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10 UFC Dark Horse Contenders

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The UFC PR machines work in crazy ways. While winning fights should be the way for a fighter to get their name known, that is often not the case. Flashy knockouts, trash-talking on the mic, and high amounts of activity will help a fighter more than someone who wins decisions and goes about their business.

10. Pannie Kianzad, #12 Women’s Bantamweight

One of two women to appear in this ranking, Pannie Kianzad is the twelfth-ranked Women’s Bantamweight. It is easier for a fighter to climb up rankings in most of the women’s divisions where there are fewer fighters on the roster. However, this has not been the case for Kianzad, who has made little to no traction up the 135-pound ladder despite having four straight wins. Her low finishing rate (19%) is likely the reason she garners little attention. However, in her last fight against Alexis Davis, the Swedish fighter proved that she deserves the respect of fans and her opponents. 

9. Brendan Allen, Unranked Middleweight

Brendan Allen is the perfect example of how one loss can hold a fighter back from moving up the rankings. 17-4 as a professional with an 82% finish rate, Allen won his first four UFC bouts, including wins over notable fighters like Kevin Holland and Tom Breese. However, his momentum was cut short when he suffered a TKO loss to Sean Strickland last November. Since the start of 2021, Allen has earned decisive victories over rising prospects in Karl Roberson and Punahele Soriano. Few fans know his name; however, Brendan Allen is a potential contender in the UFC’s 185-pound division. He’s garnered interest in the betting world with many who hit casino slots online looking to cash-in on an underdog.

8. Daniel Rodriguez, Unranked Welterweight

Daniel Rodriguez, who competes this weekend against Kevin Lee, is down to fight any opponent that comes his way. Since joining the UFC, this 170-pound heavy-hitter has gone 5-1, with his only loss coming against Nicolas Dalby. However, Rodriguez still lacks that signature win to get himself inside the top 15. If he can carry his recent momentum into this weekend and defeat Lee, that could earn him a ranking next to his name. 

7. Da Un Jung, Unranked Light Heavyweight

Another fighter who most casual fans have never heard of, Da Un Jung is arguably the most slept-on 205-pound fighter on the roster. 3-0-1 since joining the UFC, Jung has an 86% finish rate and insane wrestling skills. In his previous bout, Jung was able to control one of the strongest fighters on the roster in William Knight, en route to a unanimous decision victory. Jung has earned the right to fight a ranked opponent next, and fans should learn his name because he could become a title contender. 

6. Sean Brady, #13 Welterweight

Sean Brady is the epitome of the dominant fighter who no one wants to fight because of his wrestling skills. Undefeated at 14-0 as a professional, Brady looked incredible at UFC 259, dominating Jake Matthews and earning a third-round submission via arm triangle. However, because his wrestling-heavy style isn’t always the most visually pleasing, few fans care to mention Brady’s name in debate. Regardless, Brady hasn’t shown any weakness throughout his career and could potentially fight for the Welterweight title in his career. 

5. Tom Aspinall, #13 Heavyweight

The Heavyweight division is not exactly the best that the UFC has to offer. Francis Ngannou is the champ, while Ciryl Gane just earned the interim strap. Stipe Miocic may still have some fight left in the tank, and the potential for Jon Jones to move up to 265 is interesting. In a division that is waiting for someone to make their move, Tom Aspinall has the potential to be that man. 10-2 as a professional and 3-0 in the UFC, Aspinall is currently ranked thirteenth with a fight scheduled for September 4th against Sergei Pavlovich. If Aspinall can continue to win fights, he has the potential to fight for a championship in the next few years.

4. Movsar Evloev, #13 Men’s Featherweight

Another example of a wrestler whom no one likes to talk about, Movsar Evloev looked incredible in his last fight against Hakeem Dawodu. The issue with Evloev is that he isn’t exactly a finisher. He’s 6-0 in the UFC, but all of his wins have come by decision. Regardless, his game is reminiscent of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s due to his ability to swarm opponents with his wrestling. 15-0 as a professional, Evloev is currently the 13th-ranked Featherweight and can become a contender in this highly competitive division. 

3. Ricky Simon, Unranked Bantamweight

The fact that Ricky Simon is not ranked speaks to how talent-infested the Bantamweight division is at the moment. Simon earned an impressive win in his UFC debut against a fellow contender in Merab Dvalishvili. Simon’s momentum would be slowed down by back-to-back losses to Urijah Faber and Rob Font. However, Simon has gotten back on track, winning three straight fights and displaying his dominant wrestling skills. Simon still lacks the signature win that will allow him to become a more prominent name, but he’s a force to be reckoned with at 135. 

2. Marina Rodriguez, #6 Women’s Strawweight

Marina Rodriguez fought in a main event in May, is set to fight in another in October, and still, no one likes to talk about her. During the fight week leading up to her headlining bout against Michelle Waterson, nearly all the attention was on Waterson. However, Rodiguez has looked incredible in eight UFC bouts, with her only loss a close split decision against Carla Esparza. Rodriguez is set to headline against Mackenzie Dern on October 9th, and more than likely, most of the attention will be on Dern. However, the UFC needs to avoid mistakes that they have made in the past and give some attention to Rodriguez as she is a perennial contender. 

1. Arnold Allen, #6 Men’s Featherweight

One would tend to believe that winning eight straight fights in what is arguably the UFC’s most competitive division would generate a ton of conversation. However, few fans know about the sixth-ranked Featherweight, Arnold Allen, who recently defeated Sodiq Yusuff. Allen has only finished two of those eight wins, and his lack of activity is another factor as to why he does not garner a lot of attention. However, Allen has shown little to no weakness in his game and should be due for a big fight. In theory, Allen should not be far away from a title shot, but the lack of recognition that he receives will likely force him to have to win a few fights before getting his shot at the 145-pound belt. 

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