The 411 MMA Top 10 09.10.12: Top 10 Fighters to Never Win a Championship
Posted by Alex Rella on 09.10.2012
From Kenny Florian and Josh Koscheck to Royce Gracie, Jon Fitch, Antônio Rogério Nogueira and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 fighters to never win a championship!
Top Ten Fighters to Never Win a Championship
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at the top ten fighters that never won a championship. But first, Thoughts from last week and other random stuff:
Ľ Last week's list was Randy Couture's top ten fights and there was only one comment that was odd. "420" felt that Couture's fight with Machida should have been ranked 1-10. 420 also spelt the word honorable wrong in addition to his brilliant remark.
Back to this week's list
This week's list is pretty simple as it is the ten best fighters to never win a championship. It should cause some discussion in the comment section as it's a large group of fighters to select from. The titles that eliminated fighters from contention on the list were ones from the UFC, Pride, WEC, Strikeforce, and Bellator. This list was based on overall success in their careers, their dominance even though they didn't win gold, title opportunities, and the era in which they competed. So a top fighter in the early days of MMA where there wasn't a title or as much emphasis on winning the title, might not be ranked as high as someone who fought in a later era where it was the most important goal.
Also for the sake of this list tournaments and grand prix's don't count as championships.
Ľ Tank Abbott- A multiple UFC tournament runner up and unsuccessfully challenged Maurice Smith for the UFC heavyweight championship.
Ľ Hayoto Sakurai- former number one contender in Pride and the UFC.
Ľ Vladimir Matyushenko- The Janitor is a former UFC light heavyweight number one contender is 26-6 in his fifteen year career with wins over Pedro Rizzo and Antônio Rogério Nogueira.
Ľ Oleg Taktarov- Won UFC 6 tournament, runner up at Ultimate Ultimate 95 (awful name) and fought Ken Shamrock for the Superfight championship at UFC 7 which ended in a draw.
10: Gray Maynard
I went back and forth on who should get the tenth spot and I decided that Maynard has the slight edge over Taktarov. The former All-American wrestler debuted in the UFC while competing in the TUF season 5. Maynard didn't win the season but he went 8-0 (1) in his first nine fights in the UFC to earn a lightweight title shot. This great run includes wins over Frankie Edgar, Jim Miller, Roger Huerta, Nate Diaz, and Kenny Florian. Maynard's rematch with Edgar at UFC 125 for the title ended up being the Fight of the Year and one of the best fights of all time as we got five rounds of awesomeness. This one ended in a draw. The third fight at UFC 136 was also great but this time Maynard got knocked out in the fourth round. Maynard has since defeated Clay Guida and has a fight coming up with Joe Lauzon at UFC 155. A win should put him right back into title contention and I think he matches up pretty well against all the other top lightweights.
9: Antônio Rogério Nogueira
Antônio Rogério Nogueira may not have had as good of a career as his brother but he still deserves to be on the list. He has a 20-5 record, has never been submitted, and has only lost due to strikes once in his career. Little Nog has consistently been a top ten light heavyweight for most of his career and should be until he retires. Unfortunately he has never been able to break into that top level of light heavyweights but he still defeated guys like Overeem, Sakuraba, Dan Henderson, Vladimir Matyushenko, and Tito Ortiz. He's out with an injury now but the way Jones is running through the light heavyweight it would only take a decent run to merit consideration in the title picture.
Fitch has been with the UFC since 2005 and entered the organization with an 8 fight win streak. Fitch would unsuccessfully challenge GSP for the welterweight title in 2008 and then won another five straight fights. But a draw with BJ Penn and a KO loss to Johnny Hendricks have knocked Fitch down a great deal in the rankings. Fitch's 13 wins in the UFC do rank tenth in the organization's history. Fitch has a fight coming up with Erick Silva which should determine where he stands in the organization for the foreseeable future. Fitch is also tied with GSP for the most wins by decision with 9.
7: Pedro Rizzo
Pedro Rizzo recently got knocked out by Fedor in the last fight of his career in Russia but Rizzo was a top heavyweight for a number of years and during this time he unsuccessfully fought for the UFC heavyweight championship three times (Kevin Randleman and Randy Couture twice). Rizzo's second title attempt and first against Couture at UFC 31 was the best fight of his career and one of the best fights ever but unfortunately for him he lost via unanimous decision. Many thought Rizzo won the 2001 Fight of the Year so he got his rematch at UFC 34 but that time he would lose by TKO in the third round. So he never got the heavyweight title but his list of career victories has a lot of top guys on it: Tank Abbott, Mark Coleman, Dan Severn, Josh Barnett, Andrei Arlovski, Ricco Rodriguez, and Ken Shamrock.
6: Josh Koscheck
I always find it really impressive that Josh Koscheck is tied with Anderson Silva for fifth place on the UFC's all time win list. Those 15 wins are the most by anyone in the UFC that has not held a championship. Koscheck has been competing in the UFC since TUF season 1 and earned a welterweight title shot against GSP at UFC 124. Both men would coach TUF season 12 leading up to the fight. GSP won by unanimous decision and ended up breaking Koscheck's orbital bone on the right side of his face. Koscheck rebounded nicely afterwards with two straight wins but his recent loss to Johny Hendricks may have knocked him out of title contention for good. He could make another run at the title if GSP were to drop it to Condit or somebody else. Either way he's one of the top welterweights of all time as well.
