A look at future free agents the UFC should consider signing
In 2010, the Ultimate Fighting Championship acquired several quality free agents to further bulk up their super-stacked roster. In addition to signing prospects like Charles Oliveira and Edson Barboza, the UFC managed to bring already established stars like Takanori Gomi and Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto into the organization.
Plus, due to the WEC merger that occurred at the end of the year the UFC now has two new weight classes and enough lightweight fighters to invade a third world country with. As we enter the year 2011, let’s take a look at a couple of fighters that the UFC should look to negotiate with.
Fighters currently under contract with Strikeforce and Bellator will not be mentioned unless we believe they will get out of their contracts this year and jump ship to the UFC. Unfortunately, Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem are not likely to do that.
Hatsu Hioki (MMA record: 23-4-2)
If UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo is as dominant in 2011 as he was in 2010, with their current roster, the organization will run out of formidable challengers for the Brazilian. The UFC recently re-signed top ranked Michihiro Omigawa which proves that they are already on the prowl for elite featherweight talent.
Sengoku featherweight champion Hioki could help bolster the UFC’s 145lb division significantly. The Japanese fighter brings to the table everything that the UFC brass looks for in a fighter. He’s rarely ever in a boring fight and always looks for the finish. The Shooto veteran is also a top-ranked competitor that has beaten some of the toughest fighters out there, most recently defeating Marlon Sandro.
Marlon Sandro (MMA record: 17-2)
Much like his Nova Uniao training partner Aldo, Sandro is a devastating knockout artist with surprising power for a fighter of his size. Competing in both the featherweight and bantamweight divisions, Sandro is a BJJ black belt that prefers to demolish his victims standing.
His only career losses were to the aforementioned Omigawa and Hioki in Sengoku. Sandro has beaten all of his other opponents, mostly by way of vicious knockout. Chances are he won’t ever fight Aldo due to the bond they share as training partners. Still, he would be an exciting addition to the featherweight roster and possibly a title threat if he chose to compete at bantamweight.
Gunnar Nelson (MMA record: 8-0-1)
The UFC’s welterweight division is in desperate need of a shake up. Georges St. Pierre has essentially cleaned out the division dominating the best fighters that the weight class has to offer at the moment. Those very same title contenders (Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, B.J Penn, and Thiago Alves) are beating the rest of the welterweight talent, leaving St. Pierre with few challengers.
Zuffa should look to find a talented young 170 pound prospect, a welterweight version of Jon Jones, that they can build up. That’s where Nelson comes in. This 22 year old Icelandic fighter holds a BJJ black belt under the legendary Renzo Gracie. His grappling credentials are absolutely outstanding for a competitor of his age and he’s also technically sound on his feet.
Masakatsu Ueda (MMA record: 11-1-2)
UFC President Dana White has constantly discussed his intention to sign the best fighters in the world. Well, former Shooto world champion Ueda fits that description to a tee and would be a massive addition to the newly established bantamweight division.
A collegiate wrestler in Japan, Ueda has flown under the radar for too long. He has spent his entire career competing in Japan and, aside from two draws and a loss to Shuichiro Katsumura, he has won every single time. Surely Ueda would jump at the chance to test himself against top ranked bantamweights such as Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres and Dominick Cruz.