One Year Later: 10 Fighters the UFC Needs to Sign
As of the writing of this article, a little more than one year ago today I profiled the 10 fighters the UFC needs to have under contract. That article can be found here: http://cagejunkies.com/
Flash forward to today, and lets take a look at where these fighters are now. Did all 10 of my prospects make it to the big show? Here’s an update.
Shinya Aoki- Lightweight
One of the most successful and dominant Lightweights in the sport, the former DREAM Lightweight Champion has not yet ventured into the UFC. He did, however, make an appearance for Bellator. Aoki had a rematch with former Bellator Lightweight Champion, Eddie Alvarez. It was his first appearance in the States since fighting for Strikeforce in April of 2011. Aoki lost the fight via TKO in the 1st round. He recently signed with the exciting and highly touted One FC promotion. He will be fighting Arnaud Lepont on Oct. 6th. It will be interesting to see how he fares, since One FC has similar rules to what Pride had, allowing knees to a downed opponent, soccer kicks, and stomps. This may even be a better fit for Aoki han the UFC. He’s only 29, so he still has a long career ahead of him if he chooses.
Hector Lombard: Middleweight
After his contract with Bellator expired in Jan. 2012, Lombard signed with the UFC 3 months later, and made his debut at UFC 149 against Tim Boetsch back in July. Lombard lost the fight via Split decision, even though he scored a couple oftakedowns and a knockdown, Boetsch would prove to outstrike him via Fight Metric, thus ending his 25 fight unbeaten streak. He looked tentative in that fight, almost hesitant. Could have been cardio, could have been octagon jitters, but either way it was not the Hector Lombard we are used to seeing. Lombard is expected to face submission specialist Rousimar Palhares on December 15th, 2012 at UFC on FX 6.
Bibiano Fernandes: Bantamweight
When many hardcore MMA fans learned the UFC would be adding smaller weight divisions to it’s roster, one of the first names to come to mind was Bibiano Fernandes. Fernandes, who was the DREAM Bantamweight champion when that company went defunct due to financial reasons, found himself without a promotion to fight for, despite being one of the Top 5 Bantamweights in the world. He was also the first ever DREAM Featherweight Champion. In June 2012, it was announced that Bibiano has signed with the UFC, and was scheduled to face Roland Delorme. However, Fernandes clarified that there were negotiations with the UFC but a contract was never signed. Fernandes later signed with One FC, making his debut against against Gustavo Falciroli. Fernandes defeated Falciroli via a dominant unanimous decision.
Jimi “Posterboy” Manuwa: Light Heavyweight
Manuwa is famous for turning down a UFC Contract 2 years ago, feeling he wasn’t quite ready to join the biggest promotion in mixed martial arts. Finally, in July 2012 Manuwa signed with the UFC. He made his debut on Sept. 29th against Kyle Kingsbury at UFC on Fuel TV 5. Manuwa left Kingsbury battered and bloodied, winning via TKO (Doctor’s Stoppage). The stoppage was declared after Kingsbury’s left eye was swollen shut, and could no longer continue.
Gunnar Nelson: Welterweight
The 24-year old Jiu Jitsu World Champion also signed with the UFC in July 2012, and made his UFC debut the same night as Jimi Manuwa, at UFC on Fuel TV 5. Nelson looked spectacular in his debut, defeating Demarques Johnson via rear-naked choke at 3:34 of the 1st round. Nelson remains undefeated, at 10-0-1. As I pointed out a year ago, this young fighter has a very bright future ahead of him in the UFC’s Welterweight Division.
Daniel Cormier: Heavyweight
Cormier become the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion, defeating Josh Barnett via decision. He has one fight left on his Strikeforce contract, and is expected to move over to the UFC once he fulfills his contractual obligations. He was expected to face former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir on November 3rd for Strikeforce, but Mir pulled out due to injury on September 19th. It’s only a matter of time before is in the UFC, challenging for the Heavyweight title.
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal
The former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion last defeated Lorenz Larkin via 2nd round KO at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs Jardine on January 7th, 2012. Lawal then tested positive for steroids, and his win over Larkin was overturned and ruled a no contest. He was then suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for 9 months. Lawal was released by Strikeforce following comments he made on his twitter account regarding NSAC member Pat Lundval, calling her a racist B—tch. After she had asked him if he could read and speak english during the hearing. On May 2012, Lawal signed with Bellator, and also signed a contract with Pro Wrestling promotion Total Non-Stop Action Wrestling. He will be splitting his time fighting for Bellator and wrestling for TNA.
Gilbert Melendez: Lightweight
Dana White briefly hinted at Strikeforce Lightweight champion Melendez coming into the UFC fold “ASAP” with the possibility of Melendez entering with an immediate shot at the belt. Melendez eventually defended his title against challenger Jorge Masvidal at Strikeforce: Melendez vs Masvidal. He won the fight via unanimous decision. Melendez most recently took on Josh Thomson in a rubber match for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship for Strikeforce on May 19, 2012. He won the fight via split decision. Melendez was expected to fight Pat Healy for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship on September 29, 2012 in Sacramento, California. It was announced late on September 22, 2012 that Melendez suffered an injury and had to withdraw from the fight. It doesn’t look like Melendez will be coming to the UFC any time soon, due to Strikeforce’s contract with Showtime.
Gegard Mousasi: Light Heavyweight
The former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion has been riddled with injuries over the last year, and most recently fought Ovince St Preux in December 2011. He won via Unanimous Decision. Mousasi was expected to face Mike Kyle at Strikeforce Rousey vs Tate, but again pulled out due to injuries. He is currently recovering from knee surgery following a torn ACL, and is expected back by November 2012. He also signed a 6-fight deal with Strikeforce, although SF is a dying promotion, and highly doubt they are going to be around long enough for him to get fight for them even twice more, much less 6 more fights.