5 Fighters Who Should Have Been UFC Champions

Andrew Saunders@SaundersMMACorrespondent IISeptember 10, 2012

5 Fighters Who Should Have Been UFC Champions

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    In UFC history, only 44 men across seven weight classes have ever been fortunate enough to call themselves a UFC champion. On September 22, either Demetrious Johnson or Joseph Benavidez will join the elite group when they square off for the inaugural UFC flyweight championship.

    Of the many failed challengers for UFC gold, only a few truly should have been able to call themselves champion but were unable for various reasons.

    Here is a look at five fighters who should have been UFC champion but never made it to the top of the mountain.

Dan Henderson

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    Looking back on the pre-Zuffa era, weight classes were a completely different animal. At UFC 13, if you weren't a heavyweight, you were a lightweight. It's peculiar to think of Tito Ortiz fighting in a division that is now reserved for those under 155 pounds.

    By the time that UFC 17 kicked off, the Ultimate Fighting Championship had already established championships for the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, there were plans to institute a welterweight championship at the next event as well, however, no middleweight championship was established until UFC 33.

    With a middleweight tournament on the docket, it would have made sense to allow the mini Grand Prix to determine the inaugural UFC middleweight championship.

    Although Allen Goes and Bob Gilstrap are hardly going down in the history books for their role in the tournament, both of the finalists, Dan Henderson and Carlos Newton, eventually won major championships.

    Had the UFC established a middleweight title at the same time as their other divisions, Henderson would have already collected the only piece of hardware still missing from his collection to this day.

Pedro Rizzo

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    When contemporary fight fans hear the name Pedro Rizzo, they might think of the senior citizen who was promptly knocked out by Fedor Emelianenko in the Russian's final fight before retirement. 

    Old school fans know Rizzo as the iron-willed warrior who gave Randy Couture the fight of his life at UFC 31. The battle had four definitive rounds, and one that wasn't exactly clear. The first and fourth rounds certainly belonged to Captain America, while two and five would go to "The Rock."

    With the third round less definitive, but likely going to Rizzo, fans waited with baited breath as they were to witness the crowning of a new UFC heavyweight champion. Unfortunately for Rizzo, the love affair that judges have with Couture would begin. 

    Rizzo would be granted an immediate rematch with Couture at UFC 34, although "The Rock" didn't fare so well the second time around. Stopped via TKO in the third round, Rizzo's hope of defeating Couture would come to a bitter end, and he would never strap UFC gold around his waist.

Frank Trigg

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    Frank Trigg isn't a fighter who fell victim to a bad decision, nor was he the best in his division at a time where belts didn't exist. Instead, Trigg's chance at gold fell to the wayside when a "How in God's name did that not end the fight" moment took place.

    At UFC 52, fans were treated to a pair of title matches that both happened to be rematches. Although Chuck Liddell vs. Randy Couture II was the main event, a bout from earlier on the card would go on to be considered one of the best fights in MMA history: Matt Hughes vs. Frank Trigg II.

    Hurting Hughes on the feet with some striking (which may have included a low blow that went unseen by the referee), Trigg was able to get the farm boy to the ground and lock in a rear-naked choke which should have undoubtedly ended the fight.

    In a moment that lives on highlight reels forever, Hughes showed intestinal fortitude that has rarely been displayed in MMA by lifting Trigg into the air, running across the cage and slamming "Twinkletoes" into the canvas.

    Only moments later, he locked in a rear-naked choke of his own and forever left Trigg outside the list of UFC greats.

Chael Sonnen

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    At UFC 117, Chael Sonnen met champion Anderson Silva in one of the all-time classic bouts in MMA history. For four and a half rounds, Silva was battered and beaten by his opponent to the point that one judge had Sonnen leading 40-34 after four rounds.

    Then, as if out of nowhere, Anderson Silva dug down deep and found the miraculous ability to secure a triangle choke, despite being completely sapped of his strength.

    Sonnen did such a great job of manhandling Silva, that he actually went on record to call himself the UFC champion and lampoon "The Spider" as a phony who was carrying around a pretend belt.

    Although no one except Sonnen will claim that the American Gangster was victorious in their first meeting, it's not hard to picture that final 150 seconds of the fight ticking away and Chael making history on that night.

Gray Maynard

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    In official Nevada State Athletic Commission documents, instructions to the judges are clear: “The fighter who dominates a round is given a score of 10-8 (a score of 10-7 is possible for a dominant round)."

    At UFC 125, Gray Maynard began his fight with Frankie Edgar in the most dominant of ways. Round 1 of their lightweight championship battle saw Maynard land 97 punches in a single round. Many of those shots were devastating, as Edgar was wobbled through the entire period and was knocked down on three occasions.

    Edgar would somehow survive the attack and make sure to bring the fight to "The Bully" during the final four rounds. The war waged on for the entire 25-minute period, and ultimately, was scored a draw by the judges.

    The mentality behind the draw was that Edgar had one three rounds, while Maynard won two, and one of those rounds was 10-8. 

    If the first round of Maynard vs. Edgar was in fact one of the one-sided beatdowns in MMA history, you've got to wonder how much more the judges needed to see in order to award the 10-7 that is at their disposal.

    Maynard spoke at the post-fight press conference regarding why he felt that the fight was his.

    "You've got the round where it could have been 10-7, I thought," he said. "I dropped him like five times. He didn't land a punch. At least a 10-8, maybe even more."

    A proper score of 10-7 in that round would have led to a 46-47, 48-45, 47-46 split-decision victory for Maynard. Unfortunately for "The Bully," judges failed to pull the trigger, and he was not allowed to leave the MGM Grand Garden Arena with the belt that he rightfully earned.