Where Will the EliteXC Fighters Land?

Here is a prioritized list (somewhat) of EliteXC prospects and where they may land…

1. Jake Shields – I believe Shields is EliteXC’s best martial artist.  I guess he is their highest ranked fighter.  Shields has said that he wants better competition and this is his way out.  I am sure places like Affliction, DREAM and World Victory Road will come calling.  Perhaps they will offer lucrative deals.  Perhaps they can make one or two exciting fights, but the reality is the best welterweights are in the UFC.  If Shields wants to fight the best he needs to be in the UFC.  I expect him to land in the UFC.  He is the top prospect from EliteXC and whoever signs them picks up a great fighter and a instant contender for the belt.  There are countless exciting fights in the UFC for Shields.  This from GracieFighter.com

We are confirming that EliteXC has folded. What this means for our fans and supporters is that there will not be a Nick Diaz vs. Eddie Alvarez fight on November 8th. However Jake Shields in the UFC has now become a real possibility. We will be updating our site for future developments.<!– –>

2. Gina Carano – She may hurt the most from this as women’s MMA hasn’t taken off yet.  Dana White has said many times he has no plans to start a women’s divison.  The only other organization that has a solid women’s divison is AFL.  They could contend for Carano’s services.  Gina is a huge draw, probably the top women’s draw out there and I still want to see Carano v. Cyborg happen.  Perhaps Proelite’s collapse may motivate someone like Affliction to start women’s MMA.  I lean towards Carano at AFL.

3. Rafael Feijao – I believe he is a top prospect.  He is rapidly climbing the rankings.  He is a great light heavyweight who trains under the Nogueiras and Anderson Silva.  I think he could be the best some day.  A report came last week that Feijao would be in the UFC in a year, and it looks like it couldbe sooner.  I do not know if he wants to geta  few more fights first, but the UFC is his goal.  I expect he will land in the UFC.  I just hope Dana and others do not sleep on this guy’s potential. 

4. Eddie Alvarez – Alvarez made a huge impression at the DREAM lightweight tournament.  He still feels that belt is rightly his.  He became a sort of star in that tournament.  Alvarez is young and super talented.  Any promoter would be dumb not to bring big offers for Alvarez.  In the end I think Alvarez ends up somewhere like DREAM or Affliction.  I say Affliction because they would allow him to fight in DREAM as well.  I’d love to see him in the UFC, but I doubt it will happen.

5. Antonio Silva – He is serving a steroids suspension which may hurt him, however my gut tells me he is innocent in this one.  He may really have some type of hormonal problem.  I do not know where he will land, but he is a top tier heavyweight and I believe can compete with most heavyweights in the world.  Affliction and UFC have the best heavyweight divisons.  If he wants to fight and win he may go somewhere like DREAM where there is limited competition.  If he wants to really compete with the best it will be Affliction or the UFC.

6. Robbie Lawler – Robbie Lawler is tough guy to figure out.  He is a consensus top ten middleweight in the world.  Surely the UFC would give him a chance, but he struggled in the UFC.  I still think the UFC should try to sign him, but I wouldn’t be shocked to shocked to see Lawler in Affliction or even Strikeforce. 

7. Dave Herman – Dave Herman is a solid prospect at heavyweight.  I’d like to see him get some attention from this.  He should be one of the top names out there.  He isn’t a top 15 heavyweight right now, but he is doing very good.  He would be a solid add for someone like the UFC, who has a weakend heavyweight divison.

8. Wilson Reis – Where can he got but to the WEC?   He is a solid fighter, but the lighter guys don’t have many options.  The WEC is quickly putting togetehr the best featehrweight and bantamweight divisons in the world.  For Reis the WEC provides a chance to fight the best guys in the world in his weight class.

9. Brett Rogers – I think he is very good.  Perhaps one dimensional, but he can knock someone out.  If I was the UFC I would worry about personality here.  He is very WWE.  He comes into fights with an entourage.  He talks smack.  He is talented and perhaps a guy on the rise, but he is a gamble.  Someone will sign him.  However, Rogers will go where the money is.  I don’t blame him for that.  I doubt it will be the UFC.

10. Joey Villasenor –Villasenor has fought nearly everywhere, except the UFC.  He has a solid record and impressive resume.  He is for sure a top ten EliteXC fighter.  Promoters will come hard after Villasenor.  He is better than some the UFC has under contract at 185 lbs, but will they offer Villasenor?  I think they will offer him, but I don’t know that is where he will land.  For some reason my gut tells me he ends up at Affliction.

11. Nick Diaz – I cannot imagine the UFC wanting Nick Diaz back, but I think I remember Dana saying he would give Nick another chance.  I don’t see him back in the UFC.  His antics are too crazy.  I think he ends up in Japan at either World Victory Road or DREAM.

