UFC Future Stars
Professional boxing draws much of its popularity today from America's Hispanic community. UFC is attempting to gain inroads into that market. Its poster boy thus far has been bilingual Roger Huerta, with a colorful life story and 18-1-1 record. He also was the first MMA fighter to be featured on the cover of <i>Sports Illustrated.</i>
"The Count" was the standout of The Ultimate Fighter Season 3. The British native is planned to be a regional superstar as the UFC expands its European influence. An action fighter with solid standup and a good submission game, Bisping could be a force for years to come.
Marquardt (left) is an unconventional choice as a future superstar for two reasons. First, he is an experienced veteran of MMA and former King of Pancrase. Second, he lacks the charisma or style that suggests stardom. However, he is still a young man at 28 and largely unknown to UFC fans. More importantly, he has an upcoming title shot with Anderson Silva and a victory would immediately make fans take notice of his talent.
The undefeated Tavares put the lightweight division on notice in his recent fight with Jason Black. He showcased his beautiful submission skills and overwhelmed a very tough opponent. Tavares has submitted the vast majority of his opponents.
An elite amateur wrestler, Koscheck has received on-the-job training in UFC. His impressive wrestling resume earned him high profile fights early in his career. At first he mostly got by on his wrestling, but he has since added standup and submissions. Koscheck is already a dangerous fighter, and he will only get more dangerous. His next fight is the biggest challenge of his career, top welterweight Georges St. Pierre.
Jon Fitch may be the most underappreciated fighter in mixed martial arts. An excellent wrestler who has won 13 straight fights and is undefeated at 6-0 in UFC, he is mostly unknown outside of hardcore fight fans. That will inevitably change, as talent can only be denied for so long.
This Danish fighter (left) has soared under the radar despite an impressive record and some major wins in UFC. He was scheduled to main event UFC 72 against Rich Franklin, but had to pull out due to an injury. Upon his return, he will look to prove he deserves a shot at the middleweight title.
An undefeated fighter with devastating muay thai and high level jiu jitsu, Vera is a potential contender for both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles. A contract dispute cost him a title shot that then went to Randy Couture, but Vera is now back in the UFC fold. He will soon remind fans why he is so highly regarded.
Martin made an ignominious UFC debut when he was knocked out by a flying knee from James Irvin. He was invited back to UFC and lost again. That loss motivated Martin to move down in weight class, which proved to be a wise move. Martin finished his last two UFC opponents at 185 in a combined 138 seconds to improve his overall record to 16-2. This heavy handed striker is also working towards his doctorate in clinical psychology.
Griffin has been in two fights this year, and both were fight of the year contenders. He is already one of the top lightweight fighters in the world, and still has a lot of room for improvement. Griffin also handed WEC top star Urijah Faber his only loss.