UFC fans tend to look at the top of the rankings in each division to determine the identity of future title challengers for the respected champion. However, not every contender can earn a spot high in the rankings, even if they are on the verge of a title shot.

So, what about those fighters that are building an impressive resume, have notched multiple wins in a row and still haven’t found that top ranking? Well, let’s take a look at them.

We’ll go division by division, from heavyweight to flyweight, and look at one overlooked contender at each weight class. Let’s get started, shall we?

Heavyweight – Stipe Miocic

The UFC’s heavyweight division doesn’t have the depth of other weight classes, which limits the amount of fighters who could possibly remain overlooked. There is one name on the rise, however, that is still relatively unknown to casual fans. That would be Stipe Miocic.

Miocic got some exposure in his last fight, which aired on Fox. He defeated an exhausted Gabriel Gonzaga by unanimous decision. Viewers across the country were able to see him in action, which helped his stock, but the fight itself was a dud. Miocic put forth a solid performance by landing 121 significant strikes, but he did so against a tired Gonzaga who was gassed midway through the bout.

This shouldn’t halt Miocic’s rise up the rankings. The Ohio native has won five of six fights in the UFC, including a dominant decision victory over Roy Nelson. If he can further establish a well-rounded striking game to go with his high-level wrestling, Miocic can become a threat to anyone.

A No. 8 ranking seems too low for Miocic. Alistair Overeem is sitting one spot ahead of him, but “The Reem” has gone 1-2 over his last three fights, with his only win coming against a washed up Frank Mir.

I actually expect these Miocic and Overeem to face off next, so we’ll see how Miocic performs against a superior striker in “The Reem.”

Light Heavyweight – Jimi Manuwa

Jimi Manuwa isn’t an unknown to those who follow the sport closely, but casual fans out there who haven’t seen him fight should go order the UFC’s Fight Pass right now and catch up on his work.

The light heavyweight division is very top-heavy and there are veteran names, such as Dan Henderson, clogging things up. But here’s a fact that gives Manuwa an edge up on Henderson: Henderson is on a three-fight skid, whereas Manuwa has won three in a row. The knock on “Poster Boy” is the quality of competition he has faced, and that is a valid argument. However, Manuwa has a chance to prove the doubters wrong on March 8 against Alexander Gustafsson.

The smart pick in this bout is the former title challenger, who arguably defeated Jon Jones, but many people are underestimating Manuwa. The 33-year-old can end a fight at any moment, regardless of opponent. If Gustafsson can’t keep his distance, we could see an upset.

Manuwa is still overlooked at 205 pounds for the moment. He should be a top-10 guy, but is ranked 11th, behind Ryan Bader. Don’t blink, because Manuwa could be leapfrogging some names on his way to the top.

Middleweight – Brad Tavares and Yoel Romero

We’ll include two names here, due to the fact that both Brad Tavares and Yoel Romero are on rolls and will meet each other on April 19 to determine whose streak ends.

Tavares, having won five fights in a row, has been as hot as any middleweight in the UFC. The negative to this, however, is the fact that none of those fights were ended by knockout or submission. The Hawaiian has the skill set to become an elite fighter, but we still need to see more of him against top-shelf competition. Nevertheless, Tavares is a guy to keep an eye on.

The same can be said of Yoel Romero, who is 3-0 in the UFC. The one significant difference between Romero and Tavares is that all of Romero’s bouts have ended via knockout. Even at 36 years old, Romero probably has the most power in the middleweight division, and he is a dangerous opponent for anyone. In terms of the top up-and-coming guys on the rise, Romero is right there.

The winner of this clash should put themselves at the doorstep of the division’s top 10.

Welterweight – Dong Hyun Kim

Who has wins over the likes of Matt Brown, T.J. Grant and Nate Diaz, and has also had his hand raised in his last three fights? That would be Dong Hyun Kim.

Many people forget how impressive Kim has been over the course of 2013. Remember when he dominated Siyar Bahadurzada, who was considered one of the top up-and-comers? Or when Kim scored a TKO of the talented Erick Silva? Those who do will understand why he is the choice for the top overlooked welterweight in the UFC.

Take away the fight against Karo Parisyan at UFC 94 and Kim’s record stands at 9-2, with one of those losses coming as the result of an unfortunate injury against Demian Maia. So really, the only legitimate time Kim has been beaten is against Carlos Condit in 2011. His resume speaks for itself.

Kim will fight John Hathaway, who has been out of action for a year and a half, on March 1. Another win will put Kim in the top 10, but it won’t cause his stock to rise drastically. “Stun Gun” deserves a top-10 opponent, and he should get one if he defeats Hathaway.

