After a breakthrough year that saw Jamie Varner return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and earn victories over Edson Barboza and Melvin Guillard, "The Worm" is eyeing a UFC lightweight title shot in 2013.
Varner (21-7-1, 2 NC) was at a crossroads in his career just a little over one year ago, fighting on the regional scene across the country, struggling to find his way.
When Varner got the call to face highly touted prospect Edson Barboza on short notice at UFC 146 in May 2012, many believe the 28-year-old was brought in as a stepping-stone. That was not the case, though, as Varner pulled off the stunning upset via first-round technical knockout.
Then came Varner's UFC on FOX 4 meeting with Joe Lauzon, a fight he lost by third round submission, but was still one of the best fights of 2012, or, according to the 2012 World MMA Awards - the very best.
The Arizona native rebounded from the defeat to Lauzon with a unanimous decision victory over the always-dangerous Melvin Guillard at UFC 155 in December to close out the year on a high note.
With two credible UFC victories under his belt in 2012, Varner proved he is worthy of a spot on the UFC roster. Now it's time to climb the mountain and reach the top.
With a new year to work with, Varner has loaded goals for the future, perhaps the biggest of which is putting together a solid win streak and getting a crack at the UFC lightweight championship currently held by Benson Henderson.
"You're going to see me get three wins and hopefully a title shot. "Varner said of his plans for 2013 in an interview with Studio MMA at the 2012 World MMA Awards in Las Vegas. "I'm going to be fighting for a belt in 2013."
Varner has already shared the cage with Henderson once before, succumbing to a third-round submission from "Smooth" at WEC 46 in Jan. 2010. It was a spirited battle, and one fans certainly would enjoy watching again.
The two lightweights train together at The MMA Lab in Glendale, but considering they have fought each other before, it's unlikely that would prevent them from accepting a rematch.
For now, though, Varner still has a lot of work to do. He currently sits on the fringe of a top-10 ranking in the UFC lightweight division -- a few more wins would certainly help in getting him there.
The former WEC champion is making a slow and calculated climb up the ranks, but has admitted his goals for 2013 and it will be interesting to see who the UFC matched him up against for his first bout of the new year.