UFC Dark Horses

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In todays world of MMA, a fighter’s relevance is usually based off of their most recent performances. Or at least it would seem that way with competitors like Cody Garbrandt, Stipe Miocic, Max Holloway, and especially Conor McGregor. They’ve put their opponents to ruin and have risen to the top of their weight classes.

Yet even winning isn’t enough sometimes. Sure, every performance can’t be spectacular. Not every bout will end in a finish, but that doesn’t mean a fight isn’t exciting. Although on the other hand, it may very well dissuade the powers-that-be from giving fighters a chance at improving their ranking. Similar to the predicament that Tyron Woodley now finds him self in; though as the Champion he is seeking out money fights. His being the one that he missed in George St- Pierre, who is again now set to face Middleweight Champion, Michael Bisping.

The UFC roster undoubtedly garners the most talented athletes in the world. But there are several names that come to mind when discussing dark horse fighters to keep an eye on. Jimmie Rivera in the 135-lbs division, Brian Ortega in the 145-lbs class and welterweight Alberto Mina are more than deserving of mention when discussing world-class fighters on the rise.

Jimmie Rivera has not only remained undefeated in his five fights in the UFC, but has beaten the likes of Urijah Faber and Thomas Almeida. Perhaps people will expect or at least give him more credit for pushing into top contender-ship. Still, as of August 2017 Rivera’s been neglected. His name hasn’t been thrown into the hat for challenging the champion.

Jun 4, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Brian Ortega (red) celebrates beating Clay Guida (blue) during UFC 199 at The Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Ortega has proved himself time and again, with incredible comebacks and beautiful finishes. Yet, he remains a bit on the outskirts of bidding for the title. Sure, he tested positive for PEDs in 2014, but has since finished every fight. He’s a hell of a contender at featherweight. Ignoring his talent would certainly lead to defeat for his opponents and be a wasted opportunity for the UFC.

Alberto Mina has been a name to mention, as he continues to prove himself in the 170-lbs division. The only issue is the frequency with which he performs. Now it’s hard to establish whether the UFC doesn’t give him enough opportunities or if he simple can’t perform that frequently – all that can be said is he’s been overlooked. And given his acumen, a shot at top-ranked fighters would surely prove fruitful for both Mina and the UFC.

In a sport where it is already difficult to remain relevant, it’s important to acknowledge those who really are succeeding, without receiving much notoriety. Jimmie Rivera will sooner or later be given a title shot, as he is pushing to the Top-5 of his division. Brian Ortega and Alberto Mina also seems be heading in the same direction. It’s easy to underestimate fighters that don’t get as much infamy or “air-time.” But the last thing anyone can say is that MMA is a typical or predictable sport. Anything can happen. That’s the thrill of such ferocious competition. There’s no doubt some of these dark horses will prove that true.


-Ehren Baker



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