1. Jake Shields
Key Wins: Nick Thompson, Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Yushin Okami, Dane Menne, Hayato Sakurai
Key Losses: Akira Kikuchi
MMABlog Ranking: #3 Ranked Welterweight
Jake Shields is no doubt the best free agent on the market now due to the collapse of EliteXC. However, I do not know if there is much competition for his services. I believe most people are pretty sure that Shields will sign with the UFC. There is a lack of welterweight talent everywhere else. Look for Shields to be in the Octagon by Spring ’09. Not only will Shields be in the UFC he will be competing for a title shot immediately.
2. Eddie Alvarez
Key Wins: Tatsuta Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen
Key Losses: Nick Thompson
MMABlog Ranking: #4 Ranked Lightweight
Alvarez gained a lot of fame in MMA circles with his performance in the DREAM lightweight tournament. Alvarez fought very well as a welterweight, but the drop down to lightweight is a good move for Alvarez. Alvarez, who made it to the finals of the DREAM lightweight grand prix. Alvarez is a top tier lightweight. I look to see him back in Japan seeking to get the lightweight DREAM belt that he feels is rightfully his.
3. Yoshihiro Akiyama
Key Wins: Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, Katsuyori Shibata
Key Losses: Jerome LeBanner
MMABlog Ranking: #14 Ranked Middleweight
The rumors that have been swirling have been that Akiyama has been in discussions with Sengoku and with the UFC. As much as I’d like to see him in the UFC and as much as I think the UFC would like to have him, I would be shocked if he ended up there. I would give a definite advantage in negations to the Japanese organization. However, the UFC is seeking a worldwide expansion and adding another Korean fighter of a top caliber would be a huge plus. Akiyama is a top 10-15 middleweight without a doubt. I’d like to see him up his level of competition though.
4. Robbie Lawler
Key Wins: Scott Smith, Frank Trigg, Joey Villasenor, Murilo Rua, Chris Lytle
Key Losses: Jason Miller, Nick Diaz, Evan Tanner
MMABlog Ranking: #5 Ranked Middleweight
Most people consider Robbie Lawler a top 5 middleweight in the world and many have him as high as number 3. There is no doubt that there will be a lot of offers out there for Robbie Lawler, but the odds on favorite has to be the UFC. He seemed to like the idea of a return to the octagon. The problem with that for Lawler is that he will go from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a big pond. The UFC is always looking for good competition for Anderson Silva and what better competition than the EliteXC middleweight champ. If the UFC could add Lawler it would be huge. Think about this, the UFC middleweight division has been the one touted as being weak. Dana White has said that it is not weak it just appears weak because of Anderson Silva. It is possible that the UFC in a matter of a few months will have added the #2 middleweight in Paulo Filho and the #3 middleweight in Robbie Lawler as well as vying for guys like top 10 Akiyama. Lawler is an instant challenger for the belt and there will be much clamoring for Silva vs. Lawler. If he is not with the UFC I’d be shocked. In his first run in the UFC, Lawler went 4-3. Let’s see if he can do better in a second stint. Other promotions will come calling so the UFC isn’t a lock, but they are bound to give a good offer.
5. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante
Key Wins: Wayne Cole, Travis Galbraith
Key Losses: Marcio Cruz
MMABlog Ranking: #21 Ranked Light Heavyweight
Feijao has the potential to be a UFC champion. He trains with the Nogueira and Anderson Silva and has looked very impressive. He has all the tools to be a champion. I look for Feijao to land in the UFC. That is where he can be best developed. The UFC would be smart to slowly work him up. I would be shocked to see him sign elsewhere. I would go as far to say that he is a top priority for the UFC, especially among the EliteXCers.