I don't know if Kenny Florian is a hall of famer like many people were discussing right after he retired but either way he had a nice career. The runner up on TUF season 1 has two UFC records. Florian is the only fighter in the history of the UFC to compete in four weight classes and is tied with Pedro Rizzo with three unsuccessful title challenges. The first record is something to be proud of. During his career, Florian had wins over guys like Joe Lauzon, Sam Stout, and Clay Guida. Most of his career was spent at lightweight which included one Fight of the Night, one Submission of the night, and two unsuccessful title shots against Sean Sherk and BJ Penn. After losing in a number one contender fight to Gray Maynard, Florian decided to drop down again to featherweight. He earned a title shot against Jose Aldo after one fight in the division. Florian would lose via unanimous decision at UFC 136 in the final fight of his career
The Gracie Hunter is one of the top Japanese fighters of all time and one of the best to never win a championship. During Sakuraba's legendary career he picked up wins over other legends like Royce Gracie, Belfort, Rampage, and Ken Shamrock. Like many aging legends, the past few years haven't been great for Sakuraba. The past few years haven't been great for Sakuraba especially when he almost lost his ear fighting in 2010 but he was one of Pride's best fighters while he was in his prime. During his career he has fought from heavyweight all the way down to welterweight. . Sakuraba won the UFC Ultimate Japan Heavyweight Tournament in 1997 and then moved onto Pride where he became a legend. 2000 was probably the best year of his career as he went 5-1 and had that awesome 90 minute fight with Royce Gracie in the Pride Openweight Grand Prix quarterfinals. Sakuraba only fought for a championship once in his career though. This was against Wanderlei Silva in their second meeting at Pride 17. Silva won by doctor stoppage in the first round.
The Predator Don Frye was one of the top fighters in the early days of the UFC. Frye was one the first fighters to be disciplined in multiple styles of fighting with his background in wrestling, boxing, and judo. Frye would win the UFC 8 and UFC Ultimate Ultimate 1996 tournaments. Frye was also the runner up at UFC 10 losing to Mark Coleman. Frye retired from MMA in 1997 but would return to fight in Pride in 2001. 2002 was the last great year of Frye's career as he would have his legendary fight with Ken Shamrock at Pride 19. This fight was beyond brutal as Frye would win the split decision but his ankles and knees were ruined by him refusing to tap to Shamrock's leglocks. Frye would have one more great fight against Yoshihiro Takayama but would admit that he has never been the same since the fight with Shamrock. Frye last fought in December when he got knocked out by Ruben Villareal, yea that's a sign maybe it's time to stop fighting. But still overall one of the best to never win a championship and probably would have had he not walked away from the UFC while he was still in his prime.
Placing Royce Gracie on these lists is never easy. Some people think he should be number one and others think he should never be ranked at all. I think this is a respectable spot for him. Royce completely dominated the young sport with the record 11 straight submission victories which included winning UFC 1, 2, and 4 tournaments. Royce Gracie only fought for a championship once in his career when he fought Ken Shamrock for the UFC Superfight Championship at UFC 5. This fight was ruled a draw after thirty six minutes of fighting due to a lack of judges. Now there are two things to think about when looking back at this fight. The sport really needed reform at the time when they were fighting without judges and who thought superfight was a good name for the title? Gracie stepped away from the sport in 1995 and came back to compete in Pride in 2000. Gracie would pick up a few more wins but wouldn't have the same dominance. Though, his 90 minute loss to Sakuraba is one of the more iconic fights of all time. Royce returned to the UFC in 2006 and got completely owned by Matt Hughes as UFC 60. Occasionally there is talk of him saying he'll fight again but that probably wouldn't be for the best.
1:Mirko Cro Cop
Right leg, hospital; left leg, cemetery. That one very cool line sums up Cro Cop's run in Pride nicely. Cro Cop was undefeated in his first 9 fights when he challenged Big Nog for the interim Pride heavyweight title in 2003. Cro Cop lost but the fight was considered to be the fight of the year by many. Cro Cop would go on another strong run which ended in 2005 when he challenged Fedor for the heavyweight title, another losing effort in an awesome Fight of the Year. 2006 was the best year of his career as he won the Pride World Open-Weight Grand Prix with wins over Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett. Mirko Cro Cop debuted in the UFC in 2007 and almost got himself another title shot against Randy Couture but knocked out by Gabriel Gonzaga with an ironic in a number one contender fight. Cro Cop left MMA at UFC 137 after three consecutive losses but has won two kickboxing fights in a row and recently expressed interest in returning to MMA. I'm kinda torn on if I'd like to see Cro Cop return to MMA. He was one of the coolest fighters to watch but the last few years were painful at times. Either way he was the best to never win a championship.
Ľ So let me know how you guys would rank them. I'm sure some of you will say I left out somebody.
Ľ As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
Ľ This Friday I make professional wrestling debut in Rahway NJ. Come check it out if you're in the area
Ľ Next week I'll rank the top ten final fights of different fighters' careers.