22 Fighters Who Got UFC Title Shots Coming off a Loss

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22 Fighters Who Got UFC Title Shots Coming off a Loss
(Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

When Miesha Tate replaced an injured Cat Zingano on the set of The Ultimate Fighter 18, she did more than step into Zingano's reality television roll. She also assumed her fallen rival's place in a subsequent bantamweight title fight later this year.

That means, despite losing her last fight decisively, Tate will challenge for the most significant women's championship in all of combat sports.

For UFC fans, a fighter walking backward into a title shot is starting to feel all too common. Chael Sonnen and Nick Diaz both challenged for gold immediately following a loss this year in two of the highest-profile fights of 2013. Both fell woefully short, as did Frankie Edgar, who fought for a championship twice last year after losses to lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

But, as you'll see below, awarding UFC title shots to fighters on a losing track is nothing new. In fact, Tate will be the 22nd fighter to challenge a champion immediately following a loss. Those challengers have a combined record of 6-15.

 

Ken Shamrock (UFC 6)

Opponent: Dan Severn

Division: Superfight

Lost to: Minoru Suzuki

Result: Beat Severn for the UFC Superfight Title

Shamrock's controversial loss to Suzuki in Pancrase, a bout his teammates told me was fixed, didn't stop the UFC from granting him a shot at Dan Severn and the superfight title. Shamrock rewarded their confidence with an early guillotine choke.

 

Tank Abbott (UFC 15)

Opponent: Maurice Smith

Division: Heavyweight

Lost to: Don Frye (UU96) and Vitor Belfort (UFC 13)

Result: Stopped by champion Maurice Smith in Round 1

Abbott famously came off the bar stool to replace an injured Dan Severn. The former superfight champion chose to compete in the inaugural Pride, just one week before the already scheduled bout, despite the risk it posed to his UFC title fight. Smith sent Abbott back to the bar quickly with crushing leg kicks.

Shamrock's brutal first fight with Lober

 

John Lober (UFC Brazil)

Opponent: Frank Shamrock

Division: Middleweight (now Light Heavyweight)

Lost to: Ryūshi Yanagisawa, Minoru Suzuki, Joe Pardo

Result: Lost in first round

Lober hardly wrapped himself in glory after becoming the first man to beat Shamrock in a straight no-holds-barred match. He had lost five of his previous six, but the UFC threw Shamrock a bone and let him get his revenge. 

 

Jorge Patino (UFC 18)

Opponent: Pat Miletich

Division: Lightweight (now welterweight)

Lost to: Jose "Pele" Landi Jons (twice)

Result: Lost decision to Pat Miletich

Patino had lost his last two fights, both to the fearsome Pele, and hadn't fought in almost two years. Maybe the matchmakers accidentally called the wrong Brazilian?

 

Kevin Randleman (UFC 23)

Opponent: Pete Williams

Division: Heavyweight

Lost to: Bas Rutten at UFC 20

Result: Won unanimous decision for vacant title

Randleman was coming off a controversial loss to Bas Rutten. When Rutten was forced to vacate the title due to injury, matchmakers gave "the Monster" a second shot at gold. This time he didn't come up short, outwrestling Ken Shamrock student Williams on his way to a unanimous decision and the UFC title.

(Photo by Susumu Nagao/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

 

Tito Ortiz (UFC 25)

Opponent: Wanderlei Silva

Division: Middleweight (now light heavyweight)

Lost to: Frank Shamrock at UFC 22

Result: Won vacant title

Ortiz looked so impressive against Shamrock that he was widely considered the second-best fighter in the division despite his loss. He proved it against Silva, giving Pride and UFC fans plenty to argue about for years to come, as both became dominant champs. 

 

Pedro Rizzo (UFC 34)

Opponent: Randy Couture

Division: Heavyweight

Lost to: Randy Couture at UFC 31

Result: Lost via third-round stoppage

Couture called the first Rizzo fight the hardest of his career. Many thought the Brazilian deserved the nod in a close decision. But "The Natural" set the record straight in the rematch with a decisive win. 

 

Randy Couture (UFC 39)

Opponent: Ricco Rodriguez

Division: Heavyweight

Lost to: Josh Barnett at UFC 36

Result: Lost vacant title to Ricco Rodriguez

When Barnett was stripped of his title after testing positive for steroids, Couture got another chance at redemption. This time he came up short against Rodriguez at his peak.

The origin of the Shamrock/Ortiz feud

 

Ken Shamrock (UFC 40)

Opponent: Tito Ortiz

Division: Light heavyweight

Lost to: Don Frye at Pride 19

Result: Corner stopped fight after the third round

Ortiz had done it all in the sport—except beat a legend. This was his shot, and he proved to be in a different class than the over-matched Shamrock. 

 

Randy Couture (UFC 49)

Opponent: Vitor Belfort

Division: Light heavyweight

Lost to: Vitor Belfort at UFC 44

Result: Won light heavyweight title

Belfort had beaten Couture when the edge of his glove tore the champion's eyelid to shreds. In the rematch, Randy demonstrated that loss was a fluke, breaking the Brazilian's spirit in the course of three rounds. 

 

Justin Eilers (UFC 53)

Opponent: Andrei Arlovski

Division: Heavyweight

Lost to: Paul Buentello at UFC 51

Result: Knocked out in the first round

Eilers lost a title eliminator to Buentello, but when the victor was injured, he filled in to challenge Arlovski. Things didn't go well for the former college football star, who was brutally knocked out in the first round.

(Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

 

Andrei Arlovski (UFC 61)

Opponent: Tim Sylvia

Division: Heavyweight

Lost to: Tim Sylvia at UFC 59

Result: Lost unanimous decision

After a shocking upset loss to Sylvia, who he had previously finished with an Achilles hold at UFC 51, Arlovski was given an immediate shot to regain his championship. Instead, Sylvia won a cautious, plodding decision. 

 

BJ Penn (UFC 63)

 Opponent: Matt Hughes

Division: Welterweight

Lost to: Georges St-Pierre at UFC 58

Result: TKO'ed by the champion

Penn's return to welterweight was a failure on paper. He lost to GSP in a title eliminator, and when St-Pierre was injured, lost to champion Matt Hughes as well. But the written record can't quite capture how hard he pushed both men and how close he came to victory in each fight. 

 

Randy Couture (UFC 68)

Opponent: Tim Sylvia

Division: Heavyweight

Lost to: Chuck Liddell at UFC 57

Result: Beat Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight title

Couture returned from retirement to jump up a weight class and put a five-round beating on Sylvia.

 

Dan Henderson (UFC 82)

Opponent: Anderson Silva

Division: Middleweight

Lost to: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson

Result: Submitted by Silva with a rear naked choke in the second round

Henderson was both the Pride middleweight (205 pounds) and welterweight (185 pounds) champion when the UFC purchased their Japanese rival in 2007. He fought two consecutive unification matches, losing both.

 

Mauricio Rua (UFC 113)

Opponent: Lyoto Machida

Division: Light heavyweight

Lost to: Lyoto Machida at UFC 104

Result: Won the UFC title

Rua was robbed of a decision in the first fight with Machida. The judges were so awful in that fight, the UFC brass decided to give him a second shot. This time he knocked the champion out to remove any doubt.

 

BJ Penn (UFC 118)

Opponent: Frankie Edgar

Division: Lightweight

Lost to:Frankie Edgar at UFC 112

Result: Lost decision

The longtime champion's loss to Edgar was controversial enough to warrant another opportunity. Penn failed to make the most of it, falling short a second time against the undersized Edgar. 

 

Frankie Edgar (UFC 150)

Opponent: Benson Henderson

Division: Lightweight

Lost to: Benson Henderson at UFC 144

Result: Lost split decision

This time it was Edgar's turn to avenge a controversial decision. Like Penn, he couldn't quite get the job done in another close fight.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

 

Frankie Edgar (UFC 156)

Opponent: Jose Aldo

Division: Featherweight

Lost to: Benson Henderson at UFC 144 and UFC 150

Result: Lost unanimous decision

Perhaps this was a sign of how the UFC felt about Edgar's losses to Henderson. They awarded him an immediate title shot at 145 pounds, despite consecutive losses and no history in the featherweight division. He lost for a third time in a row to Aldo. 

 

Nick Diaz (UFC 158)

Opponent: Georges St-Pierre

Division: Welterweight

Lost to: Carlos Condit at UFC 143

Result: Lost unanimous decision

Diaz lost his UFC return to Carlos Condit. But his long-simmering feud with St-Pierre, it was decided, was compelling enough to warrant a title shot anyway. 

 

Chael Sonnen (UFC 159)

Opponent: Jon Jones

Division: Light heavyweight

Lost to: Anderson Silva at UFC 148

Result: Beaten in the first round

Sonnen made himself one of the UFC's most popular fighters on the strength of his motor mouth. His reward was a shot at Jones, despite having lost his most recent fight and competing in a new weight class.

 

Miesha Tate (Upcoming UFC Event)

Opponent: Ronda Rousey

Division: Bantamweight

Lost to: Cat Zingano at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale

Result: Inevitable armbar loss to Ronda Rousey?

Tate and Rousey engaged in a war of words last year that ended with a Rousey armbar win. Tate was expected to beat newcomer Cat Zingano and earn a rematch. But when Zingano injured her knee, Tate was waiting in the wings for chance at redemption.

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