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Opening Round: The Other Guys

With all the talk surrounding Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez and whether he will/won’t join the UFC after defending his belt this weekend against Jorge Masvidal it seems a number of the other fighters competing on the same card have been overlooked in terms of the same consideration for a call up to the Octagon.

Until now, that is. They may not have the public endorsement of UFC President Dana White but they certainly have enough ability, charisma, and/or potential to fit in on the UFC roster. In no particular order the very individuals I speak of are…

Gegard Mousasi – Mousasi has been deserving of a run in the UFC for years but seems to like the freedom of competing in Japan. However, at 31-3-2 including 28 stoppages and wins over some relatively tough opposition, “The Dreamcather” would be an instant contender at 205 and a downright killer if driven down to middleweight by money or finding out the drastic difference between the UFC’s light heavyweight division and every other organization’s. He is well-rounded, unemotional, and only 26.

Justin Wilcox – “The Silverback” is an accomplished wrestler with knockout power who comes from one of the top camps in MMA (American Kickboxing Academy). He could easily step into the UFC’s lightweight division and rattle off 3-4 big wins to put himself in the discussion for top contendership. Not counting a No Contest against J.Z. Cavalcante due to an eye-poke, Wilcox won his last six fights including victories over Rodrigo Damm, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro, and Shamar Bailey.

K.J. Noons – While Noons may not necessarily have a UFC title-run in him he’s an exciting fighter who brings heavy hands and swagger into every fight. There’s already a guaranteed barnburner in pairing him with Nate Diaz given Noons’ rivalry with Diaz’s older brother (Nick Diaz). He’s got a marketable look, a ferocious style, and has no qualms about talking smack in certain situations. All three characteristics make him a prime candidate to be both loved/hated by fans, i.e. sell tickets, if promoted the right way.

Jorge Masvidal – Masvidal is one of the toughest lightweights in MMA, period. He’ll throw down at 170 or at 155, and he’ll scrap in an arena or in a backyard if necessary, because he is a fighter to the core. He went the distance against Paul Daley, smacked Noons around, and holds wins over a number of other tough guys currently calling the UFC home like Yves Edwards and Joe Lauzon.

On the Bubble – Ovince St. Preux / Caros Fodor

So, while you’re busy crossing your fingers Melendez will beat Masvidal, then immediately follow in the footsteps of teammates Jake Shields and the elder Diaz, bear in mind there are also a few other guys who deserve the same attention because all fit the bill of a “UFC Fighter”.

What do you think about the subject on today’s “Opening Round”? Tell us on our Twitter account (@mmatraining)!

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