UFC 214 lost a key featherweight bout when “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung was forced to withdraw from his fight against Ricardo Lamas that could have crowned the next No. 1 contender in the 145-pound division.
Here are three guys the UFC should consider that could help the fight maintain its significance in the division.
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Renato Moicano isn’t a mainstream name to UFC fans yet but the 28-year-old Brazilian has quietly gone 3-0 in the UFC and cracked the featherweight top 15 with a strong split decision win over then-fifth-ranked Jeremy Stephens at UFC Kansas City in April.
Moicano has deceptively good striking but it’s his jiu-jitsu that’s helped him to a perfect 10-0 professional record. Given that he’s already beaten a top 5 fighter, his next opponent should no doubt be in the top 10, and a now-available Lamas fits the bill.
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Frankie Edgar can’t do much more to prove he deserves another shot at the title but while Jose Aldo is holding on the belt, a third fight between those two sounds like a stretch … right now.
All Edgar can really do is keep racking up impressive wins against featherweight contenders. If he filled in for “The Korean Zombie” against Lamas in what would undoubtedly be a No. 1 contender fight and gets another finish like he did against Yair Rodriguez, he’ll deserve a title shot regardless of who is holding the belt.
Conversely, Lamas would be in line for the next shot with a win over Edgar.
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Jeremy Stephens has slid down the rankings a bit thanks to some tough losses against top competition, but the quickest way to jump back into title contention is to take out one of the top dogs.
A fight against third-ranked Lamas would do that for Stephens, who is currently sitting at eighth in the featherweight rankings. Both Lamas and Stephens are heavy-handed strikers with impressive backgrounds in wrestling, so it should make for a fun fight and allow the winner to take a step toward the title.