Since the start of 2014, the UFC has been expanding the size of its roster at a pretty brisk clip. The world’s leading mixed martial arts promotion now has roughly 500 fighters under contract and is looking to scoop up talented prospects wherever they can in order to fill out their ever-expanding schedule of fight cards.
The next fighter to sign on the dotted line should be World Series of Fighting bantamweight champion Marlon Moraes, who is on a seven-fight winning streak and has looked like a world-beater in his five WSOF outings.
Moraes got our attention with his split-decision win over UFC veteran and former WEC bantamweight champion Miguel Torres at the first World Series of Fighting event in November 2012. At the time, Torres was still regarded as one of the best 135-pound fighters in the world, and the Ricardo Almeida Brazilian jiu-jitsu product showed off some impressive footwork and diverse striking throughout the three-round fight.
Then he fought Tyson Nam, who was coming off a stunning first-round knockout win over Eduardo Dantas, who at the time was the Bellator bantamweight champion. It took Moraes less than three minutes to put Nam away with a nasty headkick and some follow-up punches.
He went on to batter and bloody a very game but overmatched Brandon Hempleman for three rounds last August at WSOF 4 and looked as precise as ever in his 30-second starching of Carson Beebe in October.
His five-round dismantling of Josh Rettinghouse was such a thorough routing that it sparked a debate about when to protect a fighter from himself. It's clear that he is head and shoulders above the competition outside of the UFC, and the only real way for him to be tested is to be thrown in with the best fighters in the world.
The UFC’s bantamweight division was just cracked wide-open when TJ Dillashaw usurped Renan Barao at UFC 173 to take the title and hand the Brazilian his first loss in 33 fights. While Dillashaw’s next opponent hasn’t been determined yet, there are a number of options, and thus, there's a number of potential fights for the remaining bantamweights who won’t be getting the next shot at the title.
Book Moraes against perhaps the winner of Urijah Faber vs. Alex Caceres after UFC 175 or give him a headlining spot against former champion Dominic Cruz, and you have the closest thing to a superfight this side of Aldo vs. Pettis. Moraes may very well be the best mixed martial artist not competing in the UFC.
He would most likely do what he does against the majority of the top 10 to top 15 ranked fighters in the division, but we won’t know where he stacks up until he is given the chance to ply his trade inside the Octagon.
With the recent expansion of the roster, and with bantamweight still in its developmental stage as far as birthing new stars, now is the time to get Marlon Moraes under contract and have him mix it up with the rest of the best at 135 pounds.