05 May 10 Best Fighters Outside the UFC
There’s no question about the UFC’s alpha dog status in MMA promotion. The company boasts of the deepest, richest pool in any division but there are still a number of head-turners currently fighting for other organizations. Despite not being nowhere near the UFC’s league when it comes to publicity, BellatorMMA, World Series of Fighting and the Asia-based One FC, still boast of some marquee names and prime talent worth watching. Here are some of them.
Honorable mentions: Alexander Shlemenko, Daniel Straus, Melvin Manhoef, Bibiano Fernades, Will Brooks
Patricio Freire, Bellator
If you want to be entertained, look no further than “Pitbull.” The 27-year-old Brazilian brings his A-game every single time and has lost razor-thin decisions only to two former champions in Joe Warren and Pat Curran. You can also make the case for Freire in the Warren fight, but the point is, the Nogueira-trained BJJ black belt is more than ready for the big leagues.
Justin Gaethje, WSOF
Gaethje is a little on the reckless side but that style has worked for him so far. Currently WSOF’s lightweight champion, he is still unscathed in 12 fights and finished all but one of his opponents along the way. He can be neutralized if he fights in the UFC, especially against more experienced warriors but what the kid does is entertain. And at 5-11, God only knows what could happen if he gets a little more seasoning.
Emanuel Newton, Bellator
Newton has a solid, well-rounded game that allows him to finish fights in a variety of ways. His 23-7-1 record does not blow you out of the water but he has won 11 of the last 12 including a sick spinning back-fist KO of Muhammad Lawal at Bellator 90. Over a year later, he battled Attila Vegh to a split-decision win, unifying the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship. Lawal and “Rampage” Jackson may be more famous names, but Newton is slowly closing the gap.
Cris “Cyborg” Justino, Invicta FC
“Cyborg” is currently ranked No. 2 in WMMA rankings just behind UFC’s Ronda Rousey. Justino has the game and sheer physical strength to compete with the unbeaten Judoka, but disputes about catch weights and what-not are seen as the primary reason why the two haven’t agreed to anything yet. If that fight ever happens, the smart money would still be on “Rowdy” Ronda, but there’s a reason why Rousey would not want to fight Justino in a catch weight. If Justino manages to “safely” go down to 135, that undoubtedly will be the biggest WMMA fight ever. Gina Carano- Ronda Rousey might be bigger money-wise, but action-wise, Rowdy-Cyborg should be over the top.
Ben Askren, ONE FC
The knock on “Funky” Ben is his preference for the lay and pray, but don’t fault the man by playing to his skills. Askren could arguably be the 170-lb division’s best wrestler not named George St. Pierre and has been unbeaten in 12 fights. Although effective, that style won’t win him any fans, but don’t expect Askren to lose anytime soon in his current promotion.
Shinya Aoki, ONE FC
A creative submission artist with a knack for the sadistic, Aoki owns 22 submission finishes on 35 career wins. However, “Tobikan Judan” can be madly inconsistent with his performances, one night looking like the best 155-pounder and somewhat mediocre the next. But when he’s at the top of his game, Aoki is as exciting as hell, and his flashy submission game is in a league by itself.
Mamed Khalidov, KSW
Speaking of finishers, the Cannibal is right up there with 28 stoppages in 29 wins including first round demolitions of Melvin Manhoef, Matt Lindland, Jesse Taylor and James Irvin. He may be too old to move up to the big leagues, but I personally wouldn’t mind seeing the 34-year-old ply his trade inside the Octagon.
Pat Curran, Bellator
Pat Curran, along with Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez, forms a trio of super fighters in Bellator’s loaded 155-lb division, but now that he’s moved down to featherweight, he could stay atop the perch for a long time. “Paddy Mike” is Bellator’s version of BJ Penn and Randy Couture, being the only fighter in the Newport, California-based promotion to win championships in two different weight classes.
Michael Chandler, Bellator
Chandler went 12-0 before losing the last two to rival Eddie Alvarez and Will Brooks. The losses, however, were split decisions, which were painful but reassuring nonetheless, proving that the Missouri-born fighter could not be counted out by all means. At just 26 years old, don’t be shocked if you’ll find Chandler competing under the UFC banner soon.
Eddie Alvarez, Bellator
Alvarez is currently not a Zuffa employee, but like his rival Chandler, the “Silent Assassin” will almost surely make his way to Las Vegas one way or another. Alvarez has already locked horns with the best Bellator has to offer and aside from a third match with Chandler, the only logical career move for him is to look for more competition on a regular basis.
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