In 2009, the UFC acquired a goldmine of new talent to further bulk up their already super-sized MMA roster. Due to the demise of Affliction, the UFC was able to snatch up several top-ranked fighters, including former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort.
That ultra-deep pool of athletes will continue to rise in 2010 as we'll see some fresh new faces emerge as legitimate forces in the Octagon.
Ultimately, every MMA fan is hoping to see the UFC debut of No. 1 ranked heavyweight, Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko, but unfortunately it doesn't look like the Russian has any intention to negotiate with the premier MMA organization in the world -- unless the UFC is willing to co-promote with M-1 Global, that is.
Emelianenko signing with the UFC is merely a dream, so let's now focus on the reality. Realistically speaking, here are 10 fighters that the UFC should look to sign in 2010.
The Maynard fight was the last obligation on Huerta's UFC contract and -- despite rumors of an acting career -- Huerta has publicly stated a desire to continue fighting whether for the UFC or other organizations.
Usually a fighter that has taken two losses in a row is not someone that the UFC should go out of their way to sign, but Huerta is a very marketable fighter and could be an important factor in the Mexican market. Plus, he almost always provides an exciting fight, which is what every fan loves to see.
"Ninja" Rua is the older brother of top-ranked UFC light heavyweight Mauricio "Shogun" Rua and competes in the 185-pound division. While not nearly as talented as his brother, "Ninja" is still a dangerous fighter with swift Muay Thai striking and grappling skills to boot.
"Ninja" would be a wise signing for the UFC, not just because of his family roots to "Shogun" but because his aggressive style would matchup well with the rest of the middleweight division.
Living up to his last name, Good is a very good fighter that has potential to develop into a great champion one day. In June, Good demolished Omar de la Cruz to claim the Bellator welterweight championship with a crushing first-round TKO victory.
No disrespect to the Bellator Fighting Championships, but Good is a UFC-caliber fighter and needs to be tested against the best welterweights in the world. Defeating guys like Mike Dolce and Jorge Ortiz is certainly an impressive task but Good should be competing against the top fighters in his division, such as Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves -- and that can only be done in the UFC.
After struggling with personal demons in 2008 that saw him lose both his pound-for-pound status and his WEC middleweight championship, Filho has somewhat reinvented himself in the light heavyweight division this past year with wins over Melvin Manhoef, Alex Schoenauer and Tatsuhiko Nishizaka.
Let's be honest: Without the mental issues and personal demons, Filho is an extremely talented fighter with one of the best ground games in MMA today. If he's back to being 100 percent mentally then it would be a very wise decision for the UFC to sign him into its 205-pound weight class.
A world class grappler such as Filho could make waves in a division comprised of mostly stand-up fighters.
Die-hard fans remember the days when "The Fireball Kid" was the clear-cut king of the lightweight division in Japan. The heavy-handed striker was the last reigning Lightweight champion of the now-defunct PRIDE organization.
The UFC are planning to promote events in Japan next year and are in need of some Japanese talent to expand that market. Gomi is a huge superstar in Japan and would be an excellent boost to the UFC's Japanese audience.
"Grimm" is not a technical fighter by any means, but he doesn't need technique to decimate his opponents. He was knocked out in his last bout against the aforementioned Emelianenko, but by no means was he dominated.
Before meeting "The Last Emperor", Rogers was 10-0 with 10 straight knockouts. He would be a great asset to the UFC's heavyweight division, although it may be difficult to sign him next year given his current contract obligations with Strikeforce.
After staying away from the sport for a year and a half, "The Brazilian Tiger" returned to the ring in 2009 to defeat UFC veteran Marvin Eastman in September. When PRIDE was still alive and cooking, Arona was one of the premier light heavyweights in the world.
He has competed against notables such as Quinton Jackson, "Shogun" Rua, Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson and many other top-level fighters in his MMA career.
The UFC light heavyweight division is currently dominated by strikers, but an elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt such as Arona could shake things up a bit. He already has name recognition from PRIDE so the UFC could easily market him as a top contender, so long as he wins fights against quality opponents inside the Octagon.
"King Mo" is currently signed on a multi-fight deal with Strikeforce which means it isn't likely that he would make the jump over to the UFC in 2010, but regardless it's much more realistic than expecting to see Emelianenko or Gegard Mousasi sign UFC contracts anytime soon.
Lawal is an All-American wrestler that transitioned into MMA in 2008. He's recently coming off an impressive first round stoppage over UFC vet Mike Whitehead at Strikeforce: Evolution, which improved his perfect record to 6-0.
If we don't see "King Mo" in the UFC in 2010, we will most certainly see him competing in the Octagon eventually. If he fights this well with just one year of MMA competition under his belt, just imagine where will be four years from now.
With an outstanding professional record of 19-2, including recent victories over UFC vets Akihiro Gono and Nick Thompson, Hornbuckle is a welterweight that is very close to branching out into a legit contender.
"The Handler" recently signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator to compete in their upcoming Welterweight tournament so a deal with the UFC may not happen until 2011 or later, unfortunately.
If he were signed to the UFC next year, he would be an excellent addition to the 170-pound division. His aggressive man-handling style would matchup well against the likes of Mike Swick and Carlos Condit.
On most Web sites, Alvarez is ranked third behind UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn and DREAM lightweight champ Shinya Aoki. Penn is in need of some fresh new challengers after his recent wins over Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez. So if the UFC were able to snatch up Alvarez, we would be able to see a bout between the No. 1- and No. 3-ranked lightweights in the world.
It's not as intriguing as a fight between Penn and Aoki would be, but let's be real, Penn would absolutely annihilate Aoki. Styles make fights, and Alvarez could prove to be an interesting matchup for "The Prodigy."
Alvarez is the current reigning Bellator lightweight champion but it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see him get out of his contract with Bellator and sign with the UFC towards the end of 2010.