Underappreciated UFC Fighters That Will Be Missed When They Are Gone
Every MMA fan can rattle off a number of guys who instantly draw them to an event. But what about the guys who go unnoticed that help support the foundations of each promotion with their work inside and out of the cage?
The "blue collar" type of fighters if you will.
Some of these fighters bust their chops each night to bring you the best they have inside the cage and make sure you leave feeling like you wisely spent your hard earned money. Others meanwhile can conjure up a media storm like no other with their actions out of the cage and perhaps will be most missed when the microphone goes away.
Most of these fighters won't be superstars during their careers (a few are or have been) but that's okay, because they can end their careers knowing that MMA fans will miss them as they miss all superstars.
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Anderson Silva may be one of the superstars on this list but he's also underappreciated by many in the MMA world.
Part of it stems from his bizarre performances against Thales Leites and Demian Maia, while part of it is due to the way Silva's manager, Ed Soares, comes off in the media.
"The Spider" is a once in a lifetime type of talent that fans are rarely able to appreciate while they're competing. Once Silva steps away from the game, I suspect fans will begin to view the UFC champion in a more positive light as we will truly be able to grasp just how great of a fighter he is.
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Jon Jones has become an incredibly polarizing figure in MMA. On one hand, he's one of the fastest rising superstars on this list and even sponsored by the UFC itself. On the other, he is constantly judged, berated and just overall viewed in a negative light no matter what he does.
Even if Jones donated a million dollars to a charity, his critics would say he could donate a million plus one dollar just to try and take him down a peg or two.
The bottom line is that Jones is a very unique athlete that the sport hasn't been seen much, if it all, in the Octagon. Jones' family is all involved in other team sports and had MMA not been as popular as it is now, Jones may have been catching passes on Sundays instead of delivering elbows on Saturday nights.
Jones will go down as one of the most disliked champions in UFC history unless he can perform a PR miracle, but his raw athleticism and talent will definitely be missed.
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Dan Hardy was an afterthought coming into 2012 after going through a four-fight losing streak that seemed to indicate he was on the chopping block.
Yet, Dana White held on to Hardy and it seems to have paid off as "The Outlaw" has now won back-to-back fights.
Hardy's terrible 2010-2011 made him a human punch line due to his inability to evolve as a fighter but if there's one thing you'll be able to say about him, it's that he comes to fight each time. Even if he doesn't have the grappling skills to match up with his opponent, Hardy is always looking to attack.
Also, when you add in Hardy is one of the few marketable stars from England, it becomes clear the UFC (along with fans) will certainly miss his drawing power on any future cards across the pond.
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Frank Mir may get a bad rap for some of his performances and some quirky comments, but there are a few reasons both fans and the UFC will miss him once he steps away.
For one, Mir is one of the best grapplers to enter MMA and at one time was one of its hottest prospects. The motorcycle crash took quite a few years off his career but he's still accomplished a lot in the sport, including being the first person to ever TKO Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (and the only person to submit him) along with a few UFC heavyweight titles to his credit.
His skills outside the Octagon are just as good as Mir is one of the premier hype men in the business. Even if everyone knows Mir is going to be punched into hamburger meat (see Brock/JDS), Mir still does a good job of selling the fight to fans.
When you look up Mir's resume it's actually one of the best in UFC heavyweight history and the company will definitely miss his drawing power upon his retirement. Fans luckily won't have to miss him for too long as I expect Mir to jump right into an analyst role after leaving the Octagon.
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If Nate Diaz can ever truly step out of the shadow cast by his brother, he should enjoy a lengthy UFC career.
Diaz catches a bad rap mainly due to his brother's actions in a trickle down effect. Still, Diaz sports an 11-6 record in the Octagon and has recently seen his stock jump in the lightweight division despite losing in his title bid last December.
He's a talented fighter who will always be a draw due to his personality (and his last name). It's just a matter of putting together all the skills necessary to win at the higher levels, because we've seen he's more than capable of dispatching mid-tier guys at this point in his career.
Fans and the UFC will miss Diaz due to the interest he can generate along with his aggressive fighting style that could become even more rare if the UFC keeps up with its roster cuts.
Joe Lauzon/Jim Miller
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Both Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller made themselves household names with their performance at UFC 155, but they're still two names that are routinely forgotten about when discussing the lightweight division.
Both guys have been in the UFC for quite some time and sport respectable records in the Octagon. However, every time either man gets close to a title shot they seem to fall short and are sent back to the world of gatekeepers.
That's not a bad thing for fans as it tends to get Lauzon and Miller on free TV more often, which always makes for an exciting fight.
Lauzon and Miller are two of the more exciting lightweights and are always up for a fight even if they can't seem to get over the hump into title contention.
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Chael Sonnen's rise to fame is parallel to that of the dislike fans have of the former middleweight title contender. Effectively building himself up through trash talk that became extremely insensitive at times, Sonnen had perhaps one of the greatest rivalries in MMA history with Anderson Silva.
Outside of Sonnen's trash talking/promoting abilities, which may be the best MMA has ever seen, Sonnen is a very skilled fighter as well.
His submission defense (or lack thereof) has always held him back from rising up the rankings. However, that doesn't mean Sonnen won't make things exciting even if it may end up with him tapping to a triangle or arm bar.
It's clear the UFC and fans will miss Sonnen's ability to promote a fight given how much interest he generates, but the UFC will also miss one of the few guys who willingly backs up the "I will fight anyone, anytime" kind of attitude.
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Rich Franklin became a forgotten man once Anderson Silva took over at 185 pounds, but the ultimate company man has continued to compete whenever and wherever the UFC has needed him.
Franklin has fought a who's-who in the UFC and has done very admirably against most of them. Outside of the Silva losses, only his losses to Vitor Belfort and Cung Le looked terrible. It's hard to figure out why Franklin is so forgotten by fans despite racking up a 22-1-1 record pre-Silva and a 29-7-1 overall record, but he still manages to fly under the radar for many MMA fans.
Fans will miss Franklin due to his ability to always put on a good show, while the UFC will certainly miss having the ultimate company guy to call up in case of an emergency.
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Perhaps the least talked about UFC champion, Demetrious Johnson could end up being one of the most dominant champions in Octagon history by the time his career is done.
Johnson was a formidable bantamweight but has looked fantastic at 125 pounds. The UFC flyweight champ even endured getting clipped by John Dodson in his last fight but still came out on top with the belt around his waist.
"Mighty Mouse" doesn't receive nearly as much press as one would expect a UFC champion gets, but that will change if he can continue to rule over the flyweight division with relative ease.
Considering how good Johnson has looked at flyweight and how well he performed at bantamweight, Johnson retiring with the UFC flyweight title around his waist doesn't seem like a crazy proposition.