For this topic what I did was pick one guy in each division outside of the top ten that by the end of 2018 could make a huge climb up the division. In most cases, these guys are younger guys who have shown flashes of potential in recent fights. This is purely based off of each division in the UFC and the UFC Rankings.
Flyweight- Magomed Bibilatov
Despite just losing to John Moraga at UFC 216, Bibilatov has huge promise in the flyweight division. Prior to the UFC, the Russian born Bibilatov was able to become the ACB Bantamweight Grand Prix winner and the World Series of Fighting Flyweight title. Bibilatov is highly regarded in talks around the practice room with coach Mark Henry, as well as fighters Frankie Edgar, Edson Barbosa, Eddie Alvarez, and Marlon Moraes. Before his first fight, Fox Sports wrote an article on how Bibilatov has potential to do big things in the flyweight division (you can check that article out here http://foxs.pt/2oRpUXw). After a devastating knockout defeat to John Moraga in which Bibilatov was a huge favorite, Bibilatov will look to rebound and climb back up the flyweight rankings.
Bantamweight- Cody Stamann
At this moment Stamann is not ranked in the top 15 in the bantamweight division. Stamann is a big bantamweight who just beat hot prospect Tom Duquesnoy at UFC 216. Prior to the bout, Stamann felt slighted by the MMA world for not getting the shine Duquensoy got in the lead up to the fight. After this fight, Stamann is sure to be on the MMA world’s radar. After watching the fight I was impressed with Stamann’s striking ability against a highly regarded striking prospect in Duquesnoy. Stamann was able to mix in his wrestling nicely with his striking and is definitely someone to watch out for in the bantamweight division.
Featherweight- Dohoo Choi
Most notably known for his bloodbath fight against Cub Swanson, Dohoo Choi has a fighting style that is very fan friendly. Almost a full year since the Swanson fight, Choi has not competed since then. Activity could be one factor that halts Choi from making a rise up this division as he has really only fought one fight per year as of late. If Choi is able to be active he can be a huge player in the featherweight division.
Lightweight- Al Iaquinta
Quite frankly, Iaquinta has the talent level right to be ranked higher than 11 on the UFC Rankings. In his UFC career, Iaquinta has wins over Diego Sanchez, the #4 ranked welterweight Jorge Masvidal, and the man who just fought for the interim lightweight title, Kevin Lee. Due to injuries and other disputes with UFC brass has not been able to be as active as he may have liked. “Ragin’ Al” is scheduled to fight Paul Felder in Detroit on December 2nd. With a win here, expect a top ten opponent for Iaquinta as it is well deserved.
Welterweight- Mike Perry
Recently cracking the top 15 in the welterweight division Mike “Platinum” Perry is a welterweight to look out for. Perry has a record of 11-1 with knockout victories over Alex Reyes and Jake Ellenberger. Over time now, Perry has grown on many fans for his exciting fighting style, as well as his strong Twitter presence. Perry is booked for December 16th against #9 ranked Santiago Ponzinibbio in a fight that could launch him into the top ten in the rankings.
Middleweight- Brad Tavares
Tavares is coming off a dominant win at UFC 216 against Thales Leites. Prior to this fight, Tavares was not ranked but is currently ranked #13 in the Middleweight division. Tavares has wins over Elias Theodorou, Nate Marquardt, Lorenz Larkin, and Phil Baroni. Most of Tavares losses have only come against top contenders in the middleweight division such as Robert Whittaker, and Yoel Romero. Look for Tavares to make a climb up this division that has five fighters over the age of 37 ranked ahead of him.
Light Heavyweight- Tyson Pedro
In a division that is starving for young talent, Tyson Pedro may be the answer. The 26-year-old has knockout power as well as a jiu-jitsu background. Pedro is coming off a rather lackluster loss to Ilir Latifi at UFC 215. Look for Pedro to face another top 15 opponent in his next bout, possibly Gian Villante.
Heavyweight- Curtis Blaydes
The heavyweight division is another division that is in dire need of young talent. Chicago resident Curtis Blaydes may be able to provide young excitement in this division. Blaydes is currently ranked #12 (tied with Andrei Arlovski) in the heavyweight division is big heavyweight known for his physical attributes. Blaydes is currently booked against #9 ranked Aleksei Oleinik at UFC 217. A win here will certainly jump Blaydes into the top ten and an even bigger fight next.