Chael Sonnen and the 10 Biggest Choke Artists in the UFC

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2012

Chael Sonnen and the 10 Biggest Choke Artists in the UFC

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    UFC fighters vary in many different ways. 

    From champions to prospects, KO artists to submission specialists, each division features the who's who of mixed martial arts.

    Some fighters do what they are supposed to do, maintaining a respectable offense and defense inside the Octagon, which propels them above and beyond their competitors.

    Other fighters tend to showcase elite talent one night, then turn into something completely different the next time around. Chalk it up to what you may, but these Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde tendencies often leave fighters speechless.

    With that said, taking into consideration the shortcomings of each of these talents, here are the 10 biggest choke artists in the UFC today.

10. Demian Maia

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    There are two big reasons why Demian Maia made this list.

    One is his loss to Anderson Silva for the middleweight title back at UFC 112. I realize that Silva is the greatest fighter on the planet and that he shouldn't be touched, but when a submission expert like Maia doesn't get any takedowns or submission attempts and gets tagged on his feet for 25 minutes, you have to consider that championship bout a complete and utter choke job.

    If you're not sold, may I bring up his recent loss to Chris Weidman at UFC on FOX 2?

    Not only did Weidman take the fight on short notice, but he was supposed to be facing a guy in Maia who was considered a top-five fighter in the division. Despite his pre-fight accolades, Maia failed to show up when it counted.

    Weidman pretty much dismantled Maia on the feet and on the ground, taking him down four times and passing twice. 

    It just goes to show you that no matter how big the name is or how good a fighter's submissions are, a power wrestler always has the ability to control the fight.

9. Takanori Gomi

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    Wasn't Takanori Gomi supposed to be a title contender in the lightweight division when he came over from Japan back in 2010?

    I guess the message didn't make it across the Pacific.

    Regardless of the lofty expectations for a fighter on the back end of his career, Gomi hasn't produced anything worthwhile inside the Octagon since becoming part of the UFC.

    On three different occasions, he lost via submission: to Kenny Florian in the third round, Clay Guida in the second round and Nate Diaz in the first round. 

    I realize these guys are the best of the best at 155 lbs., but how many times is this guy going to get hyped coming into a bout only to tap in a matter of minutes?

    I don't know, but it doesn't sit well with fans. Consider Gomi a bona fide choke artist—whose first victory in the UFC came against Tyson Griffin, a guy currently sitting inside the top five on this list.

8. Brandon Vera

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    Countless times, we've heard the tall tale about how Brandon Vera has finally tapped into his elite talent.

    Countless times, we've listened to these falsified assumptions and seen him come up short inside the cage.

    Vera's appeal to appear in different divisions is all well and good, but when the doesn't produce, how long can you keep throwing him out there to get his ass kicked?

    Honestly, Vera hasn't been a major player in the UFC since securing a KO victory over Frank Mir at UFC 65. That impressive finish was a very long time ago—one that has arguably faded off Vera's resume.

    As a matter of fact, Vera hasn't really displayed any elite talent inside the cage for an aging fighter nicknamed "The Truth." Key losses to Tim Sylvia, Fabricio Werdum, Keith Jardine, Randy Couture, Jon Jones and Thiago Silva have peppered the 34-year-old's fortune over the last five years.

    It's time to call it as it is: Vera is a serious UFC bust.

7. Forrest Griffin

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    I could completely sell Forrest Griffin down the river and put him in the top five on this list, but I'm not entirely sold that he's one of the biggest choke artists in the UFC.

    However, despite my reservations, the guy simply hasn't produced over the last two years. Considering his popularity and championship potential after beating Rampage Jackson for the light heavyweight belt back at UFC 86, that's alarming.

    Evans beat down Griffin to take his belt at UFC 92, Anderson Silva literally dismantled Griffin via light jabs and Shogun Rua recently showed the MMA world that Griffin is a shell of his former self.

    In fact, the only victories the Ultimate Fighter winner has secured over the last three years came against two aging fighters similar to Griffin, in Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin.

    At this point, you have to expect a choke job from Griffin every time he enters the Octagon. He hasn't shown any sort of consistency over the past couple of years and has failed to come up victorious when it's deemed the most important time to do so.

    Sorry kids, but the guy who got you watching the UFC may only have one or two fights left in his career. 

    On to writing more books.

6. Melvin Guillard

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    Melvin Guillard's choke artistry has been a clear-cut example that even though a fighter has supreme athleticism over his opponents, that doesn't mean he's going to win the fight.

    While Guillard is a very talented fighter who still has a bright future in the lightweight division, his flashy approach to fights haven't translated into ladder-climbing wins.

    The 28-year-old has run through nearly every middle-tier fighter the lightweight division has to offer, but when it comes to supplanting himself as a No. 1 contender, Guillard fails to produce. 

