Connect with us

News

The Debate – Who’s the greatest fighter to have never won a world title?

Published

on

Joseph Benavidez

When a fighter starts out their fledgling career, you’d be hard pressed to find a competitor whose ultimate goal isn’t to win championship gold.

Having the belt strapped around their waist is the validation that fighters crave, the ultimate reward for all the hours logged in the gym and the tangible recognition that they have reached the pinnacle of the fight game. And yet, that special group of fighters to actually reach the summit is such a small one.

For whatever reason, not every fighter, no matter their immense quality, can win a world championship, so we at MMA Latest News have taken it upon ourselves to debate who we think is the very best to have never won a world title in a major promotion:

(Disclaimer: interim title holders and fighters currently booked in a title fight are not eligible e.g Khabib Nurmagomedov)

The case for Mirko ‘Cro Cop’, by John Michael Edwards (@JMichaelEdwards)

No disrespect to the other fighters that have been listed, but if not for a couple of setbacks in his career we could be calling Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic the greatest heavyweight of all time.

While the latter part of his career has been a bit spotty, during his heyday in the early-mid 2000s there wasn’t a striker more feared than “Cro Cop”. Although his left high kick was the most lauded weapon in his arsenal (“Right leg, hospital. Left leg, cemetery”) he also had a piston of a left hand that was both sneaky and deadly accurate.

It was after his draw against Wanderlei Silva back in 2002, that we really got to see what “Cro Cop” could do in an MMA ring with 4oz gloves. He went on a five fight winning streak, finishing 4 of 5 of his opponents including Pride legends Kazushi Sakuraba, Heath Herring and Igor Vovchanchyn (the latter two in highlight reel fashion) with only the iron skull of Kazuyuki Fujita being spared. This lead to his first shot at gold against arguably the number 2 all-time greatest Heavyweight, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. “Cro Cop” dominated the majority of the fight, but in typical “Big Nog” fashion he toughed it out and ended up submitting his foe in the 2nd round.

After destroying two more opponents, “Cro Cop” ran into his second big setback via an upset KO loss to former UFC Heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman. This was a devastating loss as it knocked Filipovic out of the 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix and a much-anticipated potential showdown with champion Fedor Emelianenko.

Following setback number two, “Cro Cop” went on probably his most impressive run, winning seven straight, running through former champions Mark Coleman and Josh Barnett, avenging his loss to the aforementioned Randleman, and finishing Alexander “brother of the champion” Emelianenko. This streak finally led to what “Cro Cop’s” Pride career had been focused on: a fight against “The Last Emperor” himself.

The fight was competitive, but as the topic of this article is what it is, Filipovic came up short in his bid to wear the Pride belt, and although he would go on to win the 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix, he underwhelmed upon his arrival in the UFC (with his last big setback being a KO upset loss to Gabriel Gonzaga which would have led to a title shot) and never earned the accolade of being the best Heavyweight in the world.

The case for Joseph Benavidez, by Graeme Harper (@GraemeHarp)

When it comes to fighters who have never tasted championship gold, Joseph Benavidez is without doubt the best to fall just short of the mountain top.

Since his debut in 2006, Benavidez has been a standout athlete in the lower weight classes throughout his career and a decade plus later, ‘Joe Jitsu’ remains steadfast within the truly elite circle of fighters. From competing at flyweight all the way up to featherweight, Benavidez has beaten a who’s who of contenders during his time in the WEC and UFC.

His electric pace and technical prowess on the feet have helped Benavidez earn notable decision victories over the likes of Eddie Wineland and Ian McCall, while his brilliant ground game has helped him earn guillotine submission wins over names like Tim Elliot and Miguel Torres – the later coming at a time when many considered Torres a pound-for-pound great. ‘Joey B’ has simply taken on all comers and bested them in the cage. Even to this day, Benavidez currently rides a six-fight win streak and most recently defeated the number two ranked flyweight in Henry Cejudo.

To praise his drive and excellence even further, Benavidez isn’t content with his already remarkable achievements and made a drastic change of surroundings so late in his career by moving from Team Alpha Male to Duane ‘Bang’ Ludwig’s Elevation Fight Team in order to better himself and continue to vie for title contention nearly 30 fights into his career.

With a 25-4 record, Benavidez’s accomplished skills have seen himself earn three title fights throughout his career but still, those loses are nothing to be ashamed of. He has only ever lost to two men in his career and when you can say that only Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson have had their hand raised at your expense, it’s fair to say Benavidez has been the cruelest victim of fighting in the same period as two of the finest to ever put on a pair of gloves.

The case for Rory MacDonald, by Ruairi Carberry (@Ruairi67)

“Rory’s tuning him up.” During Rory MacDonald’s successful run in the UFC, this was a commonly heard quote that tended to come from Joe Rogan’s mouth. A martial artist blessed with unparalleled talent, MacDonald’s, star burned brightly from a young age. He has stunned the masses with beautiful technique and a fiercely competitive edge that led him to be named “The Canadian Psycho.”

