After a full month of April, in which we saw a UFC card each weekend, these last three weeks have felt much longer. But this Saturday the UFC is back in Brazil with the first of four events in the coming month. The main event will welcome the former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold into the Octagon against a mainstay of the UFC in Vitor Belfort. And with the fight in Vitor’s backyard, Rockhold will certainly have his work cut out for him.
With this being a TV card (and one that isn’t on Fox) the number of big-name fighters is pretty low. But there is still some potential for movement up the UFC Ladder (which you can view here). These fighters have the best chance to climb the ranks of their weight class with a win.
Middleweight: Luke Rockhold, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
While putting the best imports from Strikeforce on these lists may seem like the easy way out, I don’t see how you can blame me. So far they haven’t disappointed and Zuffa’s acquisition of Strikeforce looks smarter by the day.
At UFC on FX 8, the Strikeforce middleweights are in the spotlight. Both Rockhold and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza are the main and co-main events of the evening. They were champions in Strikeforce and their clash in 2011 was one of the more competitive title fights of the year. While the shallowness of the middleweight division is part of the reason for their potential title hopes, make no mistake that they are two talented fighters.
While Rockhold has the tougher challenge in Belfort, Souza is facing veteran Chris Camozzi on just a few weeks notice after Costa Phillipou suffered an injury. Souza can still find himself on the ladder with a win, however.
A Rockhold win could have a much larger impact at 185. I still believe that Vitor is the second-best middleweight in the UFC, so a win over him could make Rockhold an immediate contender. If he can finish Vitor, as some are predicting, why not give him the number-one contender spot?
Lightweight: Rafael Dos Anjos
Rafael Dos Anjos is on a three-fight win streak with victories over Kamal Shalorus, Anthony Njokuani, and Mark Bocek. Not the most impressive list of lightweights, but win over Evan Dunham could be just what he needs to start the path to title contention. A finish would only help his case. This will be Dos Anjos’s twelfth fight in the UFC and a fourth consecutive win would put him in the title discussion for, really, the first time in his career.
Featherweight: Hacran Dias, Nik Lentz
Hacran Dias and Nik Lentz are two of the better fighters in the featherweight division. Even before his UFC debut last year, Dias was considered one of the best featherweights outside of the UFC. He put together a solid debut against Iuri Alcantara, but he’ll need to show some improvement against Lentz to get onto the ladder. The same goes for Lentz, who is 2-0 since dropping down from lightweight this past August. Regardless of the method, the winner will better their chances for future title contention.
NOTE: As I’ve mentioned a few times, a win in the flyweight division will essentially put you on the ladder at this point. This will again be the case for the winner of both the Chris Cariaso-Jussier Silva and the John Lineker-Azamat Gashimov fight.