Seeing as this is only my second time giving a preview of potential ladder movement at a UFC event, I’m not sure if the amount of fighters on each list can tell us anything about the quality of the event, on paper. But I am willing to make the argument that this Saturday’s card, while it should be very exciting, is one of the more inconsequential that we’ve had in the past few months.
We came off of an April that not only gave us four events in four weeks (unlike the UFC in April’s past), but four great ones at that. Last week’s UFC on Fox card was one of the most thrilling cards that I’ve ever seen.
But then we come to UFC 159. The light heavyweight title is up for grabs, which means we have another chance to see Jon Jones in the Octagon, but against Chael Sonnen? Someone who poses virtually no threat to Jones and is anything but deserving of this title shot to begin with? Not a lot of intrigue there. The co-main event of Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher will be an interesting match, but with both fighters coming off the middleweight ladder after their last loss, I can’t see either getting back on with just one victory.
Same goes for the Roy Nelson-Cheick Kongo fight. Kongo suffered a TKO loss to Mark Hunt this time last year and wins against Shawn Jordan and Roy Nelson wouldn’t be enough to get him back on. Nelson is a much tougher decision. He was in the discussion this past February, but I also noted his winless record against the best fighters in the division. Can’t see him having much more success against the top heavyweights the next time around. He may be relegated after a win.
But still, there are a few fighters who could make their debut on the UFC Ladder with a win this Saturday.
Light Heavyweight: Vinny Magalhaes
Vinny Magalhaes’s fight against Igor Pokrajac was once which he controlled from start to finish early in the second round. Striking-wise, Magalhaes was noticeably lacking, but his grappling and ground game are top notch. But the wrestling of Phil Davis is some of the best in the UFC. It’s only been bested once in his career (by Rashad Evans) and he’s slowly becoming a better striker as well.
I don’t see Magalhaes finishing this fight, but a decision is entirely possible. If he can lock up the light heavyweight contender in a submission, however, I’d have no problem putting him onto the ladder.
Lightweight: Rustam Khabilov
I’m noticing a curse regarding prospects that I love watching in the Octagon. It started with Brazilian welterweight Erick Silva being dominated by Jon Fitch last year and continued with Matt Brown’s elbow annihilation of Jordan Mein last weekend. I pray that Rustam Khabilov isn’t the next fighter to fall victim to it, because he looks to be quite the talent at 155. Yes, winning against Vinc Pichel is not impressive, but throwing anyone around like a ragdoll and ending the fight with a suplex and punches is quite the UFC debut. He’ll welcome undefeated Yancy Medeiros into the UFC this weekend, and a performance similar to his first fight could officially make him a fighter on the rise in the division.
Bantamweight: Johnny Bedford
Last time around, it was Bryan Caraway on the rise in the bantamweight division. Now his opponent could potentially fill the void he left after a split decision loss last month. Two fights into his UFC career, Johnny Bedford has had more opponents replaced and bouts cancelled than he’s actually fought. His original opponent, Erik Perez, was another fighter who I saw to be on the rise, but a staph infection knocked him out of the fight just a few weeks ago.
Still, Caraway will be his biggest test to date and a win over him should get him on the ladder at the end of the month.