Fedor Emelianenko, Mayhem Miller and the 15 Most Overrated Fighters of 2011
2011 was a big year for the UFC and MMA as a whole. It was also a year where we saw legends fall, contenders come up short and prospects fail to live up to the hype.
While some of these fighters had a stellar year in 2010 and may even come out on top in 2012, for whatever reason (which in this case is usually losing), they weren't able to perform as expected.
Now sit back, grab a beer, maybe some chips and enjoy Bleacher Report's 15 most overrated MMA fighters of 2011.
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This years honorable mentions are Mirko Filipovic, BJ Penn and Brock Lesnar. A case can be made for each of these fighters to be in the top 15; however, they have, in one form or another, "retired" from fighting inside the Octagon, and thus, are left here as honorable mentions.
Cro Cop has all but given up MMA after going 0-2 in 2011 against Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson, although he is planning a return to kickboxing.
After coming up short in his second welterweight title-eliminator bout of 2011, The Prodigy said he was going to take some time off to figure things out, and despite his recent Twitter war with the Diaz camp, he has yet to schedule a return.
Brock Lesnar announced his retirement from fighting after his loss to Alistair Overeem, and he appears to be sticking to it.
15. Fedor Emelianenko (M-1 Global/33-4(1))
Fedor came into 2011 after having a bad 2010. Despite his first-round submission loss to Fabricio Werdum on June 26, 2010, many thought the bad mark on his record was just a fluke and we would see the second coming of "The Last Emperor" in 2012.
Unfortunately for Fedor, his "crazy Russian" handlers at M-1 Global and the "Pride was the greatest" fans across the globe, 2012 would go down as the year we all saw Fedor suffer his third straight loss at the hands of "185er" Dan Henderson.
Since then, Fedor has strung together a couple wins over Jeff Monson and Satashi Ishii, but neither of them are considered top-tier opposition.
While it is likely Fedor will continue to have relative success against lesser competition overseas, it is unlikely we will see a comeback where he is once again considered the pound-for-pound king.
14. Cung Le (UFC/7-2)
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Coming over from Strikeforce on a train of hype and not having fought in over a year, this kickboxing specialist was awarded a $70,000 Fight of the Night bonus (on top of his disclosed purse of $350,000) at his UFC debut in San Jose, Calif. at UFC 139.
Unfortunately for Le, that honor came at the hands of Wanderlei Silva, and he would suffer a second-round TKO loss.
Some saw this fight as mismatched, as Le was looking to get his career back on track towards a title shot after taking several long hiatuses to pursue acting, and Wanderlei is on the twilight of his career. Apparently, The Axe Murderer didn't get the memo.
While Le's future in the organization is uncertain, it is unlikely the UFC's top brass is willing to give him too many more chances to prove himself considering the hefty price tag that comes with him.
13. Robbie Lawler (Strikeforce/19-8(1))
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Robbie Lawler isn't a bad fighter. He isn't even necessarily an overrated fighter in the greater scheme of things. The problem with Robbie Lawler is that every time he builds some momentum and shows us a hit of greatness, he ends up falling short when it matters.
Lawler had a decent 2010, going 2-1, and was undefeated at middleweight, but was unable to carry that success into 2011, where he went 0-2 against Jacare and Tim Kennedy.
This is a story we've seen more than once in the career of "Ruthless" Lawler.
He had marginal success at welterweight during his stint in the UFC before suffering back-to-back losses. He then later strung together a few wins at middleweight before losing to Mayhem Miller. And then, after going undefeated in six fights and capturing the EliteXC Middleweight Championship, he lost to Jake Shield.
After his performance Saturday night at Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Jardine, 2012 appears to be going well for Robbie Lawler, and he once again showed us a glimmer of what he can do. But unfortunately, 2011 went far worse, and that's why he's No. 13 on the list.
