So far, the UFC has been moderately exciting for the first month of 2015. Jon Jones beat Daniel Cormier in a fight that was not boring by any means, and more recently, the Mauler Alexander Gustafsson was tuned up by Anthony Johnson. Both were big fights in the Light Heavyweight division and at this point it looks likely that Jon Jones (if substance abuse doesn't get in the way) is going to meet Johnson to defend his belt at some point soon.
Jon Jones was, when he won the Light Heavyweight belt, the youngest UFC champion of all time, a record that still stands. While other sports, such as football or hockey often see players hit their prime in their early or mid 20's, and then performance drop in the late twenties and after, mixed martial arts is often a different case. Obviously elite talents can last into their forties in hockey, and many quarterbacks in the NFL compete in their thirties and sometimes late thirties, but many mixed martial artists reach stardom in years past their twenties.
Jon Jones, on the other hand, got his title back when he was just 23 years old. The UFC has had, and continues to have, champions of all ages, but every year few new young fighters step up into contention for belts. 2015 is no different, as some scrappers in their early and mid 20's stepped up and looked great in 2013 and 2014, and some look like they may have title shots in their future. Obviously "young" is subjective, but for our sake, young can be any fighter under the age of 27. Here are ten young fighters, relatively new to the UFC, who are threats to make a run at titles in the near future.
Your favorite fighter missing from the list? Sorry, but the dusty, barren wasteland known as the comments section is a great place to discard feelings of rage and contempt.
10 10. John Lineker: Flyweight
9 9. Myles Jury: Lightweight
8 8. Dustin Poirier: Featherweight
7 7. Michael McDonald: Bantamweight
6 6. Charles Oliveira: Featherweight
5 5. Kyoji Horiguchi: Flyweight
4 4. Kelvin Gastelum: Welterweight
3 3. Joanna Jedrzejczyk: Women's Strawweight
2 2. Rory MacDonald: Welterweight
1 1. Khabib Nurmagomedov: Lightweight
From Russia with an undefeated record, ladies and gentlemen, Khabib Nurmagomedov. He is probably one of the most accomplished and well-rounded fighters in the Lightweight division, having advanced training in several martial arts from different forms of wrestling to Judo and Sambo. He has shown his abilities in his 22 professional fights and can wrestle and submit fighters as well as stand and trade strikes.
He handed Rafael Dos Anjos, the number one UFC Lightweight, his only loss since 2011 back in April 2014. While Dos Anjos may well be the next in line to challenge Anthony Pettis for the belt, Nurmagomedov deserves a shot just as much, especially given his convincing win over Dos Anjos less than a year ago. He is one of the most threatening and talented young fighters in the promotion today, and while it is a while off still, he is likely to be facing Donald Cerrone in May. Cowboy fought twice in January, earning two unanimous decisions (but his win over Benson Henderson was very controversial). Either way he is one of the most exciting fighters ever. A win by Nurmagomedov should leave no question that he is ready for a title shot.
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