At UFC 137, Nick Diaz proved that is new face in the Welterweight division not named Georges St. Pierre. This got me thinking about the other guys on the rise in the UFC. Fighters who have only recently showed up on the scene in their respective divisions. So here is my list of the guys who are destined to have a breakthrough in the near future.
1. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson
This rise to stardom actually kind of started in 2009. "Rumble" Johnson was coming into UFC 106 with 5 UFC victories. All KOs. 4 of the 5 in the 1st round, one of those being just a few weeks before UFC 106, in a 41 second KO of Yoshikuyi Yoshida. But then a setback came in a 2nd round, Fight of the Night lose to Josh Koscheck. After an extend absence, Johnson has proved himself once again with two huge 2011 KOs of Dan Hardy at UFC Fight Night: Nog vs. Davis, & of Charlie Brenneman at UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson. And now Johnson is booked to face Middleweight contender and UFC icon, Vitor Belfort at UFC 142 in his Middleweight debut. A KO at UFC 142 could prove that Anthony "Rumble" Johnson is bound for glory in 2012.
2. Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone
When the WEC & UFC merged at the beginning of 2011, the division that took the biggest effect was the Lightweight division. Guys of the WEC Lightweight division had to come into an already stacked Lightweight division and try to prove that they belong with the best in the world. Donald Cerrone did just that. Though Cerrone had some bad luck in WEC title fights, Cerrone came off in 2011 with one of the best years in recent memories. Starting with a FON Submission victory of Paul Kelly at UFC 126, and Cerrone never looked back. With decision victory of Vagner Rocha at UFC 131 and a dominate TKO victory of Charles Oliveria at UFC Live: Lytle vs. Hardy, Cerrone was looking for a step up in competition. And with his 4th UFC fight of the year, Cerrone took on Lightweight contender Dennis Siver at UFC 137. Cerrone showed off is striking against a very good striker in Siver in Cerrone's best performance to date with a 1st round submission victory. Donald Cerrone has had a dominate 2011....and he still has one more fight to go this year. He will fight Nate Diaz at UFC 141 in what could be the launching pad for Donald to have a successful 2012 year.
3. Rory MacDonald
Probably the most well-known Canadian MMA fighter behind GSP is rising Welterweight prospect Rory MacDonald. At the age of 22, Rory isn?t set on waiting for his time to shine. He wants to win, and he wants to win now. Rory made his UFC debut already posting a 9-0 record. He fight experienced vet, Mike Guymon at UFC Fight Night: Maynard vs. Diaz, but that proved to be no challenge as Rory won by armbar in the first round. Without missing a beat, Rory accepted a fight against already popular Carlos Condit on the PPV Main Card at UFC 115. Though Rory MacDonald had a great fight, he ended up falling just short as Condit finished him in the 7 seconds of the fight. Rory lost but gained much respected as he won the fight of the night bonus. Now in 2011 Rory is on a very fast rise as he already 2-0 in 2011 with victories over big UFC vet Nate Diaz at UFC 129 and TKOing Mike Pierce in the 1st round at UFC 133. Now Rory is waiting for his next challenge as he was expected to fight at UFC 141 in December but an injury force Rory off the card. A step up in competition in 2012 is almost guaranteed for the young Canadian.
4. Alexander Gustafsson
The rising international superstar Alexander Gustafsson has made a huge name for himself in his native home of Sweden, but is only an up and comer here in the states. Though with his quick rise in the UFC, that could all change for 24 year old 6?5? athletic light heavyweight. Alexander made his UFC debut with a quick 41 second KO at UFC 105 against Jared Hamman. Then a slight setback came in a 1st round submission lost to now UFC contender Phil Davis at UFC 112. But since then Alexander has been on a tear. With two straight rear naked choke victories against Cyrille Diabate at UFC 120 and James Te-Huna at UFC 127, Alexander was then set up for his biggest match-up of his life. At UFC 133, Alexander fought UFC vet and title contender Matt Hamill. Alexander put on his best performance in his biggest fight ever as he beat Matt Hamill in the 2nd round via TKO. Now with his big win under his belt, Gustafsson is now ready for a bigger challenge. He will fight MMA vet Vladimir Matyushenko at UFC 141. With a victory, Alexander could prove himself to be a young star ready for glory in 2012.
5. Renan Barao
If a decided to post this thread a month ago, I can promise you Renan would have not been on this list. But with a VERY impressive performance at UFC 138, Renan Barao has popped up on everyone?s radar and has become a huge threat to the UFC Bantamweight division. In his UFC debut at UFC 130 early this year, Renan proved even a tough Cole Escovedo could not defeat him as he scored a decision victory. Then at UFC 138, Renan came into the spotlight being in the co-main event at UFC 138 against Brad Pickett. Renan scored a Fight of the Night bonus as he showed one the most impressive performances in the Bantamweight division this year as he won via RNC in the 1st round. Now with a huge victory under his belt, Renan Barao has being receiving praise from everyone in the MMA community. Some going as far as him being the #1 contender for the UFC bantamweight title. And of course being 24 years old just means success is bound to happen for Renan. Maybe even possibly happening in 2012.
Thank you for reading give us your thoughts on maybe some other fighters I left out on the list.