12. Benji Radach – Rumor has it that when the IFL closed Radach called the UFC and talked to them about coming back to the UFC.  Apparently, the UFC told him he needed to get another fight first.  Then Radach signed with EliteXC and won huge over Murilo Rua on CBS.  The question is, does Radach still want the UFC or is he angry with them?  I do not know that answer, but I am pretty sure the UFC would want him now.  regardless, Affliction will be the number one contender.

13. Murilo “Ninja” Rua – Rua is talented, but he has struggled.  He has been an on and off fighter.  I think he is a solid pick up for anyone and he is worth a contract.  He could join his brother in the UFC, but he is not a top ten guy right now at his weight class or even in the UFC.  If he wants a title he betetr find somewhere else to go.  He could be another Affliction add.  I think Affliction boosts their middleweight divison through this.

14. Frank Shamrock- He is not like his brother, he can still fight.  I think he ends up at Strikeforce, but Affliction will come calling.  One thing is for sure, he will not be in the UFC  he and Dana White hate each other’s guts.

15. Scott Smith – As good as Smith looked against Lawler, I do not see him being a hot commodity, but he will land somewhere.  He has tried his hand in the UFC.  I doubt that will happen, although that bridge probably isn’t burned.  I would say Smith will be around and maybe fight in some smaller shows or go to Strikeforce.

16. K.J. Noons – I don’t know what to make of K.J.  He is a decent fighter, but not the best lightweight.  He has expressed intrest in boxing, so maybe that is where he will go.  However, I have a feeling he will try his hand at MMA still.  I think the WEC would be a good fit for Noons, but Affliction is another real option.  They may be more willing to allow him to box and do other things.

17. Paul Daley – He is a good welterweight, and maybe the UFC would like to consider going hard after another U.K. fighter.  He is no Bisping in terms of skills, but he isn’t bad either.  That may be a very real possibility to see Daley in the UFC.  Put him on the Ultimate Fighter 8! Not really, but UFC is very possible.

18. Phil Baroni – He isn’t going to the UFC.  He looks better at 170 though.  I don’t know what Baroni will do.  I have a feeling he will be a wanderer.

19. Ricco Rodriquez – Does he still fight?  He is perfect for Affliction.  He is a former UFC champ, who is past his prime. 

20. Kimbo Slice – I considered putting Kimbo near the top of my list.  Like it or not he is the face of EliteXC.  He is a big draw.  I decided to put him where he belongs talent wise.  With all the Kimbo bashing, I still think he is a good investment.  I still think he can fight good fighters and compete to some degree.  I think he is way overrated and overhyped, but some organization would love to have him.  I think the AFL would be a good choice.  Also, Affliction could get into the mix.  One more thing, do not be surprised to see a Japanese promotion making an effort to pick up Kimbo.  Bas Rutten, his trainer, loved Japanese venues and could influence him here.

I say that Dana and the UFC will go after 10-12 of these guys, but will come away with about 5 or 6.

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The Stars of the UFC

There is a recent shift in stars of the UFC.  Those stars are the great investments, the money makers. The stars are not necessarily your best fighters, but they are well liked by the fans and they draw a crowd.  The stars are the people that the UFC will market and set up to be successful.  The stars get the most money and the best fights.  The stars have a louder voice with the UFC brass.  Some of those stars have been discontent like Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Tito Ortiz.  Those guys leaving hurts the UFC.  The guys the UFC recognizes as their stars are the ones they need to cater to more.  The stars are prized in all MMA organizations.  The WEC has Filho, Faber, Condit, and Stann.  PRIDE had Fedor, Cro Cop, Barnett, Wanderlai, Dan Henderson, Gomi, Arona, Shogun and the Nogueira brothers.  EliteXC has Lawler, Kimbo, Frank Shamrock, and Carano.  Strikeforce has Gilbert Melendez and Cung Le.  The stars are not always the champs, but they may be.  In the UFC there is a shift.  The old guard is moving on.  They are still there, and still draw a crowd and are still good PPV fights, but in a few years will be gone.  The old guard consisted of Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Ken Shamrock, Tito Ortiz and Matt Hughes.  There is a star level, then there is a second tier level of guys you want to hold onto at all costs, who have a following, and then there is the emerging star tier. Then you have your great fighters who perform in the octagon are respected, but may not have the charisma to be the face of the organization.  These guys can win and hold belts, but they won’t be the Chuck Liddell’s.  This system explains why the UFC gives a title shot and coaches spot to Forrest Griffin, who i no way has earned the title of number 1 contender.  He is good, but not that good.  He may eventually earn that, but this is premature.  Why did he get it?  Because he is popular.  He will sell PPVs and people will watch TUF because of him.  Personality will carry a guy a long way, just look at the Houston Alexander bandwagon. A lack of personality will hurt a guy, just ask Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, who if they had the charisma would be stars because they have the ability.  These guys can move up and down these different levels, but some guys have already been crowed as stars and can do little to harm that.  Your stars are the guys you hold on to at all costs.  Your second tier you want to keep because they are your contenders and can become stars.  Your third tier you be careful with because they can become stars if you play your cards right.  Your fourth tier are some of the best fighters, they put on good fights, they win fight night bonuses and they should be signed and kep in the organization if you can.  The effect of a star leaving the UFC is much greater than when someone else does.  The UFC is hurt by loosing their four biggest heavyweight stars Couture, Cro Cop, Arlovski and Sylvia.  The UFC is not so much hurt by loosing Jake O’Brien.  It would be nice to keep O’Brien, but if you can’t you move on.  Also, you sign MMA free agents based on this tier.  I and many others consider Fedor for example a star level guy, an instant smash hit and a great investment.  You pay him well, but he will make you money.  Dana White apparently considered him second tier, and didn’t sign him.  My opinion you give the Fedors and the Couture and the Liddells whatever they want.  My system looks like this:

