An underdog, wild card, or dark horse is someone, or something which has an outside chance of accomplishing a certain feat based on likelihood or odds given to or placed against that entity. In the UFC, there are fighters with a high level of skill which may be on the outside looking in on their ultimate goal. This special bunch has the ability to knock on the door of the top of the heap and potentially burst into the scene in a big way should their next two to three upcoming bouts go their way. A couple of these fighters can be viewed as top prospects with bright futures. A couple can also be viewed as veterans of the sport who have put together a nice string of victories to place themselves within striking distance. Nonetheless, the list of each fighter deemed as a dark horse to their respective division.
Flyweight (125 pounds)
It can possibly be difficult to imagine a fighter who just fought for a title, and lost as a participant on this list. However, the case can be made for Kyoji Horiguchi. Though he showed an impressive array of talents in his bout with champion, Demetrious Johnson, he still finds himself slotted at the seven spot on the UFC’s official rankings behind fighters who have fared less favorably or do not look to be in contention for a title shot. Despite being submitted in the very last second of the fight against Johnson, Horiguchi looked impressive throughout the fight. His ability to manage distance was apparent, as well as his technical execution of his strikes. In a division which does not have many defined challengers to the belt, it would be difficult to say he cannot be right back in the top challenger spot with a victory versus other top-five opponents. With his unique set of skills, that chance is highly likely.
Bantamweight (135 pounds)
Thomas Almeida is 18-0 in bid professional mixed martial arts career, and personalities close to the sport are raving over this young prospect’s talent. At 23 years of age, the young Almeida has everything going his way at the moment. It was revealed this week that he would be opposite Brad Pickett at UFC 189 in Las Vegas. A good test for the Brazilian bantamweight. Almeida is a vicious striker on the feet with power and speed. He recently finished Yves Jabouin via technical knockout which showed just the kind of talent the Muay Thai striker possesses. Should Almeida pass the test in July with flying colors, expect to see a rapid rise through the ranks, with a booking against a top five opponent at year’s end not out of the question.
Featherweight (145 pounds)
Conor McGregor is the name synonymous with this division at the moment, the Irishman burst onto the scene and has ascended more rapidly than any before him. There is another Irishman which made his debut back in March at UFC 185, a man who once defeated McGregor in the promotion Cage Warriors in 2010. Joseph Duffy is a force to be a reckoned with as he took Jake Lindsey apart just a minute and forty-seven seconds into the first round. Duffy is enormous as the featherweight division, standing at 5’10, his size makes his one of the largest fighters in the division. His Taekwondo black belt was shown in the precision of his kicks and his Japanese Jiu Jitsu black belt in his dominant grappling victories throughout his career. Duffy was just announced to be facing off against Brazilian Ivan Jorge on July 18th on a Fight Night card taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. If Duffy continues to finish fighters in this way, he may very well find himself against his fellow countryman in the near future for a rematch.
Lightweight (155 pounds)
Iranian star Beneil Dariush, is on a four fight winning streak, all four victories have come within the past calendar year, as his string of wins began in August 2014. Each time out Dariush has faced stiffer competition and has looked increasingly more impressive in his dominance. His most recent victory over Jim Miller, a perennial stalwart of the top fifteen and a tough test for any fighter at lightweight. Jim Miller had absolutely nothing for Dariush on the feet or the ground, the kind of performance against Miller which few have been able to replicate as Miller is a tough draw for anyone. Dariush has brilliant grappling and executes transitions with flawless ease, and quickness. His striking game is potentially the surprise as the growth has been exponential under the tutelage of Master Rafael Cordeiro training out of Kings MMA in Southern California, the same stable current lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos calls home. Training with the champion is never a bad idea, and Dariush has been a benefactor of such a competitive environment. Expect Dariush to be ranked near the top of the division by year’s end should be continue his winning ways.
Welterweight (170 pounds)
Neil Magny has essentially flown under the radar like a stealth bomber, unable to be detected, yet no less effective in execution. Magny is on an impressive six-fight winning streak and recently tied UFC alum Roger Huerta for most wins in a calendar year at five in 2014. The Ultimate Fighter television series veteran will be attempting to continue his string of victories on the UFC Fight Night 66 card, May 16th in Manila, Philippines opposite Hyun Gyu Lim. Magny is a striker who relies on his range, attacking with his long limbs, using primarily a boxing attack on the feet. On the ground, Magny has displayed slick submissions as he most recently finished Kiichi Kunimoto by rear naked choke in the third round after being dominant throughout the fight. Magny continues to win move into contention with each victory. He will be mentioned amongst the top welterweights in the division as long as his performances keep with the trend of getting his hand raised upon conclusion.
