UFC 146 and The Most Unwarranted Title Shots in UFC History
Originally, Dos Santos was supposed to face off against former Strikeforce Heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem, but when "The Reem" failed a prefight drug test, Frank Mir was promoted to the title fight.
Some fans were up in arms in the UFC's decision to promote Mir to No.1 contender status as he had been dismantled in his last two title fights and had only shown flashes of brilliance in his last three wins.
The selective nature of the UFC title ladder has worked for them at times, as they have created numerous memorable moments and have established countless stars; however, it has also has lent itself to dishing out title shots that are highly suspect.
While Mir's shot may have some fans crying foul, it is nothing compared to the 10 unwarranted title shots presented.
10. Andrei Arlovski: UFC 61
How often does the UFC grant immediate title shot rematches after they were knocked out in their previous title fight? Rarely is right, yet ‘The Pit Bull’ was granted a shot at redemption against Tim Sylvia immediately following a first-round destruction at the hands of ‘The Maine-iac’.
Arlovski had the benefit of being the titleholder prior to the loss, which allowed for some debate for the shot being worthy. But mainly Arlovski benefited from the overall lack of depth in the UFC heavyweight division at the time.
Sylvia and Andrei seemed to be the only viable 265-pound fighters in the organization, forcing Zuffa and the UFC to create a trilogy that was probably two fights too many.
9. Matt Serra: UFC 69
I hate to put this one on the list because it is one of the greatest upsets in UFC history, but Matt Serra’s title shot against GSP was completely undeserved. I am sorry, but winning a season of TUF against middle-of-the-road fighters should not warrant you a shot at UFC gold.
Serra was coming off a loss in his last official bout before entering the house, was a .500 fighter in his last six prior to the GSP fight, and was still relatively new to the welterweight division.
'The Terra' largely benefited from the lack of a marketable fighter in the division outside of GSP and Hughes, hence the need of the UFC to spice things up inside the TUF house. And with Hughes getting demolished by St.-Pierre prior, the only option left for the UFC was to create a challenger out of thin air.
8. B.J. Penn: UFC 94
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With B.J. back at the top of his game following the destruction of Sean Sherk at UFC 84, the UFC jumped at the chance to pit him against his heated rival Georges St. Pierre in a massive super fight for GSP’s Welterweight title.
B.J. is one of the greatest fighters to ever live, and is never one to back down from a scrap; however at the time Penn had not fought at 170 in the UFC in nearly three years, failing to win a fight at that weight in five. This fight was a prime example of super fights not always being the best ones available.
Penn will most likely go down as the greatest lightweight to ever live, but he will also be remembered for his lack of discipline that led him to his pointless foray into the welterweight division.
7. Shogun Rua: UFC 104
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Shogun finds himself on the list for being gifted his shot against Lyoto Machida at UFC 104. Shogun reaped the benefits of Rampage Jackson backing out of a title shot in order to ‘settle his problems’ with Rashad Evans. At the time of the fight Rua was a mere 2-1 in the UFC and had looked quite awful in all but one of those fights.
Shogun was coming off back-to-back knockout victories over legends Mark Coleman and Chuck Liddell, but unfortunately for him, those legends were shells of their former selves. Chuck had developed a chin of glass and had seemingly lost his one-punch knockout power, while Coleman was coming out of retirement and had the gas tank of a H2 Hummer.
Shogun-Coleman will be remembered for resembling two drunk patrons at a bar slugging it out after each drank their weight in beer, as both men were gassed midway through the second round.
At the time of Lyoto’s first title defense, there were really slim pickings for worthy contenders, so I don’t blame the UFC too much for reaching for Shogun.
6. Thales Leites: UFC 97
Some may argue that Leites was qualified to fight for the title, at the time of his fight against Anderson Silva he was on a five-fight win streak in the UFC and had finished the majority of his fights.
However, if you look at the quality of fighters he beat, the argument can easily be made that he had no business being in the cage with the Spider.
