention like Rory MacDonald and Damien Maia, Condit is only one win away from getting another title shot. He takes on Tyron Woodley next and he should be the heavy favorite going into that one. A rematch with Johny Hendricks or a fight with Robbie Lawler would both be awesome and winnable fights. Even if he were to lose any of these fights, Condit is good enough to make another title run later on even if it does take him a couple years.
6: Vitor Belfort
The UFC did everything they could to prevent Vitor Belfort from getting another title shot. They threw him up against top middleweights like Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold and the UFC even put his title shot on the line against Dan Henderson at light heavyweight. Three Knockout of the Night's later and The Phenom is taking on Chris Weidman for the middleweight title in 2014. TRT debate aside, Belfort has a really good chance to beat Weidman as he's looked better than ever lately. Hopefully if he does win, it's without the TRT so there isn't any controversy. But let's all just hope for a Weidman victory to play it safe.
5: Dominick Cruz
Dominick Cruz and his battle to stay healthy is one of the most disappointing stories in MMA today. Cruz hasn't fought since October 2011, but back then he was the best bantamweight in the world and one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. Cruz had a 19-1 record, was on a ten fight winning streak, and defended his title four times. Cruz was supposed to return at UFC 169, but he injured his groin and was stripped of his title. It was the best move for everyone involved as he's been out of action far too long to keep the title and now he gets to comeback against a lower ranked fighter. Who knows if Cruz will be the same fighter after all these injuries, but at only 28 I think he'll be able to climb back to the top of the bantamweight division.
4: Daniel Cormier
For a while I wasn't going to include Daniel Cormier because he won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix and not the actual heavyweight title that you can defend, but it's close enough. Cormier has gone 2-0 in the UFC so far, but now he's going to take on another former champion Rashad Evans in his light heavyweight debut. This one won't be easy though as Evans looked better in his last fight than he has in years and Cormier's first cut to 205 lbs might be rough. If Cormier wins, he'll immediately go to the top of the UFC's light heavyweight divison. I wouldn't even be surprised if the UFC were to give him a title shot with his dominant wrestling background and the feud between him and Jon Jones. He can always move back up to heavyweight too if Velasquez were to lose the title.
3: Urijah Faber
Urijah Faber was one of the best fighters in 2013 as he went 4-0 against some of the best fighters in the UFC's bantamweight division. Now he's stepping up on short notice to take on Renan Barao for the title at UFC 169. I know Faber was dominated by Barao in their first fight at UFC 149, but I expect this fight to be much different. Faber has looked better than ever on his recent winning streak, maybe even better than his run with the WEC featherweight title. Can Faber end Barao's now historic winning streak? I'm still in the air on who to pick for that one. Even if he does lose, I'm sure Faber will get himself another title shot before his career is over.
2: Lyoto Machida
The former UFC light heavyweight champion had a perfect middleweight debut against Mark Munoz back in October. Machida knocked him out as Munoz didn't throw a single strike. He takes on former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi in February. This could determine the next number one contender depending on how the fight goes down. Machida has the ability to defeat Chris Weidman or Vitor Belfort if he comes to fight instead of that laying back style that has cost him a few fights in the past.
1: Michael Chandler
Michael Chandler is one of the best lightweights in the world today and a fighter that really gets better every time he steps into the cage. He won the Bellator season 4 tournament, defeated Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title back in 2011, and would go on to defend the title twice in dominant fashion. The former D-I All American wrestler recently lost for the first time in his MMA career in his rematch against Eddie Alvarez in a close split decision. The two will finish their trilogy in 2014 and I think he'll take the title back in the rubber match. I personally thought Chandler won the rematch too, but he made some clear errors in the later rounds so it isn't one I would argue too much. Chandler's title aspirations won't end there if he does lose again though. He's only 27 and who knows how long Alvarez will end up staying in Bellator. No other lightweight in Bellator even comes close to Chandler. Maybe Chandler will get to jump over to the UFC someday too and get to show everybody how good he really is.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fighter out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• I have no idea what I'm writing about next week yet so feel free to suggest something cool you want to see.