12. Chris Leben (UFC/22-8)
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Chris Leben is one of those fighters with a very loyal fanbase, and rightly so. He has a huge personality, puts on amazing fights and always goes for the finish.
The problem with Leben's fans is that every time he gets a big win, they start clamoring for a titleshot even though he holds an equal number of big losses, including one to current Middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva.
Leben had three big fights in 2011, and he came up short in two of them, which is in stark contrast to going 3-0 in 2010 against arguably lesser competition.
After Leben finished off 2010 by submitting Yoshihiro Akiyama, his fans clamored for a title eliminator fight as if his back-to-back losses to Michael Bisping and Jake Roshalt were already ancient history.
Then, he started off 2011 with a big fight against Brian Stann, where he suffered a first-round TKO loss. Leben was able to rebound with a first-round KO win himself against Wanderlei Silva.
After his KO win, talk about him being a contender began to surface again, and his loss to Brian Stann was already a distant memory. So, Leben fans got one step closer to their wish when he squared off against a contender like Mark Munoz at UFC 138.
Needless to say, things didn't go well for "The Crippler," and he was once again unable to deliver against some of the division's best.
Chris Leben will likely continue to have a very successful career in the UFC and continue to put on exciting performances against tough opponents, but it is unlikely he'll ever get that title shot, and his performance in 2011 proves it.
11. Paul Daley (Independent/29-11-2)
2011 started off like a great year for Paul Daley. He was riding a four-fight win streak since being cut from the UFC the previous year and had earned his way to a title shot against then Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz.
Daley was seen by many as Diaz's first real test as Champion, and the man most likely to dethrone Stockton's finest. Diaz felt differently, and he handed Daley his first TKO loss in over five years.
Daley would fight one more time under the Strikeforce banner, where he suffered a decision loss to up-and-comer Tyron Woodley.
While Daley did manage to grab a couple more wins on smaller shows to finish off the year at 3-2, his Strikeforce record was 1-2, and any hopes of him being considered a top-level welterweight are gone as well.
10. Nam Phan (UFC/17-10)
Nam Phan was by far one of the most, if not the most experienced fighter during his tenure on The Ultimate Fighter. He even fared well in the house, making it to the semifinals where he lost a close-fought split decision to the season's runner up, Michael Johnson.
Unfortunately, Phan was unable to translate all his experience into success, going 1-2 for 2011. Aside from his rematch with Leonard Garcia, Phan hasn't really shown he can compete with the level of talent the UFC featherweight division has to offer.
Now that's he 1-3 in the UFC and his performance against Jimy Hettes at UFC 141 was lackluster at best, it is doubtful Phan will be many more opportunities to prove why he belongs in deep water with the sharks.
9. Roger Gracie (Strikeforce/4-1)
Roger Gracie is one of those guys who fight so infrequently you almost forget he's even still actively competing. But for some reason, when he does step foot inside the cage, everyone gets excited in the hopes that he is the second-coming of Gracie dominance over MMA.
Despite "starting" off his career at 4-0 with four straight submission victories (over a four-year span), Gracie was stopped cold in his tracks when he squared off with Muhammed Lawal,a strong wrestler withknockout power, in September at Strikeforce World Grand Prix: Barnett vs. Kharitonov.
No word yet on when, or if, Gracie will return to Strikeforce, or MMA at all. If he does, expect him to fight one-time in 2012, and if he wins, maybe one more time in 2013.
8. Kenny Florian (UFC/14-6)
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Kenny Florian has had more title-shot than anyone else who has never actually held a UFC championship, and 2011 highlights his most recent.
After losing to Gray Maynard in what was his third run at the lightweight title, K-Flo decided to drop down to featherweight in hopes of UFC gold.
While he won his debut against Diego Nunes at UFC 131, the performance wasn't exactly inspiring, and it was clearly evident that the weight cut had taken its toll on his body.