UFC’s Stars:

  • Anderson Silva
  • Georges St. Pierre
  • B.J. Penn
  • Rich Franklin
  • Chuck Liddell
  • Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
  • Forrest Griffin
  • Tito Ortiz
  • Matt Hughes
  • Wanderlai Silva

Second Level: UFC’s Near Stars:

  • Brandon Vera
  • Matt Serra
  • Jon Fitch
  • Diego Sanchez
  • Dan Henderson
  • Josh Koscheck
  • Sean Sherk
  • Kenny Florian
  • Mauricio “Shogun” Rua
  • Rashad Evans
  • Michael Bisping
  • Joe Stevenson
  • Gabriel Gonzaga
  • Chris Leben
  • Karo Parisyan
  • Clay Guida

Third Level: The UFC’s Emerging Stars:

  • Brock Lesnar
  • Roger Huerta
  • Mac Danzig
  • Joe Lauzon
  • Cain Velasquez

Fourth Level: UFC’s Stud Fighters, but Not Stars:

  • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  • Fabricio Werdum
  • Keith Jardine
  • Frank Mir
  • Thiago Silva
  • Heath Herring
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Marcus Aurelio
  • Yushin Okami
  • Marcus Davis
  • Patrick Cote
  • Evan Tanner
  • Stephan Bonnar
  • Martin Kampmann
  • Marvin Eastman
  • Ricardo Almeida
  • Mike Swick
  • Thiago Tavares
  • Nate Quarry
  • Wilson Gouveia
  • Nate Marquardt
  • Kauhiro Nakamura
  • Jason MacDonald
  • Demian Maia
  • Thiago Alves
  • Thales Leites
  • Frank Edgar
  • Matt Hammil
  • Nate Diaz
  • Akihiro Gono
  • Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
  • Gray Maynard
  • Hermes Franca
  • Cheick Kongo
  • Din Thomas
  • Spencer Fisher
  • Tyson Griffin

Note: The reality show really helped some of these fighters draw a fan base, because people saw them on TUF they root for them to suceed in their careers

What to expect in MMA in ’08

  • I expect to see new title holders in every division but one and that is the middleweight.  All though Anderson could be challenged by Dan Henderson.  My picks for the title holders: Nogueira, Not sure about lightheavyweight, Anderson Silva, St. Pierre, and B.J. Penn.
  • I expect to see a few more fighters signed to UFC contracts.  Highlighting the list: Matt Lindland, Gilbert Melendez, Jake Shields, and some other big name surprise
  • I expect TUF to be a disappointment with Rampage Jackson getting a lot of camera time saying his crazy off the wall things
  • I expect the middleweight division to get tougher
  • I expect a few UFC stars to retire (Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin)
  • I expect Sean Sherk to get another title shot, but B.J. Penn to beat him badly
  • I expect the light heavyweight division to get crazier with guys like Machdia, Thiago Silva, Rashad Evans, and Shogun in the title mix.
  • I expect Chuck Liddell to avenge his loss to Keith Jardine by summer
  • I expect that Shogun is still only one fight away from a title shot, I think that my top ten in the lightheavyweight at the top ten at light heavyweight, perhaps not in that order.
  • I expect Dan Henderson to try Anderson Silva like he hasn’t been tried in a while
  • I expect Jon Fitch, Kenny Florian, Sean Sherk, Roger Huerta, Matt Lindland, and either Arlovski or Cro Cop to get a title shot. 
  • I expect the former PRIDE guys to turn it around in the octagon
  • I expect another solid fight from Wanderlai Silva, can you say rematch?
  • I expect the Fedor vs. Randy fight to happen
  • I expect other organizations to become more of a competition to the UFC
  • I expect Dana White to say many more expletives on national television
  • I expect TUF alums to suceed this year even more
  • I expect Diego Sanchez to drop to lightweight
  • I expect Brock Lesnar to be a middle of the road fighter
  • I expect Brandon Vera to drop to lightheavyweight
  • I expect Bisping to cry when he gets beat in middleweight
  • I expect Tito to loose in the Apprentice

