Friday, February 3, 2012

WALKER: The MMA Stock Exchange - A Look at the Rising and Falling in the UFC's Featherweight Division

By: Brad Walker, MMATorch Contributor

Here is a brief summary of what I will be doing here; I'm going to look at the current champ from each division and label them "now." Then I will look at who I feel has the best chance to dethrone that champ and label them "next." Next I will select two each of the following: fighters with rising stock, fighters with stagnant (unchanging) stock, and fighters with dropping stocks. I will give explanations as to why I feel each one is placed where they are, and feel free to give me any feedback you believe would be a credible argument, after all analysis is partially opinion, now let's roll our sleeves up and dig in.


Now: Jose Aldo. Unquestionably one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, Aldo has demolished every fighter he has faced, except one. He is an artist in the cage painting us a picture of pure domination and relentless power to knock out his opponents. He holds a staggering 21-1 record, with 14 consecutive wins, most of which have come by way of knockout. Honestly, I don't believe that there is currently a fighter in the weight class who can defeat him, so deciding who was next was a great difficulty due to the nature of Aldo's dominance, and his ability to adapt to any opponent and overwhelm them either on the ground or standing toe to toe. He has some of the most memorable wins in recent memory, including his incredible performance against Chad Mendes at UFC 142 in Brazil. In the years to come Aldo could prove him to be the best fighter in the world, and at the age of 25 he still has plenty of time to do so.

Next: Yuri Alcantara. The man who fans forgot. I am unsure how it took him so long to wind up in the WEC and UFC, but Alcantara's career record is phenomenal. At a powerful 27 wins against only three losses he has showed incredible skill for some time now, and his Jiu-Jitsu is incredible. He has relatively heavy hands, winning 11 fights by knockout, but still taking home 12 via submission, showing out how well rounded his game is. Part of the reason we don't tend to see Yuri ranked is he has fought mostly unknown opponents during his eight year career. He is a two-time former lightweight champion in other organizations but seems to have found a comfortable home in UFC's featherweight division. Only two of his fights have taken place at his new 145 pound weight class, but his decisions have both been well earned. I believe once we get him up against some better recognized talent his stock within the division will sky-rocket and we will see him on his way to fighting Jose Aldo.

Rising Stock: Jim Hettes. The undefeated southpaw from wonderful Pennsylvania, who has dominated two separate cast members from The Ultimate Fighter season twelve. His win over Nam Phan was impressive as he absolutely beyond dominated him to the tune of 30-25 on two of the judges' scorecards. I openly admit and realize beating Alex Cacerces and Nam Phan is no huge task, but to dominate them both as he did is an exceptional achievement. Hettes has submitted every opponent with the exception of Phan, but showed off how badly he could wound him with strikes. His background in judo mixed with his purple belt in jiu-jitsu make for incredible take downs followed by mind boggling submissions. I look forward to seeing Hettes back in the cage, perhaps against the aforementioned Yuri Alcantara.

Rising Stock: Eric Koch. An incredibly talented fighter at just 23 years of age, Koch has the potential to be a top three featherweight in the very near future. He holds notable wins over Jonathan Brookins, Eric Wisely and Raphael Assuncao, but only has one loss, which came at the hands of Chad Mendes. Koch is still very young and has a lot of room to grow and evolve in the sport but the ability he already has at such an early age makes him a big threat down the line. He's already beating good fighters, and doing so decisively, he still however needs to defeat some great fighters. Working with Duke Roufus is a great way to explore that potential and continue his way up the ladder of the division. I would love to see him attempt to avenge his only loss to Chad Mendes in his next fight, and see if he has come far enough to change what he did wrong in their first bout.

Stagnant Stock: Pablo Garza. Garza actually poses some problems to write about, because his record is impressive, but his skill set is just lacking the roundedness you would want to see from a fighter in the UFC. His ability to be explosive is downright scary, with his last two wins coming via flying knee and a flying triangle submission. Pablo has a lot of potential and has shown it off frequently, but generally against lesser opponents. His most notable win came over Yves Jabouin, but he has been less than reliable when it comes to winning. He's lost two of his last four fights, and has shown that he's not the best at defending against chokes. Losing via d'arce to Dustin Poirier and via guillotine to Zhang Tiequan, you have to wonder how hard he works on his defense while he practices his crazy flying tactics. He needs a good rebound fight right now, and with Nam Phan on the warpath to destruction let's put them together and see what happens.
Stagnant Stock: Leonard Garcia. There is no doubting his toughness or his ability to stand and trade, especially after his fight with Chan-Sung Jung in 2010 which earned a nod for fight of the year. The problem for Garcia is that since that fight he has been rather unimpressive, posting a less than stellar three losses in his last four fights, including submitting to Chan-Sung Jung's infamous twister. He has been fighting for nearly 13 years now, but his record stands at 15-8-1 which does not scream "big time fighter." Being a member of Greg Jackson's camp usually means you're going to bring you're A-game to every fight, but it seems that Garcia's A-game may have expired during his hiatus from 2003 to early 2006. He's defeated some good fighters, Jens Pulver included, but after starting 8-1 he has gone a very lackluster 7-7-1 since returning to the world of MMA. I don't know what Garcia can do right now to prove that he deserves to be on UFC's roster, but I also won't say that his stock should be dropping. He is scheduled to face Zhang Tiequan at UFC 144, if he wins that fight, he will be saving his job.

Falling Stock: Nam Phan. I have never quite understood why people got so excited about this guy. His record is unimpressive, his abilities seem to diminish between each of his fights, and he's just generally an unexciting fighter to watch. His two matchups with Leonard Garcia are the only bright spots in his career, not only because they both earned fight of the night, but because although one is listed as a loss, he should have won them both. Phan is kind of an enigma, one fight he will look on point and take his opponent apart, and the next he will look sloppy and passive. In his most recent fight with Jim Hettes he looked absolutely awful and completely outmatched as Hettes steamrolled him to multiple 10-8 rounds. Phan has to come back and absolutely destroy a couple of consecutive opponents or he'll be in line at the unemployment office.

Falling Stock: Tyson Griffin. Does anyone else remember back in 2009 when Tyson Griffin was a serious threat to make a run at the Lightweight Title? He was victorious against some of the best fighters in the world, including Urijah Faber, Clay Guida, Hermes Franca and Gleison Tibau. The problem is that, for some unknown reason at UFC 115, the Tyson Griffin we had all become accustomed to disappeared without a trace. He lost three consecutive fights, and then decided to drop to featherweight for a fresh start. Low and behold, he won his first fight at featherweight, by majority decision ? and then failed to make weight AND lost his second via KO in the first round. Griffin has all the tools to make it work, but for some reason unbeknownst to us he hasn't been making use of them over the last couple of years. Tyson can be a serious contender if he gets back into the zone, but right now he's deadweight in any division ? and that doesn't lead anywhere good. Let's set up a loser leaves Zuffa fight with Nam Phan or Pablo Garza.

Be sure to follow me on twitter at @bradmmatorch or just tweet me your feedback ? it's always appreciated.?

Coming soon: The MMA Stock Exchange ? Bantamweights!

Have a topic you'd like to see me write about? Tweet me and let me know!


Matt Hume Mark Hunt Brad Imes Enson Inoue Takeshi Inoue Tokimitsu Ishizawa Wallid Ismail

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