With a UFC events on all four weekends in April, I’m kicking myself for not writing about the first two events. But as a consolation, I thought I’d give a little preview of what to expect on the next UFC Ladder coming out in May. Here’s a look at the fighters on today’s card with the best chances of moving up their divisional ladder with a win.
Heavyweight: Daniel Cormier
I’ll be honest with you: I’ve been looking for ways to include Daniel Cormier in the UFC Ladder while he was still in Strikeforce. When his opponent, Frank Mir, was originally scheduled to fight Cormier at Strikeforce, I thought that would be the perfect loophole to put him on it. He was fighting UFC competition after all.
But now there’s no need for taking shortcuts. Cormier’s here and I can’t wait to see him face off against Mir in what should be a great fight. But he’ll need a win to get on the ladder, of course. I’m still debating on whether to put Mir on the ladder should he win, but there’s no doubt about Cormier. I’m pretty high on him and believe he could do some serious damage in the division.
Middleweight: Francis Carmont, Lorenz Larkin
Frenchman Francis Carmont is 4-0 since entering the UFC and is quite a fighter prospect at 185. But his opponent today, Strikeforce-import Lorenz Larkin, went 4-0 in Strikeforce with one no-contest to Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. Larkin’s striking is quite unorthodox, but it gets the job done (13-0). Meanwhile, Carmont has shown his skills both standing and on the ground. An impressive Carmont finish could put him in the discussion for a title shot, while a Larkin win in his debut could get him on the ladder himself.
Welterweight: Jordan Mein
I have to admit that I love Jordan Mein. I first saw the 23-year old Canadian when he knocked out “Cyborg” Santos in Strikeforce a few years back and I’ve been a fan ever since. He had a stellar UFC debut against Dan Miller last month, escaping an armbar attempt to stop him in the first round, becoming the first man to ever do so in Miller’s career. Now he steps in for Dan Hardy to face another UFC veteran in Matt Brown. The welterweight division could use another rising star (especially one that isn’t teammates GSP) and with another win tomorrow, Mein will officially be on the rise in the division. I’m glad the UFC kept this fight on the main card.
Lightweight: Josh Thomson, Ramsey Nijem, Myles Jury, Tim Means
The main event of tomorrow night’s match is another Strikeforce-UFC fight as lightweight champion Benson Henderson takes on Gilbert Melendez. But this bout wouldn’t have happened had Melendez’s split decision victory last May gone the other way. Perhaps it could have been his opponent that night, Josh Thomson’s title shot instead. I debated Thomson’s chances of getting onto the ladder in his debut, but a win against the last title contender Nate Diaz would certainly be a big one.
Both Nijem and Jury are riding win streaks into their clash tonight and both could find themselves on the ladder with a win. Since losing the Ultimate Fighter Finale against Tony Ferguson, Nijem has really come into his own winning three consecutive fights, including one by first-round TKO. Also a TUF veteran, Jury has won two straight since entering the UFC. Ironically, since losing in the first round of the TUF tournament, Jury has put together one of the best UFC careers of anyone in the house thus far.
The lightweight division is full of fighters trying to climb their way up the ladder and Tim “Dirty Bird” Means is another one of those guys. He’s 2-0 in the UFC and could also be on the rise with an impressive win over Jorge Masvidal.
Featherweight: Darren Elkins
All Darren Elkins’s three-fight win streak was missing was a stoppage. So for his fourth win last month at UFC 158, that’s exactly what he earned — a first-round TKO of Antonio Carvalho. Now he has a huge step up in competition, facing off against former featherweight title contender Chad Mendes, who has been on a tear since being knocked out by Jose Aldo early last year. Elkins is already on the rise and win against Mendes could thrust him right into the title discussion.
Bantamweight: T.J. Dillashaw
This seems to be the card of Strikeforce imports and quick turnarounds. Like Jordan Mein and Darren Elkins, T.J. Dillashaw is also coming off of a victory last month at UFC 158. Dillashaw is now 3-0 since losing the Ultimate Fighter 14 Finale in December 2011, with his last two victories coming via stoppage. His opponent, Hugo Viana, is on a two-fight win streak himself in the UFC, so a win against him should bring Dillashaw some higher-caliber foes.
Flyweight: Darren Uyenoyama
33-year old Darren Uyenoyama is in a similar position as Darren Elkins. While he’s on a two-fight win streak of his own, he is facing one of the division’s best fighters, in Joseph Benavidez. Benavidez is knocking on the door of title contention again after losing a split decision to champion Demetrious Johnson last September. A win against him would do wonders for Uyenoyama, especially in such a shallow weight class.