6. Tito Ortiz
Key Wins: Ken Shamrock (x3), Forrest Griffin, Patrick Cote, Evan Tanner, Wanderlei Silva, Vladimir Matyushenko, Vitor Belfort
Key Losses: Frank Shamrock, Chuck Liddell (x2), Randy Couture, Lyoto Machida
MMABlog Ranking: #20 Ranked Light Heavyweight
Tito Ortiz has been rumored to be everywhere. First, it was rumored he was going to Affliction and signing a record deal. Then we heard he was headed to the EliteXC. Those both fell through. Now, following back surgery we are waiting to see where Ortiz will land. Say what you want about Tito, he is still a top draw. I do not like him as a fighter, but he is worth big money because of his fan base. His record is impressive as well. He boasts big wins over big names and his losses have come to the best of the best. However, the past few years have been a different story. Ortiz has struggled to get wins. He has not won a fight in 2 years. That has to hurt the size of offers. Tito is about 2 things: Money and Tito. Whoever will give him the most money and the most camera time will get Tito. We know of his feud with the UFC and with Dana White, so I still doubt he will end up there, but it is possible. I still have to guess that Affliction is his best bet. We will see though, he very well could end up back in the UFC. Ortiz only has one fight outside the UFC, so it would be weird to see him somewhere else, but I think that is what we will see, but overall I think Tito doesn’t care to fight anymore and perhaps he is past his prime.
7. Antonio Silva
Key Wins: Justin Eilers, Ricco Rodriguez, Wesley Correira
Key Losses: Eric Pele
MMABlog Ranking: #19 Ranked Heavyweight
The giant heavyweight is a solid fighter that would be a good add anywehere. However, he is currently under suspension from the CSAC because of an alleged failed steroid test. He will be out until July on ’09. This will hurt his marketability. Nevertheless, he is a solid add to any organization. I would have to believe that most promotions will extend him an offer. For him to get into the UFC he may need a win or two under his belt (or maybe not). I am sure the UFC would like to ass another great heavyweight, but I’d look for him to start fighting in Japan. DREAM would be my prediction.
8. Ricardo Arona
Key Wins: Alistair Overeem, Wanderlei Silva, Kazushi Sakuraba, Dean Lister, Murilo Rua, Dan Henderson, Guy Mezger, Jeremy Horn (x2)
Key Losses: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou, Shogun Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, Quintion Jackson, Wanderlei Silva
MMABlog Ranking: #17 Ranked Light Heavyweight
No one really knows where the Brazilian Tiger has been in the fight world. Arona is ranked in the top 20 by most in the light heavyweight division, despite being out of action since April of 2007. I do not know if PRIDE’s collapse or Sokoudjou’s KO of him has kept him out, but we are waiting to see Arona again. Just look at his wins over top named fighters. Wow! His only losses has come to top notch fighters. Arona has said before that the UFC is a perfect place for him to fight. He could end up there, but I still think he ends up somewhere in Japan first. However, if he wants to fight long term he will need to be in Affliction of the UFC. I’d like to see him in the UFC and make a re-match between him and Sokoudjou, but I am not holding my breath.
9. Denis Kang
Key Wins: Akihiro Gono, Murilo Rua
Key Losses: Gegard Mousasi, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Kazuo Misaki, Jason Miller, Joe Doerksen
There was a period between 2003 and 2006 when Denis Kang went 22-0-1. The Canadian middleweight is coming off of an impressive win over Marvin Eastman on October 25th and is now a free agent. I imagine he will get some offers and attention. I haven’t heard anything about which direction he will go, but I would guess Affliction would be a good place for him. I would guess the UFC would make him an offer, but I don’t know if he will land there. He has done some fighting in Japan so DREAM is a possibility as well. I look for this signing to happen sooner than later.
10. Joey Villasenor
Key Wins: Jorge Santiago, Ryan Jensen, Phil Baroni, David Loiseau
Key Losses: Murilo Rua, Robbie Lawler, Ryo Chonan, David Terrell
MMABlog Ranking: #19 Ranked Middleweight
Smokin’ Joe is a solid fighter who trains out of Team Jackson. I would be surprised if he does not land a stint with the UFC. He has said that is what he wants and I think they will make an offer to him. He was scheduled to fight Lawler for the EliteXC middleweight title in November, but EliteXC’s collapse ended that. How about Lawler vs. Villasenor in the UFC?
