We’re taking a look at the fighter in each of the twelve UFC divisions that are flying under the radar in the race for championship glory.
Women’s Strawweight: Nina Ansaroff
Like all of those who come up against the surging contender that is Tatiana Suarez, Ansaroff has been set back to a certain extent. With that being said, her run prior to losing against the TUF winner showed that she is capable of hanging with the divisional elite at 115lbs. Do not be surprised if she is just one big win away from re-establishing herself in the title-picture.
Women’s Flyweight: Joanne Calderwood
Jojo Calderwood has looked like a fighter reborn since forgoing the cut down to 115lbs in favour of a move to the strawweight division. And while she came up short against Katlyn Chookagian in her last outing, the Calderwood who plies her trade at flyweight is the type of fighter who could ask a lot of questions of the divisional champion if she fights the right fight.
Women’s Bantamweight: Aspen Ladd
That quick TKO defeat to Germaine de Randamie was not one that saw the highly-touted Aspen Ladd lose too much in the way of shine. A ferocious competitor in there, many had pegged Ladd as a potential future champion in the division before the loss at the hands of GDR. I don’t personally believe that much has changed, look to Ladd to rebound before too long.
Women’s Featherweight: Felicia Spencer
It’s hard to pick anyone but Felicia Spencer at 145lbs – both as a consequence of the division’s size and the UFC 240 co-main event headliner’s clear potential. Sure, putting anyone in there with Amanda Nunes and expecting anything less than a successful defense is a big ask but even still, as far as featherweight prospects go, Felicia could well be something.
Flyweight: Rogério Bontorin
To be honest, the flyweight divisional dark horse would have likely have gone to Magomed Bibulatov had the UFC debutant Bontorin not edged him out on the cards. With the future of the 125lb division looking a small bit more stable, a finisher of Bontorin’s capabilities could well find a destructive run of form in the increasingly shallow flyweight division.
Bantamweight: Cory Sandhagen
It’s hard to understand why the whole world hasn’t jumped on board the Sandhagen express at this point. An incredibly dynamic and exciting fighter in there, his most recent win over the since-released John Lineker proved his ability to hang with the divisional elite. This man has all of the tools in his arsenal necessary to be a real threat at 135lbs so watch this space!
Featherweight: Ryan Hall
Ryan Hall understandably splits fans right down the middle with his approach – a BJJ-heavy style of attack that involves ambitious kicks and sudden flops to his back to initiate the grappling. With that being said, his last outing against Darren Elkins proved his ability as a true offensive threat. The foundation is there for Hall to develop a very unique and devastating skillset and while the bigger tests will come later, he really does look the part so far.
Lightweight: Gregor Gillespie
A smothering presence that is second only to Khabib Nurmagomedov at 155lb right now, Gillespie had been quietly carving a destructive path through the most stacked division in the sport before breaking out against Yancy Medeiros earlier this year. Now 6-0 in the UFC with five straight finishes, if The Gift doesn’t earn himself a top-10 opponent it will be quite shocking.
Welterweight: Vicente Luque
Luque may well be amongst the most underrated fighters in the sport today, one who will have to opportunity to make his mark in a big way when he takes on the fan-favourite Mike Perry in Argentina this weekend. With a 9-2 UFC record and wins over Niko Price, Jalin Turner, and Bryan Barberena in his back-pocket, a victory over Perry will likely act as the first of his title-charge.
Middleweight: Ian Heinisch
Ian Heinisch has well and truly been thrown into the deep-end since signing for the UFC with a pair of tests, in the form of top middleweights Cezar Ferreira and Antonio Carlos Junior, that he has managed to pass impressively. With a showdown against the division’s gatekeeper of sorts Derek Brunson ahead of him, a win would no doubt alert the elite 185lb-rs to his presence.
Light-Heavyweight: Aleksandar Rakic
Rakic is a truly destructive force at 205lbs, a man who has emphatically finished two tough opponents in his last two outings. He holds power in every limb and with the division as shallow as it is right now, the dominant reign of Jon Jones will likely be in the most danger from a guy with the type of sudden finishing ability that Rakic has.
Heavyweight: Alexander Volkov
Thirteen short seconds is all it would have taken for Volkov to perhaps have earned himself a shot at the divisional champion Daniel Cormier and yet, when Derrick Lewis saw his moment, he took it for one of last year’s most memorable knockouts. Now, with a showdown against Junior dos Santos ahead of him, make no mistake, Volkov can win a lot of that shine back if he can ruin the former champ’s night.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena