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10 Legendary MMA Fighters You've Probably Never Heard of

Scott HarrisFeatured ColumnistMay 3, 2013

10 Legendary MMA Fighters You've Probably Never Heard of

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    Plenty of MMA fans like to honor the old guard. It's not too difficult when the sport you follow is not even 20 years old. You get a lot of bang for your buck with the honoring.

    And yet, there are some fighters who fall through the cracks when the conversation turns to the best in the sport's brief history. Here are 10 fighters one might find in those cracks if one wanted to dig around in there.

    These are pro MMA fighters only. No disciplinary pioneers like Helio Gracie or Gene Lebell. No "Big" John McCarthy, Dana White or other figures like that. These are actual fighters who were feared in their time, and/or made substantial contributions to the sport.

Masakatsu Funaki

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    Division: Middleweight
    Record: 39-13-2
    Current age: 44

    Might as well start this off with a bang. Masakatsu Funaki is as big a legend as anyone in MMA history. 

    Funaki founded the venerable Pancrase promotion. So, in essence, he helped found MMA. But he wasn't just the president; he was also a client. In his career, he fought and defeated Ken and Frank Shamrock, Bas Rutten, Semmy Schilt, Yuki Kondo and so on. He is also one of 11 MMA professionals to face Rickson Gracie. He lost.

Ian Freeman

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    Division: Light heavyweight
    Record: 19-7-1
    Current age: 42

    Certainly not the most accomplished fighter on this list, but noteworthy because he was the very first British fighter to step inside the UFC Octagon.

    That's a pretty decent trail to have blazed, given that U.K. fighters weren't there on the ground floor with their Brazilian, Japanese and American counterparts. And for some gravy, throw on the fact that he beat Frank Mir at UFC 38. 

Jason DeLucia

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    Division: Light heavyweight
    Record: 33-21-1
    Current age: 43

    If it wasn't for Royce Gracie, this multidisciplinary expert might have won the UFC 2 tournament. I know, I know: And if he had two wheels he'd be a bicycle. Still, though, DeLucia was good. Really good.

    Wins over Funaki, Matt Hume, Yuki Kondo and Ikuhisa Minowa—over the course of a career that took him from UFC 1 to Pancrase to Cage Rage—gives DeLucia solid bona fides. Maybe he's not a Hall of Famer, but he was a noteworthy warrior in the sport's embryonic phase.

Marco Ruas

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    Division: Light heavyweight (unofficial)
    Record: 9-4-2
    Current age: 52

    The King of the Streets.

    He invented vale tudo. He wore the UFC 7 tournament belt. He invented the leg kick (well, not really, but he was good at it). He once defeated Keith Hackney. For my money, he is the most underrated mixed martial artist ever.

Hiromitsu Kanehara

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    Division: Middleweight/Light heavyweight
    Record: 19-25-5
    Current age: 42

    Not every legend is a legend for being, what's the term, good. Hiromitsu Kanehara certainly won his share, but for the most part he's most notable for having the best—if most painful—seat for the heyday of some of MMA'S greatest champions. 

    I mean, this guy has fought and lost not only to stars, but to stars with whom we are, to this day, on a nick-or-first-name basis: Wandy, Shogun, Reem, Cro Cop, Hughes, Big Nog, Babalu, Hendo. 

    Very few others without the surname of Gracie or Sakuraba has a record like that. In all seriousness, for Kanehara coming even close to .500 against that murderer's row, he deserves all sorts of respect.

Igor Vovchanchyn

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    Division: Heavyweight
    Record: 55-10 (1)
    Current age: 39


    Most serious fans have probably heard of Igor Last Name I'm Not Typing Out Again. But he needs to be here anyway. When jiu-jitsu appeared ready to run the table on the striker, Igor showed up and restored the balance. He essentially invented takedown defense, and was a vicious knockout artist to boot.

    Oh, and did you think Cro Cop's legs were a couple of silky smooth death levers? Then you haven't seen Igor's legs, bro. You haven't. 

Mikhail Illoukhine

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    Division: Light heavyweight
    Record: 36-18-1
    Current age: 46

    Mikhail Another Last Name I'm Not Retyping is to submissions as Igor L. is to knockouts. Of those 36 wins, 33 came by submission. So that's substantial. He's tapped people like Randy Couture, that guy Igor, and a ton of Japanese guys while spending most of his career in the Rings promotion.

Murilo Bustamante

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    Division: Middleweight
    Record: 15-8-1
    Current age: 46

    Murilo Bustamante was the UFC's second-ever middleweight champion, succeeding the immortal Dave Menne. The fifth-degree BJJ black belt also founded the seminal Brazilian Top Team camp, which has diminished in recent years but still trains UFC mainstays Rousimar Palhares and Patrick Cote. 

Hidehiko Yoshida

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    Division: Light heavyweight
    Record: 9-8-1
    Current age: 43

    Forget Ronda Rousey. Hidehiko Yoshida is the greatest judo practitioner to ever set foot in the MMA cage.

    The 1992 Olympic and 1999 world gold medalist tried his hand in Pride in 2002. He beat Don Frye. He also beat Tank Abbott and Mark Hunt, and fought to an amazing draw with Royce Gracie. He also lost a decision in the 2003 Middleweight Grand Prix semifinals to eventual tournament winner Wanderlei Silva.

Allan Goes

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    Division: Light heavyweight
    Record: 10-5-2
    Current age: 42

    In the last slide, we said forget Ronda Rousey. In this slide, we say forget Mark Coleman.

    Because Allan Goes is the true godfather of ground-and-pound. He was the first fighter, to my knowledge, to strike a grounded opponent in an MMA contest. Undertaken during a Pancrase card, it was considered a dirty maneuver at the time. It was scandalous! Nevertheless. Say hello to the godfather. Never go against the family, and whatnot.

    Video evidence included here. As an interesting, random footnote, it came in a fight against some guy named Frank Shamrock.

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