Brendan Schaub file photo: Sherdog.com
Storylines are the lifeblood of the UFC and the reason why just about every card they put on sets the table for both their short- and long-term future.
For all of you who want to stay ahead of the curve, here are the five stories to keep an eye on so you can keep your cool kid status intact.
Lesnar Turns Face
Going into UFC 116, Brock Lesnar was considered the heel of heels in a sport full of trash talkers. After putting the exclamation point on an improbable comeback win over Shane Carwin, just about everyone watching this watershed moment in heavyweight MMA history was expecting Lesnar to deliver one of his trademark braggadocio-laced interviews.
Instead we got something entirely different: a humble Lesnar thanking his trainers, family and God for helping him through his near-death experience with diverticulitis. The former collegiate wrestling champion even thanked his opponent before finding time to remind the world that he is the toughest S.O.B. around.
Return of ‘The Crippler’
Going into 2010 the notion of Chris Leben becoming a serious middleweight contender seemed like a pipe dream reserved for his friends and family.
After notching two upsets in two weeks over Aaron Simpson and Yoshihiro Akiyama, Leben is not only back in the middleweight mix but the overwhelming favorite to take home Sherdog.com’s Comeback Fighter of the Year award.
Heartwarming stories are in short supply in MMA. While Leben is never going to be a UFC champion, it’s always nice to see someone come back from hard times.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie!
Losing to Tom Speer on “The Ultimate Fighter” isn’t the sort of thing most folks would come back from.
Thankfully George Sotiropoulos is not most people. With consecutive wins over Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino, he is now a serious contender for the lightweight title. For whatever reason, people are sleeping on this fact even though Sotiropoulos has been running game on everyone the UFC puts in front of him.
A title eliminator bout with Evan Dunham is a personal fistic dream of mine, but he should at least get a co-main event slot in the near future.
Watch Out for the Massive Man
Brendan Schaub entered “The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights” as just another NFL convert trying his hand at MMA. Even after getting knocked out by Roy Nelson on the show’s finale, “The Hybrid” had made it clear by season’s end that he was a serious heavyweight prospect.
His effortless snuff job on Chris Tuchscherer should have more people wondering just how far he can go in the UFC. Considering this makes two straight first-round blitzkriegs for Schaub, it may be time for him to take a step toward the deep end of the pool.
Gerald Harris Is the Best Fighter No One Knows
Since fighting his way back into the UFC, Gerald Harris has been matched up with nothing but tough, undefeated prospects. Not only has he won all three of those matches, but he managed to score spectacular stoppages each and every time.
After nearly slamming Dave Branch through the mat, it’s high time the UFC matchmaking department recognize that they have a special fighter on their hands. Given the dearth of serious middleweight contenders out there, the UFC is doing itself a disservice by not getting Harris out of the prelims and onto some main cards.