UFC Fighter Rankings

Where do fighters rank in the UFC?  I’ve seen all sorts of thoughts on rankings, so I will chime in and give my rankings, which of course are the best and most accurate.  I am using a few guidelines.

  • This is strictly UFC, not including fighters not yet signed in UFC from Pride.  For example, Fedor would be on or near the top of the Heavyweight rankings, but he is yet to sign so he is not included
  • This is based not on popularity or even record, but purely on who I perceive to be the best fighters
  • I am putting the title holders at number one in each weight class, even though they might not be the best in that class, for example, I would not have Matt Serra as the best fighter in his class, but he is the belt holder.
  • Some fighters are rising quickly and others are falling quickly (i.e. Tito and Cro Cop)

HEAVYWEIGHTS

1. Randy “The Natural” Couture

2. Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski

3. Gabriel Gonzaga

4. Cheick Kongo

5. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

6. Tim Sylvia

7. Mirko “Cro Cop”

8. Brandon Vera

9. Frank Mir

10. Jeff Monson 

11. Heath Herring

12. Fabricio Werdum

13. Assuerio Silva

(Note: Fedor, Josh Barnett, and even Aleksander Emelianko may have made the list had they signed. )

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

1. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

2. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

3. Dan Henderson

4. Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell

5. Wandelai Silva

6. Rashad Evans

7. Houston Alexander

8. Tito Ortiz

9. Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine

10. Forrest Griffin

11. Rogerio “Minotoro” Nogueira

12. Matt “The Hammer” Hamill

13. Micael Bisping

14. Ryoto Machida

15. Jason Lambert

16. Stephan Bonnar

17. Renato “Babalu” Sorbal

18. Wilson Gouveia

19. Marvin Eastman

(Note: I put Hamill above Bisping because I believe he beat Bisping in their fight.  Even though Bisping got the win, Hammil looked better.)

MIDDLEWEIGHT:

1. Anderson Silva

2. Rich Franklin

3. Yushim Okami

4. Terry Martin

5. Nate Marquardt

6. Dan Henderson

7. Jason MacDonald

8. Patrick Cote 

9. Kalib Starnes

10. Chris Leben

11. Martin Kampmann

12. Thales Leites

13. Ivan Salaverry

14. Nate “Rock” Quarry

15. Evan Tanner

16. Kendall Grove

17. Ed Herman

18. Travis Lutter

19. Dean Lister

20. Alessio Sakara

WELTERWEIGHT:

1. Matt Serra

2. Georges St. Pierre

3. Matt Hughes

4. Diego Sanchez

5. Karo Parisyan

6. Josh Koschek

7. Jon Fitch

8. B.J. Penn

9. Marcus Davis

10. Mike Swick

11. Thiago Alves

12. Josh Burkman

13. Luigi Fioravanti

14. Nick Diaz

15. Chris Lytle

16. Edilberto “Crocota” de Oliveira

17. Jonathan Goulet

LIGHTWEIGHT:

1.  Sean Sherk

2. B.J. Penn

3. Joe “Daddy” Stevenson

4. Roger Huerta

5. Kenny Florian

6. Hermes Franca

7. Nick Diaz

8. Joe Lauzon

9.  Din Thomas

10. Marcus Davis

11. Clay Guida

12. Spencer Fisher

13. Frank Edgar

14. Melvin Guillard

15. Drew Fickett

16. Kurt Pellegrino

17. Terry Etim

18. Tyson Griffin

19. Marcus Aurelio

20. Sam Stout

21. Tiago Tavares

22. Nate Diaz

(Note: I listed to 22 because there are so many quality fighters and the last 12-15 of these guys are not far from one another in ranking,  Some rankings have my number 19 Marcus Aurelio much higher, but come on, whose he gonna bump down?)

 Let the disputing begin.  I’d love to hear comments.  Perhaps I left someone off included someone I shouldn’t have.  Perhaps I have someone overrated or another underrated.  Let me know what you think.