9 Famous Fighters Fans Couldn't Pick out of a Lineup
Courtesy of Graciemag.com
UFC matchmaker Joe Silva doesn't have the easiest job in the world. Not only does he have to find stylistic contests that will produce an enjoyable fight, but also provide intriguing matchups for the pugilists. After all, a motivated fighter is a better fighter.
Sometimes, a fighter can get work simply based on his name value. Even if a fight is against an unranked opponent, they may possess a certain level of recognition that warrants higher billing. Former champions or big stars imported from other organizations are easy sells for this very reason.
Why do you think so many fighters want to square off with Rich Franklin and Wanderlei Silva? It's certainly not because of their divisional rankings.
By etching a win against a quality name onto your resume, you build your own legacy. When discussing a fighter's worthiness of fighting for a championship, skills are rarely discussed. It's all about who you've beaten in the past.
However, a name doesn't always have a face. Some fighters may have earned their stripes but haven't found their way onto your television. Oftentimes, notable stars from the past are discussed as pioneers by commentators, but their fights aren't on modern highlight reels.
Here is a look at nine famous fighters who have earned their place in MMA history but fans likely couldn't pick out of a lineup.
Notable For: Being an MMA pioneer, eighth degree black & red belt in BJJ and putting together a flawless 11-0 record, with 11 submission victories.
Rumor has it that Rickson was such a physical specimen in jiu-jitsu that the Gracie family didn't want him involved in the UFC 1 tournament. Reportedly, there was fear that in him winning the competition, the praise would go to the fighter, instead of his family's namesake discipline.
Unreocgnizable Because: Unlike most legends of early MMA, Rickson never fought for the UFC, despite his prominence as a fighter and his family's connection to the organization.
Gracie fought for Japanese promotion Vale Tudo Japan for six of his contests, and has two victories under the PRIDE banner at the promotion's first and fourth events.
Let's go ahead and kick things off with an actual lineup. See if you can pick out the cream of the Gracie crop. Which member in this lineup is Rickson Gracie?
Notable For: UFC 13 tournament champion, King of Pancrase openweight champion and notable victories over Tito Ortiz, Masakatsu Funaki and Yuki Kondo.
Unrecognizable Because: When placed against the truly elite members of his generation, Mezger rarely came out on top. His biggest win came against Tito Ortiz in 1997. The victory came only three minutes into the contest when he locked in a guillotine choke.
Since that time, Mezger faced, and was defeated by Ortiz, Wanderlei Silva, Lil Nog, Ricardo Arona, Chuck Liddell and Kazushi Sakuraba.
It's interesting that Guy Mezger was interviewed for the Evan Tanner documentary Once, I Was Champion. After all, the film's title is the same as Mezger's opening line when he meets new people.
Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
Notable For: Flawless 9-0 record, which includes five wins in the UFC and two victories over top-5 middleweights. Currently, Weidman is considered the top contender in the 185 pound division, and a win over Tim Boetsch in December will solidify that status.
Unrecognizable Because: In terms of physical appearance, there is just something so very forgettable about Weidman. His hair is plain unlike Louis Gaudinot or Dan Hardy. He doesn't have memorable facial hair like Keith Jardine or Don Frye. His gestures aren't bold like Rampage Jackson or Wanderlei Silva.
Even his nickname is forgettable. With so many fighters having earned All-American honors during their tenure as amateurs, choosing "The All-American" as a nickname is about as generic as it gets.
Hopefully the UFC will include Weidman in more of its promotional materials. He was part of the group of young fighters that fans could vote on as the next face of Edge Shave Gel, but for some reason, people remember his accomplishments more than what he looks like.
Notable For: PRIDE legend, UFC Japan tournament winner, also poses as The Boogeyman that lives in the closet of members of the Gracie family.
Sakuraba is a true legend with wins over several UFC champions, including: Vitor Belfort, Rampage Jackson, Royce Gracie, Carlos Newton, Kevin Randleman, Ken Shamrock and Guy Mezger
Unrecognizable Because: Most MMA fans do not keep their finger on the pulse of Japan. Sure, the hardcore fans and those who watched PRIDE will know Sakuraba, however, his legacy was made before the sport's popularity exploded in 2005.