11. Nick Diaz
Key Wins: Gleison Tibau, Josh Neer, Drew Fickett, Chris Lytle, Robbie Lawler, Takanori Gomi
Key Losses: K.J. Noons, Sean Sherk, Diego Sanchez, Joe Riggs, Karo Parisyan
MMABlog Ranking: #23 Ranked Lightweight
Nick Diaz is a liability for any promotion. There is no doubt that he is tough and a good fighter, but he is a horrible representative of MMA. Dana White has criticized him and I think Nick’s attitude after fighters will keep him out of the UFC.
I think Nick Diaz is a bad a**. Nick Diaz is a tough kid. Nick Diaz doesn’t handle himself right all the time in public. I like him — I respect him as a fighter. I love his attitude. I love the way that kid fights. But you can’t do the stuff that this kid does in public. You can’t get into fights when the fight is over … you can’t do that stuff.”
I look for Diaz to sign somewhere, perhaps DREAM or World Victory Road. He likes fighting in Japan and I think that is where he will go. Until then I hope he works on his attitude because he is hard to like when he acts like a street thug. He has a lot of issues such as: recreation drug use, attitude, and making weight. Nevertheless, he will land somewhere and be just fine.
12. Nick Thompson
Key Wins: Eddie Alvarez, Chris Wilson, Josh Neer
Key Losses: Jake Shields, Karo Parisyan, Yushin Okami, Ed Herman
MMABlog Ranking: #14 Ranked Welterweight
Thompson is a crafty veteran who has fought nearly everywhere. Most people agree he is a top 20 welterweight in the world. I am not sure about Thompson’s contract status, but I assume he was signed to a contract with ProElite. Thompson has not fought since his loss to Jake Shieds. “The Goat” has been around, including having gone 1-1 in the UFC. I would not be shocked to see Thompson signed to fight in Japan somewhere.
13. Dave Herman
Key Wins: Kerry Schall, Ron Waterman
Key Losses: None
MMABlog Ranking: #22 Ranked Heavyweight
Herman is another one of the spoils of EliteXC’s collapse and in my opinion is a top notch prospect. I think he is a solid add. I think the UFC would be a good fit, but he would need to be slowly built up. He has great potential as a fighter, but please do something about that nickname (“Pee Wee”). I would not be shocked to see him land in Strikeforce either, but UFC is a good place if he wants exposure and tough fights.
14. David Loiseau
Key Wins: Evan Tanner, Tony Fryklund, Joe Doerksen,
Key Losses: Joey Villasenor, Mike Swick, Rich Franklin, Jeremy Horn
MMABlog Ranking: NR
There is no question that the former number one contender, Canadian David Loiseau wants back in the UFC. He is coming off of a win over Solomon Hutcherson and he hopes that earned him an offer, but he may need one more win. I expect that he will be given one more chance in the UFC sometime in 2009.
15. Brett Rogers
Key Wins: James Thompson, Jon Murphy
Key Losses: None
MMABlog Ranking: #24 Ranked Heavyweight
Rogers is a hard hitting prospect who was with the EliteXC. Rogers looked very impressive in his KO win over Jon Murphy that aired on CBS’ debut card. Rogers seemed to be unhappy that Kimbo Slice was getting the hype when he felt he deserved it, and he was probably right. He has been untested, but he hits hard. He has a place in a big time promotion. I do not know if the UFC would gamble with him, but that is the best place for him. Affliction may be a bad move because they would not have time to develop him like the UFC could. I would love to see a TUF featuring hevayweights like Rogers, Herman and even Kimbo, but they don’t need TUF to get offers.
16. Wilson Reis
The EliteXC’s featherweight champ is sure to land a job. I think that the best place for him would be in the talented pool of the WEC. He could be a solid contender among some of the best featherweights. Zuffa would be smart to pick him up.
17. Benji Radach
Key Wins: Murilo Rua, Ryan McGivern
Key Losses: Chris Leben, Sean Sherk, Matt Horwich
Radach is coming off of an impressive KO win over Murilo Rua at EliteXC’s last event. He is sure to find a home somewhere. He wanted back in the UFC, but they hinted that he needed one more fight somewhere else. He could end up back in the UFC. He is hard hitting and talented, but I think he may head to Affliction or Strikeforce, but don’t count out the UFC just yet.
