The UFC's 10 Most Underrated Fighters of the Moment
This Saturday at UFC 154, the glare from the return of Georges St-Pierre may occlude your vision of the rest of the fighters on the card. It's unfortunate, but it's hard reality for some of these guys; they're used to living on the margins of public imagination.
These are the 10 UFC fighters who are, to my mind, the most underrated in the promotion. What does underrated mean? That's a little slippery, but I'm going to say it's guys who, for whatever reason, just don't get the credit that their resumes suggest they deserve. Let us now take a look, why don't we.
10. Francis Carmont
Record: 19-7 (3-0 UFC)
It's almost criminal how few people have heard of Francis Carmont. A win at UFC 154 over decidedly not-low-profile journeyman Tom Lawlor would kick him into a higher gear.
Those who have heard of Carmont may or may not know he trains at the Tristar Gym with Georges St-Pierre. They may or may not also know he hasn't lost in four years. He's smart, he's balanced and I've never seen him get flustered in a fight. If I was Lawlor, I'd be worried.
9. Francisco Rivera
Record: 8-2 (1) [1-1 (1) UFC]
Francisco Rivera is one positive drug test removed from a 2-0 mark on his current UFC tour. He has a high-functioning power boxing game; one of his uppercuts, in particular, will set your knees a-wobbling. But even as he hits hard, he's just as hard to hit.
8. Hacran Dias
Record: 21-1-1 (1-0 UFC)
At this time last year, this spot probably belonged to Yuri Alcantara. Then he lost a decision to Hacran Dias. And it wasn't especially close.
Nova Uniao's Dias has that combination of muay thai poured over jiu-jitsu which has become the signature blend of so many Brazilian fighters.
7. T.J. Grant
Record: 19-5 (6-3 UFC)
T.J. Grant has looked terrific since debuting at lightweight. He's 3-0 and recently ripped through Evan Dunham, or more accurately, his head skin.
That was preceded by wins over Carlo Prater and Shane Roller. Taken together, that looks a lot like a ticket to the top 10. No offense to Matt Wiman, Grant's next opponent and a very solid fighter, but I think Grant earned better. A win over Wiman might help him from a sheer quantity standpoint, but quality-wise it's a lateral move. Grant is better, and deserves better.
6. Vinny Magalhaes
Division: Light heavyweight
Record: 10-5 (1) (1-2 UFC)
What an outstanding young family man.
Family manliness aside, Magalhaes (properly pronounced by horking something up and then expectorating it into a sheet of wax paper) absolutely earned a second shot in the UFC by clawing his way back up through the minor leagues and eventually capturing and holding the M-1 Global title. He cemented his status as a serious light heavyweight with a beautiful jiu-jitsu finishing of Igor Pokrajac.
Beating Pokrajac shouldn't get you a title shot, but it should get you noticed. So far, Magalhaes remains under the radar.
5. Ricardo Lamas
Record: 12-2 (3-0 UFC)
When it comes to public attention, Ricardo Lamas is a true Teflon Don.
The primary narrative from Hatsu Hioki's fight with Lamas was the fact that Hioki, in losing, essentially gave away a title shot. Nevermind that it was Lamas's third Octagon W in a row.
Now, Lamas will fight Erik Koch in January, with the winner expected to earn a title shot. But did you even know that fight had been made?
Before Hioki, Cub Swanson fell under Lamas's sword. Odd, then, that Swanson has a much brighter star in the featherweight title mosaic.
Frankie Edgar, deserving or not, has also leapfrogged Lamas. You hear more about the Korean Zombie than Lamas. I just hope these flashier, more famous guys don't get more consideration based on things that have nothing to do with fighting. Although it wouldn't be the first time.
4. Costa Philippou
Record: 11-2 (1) (4-1 UFC)
Free Costa Philippou!
Watch him beat Nick Ring this Saturday—perhaps soundly. Then watch as nobody cares. Maybe, just maybe, though, another win will liberate Philippou from the Nick Ring/Riki Fukuda/Court McGee Bermuda Triangle of Undercard Wonders.
He would deserve such a release. The guy has power but not at the expense of cardio. And you can't take him down. When Fukuda poked him in the eye, it just made him fight harder.
This dude's a beast. I think we can finally forget about that Nick Catone loss. Forgive, and move on, together. Yes, we can.
3. Jon Fitch
Record: 24-4-1 (1) (14-2-1 UFC)
Cue the Welcome Back, Kotter theme song. Only, in this case, Fitch's style was his ticket out...of the welterweight title picture. Ba-dum-TSH!
By Fitch standards, he just turned in an eyelid-peelingly exciting win over Erick Silva. Was it his ticket back in? Something tells me it's not.
Why? Because he's boring? I will never respect that argument, no matter who's giving it to me. Among active welterweights, no one but GSP has a record as good as Jon Fitch. Not Martin Kampmann. Not Josh Koscheck. Nobody. Yet he's not in the title picture. I realize he lost to Johny Hendricks, and he'll have a prejudicially steep road back to be certain. But here's hoping he climbs it. Here's hoping that the UFC is once again forced to try and solve a problem named Jon Fitch.
2. Stefan Struve
Record: 25-5 (9-3 UFC)
Everyone was waiting for him to figure out how to use that great length to out-strike his opponents. And that seems viable, at least if Stipe Miocic is any indication. However, Struve may have found his true gift on the ground. Did you see him fight Pat Barry, who couldn't grapple his way out of an ill-fitting sweater but nevertheless resembled a wallaby in a python's coils when Struve laid that triangle on him?
I know he's got a super long reach (84 inches to be exact), but when you see him fight, the real length you notice first is that of his body. Stefan Struve is finally learning the best way for Stefan Struve to use his own talents to his own advantage.
Dear UFC: please give this guy Antonio Silva next. Battle of the Giants? That could headline a Fox card.
1. Carlos Condit
Record: 28-5 (5-1 UFC)
No one wants to give this guy any credit. Every step, they count him out. When he proves them wrong, they find a reason to slap the effort with an asterisk.
He got lucky against Rory MacDonald. His win over Nick Diaz was cowardly. He has no chance against Georges St-Pierre. (OK, maybe that last one's true.)
I know it's hard to label an interim belt holder and main-event mainstay as underrated, but I really don't think people give Condit his due. Part of that is being the Gary Payton Sonics in the Michael Jordan era. Not much you can do about that. Except, of course, whoop up on everyone else.
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