5 UFC fighters who will justify the hype behind them and 5 that won't

Sean O'Malley (L) and Shavkat Rakhmonov (R) (Twitter: @Ross_Markey)
Sean O'Malley (L) and Shavkat Rakhmonov (R) (Twitter: @Ross_Markey)

Like other sports leagues and promotions, the UFC has fighters that emerge and quickly ascend the rankings each year. Sometimes it's a big win in devastating fashion that brings them notoriety, while other times it's their personality and charisma. In recent years, Dana White has used his Tuesday Night Contender Series to find his next potential superstar.

Fans have also seen dominant fighters from other promotions make their octagon debuts, bringing more attention and hype around that particular fighter's trajectory than the average UFC upstart. Fighters like Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler have made an immediate impact. Meanwhile, there have been others like Anthony Pettis, who had a setback or two before living up to the hype.

With that hype comes added pressure to perform and do well inside the octagon — something that holds back many athletes.. This list will look at five UFC fighters who will justify the hype behind them and five that won't.

#5. Will justify: UFC heavyweight Alexander Romanov

Alexander Romanov has become a fighter to keep an eye on in the UFC heavyweight division. The division doesn't currently have the same level of hype as the bantamweight and lightweight divisions, but there is still potential. Romanov has been a force to be reckoned with throughout his career.

'King Kong' has an unbeaten 16-0 MMA record and is 5-0 since making his octagon debut. Romanov has a unique background: he competed in both freestyle and sumo wrestling. With that in mind, he could pose many problems for other top-10 heavyweights.

Romanov has utilized his ground game to smother his opponents with pressure and constant submission attempts. He is coming off an impressive win over Chase Sherman during which he submitted him with a keylock in the first-round. 'King Kong' is scheduled to fight Marcin Tybura on August 20th, where he will look to extend his unbeaten streak to 17.

#4. Will justify: UFC women's flyweight Casey O'Neill

Casey O'Neill has an excellent opportunity to move into the title picture and possibly challenge UFC women's flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko. She made her debut last year and has been impressive ever since. Having already fought tough competition in her short career, she has proved that she's capable of defeating seasoned veterans.

O'Neill has an unbeaten 9-0 MMA record, with 4 of those wins coming inside the octagon. Her most recent win saw her earn a split decision against Roxanne Modafferi in a hard-fought bout, after which 'The Happy Warrior' promptly retired.

She's currently dealing with a setback as she recovers from a torn ACL. When she returns, the No.11-ranked women's flyweight will definitely be a fighter that could live up to the hype.

#3. Will justify: UFC lightweight Paddy Pimblett

Paddy Pimblett has become a star for the UFC since debuting last September. He is 2-0 inside the octagon and earned Performance of the Night bonuses in both wins against Luigi Vandramini and Rodrigo Vargas. He will look to extend improve to 3-0 in the promotion this Saturday when he fights Jordan Leavitt in London, England.

'The Baddy' has shown he has all the makings of being a big draw for the promotion. He is en vogue as it pertains to media and seems to be a fighter the promotion has high hopes for in the United Kingdom. The scouser is very charismatic and has been well-received by fans when he has been in attendance at pay-per-view events.

If Pimblett improves to 3-0 inside the octagon, the next logical step would be to feature him on a pay-per-view card. Since his first career loss in 2013, the former Cage Warriors featherweight champion has only lost title fights.

#2. Will justify: No.10-ranked UFC welterweight Shavkat Rakhmonov

Shavkat Rakhmonov looks like he could be the next to ascend the UFC welterweight rankings. The No.10-ranked welterweight has been dominant throughout his MMA career, has a 16-0 MMA record, and has finished every single one of his opponents.

'Nomad' has 8 wins via KO/TKO and 8 wins via submission. He is an elite-level sambo fighter whose rise has struck similarities to Khamzat Chimaev. His last fight was a submission win against Neil Magny, who is the current No.12-ranked welterweight. Now that he is ranked No.10, another win against a ranked opponent could get him closer to a title opportunity.

Rakhmonov clearly has the skillset to be a future champion, and with more hype, he could gain more attention for his fights. He has won back-to-back Performance of the Night bonuses and is an exciting welterweight to keep an eye on.

