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Francis Carmont is UFC Fight Night 36's 'Fighter to Watch' on FOX Sports 1

Francis Carmont is on the verge of Middleweight championship contendership even though he has been criticized for boring performances and dubious decision wins, Nonetheless, an 11-fight win streak and a win over Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza tonight (Sat. Feb. 15, 2014) at UFC Fight Night 36 makes him an important fighter to watch this evening on FOX Sports 1.


Francis Carmont, ranked No. 8 in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight division, is a contender nobody seems to want to talk about.

However, with an 11-fight win streak that includes victories over Chris Camozzi, Lorenz Larkin and Costas Philippou, among others, should place him clearly on the 185-pound mixed martial arts (MMA) radar. And the TriStar-trained Frenchman could be looking at title contention after tonight (Sat., Feb. 15, 2014) with an impressive win over Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza at UFC Fight Night 36 at Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil.

With Anderson Silva's recent fall from grace, the Middleweight division is alive again. Lyoto Machida -- who will compete against Gegard Mousasi in the main event this evening -- is a legitimate contender, while Vitor Belfort waits in the wings for another title shot against champion Chris Weidman.

Indeed, the division is no longer stale with fighters who already lost to Silva and/or clearly stood no chance. Carmont can become one of the many fighters in the upper echelon of the division to get a crack at the title, whether it's against Weidman or one of a multitude of quickly-changing title holders like the Light Heavyweight division after Chuck Liddell lost the title eons ago.

The most important thing for Carmont to focus on in his run at the top of the division is making his fights more exciting. If he wins enough fights in a row, this might not matter, but in UFC, the fastest way to the title is through exciting, impressive performances. His last win over Philippou was no doubt impressive, demonstrating complete and utter dominance against a very good fighter.

However, the fight was an absolute bore to watch, and it left me feeling like Carmont could've done more to make it exciting.

The main reason to focus on Carmont this weekend is because he is someone who I don't expect to make it very far in this division. The possibility is there, yes, but he has the odds stacked against him. At this point, I do feel he isn't getting the credit he deserves, but at the same time, his time as a legitimate Top 10-ranked fighter and title hopeful will be done after his fight with "Jacare."

Therefore, to earn the respect of a true contender, he he must impress this in the FOX Sports 1 co-main event tonight -- no more boring performances, no big mistakes. He has to come into this fight looking better than he ever has because "Jacare" is the kind of opponent who complacent top-control fighters should avoid like the plague.

With improved striking and wrestling to complement his already other-worldly Brazilian jiu-jitsu talent, he is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the world and can finish the fight anywhere it goes. Carmont is stepping into the Octagon with his most dangerous opponent yet, in Brazil no less, so the margin for error is extremely low.

For a fighter who is probably not such a big deal to UFC brass, this fight is crucial.

We've seen before that highly-ranked fighters can still be cut if they don't bring any entertainment value, and Carmont may succumb to a similar fate such as Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami. Carmont's career could very well be defined by his fight against "Jacare," as either the one that made him a respected contender or the one that permanently relegated him to the lower parts of the Middleweight division.

In other words, this fight can make or break him, and to be honest, I expect the latter. It is up to him to prove me, and many other doubters, wrong, and to show that he should be in the running for a title shot in the crowded 185-pound division.

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