Ranking the Bellator fighters that could be competing in the UFC
With competition rising in promotions all over the world, MMA is in a never before seen era where cross promotion dream matchups are at an all-time high.
As ONE and Rizin are picking up steam, the two big promotions still remain at the top in the United States- Bellator and the UFC. It is now clear that the UFC does not have all of the best fighters in the world. In fact, many Bellator fighters could compete for a UFC title or even become a UFC champion. For example, the recent signing of Ben Askren will finally answer questions as to how a product of outside organizations will fair with UFC-level competition.
Check out our list of elite Bellator fighters that should fight under the largest MMA promotion’s banner:
The top 10 Bellator fighters that could be in the UFC
We got a taste of it with Eddie Alvarez, who actually won the UFC lightweight title. Before that, he had losses and competed all over the world prior to it. Ben Askren has hardly even been tested in his MMA career and will be arguably be the best wrestler in the UFC now. He's facing former champion, Robbie Lawler in his UFC debut. What other fighters should be in the UFC? Who else could compete with the very best in the world? We gathered a list of the top Bellator fighters that could be competing inside the Octagon.
#10: Aaron Pico (4-1)
I know, I know “He only has 5 fights.” That’s fine and all but his 4 wins have all come in under 4 minutes. Oh, and remember how he was a 3x national wrestling champion in ALL three styles and a medalist in the world championships before the age of 20? Yeah, his 4 wins have come by his hands. I should’ve mentioned he was a national Golden Gloves champion and European Pankration champion was he was 13 years old. In his last bout, he met Leandro Higo who then had a record of 18-4 and had challenged Eduardo Dantas for the Bellator featherweight title, Higo was left dazed against the cage in 3 minutes. He will meet a seasoned Bellator vet in Henry Corrales in his upcoming bout and with an impressive win, he could set himself up for a title fight against reigning champ Patricio Pitbull. I could be jumping the gun here on Pico but there’s something too special about him, especially when TJ Dillashaw raves about Pico being one of the most talented young prospects he’s ever seen. He would be a great addition to shallow featherweight division with interesting matchups in his future against Alex Volkanovski, Jeremy Stephens and Brian Ortega to name a few. We’ll see soon enough how good he is but for now, I’ll just say he is showing sparks of greatness.
#9: AJ McKee (13-0)
Son of legendary MMA fighter, Antonio McKee, “The Mercenary” is looking to be the next generation of McKee’s to put the MMA world on notice. At just 23 years old with a perfect 13-0 record and 9 wins by stoppage victory, AJ is everything the UFC looks for in a fighter. He has the looks, the talk, he puts people away violently and he fights often. Reminiscent of Kevin Lee, AJ McKee would bring the UFC tons of money. He has been fighting relatively nonstop after turning pro in 2015 and he has not been fighting anyone of low caliber, as his debut was with Bellator at the age of 19. McKee holds key victories over Justin Lawrence and John Macapa. McKee has been adamant on not fighting his friend and fellow rising star Aaron Pico, so there is no saying whom he will fight next. I’m sure Bellator will look to build him slowly and give him plenty of reps before heavily promoting him. This young man is the future of the featherweight and lightweight division.
#8: Douglas Lima (30-7)
To be honest, I’m not really sure how this man makes 170-pounds, he’s gigantic. At 6’1" and easily walks around 200-pounds. Lima would rival Darren Till for largest welterweight the UFC. Like Till, Lima is one of the most intimidating fighters in the game today, with 25 of his 30 victories coming by way of stoppage. He is the former Bellator welterweight champion after he blasted through Andrey Koreshkov and Loren Larkin before dropping a back and forth bout against arguably the P4P #1 welterweight on the planet, Rory Macdonald. To the day, Lima holds notable wins over Andrey Koreshkov (x2), Paul Daley, Ben Saunders (x2) and Steve Carl. With the addition of Lima into the already jam packed welterweight division, it would insert a new dangerous striker amongst killers such as Santiago Ponzinibio, Darren Till, Stephen Thompson as well as grizzled grapplers like Kamaru Usman, Colby Covington and Demian Maia. Not to mention the reigning alpha male of the division, Tyron Woodley. Lima has the remainder of the Bellator Grand Prix to finish but if he happens to make it to the finals and win the title, it could set him up to sign a big contract with the UFC.
#7: Darrion Caldwell (13-2)
Although coming off a loss, Caldwell is still the Bellator bantamweight champion. His recent loss comes to Kyoji Horiguchi in a ring at Rizn. Yes, Horiguchi is a flyweight, but one of the best in the world at that and the bout was contested in a ring. Caldwell has beaten relatively everyone there is to beat in the bantamweight division including Leandro Higo, Noad Lahat, Joe Warren, Eduardo Dantas and Joe Taimanglo. Caldwell could present problems for a lot of UFC bantamweights with his incredible wrestling, jiu jitsu and ever improving striking. The UFC division could use some new blood as well. Currently, Dominick Cruz is out for awhile due to injury. Cody Garbrandt has been KO’d twice by TJ Dillashaw and TJ himself is on the shelf until his bout with Henry Cejudo concludes at UFC Brooklyn. Fighters like Aljamain Sterlin, Petr Yan, Raphael Assuncao, Jimmie Rivera and Marlon Moraes would all be interesting bouts for Darrion Caldwell.
#6: Julia Budd (12-2)
Julia Budd would a huge addition to the UFC’s women's featherweight division. Especially since there is only arguably 5 world class feathweights in the world right now and 4 of them are signed to the UFC- Cris Cyborg, Holly Holm, Amanda Nunes, Megan Anderson, Germaine de Randaime. Julia Budd has a phenomenal kickboxing background and has not lost in MMA since 2011, since finishing five opponents. Her only two losses? Amanda Nunes and Ronda Rousey, which both were within her first 4 MMA fights. If Julia Budd were to sign with the UFC she would almost certainly get an immediate #1 contenders fight with either Holly Holm or Megan Anderson, assuming that Cyborg will get an immediate rematch with Amanda Nunes.