Either way, it was good enough to earn a shot at featherweight champ and pound-for-pound dominator Jose Aldo. K-Flo tried to use his size and strength over the smaller Aldo, but his takedowns and clinch work were uninspired and ineffective.
Many questions loomed after the loss about Florian's future about what weight class he would continue to fight at, or if he would even continue to fight. Since then, Florian has stated that he plans on returning to lightweight, where he's had the most success, and make another run at the title (fourth at lightweight, fifth in the UFC).
Let's hope 2012 leaves K-Flo in better condition than 2011 did.
7. Ovince St. Preux (Strikeforce/11-5)
If there ever was a fighter who believed in the hype more than anyone, only to have it taken away by a top-tier guy, then Ovince St. Preux is your man.
Despite a rocky start in his career, this former University of Tennessee football player found both success and a home at Strikeforce.
His first real test came against knockout artist Antwain Britt in November 2010 at a Strikeforce Challengers card. OSP walked way with the unanimous decision victory over his more experienced oppoent, but it wasn't without controversy, as OSP inadvertently eye-poked Britt early on in the fight (Britt has since dropped to middleweight).
He finished off 2010 with a win over striker Abongo Humphrey and started 2011 off strong with another win, this time over the lesser-known Joe Cason. All this earned him a shot at former Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight Champion and international superstar Gegard Mousasi.
The ever calm and extremely accomplished and experienced Mousasi showed the crowd why OSP did not belong in the same ring, let alone the same league, with him. While Mousasi was unable to stop OSP, he did show that they hype train was full of nothing but hot air.
6. Brendan Schaub (UFC/8-2)
When Schaub was getting ready to face off against Big Nog at UFC 134, he had already earned a reputation for taking on fights against guys who were well known, but past their prime, i.e., Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop.
He even started calling out former champ Brock Lesnar before a single punch was thrown at UFC 134. Add to that he didn't see the need for a rematch with Roy Nelson, who he lost to by KO two years earlier.
Unfortunately for Schaub, he fell a few steps down the podium he was standing on and suffered his second KO loss, this time at the hands of Big Nog.
Now, he's expected to face Ben Rothwell at UFC 145. While that's a fight he will probably win, it still won't put him in a position to be calling out former champs again anytime soon. Maybe that rematch with Big Country doesn't sound so bad after all?
5. Marloes Coenen (Independent/19-5)
One of the most experienced female fighters in the game, Marloes Coenen had a rocky 2011 which saw her lose the Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight Championship she won in 2010.
Her bantamweight debut in 2010 was a titleshot against then-champion Sarah Kaufman and was considered controversial since she had yet to compete in the division and was coming off a loss to then-featherweight champion Cyborg Santos.
She captured the title with an armbar submission and would go on to make two title defenses in 2011.
The first was against outmatched opponent Liz Camouche, who was picked because current No. 1 contender Miesha Tate was out of action. This led many to believe Coenen was in fact the real deal at bantamweight, and her striking and submission game would be no match for "Takedown" Tate's wrestling.
Tate thought differently and battered her opponnent until securing a fourth-round submission over the champ. Coenen has since been cut from the promotion (which probably has more to due with Zuffa's beef with Golden Glory than her), and it is unlikely we will see her compete for a Strikeforce title anytime soon.
4. Jake Shields (UFC/26-6-1)
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Former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, former EliteXC Welterweight Champion, former Shooto Middleweight Champion, Rumble on the Rock Welterweight Tournament Champion and Pan-Am BJJ gold medalist Jake Shields went 0-2 in 2011.
Upon entering the UFC, Jake Shields was a top ranked pound-for-pound fighter and was riding a 15-fight streak which included opponents like Dan Henderosn, Mayhem Miller, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, Carlos Condit and Yushin Okami (yes, Miller, Lawler and Daley are on this list as well).
He was seen as the only man capable of dethroning UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre. While he was able to win a couple rounds and inflict some damage on the champ, his performance was overall uninspiring and fell short of victory.
