5 Jeremy Stephens
Jeremy Stephens is one of those guys that can make money off of his highlight reel for the rest of his career.
His big time wins over names like Rafael Dos Anjos, Renan Barao and Gilbert Melendez has solidified his place amongst the upper echelon of lightweight and featherweight, but in recent months, with all the jokes around his name given the exposure he got at a press conference with Conor McGregor, it seems fight fans forgot just how vicious of a striker and perennial threat Stephens actually is.
Regardless, 'Lil Heathen' makes no qualms about his snubs from MMA faithfuls as he looks to continue racking up the wins and POTN bonuses as his race to the top of 145 continues.
With his recent calling out of Jose Aldo and a couple other names it is only a matter of time before Stephens lands the fight that puts him back in the swing of things and given his exciting manner of ending fights it may just come sooner than you think.
4 Tyron Woodley
Tyron Woodley's road to the top of welterweight has been anything but perfect.
Since his last win against Gastelum, every action that Woodley has taken en route to the title has been taking under the microscope, and somehow someway the level of animosity and indifference to all of his title defenses since his brutal knockout of 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler. In his two defenses against Stephen Thompson and his dominant although at times stagnant victory over Demian Maia, he proved his caliber of fighter inside the octagon, and his credentials as champion are the more legitimate than most if not all champions sharing gold with him at the moment.
As word of his next opponent awaits, Woodley will be making his preparations to continue his reign at the top and hopefully win over some of the negativity that has plagued his title run since the start.
3 Cub Swanson
Anyone still doubting Cub Swanson's ability in the UFC given his recent performances has to be living under a rock.
Swanson has been killing the competition with nine wins out of his last 11, and most of those being fight of the night or performance of the night bonuses included.
The nickname 'must-see TV' applied by Brian Stann is highly accurate for the pace and lethal striking Cub Swanson dishes out on a nightly basis, and as he gets ready for his eventual increase in competition with title fights and title contender fights as a possibility, it will be interesting to see how the public reacts to a fighter that has spent the last half of his career reinventing himself completely as a martial artist.
Swanson delivers those kinds of performances that make you realize this isn't just about boxing or wrestling, Swanson's approach to the totality of his game from the scrambles to the footwork show the kind of neat dedication needed from more fighters to succeed, and it's only a matter of time before his efforts are recognized.
2 Justin Gaethje
When people throw around the phrase "fighter's fighter" there is no face that represents that profile better than Justin Gaethje.
Undefeated Gaethje has been making a name for himself for years as a standout talent at WSOF (now PFL) but the name brand of an organization was never there and thus the respect for what Gaethje is truly capable of never followed.
Now, since making the transition to the UFC, he has solidified himself as a mainstay at lightweight and his TUF coaching appearance in conjunction with his headlining bout against Eddie Alvarez is the exact springboard Gaethje will need to get his name to the top, and he will be looking to take out all newcomers with that added exposure in Detroit for UFC 218.
1 TJ Dillashaw
Just a few short years ago, TJ Dillashaw was at the top looking down after a historic and lopsided victory over bantamweight kingpin Renan Barao.
In the span of time since the Barao rematch to 2017, between a Team Alpha Male and Duane Ludwig feud that was ignited by some choice words by Conor McGregor himself, his popularity and stock as a top-tier MMA talent has gone down even though his skills and performances inside the octagon have only sharpened.
For whatever reason, Dillashaw just can't buy the respect of UFC fans far and wide given the underlying circumstances of some of his career decisions, and the backlash for what that has gotten him in terms of fan reception is sometimes criminally overblown. Regardless, his subsequent redemption for the title will come to an end if he can manage a victory over former teammate Cody Garbrandt, and the former TUF coaches will be looking to go toe-to-toe as the curtain sets for their fight at Madison Square Garden.
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