Ian McCall's wish has come true: an Octagon bid in 2012. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood
1. Ian McCall (11-2)
Since bowing out of a Dec. 2 defense of his Tachi Palace Fights title, “Uncle Creepy” has relocated to the Octagon. McCal, once a WEC bantamweight, will have a chance to become the UFC’s first flyweight titleholder, but for starters, he’ll have to get through Demetrious Johnson on March 3 in Sydney.
2. Jussier da Silva (14-1)
Da Silva was looking at a fun March 9 bout with fellow flyweight Darrell Montague at Tachi Palace Fights. However, because Montague preferred to focus his efforts on being a first-time father, the Brazilian was left without an opponent and searching for his next booking.
3. Yasuhiro Urushitani (19-4-6)
After spending nearly 11 years competing in his native Japan, Shooto’s 123-pound world champ has finally joined the UFC. Urushitani won’t have it easy for his first time in the Octagon, as he’ll tangle with former WEC bantamweight contender Joseph Benavidez in the semifinals of the company’s flyweight title tournament.
4. Mamoru Yamaguchi (26-6-3)
Mamoru Yamaguchi might not have any MMA fights scheduled, but the longtime Shooto star is never one to sit by idly and wait. On Feb. 5, Yamaguchi hopped back into the Shoot Boxing ring to grab himself a majority decision and a payday in the kickboxing ring over Kazuyuki Fushimi.
5. Darrell Montague (9-2)
Darrell Montague was looking at a potential March 9 date with Jussier da Silva under the Tachi Palace Fights banner. However, life interceded, as Montague is now expecting the birth of his first child, a personal undertaking that nixed a slated bout with the Brazilian.
6. Shinichi "B.J." Kojima (12-4-5)
The former ruler of the 125-pound roost has gone straight back to work since returning from his two-year layoff in August, earning two wins inside three months. Kojima’s most recent trip to the ring saw him earn a lackluster Nov. 5 unanimous decision over reigning super-flyweight King of Pancrase Kiyotaka Shimizu.
7. Yuki Shojo (11-6-2)
Yuki Shojo struck out trying to win the Shooto world title at 123 pounds when Yasuhiro Urushitani went upside his head in July. The action-oriented Shojo is now bound for Shooto's 115-pound division, signing on to face free-swinging Junji Ito on March 10.
8. Louis Gaudinot (5-1)
Louis Gaudinot is lucky in that next time in the Octagon, he'll get to compete at his more natural weight class at 125 pounds. However, it won't be easy for the green-haired dynamo, as he'll meet big-punching Brazilian prospect John Lineker, who will cut down from bantamweight for his flyweight debut.
9. Kiyotaka Shimizu (10-6-3)
On Jan. 28, Kiyotaka Shimizu made another successful defense of his 125-pound King of Pancrase title, fighting to a draw with veteran Seiji Ozuka. Next up for the SK Absolute product is a fight in his home-away-from-home, as he steps into the Shooto ring on March 10 to take on stocky slugger Haruo Ochi.
10. Jose Maria Tome (28-3, 2 NC)
Jose Maria Tome’s record might be largely glossy, but the 29-year-old Brazilian is one of the country’s fastest rising talents. With five wins and four first-round submissions in 2011 alone, Tome’s shot at a bigger show stateside might not be far away.
Other contenders: Fumihiro Kitahara, Dustin Ortiz, Sean Santella, Mitsuhisa Sunabe, Ryosuke Tanuma.