Sakuraba is similar to BJ Penn in the fact that he refused to believe that size mattered. Despite being a natural welterweight, the star's record is filled with losses to much larger men such as Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Lil Nog, Ricardo Arona, Kimo Leopoldo and Igor Vovchanchyn.
In the end, Sakuraba's record sits at 26-16-1 (2) and he has lost his last four bouts, which will greatly hinder his legacy as an elite star.
Notable For: Bellator Featherweight champion, Bellator featherweight tournament winner, Bellator lightweight tournament winner, fan friendly knockout artist with major wins over Roger Huerta, Marlon Sandro and Joe Warren.
Unrecognizable Because: Unfortunately, despite their position as the No. 3 fight organization in the world (promoted to No. 2 once Strikeforce folds in January), Bellator still doesn't have enough of a fanbase for the MMA world to recognize anyone other than their biggest stars, or UFC burnouts.
With the recent departures of Eddie Alvarez, Hector Lombard and Cole Konrad, Bellator's current champions haven't had very long reigns yet.
Fans have likely heard Curran's name due to his notoriety in the sport and his world ranking as a featherweight, but unless you are a hardcore Bellator fan, you'd be hard pressed to recognize Curran were he to walk past you in street clothes.
Notable For: Being twice booked as a challenger for UFC featherweight champion, Jose Aldo. Koch is also in possession of an impressive 5-1 record under the Zuffa banner, which includes three first-round stoppages.
Unrecognizable Because: Despite an impressive resume, Koch has only been in fights that were televised on two occasions. Even less fortunate is that fact that the first time came on a largely unwatched WEC event that aired on Versus, while the other came at a Fight Night card on Spike 14 months ago.
Without being seen for so long, and by having such a plain, frat boy image, the appearance of Koch is one that is easily forgotten. That is, if you knew what he looked like to begin with.
Notable For: Popularizing (and possibly inventing) a crucifix position from side control. This hold is known as "The Salaverry" after Joe Rogan popularized the name during broadcasts. Most notably, the maneuver was used to finish Matt Hughes vs. BJ Penn II and Roy Nelson vs. Kimbo Slice.
Unrecognizable Because: While his namesake position is incredibly difficult to escape, Salaverry was never an elite member of the UFC roster. In fact, his organizational record is 3-4, and as a professional, his mark stands at a pedestrian 13-9.
In case you're wondering, the photo above is from Hughes vs. Penn II. Just so you prove me right, I'm going to make you go a search to see what Salaverry looks like.
Notable For: Becoming WEC featherweight champion by ending the reign of dominance belonging to Urijah Faber. Afterwards, Brown would defend the belt twice against Leonard Garcia and a rematch with Faber.
Unrecognizable Because: Shortly after the reign of Faber, the reign of Jose Aldo began. Aldo knocked out Brown in late 2009 and defended his belt twice more before the WEC was absorbed into the UFC.
Overshadowed by the bigger stars of the division, Brown faded into the background when he was upset by underdog Manny Gamburyan in the form of a first-round knockout.
Brown lost his first two fights under the UFC banner and nearly faded into total obscurity. Thankfully, he has won his last two fights and signed a five-fight contract with Zuffa.
Notable For: Ridiculously impressive wins against Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, Jeremy Horn, Kazushi Sakuraba and more.
The biggest feather in Arona's cap came when he became the first light heavyweight to defeat longtime PRIDE champion Wanderlei Silva in more than five years. At the time of his Grand Prix victory over Silva, "The Axe Murderer" was considered to be unbeatable.
Arona does not go down in the record books as a champion because this fight was a Grand Prix contest, and the belt was not on the line.
Unrecognizable Because: Despite having massive wins to his credit, Arona was never a world champion, and his biggest claim to fame is the fact that he was on the receiving end of MMA's biggest powerbomb.
After attempting a triangle choke on Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Arona was famously lifted into the air before being slammed into the canvas in an OMG moment that will live on highlight reels for all time.
Arona nearly made his way out of this list in mid 2010. After meeting with Dana White about joining the UFC roster, it appeared that the Brazilian would be able to make a name for himself in the modern UFC era. Unfortunately, a deal never came to fruition, and he has yet to compete since 2009.