18. Bao Quach
Key Losses: Waggney Fabiano
Another solid featherweight who ought to head to the WEC. The WEC moved out their light heavyweight and middleweight divisions to focus on the lighter classes and they need Quach.
19. Frank Shamrock
Key Wins: Bas Rutten, Tito Ortiz, Jeremy Horn
Key Losses: Bas Rutten (x2), Renzo Gacie, Cung Le
Shamrock is in the same boat as Tito Ortiz. Both guys are legends and both are popular, but both seem to be past their prime. Ironically, both have feuds with Dana White. The UFC is unlikely for Frank. I think he is Affliction bound. Anywhere he goes he will be a crowd attractor.
20. Scott Smith
Key Wins: Pete Sell
Key Losses: Robbie Lawler, Ed Herman, Patrick Cote, David Terrell, James Irvin
Smith looked really good against Robbie Lawler, but his record does nto show many solid wins. He is exciting and always puts on a show. I like Scott Smith and think he is a good sign for someone, but likely it will not be UFC. I think Strikeforce or even DREAM would be a good sign.
21. K.J. Noons
Key Wins: Nick Diaz, Yves Edwards
Key Losses: Charles Bennett
The much aligned EliteXC lightweight champ. He refused to fight Nick Diaz again for the title and was stripped of his belt just before EliteXC’s collapse. One may wonder if he was a one hit wonder. He beat Nick Diaz, but I do not know if he can hang with top level guys. He could do well in the WEC lightweight division. I hear he may want a boxing career, but if he opts for MMA, the WEC would be a good move on his behalf.
22. Paul Daley
Key Wins: Duane Ludwig, Jess Liaudin
Key Losses: Jake Shields
Daley in the Cage Rage champion and he is coming off of a loss to Jake Shields at EliteXC’s last event. He could opt to go back to Cage Rage, which may still hang around despite ProElite’s fall. However, he may look to go to a big stage like the UFC. The UFC is trying hard to market the U.K. and what better way than a solid U.K. fighter like Paul Daley. That is a good option. Maybe he could do TUF 9.
23. Robert Drysdale
Record: 0-0 (1-0 Amatuer)
Drysdale is a pure prospect as well. He is widely regarded as the best jiu jitsu guy in the world. He trains and teaches at Xtreme Couture. Drysdale recently made his move into MMA with a win on the amateur level. He could be a big time fighter one day. He has a long way to go still. In a year he could be in the UFC, which would have to be the favorite to land him when he is ready.
24. Andre Galvao
Galvao is a prospect, not a star. He is know for superior grappling and jiu jitsu skills. He will be a great fighter in the likes of Demian Maia. I do not know if he is ready for the big leagues yet, but the UFC ought to keep tabs on him as should the other organizations. Within a year I look to see him on a big stage somewhere.
Others: Gina Carano, Kimbo Slice, Murilo “”Ninja” Rua, Phil Baroni, Jon Murphy, Ryan McGivern
Filed under: Antonio Silva, Benji Radach, Brett Rogers, Cristiane Cyborg, David Loiseau, Denis Kang, Eddie Alvarez, EliteXC, Frank Shamrock, Jake Shields, Joey Villasenor, K.J. Noons, Kimbo Slice, Murilio "Ninja" Rua, Nick Diaz, Nick Thompson, Paul Daley, Rafael Feijao, Ricardo Arona, Robbie Lawler, Ryan McGivern, Scott Smith, Wilson Reis, Yoshihiro Akiyama | Tagged: Andre Galvao, Antonio Silva, Bao Quach, Benji Radach, Brett Rogers, Dave Herman, David Loiseau, Denis Kang, Eddie Alvarez, Frank Shamrock, Jake Shields, Joey Villasenor, K.J. Noons, Nick Diaz, Nick Thompson, Paul Daley, Rafael Feijao, Ricardo Arona, Robbie Lawler, Robert Drysdale, Scott Smith, Tito Ortiz, Wilson Reis, Yoshihiro Akiyama | 1 Comment »