He then went on to fight Jake Ellenberger in September and lost via first-round TKO, marking the first time Shields had suffered back-to-back losses in his 12-year career.
While it's possible Shields will be able to get back on track in 2012, his upcoming opponent at UFC 144 Yoshihiro Akiyama has just as much, if not more, to lose, and he will be looking to bring it.
3. Christian M'Pumbu (Bellator/18-4-1)
The biggest problem with Bellator is that their champions don't fight very often, let alone defend their title but maybe once a year.
While they can compete in shows overseas in order to earn a living, they also, from time to time, get to fight in Bellator and leave their belt on the table.
The one question everyone has had since the first time a Bellator champion fought in a non-title, non-catchweight bout was, what happens to their belt? The standard response is that they will remain the champion despite the outcome, because only tournament winners get titleshots.
Well, we got our answer when Christian M'Pumbu lost to Travis Wiuff at Bellator 55 in October. M'Pumbu is, by all accounts, a veteran of the sport and well rounded-fighter. What he is not, though, is a top-tier elite mixed martial artist.
As the Bellator Light-Heavyweight Champion, you would have expected him to at least be capable of dispatching opponents in non-title fights the way Hector Lombard and Eddie Alvarez (more on him later) were able to over the years.
No word yet on what the future holds for M'Pumbu or the Bellator Light-Heavyweight Title. The smart move would be to have an immediate rematch, but this time, make it a five-round title fight. But that's just me.
2. Jason 'Mayhem' Miller
Jason "Mayhem" Miller is one of the most controversial fighters to enter the cage, as well as someone who's been able to attain mainstream success outside of fighting.
Mayhem has fought for two world titles before (Dream and Strikeforce respectively), and after going 2-0 in 2010, appeared to be on his way to another titleshot.
Mayhem was unable to make a return to Strikeforce, as CBS and Showtime had essentially banned him fro the promotion after his Nashville Brawl with the Diaz camp.
Thanks to the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce, Mayhem was able to come over to the UFC, and in a big way, by coaching The Ultimate Fighter opposite Bisping. The two squared off at the Finale in December, and Mayhem put on one of the worst performances of his career.
This was his chance to show the wider UFC audience what he could do and convince the pundits that he deserved to be in the top 10 of the division.
Mayhem's future in the UFC is still uncertain, but with all his skill, experience and charisma, here's to hoping they give him one more chance and 2012 turns out to be a better year for him than 2011.
1. Eddie Alvarez (Bellator/22-3)
Eddie Alvarez is not the first Bellator champion to be defeated or lose his title, but he was the only Bellator champion to ever be considered a top-five ranked fighter.
How he earned that ranking had more to do with his style of fighting and dominance in the promotion than the actual competition he faced. But until someone truly tested him, it was hard to say he wasn't that good.
Enter Michael Chandler, the season four lightweight tournament winner. This young, up-and-coming fighter used his superior wrestling to steamroll through the competition in the tournament, and when he had his shot at the champ, he did not disappoint, securing a rear-naked choke late in the fourth round.
Chandler not only proved that he was the real deal, but he also burst the bubble on how good Alvarez really was.
Expect to see Alvarez work his way back to a titleshot through the next lightweight tournament and Chandler to can-crush while he waits to put his title on the line against the winner.
Who'd We Forget or Leave Off?
Do you think Fedor should have been higher on the list, or not on it at all? Maybe Coenen got dealt a crappy hand and is still relevant in the division?
Perhaps BJ should be in the top five and not just an honorable mention since he'll probably return? Didn't Leonard Garcia go 0-2 in 2011 as well? Well then, what about Gray Maynard, who came up short in two titleshots in 2011?
If you share any of these thoughts, or maybe even some new ones of your own, you can sound off below and leave a comment to let us know how you feel. You'll feel good doing it. Go ahead, it's free.
And that's the bottom line.
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