(Pictured above: Barry “Sarge” Walters, the schizophrenic UFC fan who can often be seen running onstage during weigh-ins. / Photo via Getty)
By Alex Giardini
Unlike some weight-classes we won’t mention, the UFC featherweight division is currently loaded with dangerous contenders, any of whom could be a serious title threat in the future. At UFC 163 (August 3rd, Rio de Janeiro), divisional ruler Jose Aldo defends his belt against fan-favorite “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, and as long as an immediate rematch isn’t booked, there will be a feeding frenzy of 145-pounders trying to make their case as the true #1 contender. So who’s worthiest of the next title shot? Let’s put aside the phony UFC rankings and business-driven matchmaking and break down where each featherweight contender really stands in the pecking order.
(Photo via Esther Lin/MMAFighting)
Lamas is the obvious frontrunner to be next in line but why is he being overlooked? The fact that Jung got the title shot over Lamas after their UFC 162 bout was canceled raised a few eyebrows in itself. Lamas, who hasn’t lost in over a year and a half, has blazed through his opposition in the UFC including men on this very list, and despite demolishing a highly-regarded prospect in Erik Koch back in January, his immediate future is unknown. Lamas has a devastating striking game — including some flashy and dangerous kicks — which gives him the ability to end a fight at any moment. He also has a quality wrestling pedigree, alongside a brown belt in jiu-jitsu, and his ground and pound is murderous; woe to anyone in the division who finds himself on the bottom of Lamas’s elbows and power strikes.
It’s relatively strange that Lamas was skipped in line for a title shot but maybe the UFC feels Aldo’s competition should come with a familiar face. Jung is no slouch, finishing all three opponents thus far in his UFC career, but Lamas also has an equally impressive track record in the company – undefeated in four bouts with previous stoppages over Cub Swanson, Matt Grice. The aforementioned brutalizing of Erik Koch was a major reason to include him in the mix, as Koch was a highly-touted prospect who was already paving his way to a title shot before he met “The Bully.” With Conor McGregor and Cub Swanson angling for fights with the Chicago-born fighter, his next move is up in the air, but maybe he’ll remain quiet until August 3rd to see how everything pans out.