UFC 260 is all set to be one of the most intriguing pay-per-views of 2021. But while the UFC Heavyweight title is on the line in the main event when Stipe Miocic faces Francis Ngannou, could there be title implications elsewhere on the card?
UFC 260 features a number of fighters who could definitely find themselves in title contention in the near future, making this a must-see card for all UFC fans.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at five fighters on the UFC 260 card who could find themselves in title contention soon.
#1 Vicente Luque (UFC record: 12-3)
Traditionally, the best way for a fighter to make their way into UFC title contention is to beat a former UFC champion.
Luque has been in the UFC since 2015, and his record of 12-3 is a deceptively strong one.
The Silent Assassin has primarily become known as a high-end action fighter. But his penchant for finishing his opponents has almost made people overlook his rise through the ranks.
Luque has impressive wins over Niko Price, Mike Perry, and Belal Muhammad – three of the UFC Welterweight division’s better fighters. And his only recent loss came against the tricky Stephen Thompson at UFC 244.
Woodley is a step up in competition for The Silent Assassin, no doubt. But if he can beat The Chosen One, he’ll join a select number of fighters that includes current UFC Welterweight kingpin Kamaru Usman and the last man to challenge for the title, Gilbert Burns.
And if Luque can keep his finishing streak up and put Woodley away, then he’d have to be considered a title contender.
#2 Sean O’Malley (UFC record: 4-1)
The UFC doesn’t often push hot prospects too hard these days, possibly because they end up being a little too demanding on the financial side of things.
That hasn’t been the case with Sean O’Malley, though. The Sugar Show has been massively hyped since his appearance on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2017, and he’s largely lived up to that hype.
2020 saw him pick up a real head of steam when he uncorked one of the best knockouts of the year against Eddie Wineland. And it felt like only a matter of time before he was a title contender.
However, his next fight saw him beaten for the first time in his career by Marlon Vera.
But despite that loss, a win over Thomas Almeida this weekend could throw him right back into title contention.
And so if he can show, he can also walk the walk when he faces Almeida, then expect the UFC to push him into a big fight next time around.
#3 Tyron Woodley (UFC record: 9-5-1)
The narrative of a former great returning for one last push to the top is always an endearing one in combat sports, and the UFC is no different.
After all, who could forget the comebacks of fighters such as Randy Couture, Michael Bisping, and Andrei Arlovski, for instance?
And UFC 260 will see Tyron Woodley attempt to add his name to that list.
The 38-year old former UFC Welterweight champion has lost his last three fights, falling to Kamaru Usman, Gilbert Burns, and Colby Covington.
Essentially, his fight with Vicente Luque could well be seen as the last chance saloon for The Chosen One. In all honesty, with a loss, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the UFC outright cut him from his contract.
But if he wins impressively? He’s still a big enough name to move back into title contention. And another big win – say against Leon Edwards, for instance – might well propel him into an unlikely top contender’s fight in the future.
#4 Thomas Almeida (UFC record: 5-4)
Like defeating a former champion, overcoming a high-level prospect, and stealing their thunder is another common way to move into UFC title contention.
That’s what Thomas Almeida has the chance to do this weekend when he faces the highly-touted Sean O’Malley in a Bantamweight clash.
It’s easy to forget that once upon a time – in 2015, to be exact – Almeida was considered the best prospect in the UFC’s 135lbs division.
The Brazilian debuted with a bang, stopping Yves Jabouin, Brad Pickett, and Anthony Birchak in violent fashion.
However, a knockout loss to Cody Garbrandt in 2016 derailed his momentum, and he’s now on a three-fight losing streak.
But Thominhas remains a highly dangerous kickboxer with violent knockout power and plenty of speed and athleticism. And at 29, he may well be in his physical prime right now.
And so if he can avoid being hit heavily by O’Malley – protecting his suspect chin – there’s every chance he could upset the rising star, gain back his mystique, and make a surprising run for the UFC Bantamweight title.
#5 William Knight (UFC record: 1-0)
It seems strange to suggest that a fighter who is just 1-0 in the UFC could move into title contention with a win in his second visit to the Octagon.
But the UFC’s Light Heavyweight division is in a strange place right now.
With Jan Blachowicz now holding the title there rather than Jon Jones, it definitely feels like the guard is beginning to change at 205lbs.
And once-great fighters like Mauricio Shogun Rua, Alexander Gustafsson, and Thiago Santos might be heading towards the end of their UFC tenure.
That means that a path to the top 10 might not be all that far away for a prospect like Knight.
The Knightmare faces a heavy-hitting opponent at UFC 260 in the form of Alonzo Menifield. In fact, Menifield was considered a high-level prospect in his own right during 2020.
But losses to Devin Clark and Ovince St. Preux put an end to that, and now he’s the one looking to stop another hype train when he faces Knight.
But from what we’ve seen so far, Knight has everything it takes to get to the top, with brutal punching power, explosive takedowns, and a ruthless streak too.
And so if he stops Menifield in style this weekend, then expect the hype on a potential UFC title run to begin.