Since his debut, MacDonald has proven himself to be one of the elite martial artists at 170 pounds. Jake Ellenberger and Nate Diaz were cast aside early on and greats like BJ Penn soon followed. However it is the body of work after a split decision loss to Robbie Lawler at UFC167, that really stands out.

Against Demian Maia, he fended off a first round ground assault only to come out and punish the grappling wizard in rounds two and three. His one-sided beat down of the current welterweight king, Tyron Woodley was one of the most beautiful displays of striking in recent memory. MacDonald even managed to put Woodley on his back on more than one occasion.

Ultimately Rory’s second fight with Lawler will be the one he is remembered for. At UFC 189 the image of MacDonald and Lawler glaring at one and other at the end of the fourth round will remain in the minds of MMA fans for decades to come. The Canadian Psycho in all his glory.

Tristar fighters are lauded for their ability to be technical, pragmatic and calm on fight night. MacDonald is no different and under the instruction of Firas Zahabi, he has become a nightmare to deal with in the striking realm. On top of that, he is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, has some of the fiercest ground and pound in the 170-pound division and is still entering his athletic prime.

Rory was destined to be great from the moment he made his debut. Dubbed the heir apparent to Georges St-Pierre, the pressure placed on MacDonald was huge. It may have stunted his progress in the short-term forcing him to wait for the all elusive gold.

In the words of Chuck Mindenhall, “ He wasn’t a champion, but he busted up a couple.” The technical skill, the ferocious intensity and the incredible heart he has shown during his career, make Rory one of the greatest fighters to have never captured a world championship. Although with time on his side, a mind-set that encourages growth and a rumoured clash with Bellator’s’ welterweight champion Douglas Lima on the horizon, that could change in an instant.

The case for Donald Cerrone, by Fionnán Rowan (@FionnanRowan)

A dynamic fighter who has amassed an impressive 19-4 record whilst fighting under the UFC banner, Donald Cerrone is an obvious choice for the greatest fighter to have never captured a world title.

With wins over fighters such as Edson Barboza, Matt Brown, and Eddie Alvarez, it is the final hurdle which has proved the most difficult for ‘Cowboy’ as he is yet to emerge victorious in the four title fights he has taken part in during his UFC & WEC career.

The overall success which ‘Cowboy’ has enjoyed throughout his career is often overlooked, as many are quick to dismiss the possibility of a fighter who has faltered so many times at the last hurdle being considered a great.

Although titles are very important when determining the greatness of a fighter, they are not the sole indicator of success. If we evaluate the career of Donald Cerrone from a different perspective, that is where his greatness is evident.

One of the most consistently active fighters in recent years, since signing with the UFC in 2011 ‘Cowboy’ has fought an impressive 23 times, with 19 of these bouts taking place at lightweight, arguably the promotion’s most competitive division. Over the course of these bouts, Cerrone has been awarded post fight bonuses on 12 occasions, which makes a strong case for him being one of the most exciting fighters currently on the roster.

Since making the move to welterweight at the beginning of 2016 ‘Cowboy’ has gone from strength to strength, amassing a perfect 4-0 record where he is yet to go the distance. His versatility has been on display for all to see as he has picked up three TKO victories and one submission win in fights where many felt he would struggle stylistically.

It is hard to ignore the case of Donald Cerrone as being the greatest fighter never to capture a world title when all these factors are taken into account, and with the current run of success he is enjoying at welterweight it would be no surprise to see him challenge for a world title yet again in the near future.

The case for Chael Sonnen, by Aaron Moran (@Aaronmrn)

My definition of the greatest fighter in mixed martial arts to never win a title is not based on records or athletic ability but the impact they have had on the sport. For this reason, my pick for the greatest fighter to never win a title is Chael P. Sonnen.

The American Gangster came from mid – card obscurity beating the likes of Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt and over the course of 4 years, Sonnen became the most talked about fighter in the sport by taking guys down verbally and physically. He holds a win over the current middleweight champion Michael Bisping, he finished Shogun Rua in a matter of minutes and faced the two greatest champions in UFC history.

He has the ability to remain in the public eye even after losing a few fights and despite missing three years due to suspension, he is still facing former champions and will be continuing to fight former champions as he makes his Bellator debut this weekend.

His work outside of mixed martial arts is worth mentioning too as he has a successful podcast, clothing line, an analyst on the leading sports network in the US and is currently using his experiences in marketing himself on the new series of the celebrity apprentice.

Sonnen may have been “basically clean” but he is in my opinion the greatest ever to never hold the belt.

Onnit Primal Bells

Fighter to Watch

Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”

Published

on

In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

Onnit Primal Bells
Continue Reading

Announcement

UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

Published

on

UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

Onnit Primal Bells
Continue Reading

Announcement

UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child

Published

on

Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

Onnit Primal Bells
Continue Reading

Trending