Prior to his title fight, Leites had submitted Drew McFedries, a guy so inept on the ground that I actually might have a shot at tapping him out, and his biggest victory came by a highly controversial split decision over Nate Marquardt.
Leites was at best a middle-of-the-road fighter who benefited from the overall lack of depth of the UFC Middleweight division during his meteoric rise to top contender.
5. Lyoto Machida: UFC 140
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Lyoto makes this list after he was awarded his title shot against Jon Jones with a 1-2 record in his three fights prior to the bout. Machida’s fortunes came by way of Rashad Evans being unable to fight and rather slim pickings at 205.
Machida’s selection was benefited by the fact that he was a prior champion and wields one of the more unique striking styles in MMA.
The UFC was able to market the fight as the biggest stylistic challenge to ultra-dominant champion Jon Jones; however, the title shot should have gone to the Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson. Hendo was dominant in Strikeforce and had won six of his last seven, including a destructive knockout of the great Fedor.
'The Dragon' does, however, get a slight pass due to the fact that he spectacularly knocked out a legend, and his loss to Rampage Jackson at UFC 123 was a borderline robbery. But to give a guy a shot at the title with a losing record in his last three is just bonkers to me.
4. Demian Maia: UFC 112
Maia’s title shot came through a late addition after original title contender Vitor Belfort bowed out with an injury. While Maia was a top contender at 185 for over a year, his stock tumbled a few months prior to his title shot with a devastating knockout loss to fellow top contender Nate Marquardt.
He would bounce back with a dominant decision victory over Dan Miller, but that hardly warranted a title shot against the pound-for-pound greatest.
The Maia selection was a pure panic move by the UFC. The company was making its first trip into the United Arab Emirates, and they found it necessary to keep two title fights on the already stacked card.
Once the UFC realized Chael Sonnen wouldn’t be available to save them, they turned to Maia. The better choice would have been to pull the fight, saving the fans for the debacle that transpired in Abu Dhabi.
3. Ken Shamrock: UFC 40
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Shamrock was gifted a shot at then-dominant 205 champ Tito Ortiz due in part to the financial struggles of the early Zuffa days. Shamrock was no longer a force in MMA and had been dabbling in the world of professional wrestling for some time prior.
Ken boasted a measly 1-2 record in his last three bouts prior and had failed to win a fight in the UFC for six years.
At the time of the fight, the company was struggling to make ends meet and a heated rivalry match between ‘The World’s Most Dangerous Man’ and ‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ was the best fight for the UFC to make marketability wise, despite the fact that Ken was already diminishing as a fighter.
2. Randy Couture: UFC 68
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Randy’s fight against Tim Sylvia may go down as one of the greatest moments and upsets in UFC history, however to say that he deserved a shot at gold at that moment would be a bold-faced lie.
Randy was coming out of retirement at the ripe old age of 43, was coming off a brutal knockout at the hands of Chuck Liddell, boasted a pedestrian 2-3 record in his last five, and had not fought at heavyweight in nearly five years (He had lost his last two in the heavyweight division prior to his drop down).
Top young contender Brandon Vera would have been the ideal choice for the fight; however, he got entangled in a contract dispute likely costing him the only shot at a UFC belt he will ever get.
Another option would have been to give Cro Cop the fight directly out of Pride. Cro Cop was a huge star in Japan and his lack of prowess stateside likely caused the UFC’s unwillingness to put on the fight.
1. Brock Lesnar: UFC 91
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This one should be obvious. When the fight was booked, Brock was a mere novice in MMA still making the transition from WWE wrestler to top-tier MMA. He boasted a measly 2-1 record, and was only one fight clear of a stunning submission loss to Frank Mir in his UFC debut.
Deserving candidates such as Minotauro Nogueira, Frank Mir (both of whom were TUF coaches at the time, but could have been easily substituted for) and Fabricio Werdum (who could have got the call before his shocking knockout to JDS) were passed over as Brock skyrocketed to the front of the line.
The fight would prove to be one of the biggest financial victories for the company, as Lesnar’s name plus the long-awaited return of Randy Couture garnered over 1 million pay-per-view buys.