Lightweight – Myles Jury

Yes, his fight against Mike Ricci was terrible, but can Myles Jury get some exposure? “Fury” is 13-0 with a 4-0 UFC record.

Jury will get a grand opportunity to erase the memory of the Ricci fight from people’s minds when he enters into UFC 171 against Diego Sanchez. The fight will be the biggest test of Jury’s career, and a win over Sanchez will put him in the top 15, without question.

Although the 25-year-old has faced only his fellow The Ultimate Fighter alums, Jury has a win over Michael Johnson, who is now ranked No. 13 in the division. Jury absolutely dominated Johnson.

The talent is there for Jury. From here on out, it’s all about gelling against some of the top mainstay fighters, such as Sanchez. If Jury continues to impress, he could be a No. 1 contender in a couple years.

Featherweight – Tatsuya Kawajiri

Our No. 5-ranked featherweight according to The MMA Corner rankings is ranked at No. 15 in the official ladder. There’s a problem here when deciding where to place Tatsuya Kawajiri.

In Japanese MMA, Kawajiri is a legend. With 42 career fights, “Crusher” was one of the top fighters not in the UFC. Then the promotion signed him in the fall of 2013. Kawajiri defeated Sean Soriano by second-round submission on Jan. 4 in his Octagon debut.

I’ve been critical of Kawajiri shooting towards the top of the rankings in the past, and I still feel that way. However, he is definitely overlooked by a long shot.

A win over a guy like Soriano isn’t going to turn too many heads, and his spot at No. 15, though he deserves to be higher, is fair considering he has just one UFC win. He’s faced the likes of Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez in his career prior to entering the Octagon, but he has to show his skills in the UFC to climb farther.

Will he? Absolutely. A big year is coming for Kawajiri if his 35-year-old body can avoid injuries. “Crusher” won’t be overlooked for long.

Bantamweight – Takeya Mizugaki

Takeya Mizugaki has turned his career around, but is anyone noticing?

Mizugaki alternated wins and losses from 2009 to early 2012, but he has won his last four bouts. The UFC has continued feeding him mid-tier fighters, but Mizugaki is holding down the No. 7 spot in the rankings and better competition should be coming for him.

The talent has always been there for the 30-year-old, but he has faced the top dogs of the WEC and UFC throughout his career and came up short. How will he perform against a talented, young fighter such as T.J. Dillashaw? Or someone like Eddie Wineland? That remains to be seen.

A positive for Mizugaki is the fact that the bantamweight division is very shallow at the top. If Mizugaki was at 145 pounds, he would be outside the top 10. At bantamweight, however, there are only three fighters ranked ahead of him who are coming off wins: Raphael Assuncao, Wineland and Dillashaw.

Mizugaki is in a great position to succeed.

Flyweight – Zach Makovsky

Last but not least comes the flyweight mix, which features several names who have entered the division and immediately made an impact. A number of fighters could be listed here, but the most significant of them is Zach Makovsky.

The former Bellator bantamweight champion and RFA flyweight king entered the UFC with a vengeance to defeat Scott Jorgensen, a very tough fighter, by unanimous decision.

The wrestling of Makovsky is arguably the best in the flyweight division, and he displayed it in his debut by taking Jorgensen down six times. On Feb. 22, he’ll have another chance in the spotlight when he battles Josh Sampo at UFC 170.

Having been a former champion in two promotions, Makovsky has proved that he is one of the top lighter-weight fighters in the world. With that said, his No. 10 ranking is absurd. Yes, I said earlier that Kawajiri shouldn’t move up due to just one UFC win, but compare the competition—Sean Soriano as opposed to Scott Jorgensen. Jorgensen fought for the bantamweight title under the WEC banner and had been a mainstay in the top 10 of the 135-pound weight class before dropping to flyweight.

I’ve said this before regarding Makovsky and I’ll say it again: “Fun Size” will fight for the UFC title in 2014. Put it on the board.

About The Author

Corey Adams
Staff Writer

Corey Adams didn't grow up watching mixed martial arts, considering the UFC was just getting started the year he was born, but in his teenage years, witnessed the action and has fallen in love with the sport. Corey was the first to join The MMA Corner staff -- other than founder Josh Davis -- and has been writing for the site ever since. Corey attends Austin Peay State University, where he majors in Communications with a focus on journalism. When he's not covering MMA, Corey is still writing on many sports with both local and campus newspapers. His favorite sports teams are the Atlanta Braves and Denver Broncos. Follow him on Twitter at the link below.

  • blindanddumb

    miles is a very good fighter, intelligent and well rounded