#1. Will justify: No.13-ranked UFC bantamweight Sean O'Malley

UFC bantamweight Sean O'Malley has become one of the biggest stars in the promotion in a short period of time. The No.13-ranked bantamweight earned a contract with the promotion following an impressive performance on Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series. He is known for his knockout power — 11 of his 15 wins have come via KO/TKO.

O'Malley is another charismatic fighter who has brought a lot of attention to his fights. He has a 15-1 MMA record, with his only career loss coming against current No.5 ranked bantamweight Marlon Vera. The Montana-born fighter continues to improve and looks to have made adjustments following the loss.

'Sugar' competes in one of the most stacked divisions in the promotion, yet he still receives an extreme amount of hype. He is scheduled to fight former bantamweight champion Petr Yan on October 22. This will be the toughest test of his MMA career and a win would surely make a strong case for a title shot.

#5. Won't justify: No.12-ranked UFC flyweight Su Mudaerji

Su Mudaerji has been an exciting fighter to watch since making his UFC debut in 2018. He has a high-level background in Sanda, which is a combination of boxing and kickboxing in China. 'The Tibetan Eagle' has transitioned his style into MMA quite well.

Mudaerji is 16-5 in MMA, with 13 wins coming via KO/TKO. Despite being a threat with his striking, it is important to note that his submission defense has been exposed. All 5 of his losses have come via submission, including his most recent loss to Matt Schnell. The bout saw 'Danger' rally back and submit him with a triangle-choke. Unless he makes adjustments, Mudaerji could be a fighter that's unable to live up to the hype.

#4. Won't justify: No.15-ranked women's strawweight Amanda Ribas

Amanda Ribas has had a great UFC career so far after competing at both strawweight and flyweight.

Ribas is currently No.10 in the women's flyweight rankings after a split decision loss to former title challenger Katlyn Chookagian. The 28-year-old has gone on an impressive 5-fight winning streak in the past, but she then suffered a loss that derailed her plans at flyweight and forced her to regroup and return to strawweight.

At strawweight, Ribas went on another 5-fight winning streak during which she defeated Mackenzie Dern, Randa Markos, and Paige VanZant. However, a TKO loss to Marina Rodriguez likely nixed any plans for a title eliminator.

#3. Won't justify: No.9-ranked heavyweight Chris Daukaus

Its been an eventful three years for Chris Daukaus since making his UFC debut. The former police officer has been a welcome addition to the heavyweight division and is yet to go the distance in the promotion.

Daukaus has earned a reputation for being a knockout artist as 11-of-his-12 wins have come via KO/TKO. It initially looked like he was poised for an eventual heavyweight title shot, but he was unable to defeat tougher competition like Derrick Lewis and Curtis Blaydes.

Although he is ranked No.9, it will be increasingly difficult, especially with Ciryl Gane, Stipe Miocic, and Jon Jones in title-contention, to earn a shot at the gold.

#2. Won't justify: No.10-ranked UFC women's flyweight Maycee Barber

Maycee Barber has been a highly touted prospect since earning a UFC contract in 2018. Barber, then 20, was viewed as a fighter who could be a star for the promotion.

'The Future' has overcome adversity so far in her young career after back-to-back losses to Roxanne Modafferi and Alexa Grasso. She has since got back on track and is currently riding a three-fight winning streak.

Although Barber is climbing the rankings, she doesn't really match up well with the upper echelon of the division. Reigning champion Valentina Shevchenko is an incredible striker, while former title challenger Taila Santos has elite-level grappling. Both would likely present a significant road block to Barber's championship aspirations.

#1. Won't justify: No.4-ranked UFC heavyweight Curtis Blaydes

Curtis Blaydes is among the top heavyweights in the UFC and has earned TKO wins over legends including Alistair Overeem and former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.

'Razor' has been close to title contention on numerous occasions following his lengthy winning streaks, only to then fall short. Recently, he was knocked out by Derrick Lewis, who earned an interim title shot following the win.

Despite winning back-to-back fights, it will be hard for Blaydes to warrant a title shot given the talent in front of him. He also had two decisive losses to reigning heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, so regardless of what happens, it would be a hard sell for the promotion as long as 'The Predator' is champion.

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Edited by kennedyking2016
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