#5: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (28-4)
At 5’5", Patricio Pitbull would certainly be one of the smaller fighters in the division. However, as a product of the famed Chute Boxe Academy, he would surely be one of the most entertaining and violent fighters to be inserted into the shallow division. Pitbull has 20 stoppage victories and a wealth of experience with high quality wins over Daniel Strauss (x3), Wilson Reis (x2), Georgi Karakhanyan, Daniel Weichel (x2), Pat Curran and Emmanuel Sanchez. Pitbull is usually known for his violent knockout power but many people sleep, literally, on his jiu jitsu as he is a BJJ Black Belt under the Nogueira brothers, and 11 of his 20 stoppage victories have come by way of submission. He has a few quality fights left for him in Bellator, like Aaron Pico and AJ McKee. However, adding him to the UFC featherweight division would make for exciting matchups.
#4: Michael Chandler (19-4)
In my opinion, Michael Chandler should have came over with Eddie Alvarez for a trilogy fight that would make a stadium go absolutely ballistic. Chandler is a killer in all facets of the mixed martial arts game, he’s a Division All-American out of Missou and 7 of his 14 stoppage victories have come by KO. He’s so violent that at Bellator 157 in 2016, he knocked Patricky Freire spark out, climbed the cage and stared his brother, Patricio Pitbull down, telling him he was next. Chandler has faced incredible talent including Eddie Alvarez, Benson Henderson, Brandon Girtz, Will Brooks and David Rickels. Adding Michael Chandler to the UFC stacked lightweight division would create interesting fights with Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kevin Lee, Edson Barboza, Tony Ferguson, and Conor McGregor. Training out of the Hard Knocks 365 camp in Boca Raton, Chandler is already getting world class training with the likes of Luke Rockhold, Kamaru Usman, Gilbert Burns and Michael Johnson. I think it’s only a matter of time before we see Chandler wearing Reebok.
#3: Ryan Bader (26-5)
After defeating caliber opponents in Rogerio Nogueira (x2), Illir Latifi, Ovince St. Preux, Rashad Evans and Phil Davis, Ryan Bader left the UFC. Since then, he has been undefeated and smashing people, capturing the Bellator light heavyweight championship and now will be battling the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix final to crown the vacant heavyweight champion. With cross promotion trades (Ben Askren/Demetrious Johnson) and cross promotion fights (Horiguchi/Caldwell), if Bader can become the first-ever Bellator Champ Champ it could maybe, this is a HUGE maybe, set up the first ever lineal championship bout between Daniel Cormier and Ryan Bader at heavyweight. Bader and Cormier have history as well dating back to UFC 192 after the two had to be separated at the post-fight press conference. Let’s stay relatively realistic and not get our hopes up too much though. As the UFC lightheavyweight division is in serious trouble, Bader would almost certainly walk into a UFC title fight. If not, he'll definitely have a #1 contender fight against Alexander Gustaffson. Bader has the ability to beat you into oblivion at any moment or make you regret even thinking about taking a fight with him in the first place. Of his 26 professional victories, 14 of them are by stoppage. His decision victories usually come by his relentless and pressuring wrestling attack. If you need an example, look up his most recent fight with former UFC heavyweight, Matt Mitrione, where Bader overwhelmed him for 15 minutes. One day we might see him back in the UFC, but likely not.
#2: Rory MacDonald (20-5)
Who was the last person to defeat the current UFC welterweight king? His name is the Red King and he did relatively convincingly. “But that was so long ago” yeah, well, Rory was only 24 years old at the time as well. He left the UFC in 2016 on a two-fight skid against Stephen Thompson and Robbie Lawler, rebounded and won two straight to be crowned Bellator welterweight champion. Rory is arguably amongst the top 5 welterweights on the planet today and could easily jump into a title fight if he were to come back. The only thing that really worries me about Rory is the amount of wars he’s been in and how much his chin has left in the tank. It’s held up just fine but at some point enough is enough. With that being said, he’s known for being one of the most feared fighters in MMA today due to his deathly stare and aggressive, yet precise fighting style. Rory MacDonald can compete with any welterweight walking the earth today, period and at just 29 years old, I believe we will see the return of MacDonald in the UFC some day.
#1: Gegard Mousasi (45-6-2)
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, Cage Warriors middleweight, Dream middleweight/light heavyweight champion and current Bellator middleweight Champion, Gegard Mousasi is one of the most dangerous human beings in the world today. He is most certainly one of the most decorated fighters of all time and quite honestly could be the best middleweight in the world. At just 33 years old, he has 53 professional MMA bouts, 13 amateur boxing matches and 8 professional kickboxing bouts. Don’t take his ground game lightly though, as 12 of his finishes have come by submission including a triangle choke victory over 3rd degree BJJ Black Belt, Denis Kang. He’s fought in relatively every big-named promotion including the legendary, PRIDE FC. The Armenian-Dutch icon holds an incredible 38 stoppage victories in his illustrious career with defining wins over Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort, Thiago Santos, Jacare Souza, Mark Hunt and Uriah Hall to name a few. In his most recent outing, he demolished Rory MacDonald in the second round. Just imagine, for one second, a fight between Gegard Mousasi and Robert Whittaker? Yoel Romero? How about Stylebender? Goosebumps. Look for “The Dreamcatcher” to make his return to the UFC octagon in late 2019 or early 2020 searching for another world title to add to his mantle.
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