Michael Bisping and the 25 Best Gatekeepers in MMA
A gatekeeper is not a negative or derogatory term. Some may even find the term endearing. For example, if defeating a gatekeeper catapults you into title contention, then the gatekeeper in question is clearly a worthy and legitimate foe.
Another important point that you must understand is that some gatekeepers have earned their title by consistently coming up short in big fights, while others have recently fallen into the role based on recent performances.
The false impression that many fans have about the term gatekeeper has been the cause of many intense debates.
This is a look at the different types of gatekeepers, and the 25 fighters who best fit the description.
Not All Gatekeepers Are Created Equal
In this article, we will take a look at the five major levels of gatekeeper, and note which fighters fit each description.
Just as there are many levels of black belt, gatekeepers are not all one in the same. It is important that we break the negative stigma of the gatekeeper status, so please keep the different definitions in mind and think before you go smashing your monitor or bashing the author.
Under no circumstances do I want to look at the comments and find this:
"WHAT DO YOU MEAN MY FAVORITE FIGHTER IS A GATEKEEPER!!!1!1one!"
The Organizational Gatekeeper
Some gatekeepers sit near the bottom of their respective divisions, with the results of their bouts dictating who is worthy of fighting in the organization. A win establishes that you are deserving of your contract, but a loss suggests that you are unfit for a roster spot. An example of the organizational gatekeeper is Matt Riddle.
UFC Record: 6-3
Biggest Win: DaMarques Johnson
Biggest Loss: Nick Osipczak
Matt Riddle is a product of The Ultimate Fighter. As one of few fighters to make their professional debut in the Octagon, he is currently holding a respectable 6-3 record.
That record, however, doesn't look as appealing when you see that Riddle has fought promotional newcomers in four of his last five fights.
Living up to his role as organizational gatekeeper, Riddle may be the angel of death, as his first four victims were all handed their walking papers following a loss.
Other Organizational Gatekeepers:
The Notability Gatekeeper
A fighter of this type may have a decent amount of name value, and may have won some quality fights himself, but isn’t quite on the level of contender. He sits between 15-25 in his divisional rankings and is matched up with other fighters who are in similar shoes. He has had the opportunity to step up, and has come up short. An example of the notability gatekeeper is Matt Brown.
UFC Record: 7-5
Biggest Wins: James Wilks, Stephen Thompson
Biggest Losses: Chris Lytle, Ricardo Almeida
The only loss in Matt Brown's first five UFC contests came via split decision to the very tough Dong Hyun Kim. While his wins weren't against big names, Brown was able to TKO Ultimate Fighter winner James Wilks.
Brown was given the chance to step up in a big way, but was submitted by three notable opponents in consecutive bouts in 2010.
That might have been the end for many fighters, but not Brown. Since that time, he has gone 3-1, with wins coming against unranked opponents like John Howard. Brown was able to shut down the hype of karate superstar Stephen Thompson back at UFC 145.
Other Notability Gatekeepers:
The Rankings Gatekeeper
Gatekeepers can be viewed in high regard. Some have a solid record in top organizations and have competed against some high caliber names, but usually come out on the losing end of those encounters. Many rankings gatekeepers have previously been near the top but have fallen on hard times.
A notable characteristic of a rankings gatekeeper is his tendency to alternate between fighting a rising prospect and then fighting an established entity.
The rankings gatekeeper usually ranks between 8-12 in his division, and a win over him is something that is likely to place an opponent in the bottom half of the top 10. An example of a rankings gatekeeper is Thiago Silva.
UFC Record: 5-3 (1)
Biggest Wins: Keith Jardine, James Irvin, Houston Alexander
Biggest Losses: Rashad Evans, Lyoto Machida, Alexander Gustafsson
Although Silva was once thought to be a world-class fighter, the fact remains that his biggest win came over Keith Jardine, while he has lost to every Top 10 fighter who has been put in front of him.
Does that mean Silva isn't dangerous? Not hardly.
Silva has tremendous technical striking, and he delivers his punches with notable power. In fact, Silva's last nine wins have come via strikes.
As a rankings gatekeeper, beating Silva gives any fighter a legitimate claim to making the top 10 of their division.
Other Rankings Gatekeepers:
The Elite Gatekeeper
The elite gatekeeper position is one that signifies tremendous name recognition and prior success. Usually this fighter is in the top 5-7 of his division, and may have even been champion at some point, but is nowhere near receiving another shot.
Elite gatekeepers are easily spotted by their losses in big fight situations. Those who fall into this category typically have an excellent record, but have hit some speed bumps recently when facing top competition.
Beating a fighter on this level tells the world that you are ready for a fight with the champion. An example of the elite gatekeeper is Michael Bisping.
UFC Record: 12-4
Biggest Wins: Chris Leben, Matt Hamill, Jason Miller, Denis Kang
Biggest Losses: Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen, Rashad Evans, Wanderlei Silva
Michael Bisping is an elite middleweight, but has unfortunately run into some bad luck in big fight situations. On four different occasions, Bisping has been given the opportunity to step up and battle an elite fighter. Each time he has come up short.
The numbers don't lie, but they aren't indicative of Bisping's true level of skill. Many would argue that "The Count" was on the wrong end of a bad decision against Sonnen, Evans and Silva. If you disagree with Bisping's placement in this list, you likely fall into that category.
A gatekeeper is the fighter who stands in the way of another fighter reaching something. With his perennial top 5 ranking, a win over Bisping tells the world that you're ready for a title shot.
Other Elite Gatekeepers:
The Fallen Hero Gatekeeper
The fifth and final type of gatekeeper is one who has risen to prominence, and in some cases, has won a world championship. This fighter has many wins over top level talent, but has seen a decline in his skills after a long and storied career. He continues to fight against other stars who are in his shoes, as well as the new breed of fighters. An example of the fallen hero gatekeeper is Big Nog.
Big Nog was once thought of as the top heavyweight in the world. Universally respected, and feared almost as much, the heavier Nogueira brother has been known for his inhuman ability to absorb punishment before coming back to claim the win.
Since joining the UFC, longtime fans of Minotauro have seen him take incredible punishment, and although he has come back from a pair of those beatings, he has been finished in each of his losses.
If you need evidence that Nogueira is the poster boy for this type of gatekeeper, you need look no further than his bout with Brendan Schaub. Despite a massive experience advantage, Nogueira was the betting underdog to a fighter whose biggest win came over Gabriel Gonzaga.