The 25-year-old Junior dos Santos is generally recognized as the best young heavyweight in mixed martial arts, but Todd Duffee, the undefeated 24-year-old who will fight Mike Russow at UFC 114, can stake a claim for that title.
Duffee is 15 months younger than dos Santos and is in some ways a similar fighter, a big, explosive heavyweight with huge punching power. Duffee has won all six of his fights by knockout or TKO, and in his UFC debut in August he set a new UFC record, knocking out Tim Hague in seven seconds.
Duffee thinks he's going to keep getting better. I think he's right.
"I'm still very, very young," Duffee says. "I've got another six years before I hit my peak. I'm just 24, I expect to peak around 30. I've got a long way to go."
Russow could be the first opponent to really test Duffee on the ground, and that makes this an interesting fight. But I firmly expect Duffee to win the fight, and win it in a way that has fans clamoring to see him again, see him again soon, and see him against even tougher opposition.
And therein lies the UFC's challenge in promoting Duffee: Promoters like to bring along talented prospects at the right pace, and not rush them into fights they're not ready for. That's why it's good for the UFC that Duffee is saying he thinks he's got a long way to go. It's a lot easier to have patience in bringing a prospect along if the prospect himself is willing to be patient.
But when a guy looks as impressive as Duffee does, fans want to see how he'll fare against the highest-quality opposition. I know I do, and I have a feeling we're all going to see Duffee in a lot of big fights against a lot of high-quality heavyweights, for several years to come.