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Top 12 Potential Opponents for CM Punk in the UFC

It was pretty surreal to see CM Punk sitting at a UFC press conference. UFC 181 was a fantastic card with two title fights, neither of which disappointed, yet all the buzz was about CM Punk. Did Punk’s presence take away from Robbie Lawler’s incredible come from behind Welterweight championship victory? Probably. Does it delegitimize the sport that someone with a 0-0 record receives a multi-fight deal while others that have invested so much time and energy are still waiting for their shot? It certainly does. But (last annoying question, we promise) will we all tune in when he makes his debut? ABSOLUTELY! The move will have its detractors, but the stir his mere presence has created speaks volumes. At the end of the day, the UFC is a business and they will do what will attract the most eyes to their product.

Now that Punk has signed on the dotted line, people are wondering if he can actually fight and who he will fight? His opponent for his debut will unquestionably be hand-picked. It will not be a top contender and it certainly will not be a wrestler that can hold him down and smother him. Ideally his opponent will be someone that is passed their prime, but can still spark interest (or move the needle, as Dana White likes to say).

Before people angrily pound their key board and yell: “BUT BROCK LESNAR WAS CHAMPION AFTER THREE FIGHTS.” Yes, that is correct, but Punk is a completely different case. Lesnar was a NCAA Division 1 wrestler, a national champion that went 106-5 in four years of college. Freestyle wrestling is arguably the most important base in MMA. Look at Daniel Cormier, he left the wrestling mat and, within two years, he won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and is now slated to fight Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight championship.

Let’s examine CM Punk’s top 12 potential opponents!

12 12. Cung Le

via fighthubtv.com

Cung Le is currently whining about how the UFC has been treating him and wants out of his contract. He claims that the UFC didn't have his back during the recent steroid scandal, where it turns out he was "innocent." If he could score a bout with Punk, it could be enough of a reason for him to stick around for another fight. Le also meets the criteria mentioned above, as he is well known around the world, but is way passed his prime at 42 years old.

11 11. Damian Maia

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Along with the Kenpo background that Punk claims to have, he's also trained in Jiu-Jitsu under Rener Gracie. The level of Punk's Jiu-Jitsu is currently unknown. The most accurate way to judge someone's skill in Jiu-Jitsu is to simply look at what colour belt they're wearing. When asked by Ariel Helwani what color belt he was currently sporting, he claimed that even if he was a black belt, he wouldn't wear it because he's not that type of guy (classic renegade CM Punk at his finest).

10 10. Rich Franklin

via thelegacyproject.co.za

Rich "Ace" Franklin has stated that he wants to fight at least one more time. What better way to go out than with a novelty fight? This one would be a win-win no matter how you slice it. If Punk goes in there and gets slaughtered, it's acceptable because he lost to a former champion. If he pulls off a victory, it just sets the table for an even bigger fight for his next outing and demonstrates that he is a legitimate fighter.

9 9. Yoshihiro Akiyama

via bleacherreport.com

8 8. Patrick Cote

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

CM Punk has generally been welcomed with open arms by the fans, UFC brass, and, a bit surprisingly, by fellow fighters. Logic would dictate that he would be a fan favorite going into his first fight. But Punk has also been known to play a really good heel (for you non-wrestling fans, heel=bad guy). Some would argue that he had more success in the WWE as a heel than he did as a face (face=good guy).

7 7. Thiago Alves

via thiagoalves.tv

The one time #1 contender is on the downslope and is now slated to get fight Jordan Mein at UFC 183, where he won't be favored by any means. After this fight, Alves would be an ideal opponent for Punk. He had an impeccable winning streak early on in his career, but since then he's been marred by losses and injuries. Regardless, he always brings an exciting brand of fighting into the octagon and there would be no "lay and pray" tactics, as Alves is always pushing forward, ready to throw bombs.

6 6. Dan Hardy

via lowkickmma.com

Hardy is another former #1 contender with diminished skills, and he knows it. He's not officially retired but he hasn't fought since September of 2012, and hasn't really expressed any interest in it... unless he's calling out the retired Matt Hughes. Hardy is clearly interested in a pay day without taking too much damage, and a bout with Punk could be just what the doctor ordered.

5 5. John Alessio

via sherdog.com

Well, we've put an emphasis on winnable fight and what's more winnable than a fight with a guy who's never won a fight in the UFC? That's right, 0-5. Alessio is a Canadian journeyman who has fought just about everywhere. He's had moderate success in other promotions, but any time he gets the call from the big show, it's a flop.

4 4. Matt Serra

via sherdog.com

Serra has confirmed that he considers himself retired, but leaves the door open a slight crack in case something comes out of nowhere and excites him. Two years ago, the prospect of a bout with former lightweight champ Sean Sherk got his mojo going but the fight never came to fruition. Recently, he and nemesis Matt Hughes were verbally sparring on twitter and expressed interest in a rematch, but it was shot down by Dana White, claiming there was no need for it (hard to argue with that assessment).

3 3. Jason David Frank (The Green Power Ranger)

via barefootchristianfaith.wordpress.com

Wait, who?! Yes, the green power ranger has officially called out CM Punk. Before everyone thinks this is a joke (even though it kind of is), it isn't that far fetched as you'd think. While Frank spent a lot of time in a green jump suit yelling: "IT'S MORPHIN' TIME," he's actually a 7th degree black belt and has a background in MMA. He's 1-0 in pro fights, and is 3-0 as an amateur.

2 2. Phil Baroni

via mmalatestnews.com

The Green Ranger's gentlemanly call out probably won't cut it, unless you're George St. Pierre, as being polite gets you nowhere in MMA. Phil Baroni knows how it's done as he posted this: "I'll bust you up, Call Coker, move da f***ing needle. Wa Wa 3H was mean to me. Vince owes me. Wa Wa.. Your gonna love MMA and @DanaWhite it's so fair ova here. Ryback hurt you? I'll break your f***cking Neck #whineyb*tch." Them fightin' words!

1 1. Renzo Gracie

via mmanouvelles.com

There's not many people that will do "live tweeting" as they apprehend a mugger. That's Renzo Gracie for you in a nutshell, as he's a real character. Even though Gracie is passed his prime, fighting is engrained in him. Even at 47 years old, if the UFC would let him fight, he'd be all in. A bout with CM Punk would be intriguing for a multitude of reasons.

As everyone knows, the Gracies are the most storied family in MMA. They are the flagholders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an art that revolutionized the sport. But there has been a minor riff in the family as of late. Renzo has criticized Rener's (Punk's coach) methodology of teaching Jiu-Jitsu. Rener is an advocate of distance training, using the internet. He claims that distance training is sometimes more effective than traditional. On a sidenote, I have to give this one to Renzo, as Matt Serra once famously said: "you're like an expert swimmer that never got in the pool." But we digress.

It has the making of a very cool storyline. What better way to defend your coach's teaching methods than to beat the guy who's criticizing them? How mind blowing would it be to see a 0-0 professional wrestler beat a Gracie, or even submit one?! Ok, we're getting ahead of ourselves. But it would be awesome to see.

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Top 12 Potential Opponents for CM Punk in the UFC