    That's what we call being a choke artist. Plain and simple.

    Key losses in the past to Nate Diaz, Joe Stevenson, Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller have stunted Guillard's growth within the UFC.

    At this point, it'll be hard for him to regain his once unstoppable five-fight win streak momentum.

5. Stephan Bonnar

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    Has there ever a been a more disappointing fighter in the UFC?

    Honestly, besides Kimbo Slice, probably not.

    Aside from his recent three-fight win streak, Bonnar hasn't even come close to the expectations laid upon him after his TUF bout with Forrest Griffin, which is considered the most important fight in UFC history.

    While it's absolutely absurd to think Bonnar can go out every time and perform like the way he did against Griffin, you'd still have to believe that following that historic fight, he'd currently be a bigger piece in the light heavyweight division than he is.

    Simply put, you never know what you're going to get with Bonnar. When he wins, it's glorious. When he loses, it's a major letdown. 

    I guess everyone will just have to forget about his fight with Griffin, because whenever he tries to put on a show, it seems like he puts on a lackluster performance.

4. Gray Maynard

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    Considering his size, wrestling abilities and hard-nosed attitude, it seems very strange that Gray Maynard failed to capture Frankie Edgar's lightweight title on two different occasions.

    And even though Edgar recently lost that title, Maynard's inability to beat the New Jersey product still taints his overall legacy.

    I know one of those bouts resulted in a draw, but when you consider Maynard literally had Edgar laid out on a platter in the first round of that fight, it was arguably more disappointing than the second fight, in which Edgar secured a fourth-round KO.

    At this point, it's possible that Maynard could make a run at the newly-crowned champ in Benson Henderson, but unfortunately for the 32-year-old, other lightweight contenders have dibs before he does.

    Call it as you may; Maynard's two chances to capture UFC gold should no doubt be considered something along the lines of a choke.

3. Tyson Griffin

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    Considering Tyson Griffin's career has fallen off faster than Peyton Manning's, you have to consider his recent Octagon performances something of a bust.

    Besides the significance of new talented fighters entering the UFC's lower weight classes over the past few years, it's completely dumbfounding how quickly Griffin fell off.

    It felt like it happened overnight. When a promising fighter in his mid-20's goes from a top-five division threat to a borderline UFC cut, something doesn't seem right.

    From 2007-2009, Griffin was one of the best lightweight fighters around. With key victories over Clay Guida, Gleison Tibau and Hermes Franca and close decisions against Frankie Edgar and Sean Sherk, Griffin seemed primed to be a major contender until at least his 30's. 

    However, something went wrong. He more or less choked.

    Since his victory over Franca, Griffin has gone 1-4 inside the cage, dropping fights to Evan Dunham, Takanori Gomi, Nik Lentz and recently Bart Palaszewski. 

    It seems like his talent and possibly his UFC future are on the way out, making Griffin one of the most disappointing fighters in the past five years.

2. Kenny Florian

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    First and foremost, it's important to understand that Kenny Florian is my favorite of all time. I don't care who he's facing or what it's for, I'm rooting for Florian from bell to bell.

    With that said, I couldn't leave him off this list. If a guy beats literally everybody in his division only to lose when it matters—the championship—what do you call that?

    Quite frankly, that's the epitome of choking. Think LeBron James.

    Because when it comes down to it, Florian is arguably the most decorated fighter in UFC history to never win a title. It's not like he didn't have chances to do so; he just wasn't able to capitalize when it mattered most.

    Championship loses to Sean Sherk, BJ Penn and most recently Jose Aldo have stopped Florian in his tracks. With any one of those victories, Florian could arguably be a UFC Hall of Famer. His resume is borderline untouchable.

    Despite his longevity in the most competitive sport in the world, Florian's inability to capture UFC glory has to be considered a choke.

    Lets hope he gets healthy and has a chance to prove me wrong.

1. Chael Sonnen

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    I may catch some heat for this, but Chael Sonnen has to be considered the biggest choke artist in the UFC today.

    And for one reason: not beating the best fighter on the planet when he was literally a minute away from doing so.

    The fact of the matter is that Sonnen had the most significant chance ever to knock off arguably the best MMA fighter of all time. His inability to stay away from an Anderson Silva submission in the fifth round at UFC 117 may be the biggest choke in MMA history.

    I realize that Silva is that good to pull off a submission victory of that fashion to retain the middleweight title, but lets be real. Literally everything has to go wrong in order for Sonnen to lose that fight.

    And while some people may argue that Sonnen didn't tap, due to the awkward way the fight was broken up by the referee, the fact of the matter is that he did.

    By subjecting his entire career to those 30 or some odd seconds, it is reasonable to say that, considering that's the only thing he's been talking about for the past two years, Sonnen stands as the biggest choke artist in the game today.

    And until he has a chance to redeem that loss, nothing will change.

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