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Seven Future UFC Title-Contenders To Watch Out For

Get to know some of the UFC fighters who could well be one or two fights away from finding themselves within their division’s upper echelons.

Gregor Gillespie – 155lbs – (12-0)

UFC record: 5-0

Gregor ‘The Gift’ Gillespie really is a handful at 155lbs. Unbeaten over twelve fights, this guy is a tenacious a fighter as you will ever see and to be honest, it’s only a matter of time before he makes his presence known in the stacked lightweight division.

His pressure is simply ridiculous and when the fight hits the mat, his ability to smother and eventually submit his opponents will make him a nightmare for the already ranked lightweights next year.

Magomed Bibulatov – 125lbs – (14-1)

UFC record: 1-1

Ok, I know some of you will look at Bibulatov’s record and his most recent fight and wonder why I have him pegged as a future contender. He lost out to John Moraga by way of first-round KO in the opening minute of their UFC 216 meeting last year but trust me, this Russian flyweight has all the makings of a future champion.

Incredibly well-rounded and strong, he will no doubt have a point to make when he returns to the octagon and with a skillset like his, he will certainly prove his worth in the long-run.


Mairbek Taisumov – 155lbs – (27-5)

UFC record: 7-1

Experienced as anyone on the roster, Taisumov has somehow managed to slip under the radar completely at 155lbs – despite being officially ranked at 15th. He is riding a five-fight win-streak and has finished all of those fights by way of knockout.

I’m not joking when I say this guy is terrifying. He has been booked to appear on the UFC’s September show in Moscow and again, he’s going to be one of those fighters who explodes onto the scene eventually.

Beat the world to the punch and check him out before then.

Dan Hooker – 155lbs – (17-8)

UFC record: 7-4

For a while there it really did seem as though Hooker was going to fall into a state of mediocrity at featherweight. Despite being young and incredibly rangey for the division, the New Zealander couldn’t string together any consistency and was almost forgotten about, to some extent.

Queue a move to the lightweight division and four straight finishes for the Hangman and now all of a sudden, he’s being talked about as one of the promotion’s most slept-on talents.

Sure, his momentum was halted at the hands of Edson Barboza this month but make no mistake, this guy is a killer in every sense of the word.

Weili Zhang – 115lbs – (18-1)

UFC record: 2-0

Nine KO and five submission wins on the regional scene saw this hotly-tipped strawweight get her shot in the UFC and she did not disappoint in her first outing, living up to the hype with a polished and exciting display.

Showing fantastic versatility and accuracy on the feet, Zhang wasn’t able to get the finish over a very game Danielle Taylor but bounced back straight away with an impressive finish of Jessica Aguilar in Beijing.

Islam Makhachev – 155lbs – (16-1)

UFC record: 5-1

Another lightweight to watch out for and one as talented as any, based on what we’ve seen so far. Born in Dagestan, home to divisional champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev lost a bit of his shine after being KO’d by Adriano Martins in his second UFC bout but it didn’t take long for him to remind the world exactly how good he is.

With four straight wins in the time since – including his awesome first-round submission of Kajan Johnson in his last outing – it does appear as though he is ready to make his run at the belt. He can do it all, but it’s his work on the ground that’ll get him far. A huge danger at 155lbs.

Manny Bermudez – 135lbs – (13-0)

UFC record: 2-0

Bantamweights beware! The aptly-named ‘Bermudez-Triangle’ could already be the division’s biggest submission threat and in his last outing at UFC Hamburg, he showed the world exactly how dynamic his ground-attack is.

I expect a significant step up in competition next time around for Manny and if he does, in fact, take home the win again – do not be surprised to see his name to feature quite heavily in the title-picture by the time we get deep into 2019.

Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena


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Author: Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at [email protected]