Middleweight (185 pounds)
A long way removed is Thales Leites from his title challenging bout against former champion Anderson Silva. However, based on how that fight played out that is a great thing. Leites has looked like a reborn fighter ever since reappearing back in the Octagon. Five of his long streak of eight consecutive victories have come under the UFC’s banner since his return, and they have come by variety, two decisions, two knockouts, and a submission his last time out in a win over Tim Boetsch. Fighters having a reemergence in their careers is not uncommon, and Leites seems to be enjoying such a run at the moment.
The Brazilian can grapple with anyone in the division, and has enough tools and power on the feet to pose a threat. It will be interesting to see where Leites stands at the close to 2015.
Light Heavyweight (205 pounds)
Ryan Bader can be seen as a puzzling selection to this list, due to the fact he is currently in contention, more than ever since the legal troubles of Jon Jones have left the division up for grabs. The case to be made for Bader is simply, he poses the most unknown factor out of any others in striking distance of the belt. Bader is also the furthest removed from a loss, and has three of the better wins in the division coming over Phil Davis, who recently departed to Bellator, yet is a top ten talent, Ovince Saint Preux, the number seven ranked fighter, and Rampage Jackson, the eleventh ranked fighter in the UFC respectively. Bader has gone back to his roots of imposing his strength in the wrestling department and not falling into the trap of a fire fight against dangerous strikers. With careful game planning, and execution of such, Bader is riding a four fight win streak and looking at a potential title shot versus the winner of Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier for the vacant light heavyweight strap.
Heavyweight (206-265 pounds)
Todd Duffee is another fighter who spent some time away from the UFC, only to return and look quite refreshed and ready to challenge anyone in the division. Duffee rode much hype when he debuted under the promotional banner knocking out Tim Hague in seven seconds. His muscular physical imposing stature aided that backing as well. He suffered a knockout loss to Mike Russow in his second outing and seemingly began a spiral downward, medical troubles factored in to a rough few years for the talented heavyweight. After Duffee knocked out Phil De Fries in 2012. After recovering from Parsonage Turner Syndrome, Duffy returned to knock out Anthony Hamilton at UFC 181 in December of 2014, looking as explosive, and impressive as ever. The performance earned him a shot at former champion, and UFC veteran Frank Miller who is coming off his own finish of Bigfoot Silva. The two square off at UFC Fight Night on July 15th in San Diego, California. Should Duffee secure a victory over Mir, he would likely find himself awarded a contender relevant fight in a rather shallow heavyweight division.
Women’s Strawweight (115 pounds)
A fighter that wasn’t thrown around as others in the division, Maryna Moroz thrust herself into the discussion as well as into the top ten, ranked at number eight with her victory over Joanne Calderwood, an Ultimate Fighter alum, and a fighter who was seen by many as one of top strawweights. Moroz snatched up an arm and cranked an armbar over Calderwood who was forced to submit. The victory was the fifth such victory by submission out of an unblemished six total for the young strawweight. Upon completion of the fight Moroz showed her bold promotional ability, calling out newly minted champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk who was sitting cageside. Should Moroz show more of what was seen in Poland, the UFC may be looking at its next challenger to the new division’s champion.
Women’s Bantamweight (135 pounds)
With a dominant champion such as Ronda Rousey sitting atop the pile, every fighter throughout the top fifteen is seemingly contesting for the chance to be Rousey’s next victim. Rousey has essentially nearly cleared the division. Enter Marion Reneau. Reneau was denied competing on the Ultimate Fighter because she was seen as too old, something Dana White personally has taken the opportunity to publicly apologize for after her victory over Alexis Dufuesne at UFC 182. Reneau has solid striking as anyone in a division largely containing grapplers, yet her grappling has shown to be very impressive in her two outings in the UFC. She is very physically strong as well, it showed in her submission win over Jessica Andrade her last time out. Reneau is talented, and she will have the opportunity to continue to rise in a division which in wide open at the moment.
It’s possible every single one of the aforementioned names ascends into divisional prominence in the very near future, it is also possible that none of them do, that is why they are the dark horses, the wild cards. The fighters that could possibly spark into a blazing fire or simply fizzle out before achieving their potential. The next six months, to a year will go a long way to determining such.
Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217
UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.
The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:
— Ovince Saint Preux (@003_OSP) October 19, 2017
It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.
Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.
Fight News update!!
— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2017
This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.
With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th? Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.
*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results
Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.
Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.
Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)
Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)
Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)
Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams
Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.
Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.
Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.
Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.
⭐️ F I G H T W E E K ⭐️ . . Tickets/ T-shirt’s / Afterparty info at www.heather-hardy.com 🥂 link is in my bio 🥂 . . @bellatormma @dymatize @lululemon @jlewbags @rgfa @gleasonsgym @shihandevon . . #heatherhardy #heathertheheat #teamheat #boxing #femaleboxing #girlboxer #boxinglife #boxinghype #boxingnight #boxingday #boxinggloves #boxingfanatik #boxer #boxingfitness #womensboxing #boxeo #wmma #mma #teamrenzogracie #bjjgirls #womensmma #renzograciegirls
Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.
Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.
There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.
But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.
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