Wineland secured his shot at Renan Barao by beating two opponents, the latter of whom he barely got by. Even worse, Wineland had lost back-to-back bouts prior to his mini-streak. While he’s got skill, in no way, shape, or form does Wineland deserve an opportunity at Barao and anything other than utter defeat at the Brazilian’s hands would be a shock in the books of most. If Philippou gets by Francis Carmont at UFC 165 he’ll have earned six straight wins in the Octagon. Though it’s an accomplishment worth respecting, the victory will also serve as another over an adversary outside of the Top 10. With Tim Boetsch as his only win of note on the run, at least when considering Court McGee is a welterweight, Philippou needs to fight a legitimate Top 5 foe before being seen as a true threat to Chris Weidman or Anderson Silva. Based primarily on divisional parity and partially on good fortune, “Mr. Wonderful” has landed in a spot where one more victory will likely secure him a go at gold. Davis has won three fights since falling in a one-sided affair to Rashad Evans with two of the tilts featuring men no longer under UFC contract (Wagner Prado/Vinny Magalhaes). His other victory involved a controversial Split Decision nod over Lyoto Machida. Like others on this list, he still needs to prove he can consistently beat ranked opponents before convincing even the most naïve fan he has earned his chance to be champion. There’s no question Thomson is a true warrior when it comes to his efforts in the ring. However, supporting his status as a possible title-contender is a far shakier proposition. Thomson TKO’d Nate Diaz, an impressive feat to be sure, but he’d lost a decision to Gilbert Melendez prior to the win (albeit a closely contested one). He’s also fought a grand total of three times in the last three years due to injury. While not his fault, it’s definitely far from the resume of a man who should be in discussion for the sport’s most coveted prize. Sure, Grant is on a five-fight winning streak but only one of his adversaries was ranked in the Top 10 and two of them are no longer with the UFC based on poor performance. He’s an excellent grappler and his striking has been eye-opening as of late, but he hasn’t shown he can consistently beat the best out there as should be the case when it comes to a man so close to the championship.
Far too often the
UFC books title-bouts based on a string of semi-impressive showings, a competitor’s marketability, or simply desperation on the part of the promoters. For every “paper champion” there are a few “paper contenders” as well. For example, consider the number of opportunities received despite having lost convincingly in numerous clashes. Simply put, while they may all be talented fighters they aren’t necessarily legitimate threats when it comes to dethroning divisional kings. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) Chael Sonnen