Anything can happen in mixed martial arts. Anyone win an unlikely matchup against another which could change their life dramatically – just look at when Michael Bisping defeated Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.
While many fighters in and out of the UFC could become champions one day, we’ll be highlighting three different fighters from various divisions who have displayed the skill set and the potential to become a world champion if given the opportunity to rise to the occasion.
Heavyweight: Francis N'Gannou
Francis Ngannou is currently steamrolling his way through the heavyweight division, defeating everyone who stands across the octagon from him. Francis Ngannou is a dangerous opponent for anyone in the division, with heavy hands and slick submission skills, it’s safe to say Ngannou's game is well rounded and only getting better. Ngannou extended his record 10-1 in January when he defeated former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andre Arvloski by KO in the very first round, securing himself a Performance of the Night bonus. All of Ngannou's ten victories ended in finishes, with his one loss coming by unanimous decision in his second professional fight back in 2013.
Ngannou was scheduled to face Junior Dos Santos at UFC 215; unfortunately, the fight was scratched from the card Dos Santos tested positive for a diuretic called “hydrochlorothiazide”, which can be used as a masking agent. A win over Junior Dos Santos would have almost guaranteed Ngannou a title fight with Stipe Miocic, but with Dos Santos out of the rankings until his issues with USADA are cleared up, Ngannou has moved up to the #4 spot. With Cain Velasquez out at the moment due to recovering from back surgery undergone in January this year, the number of fighters eligible for a title shot has once again decreased.
Ngannou is actively campaigning for his next fight, after tweeting out to both champion Stipe Miocic and the number one contender Alistair Overeem:
Ngannou is definitely an exciting heavyweight to keep your eye on. With the confidence of a nine fight win streak on his side, Ngannou will prove a tough opponent for anybody inside the top five. Perhaps it won't come in his next fight but I see Francis Ngannou holding the championship belt in the near future.
Women's Strawweight: Rose Namajunas
Rose Namajunas (#3) has fallen short of becoming champion before, after losing in a title fight against Carla Esparza by way of third round submission. But since then, Namajunas has won four of her last five fights with submission victories over Paige VanZant, Tecia Torres and "The Karate Hottie" Michelle Waterson.
Rose is well known for her submission skills, pulling off a standing rear naked choke against Angela Hill as well as a spectacular flying armbar at Invicta FC 5 against Kathina Cathon. This doesn't mean she isn't comfortable in the standup game; she mixes up her striking to include flying knees and elbows while her long legs make her kicks effective to control distance, as well as using them as a dangerous tool to her arsenal.
On "The MMA Hour", Pat Barry told Ariel Helwani how his destructive addiction to "pills" and alcohol was the reason behind any negative performance Namajunas had, inside or outside the octagon:
Go back to any of Rose’s performances that didn't seem quite right. It was me, I was the outside distraction. This guy. Any performance. I’m not talking about just fighting. Any interview that seemed off and weird, any post on social media, it was my fucking fault. So I said, I’m not doing that no more. She should’ve been world champ two years ago. It was me. I didn't know it was me, but it was me.
Pat Barry has managed to cut off his addictions and be there to support Namajunas. So now that Rose has her mind settled, we could see the best Rose Namajunas we've ever seen fight inside the octagon. Is she able to rise to the occasion and combine all her skills to overthrow the current reigning champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217?
Lightweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov's 24-0 record hasn't come easy and has notable wins over Michael Johnson, Pat Healy, and former UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos. Many consider Nurmagomedov to be the best lightweight in the world today, even over current UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor. His ferocious wrestling has proved too much for his past opponents, and fans of Nurmagomedov's claim it will also be too much for the champion McGregor if they finally face off.
The only problem with Nurmagomedov's career is that he's only fought three times since 2014 after pulling out of multiple scheduled bouts due to injuries and illnesses. This includes being forced to withdraw from a highly anticipated fight against Tony Ferguson for the second time at UFC 209 after he was rushed to the hospital due to weight cutting complications.
Thankfully, Nurmagomedov released a statement after the ordeal where he said:
Whoever you are or whatever you do, you'll get only what God prescribed for you.
Alhamdulillah for everything God gifted me for my 28 years, I got much more than I asked. I know that many people was waiting for this fight and I fail them.
Want to bring my apologies for all my fans, UFC and my opponent Tony.
My health is fine now, thanks God. These tough testing only makes me stronger.
Thank everyone for the support.
If Khabib Nurmagomedov stays injury free and in good health long enough he can become the next lightweight champion and come out victorious against anybody who squares off against him inside the octagon. Before that happens though we might have to see Nurmagomedov make the walk to the octagon once or twice more before the UFC is willing to book him for another main event spot.
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