UFC 173: Renan Barao and the 10 Best Fighters Who Have Never Lost in the UFC

Robert Aaron ContrerasContributor IIIMay 23, 2014

UFC 173: Renan Barao and the 10 Best Fighters Who Have Never Lost in the UFC

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    The first half of 2014 has been a busy one for the UFC.

    With so many events, rarely have fans been treated to a pay-per-view that is actually worth its salt in name-talent.

    But UFC 173 more than fits the bill because Joe Silva and Co. have finally presented fans a main card worthy of a pay-per-view.

    The event features a pair of elite scuffles comprised of Daniel Cormier vs. Dan Henderson and Robbie Lawler vs. Jake Ellenberger. In addition, UFC 173 kicks off the night with two fights just waiting to explode with excitement: Takeya Mizugaki vs. Francisco Rivera and Jamie Varner vs. James Krause. 

    But, of course, the night culminates with a UFC title fight between defending champ Renan Barao and the best (and only) “monkey-style” fighter the division has ever seen, T.J. Dillashaw.

    Barao comes in as a huge 8-1 favorite over his Team Alpha Male adversary. But having showcased an almost unprecedented level of technicality—such as what may be the best jab in MMA—during his unbelievable 33-fight unbeaten streak, the odds are justified.

    UFC President Dana White has even gone as far as saying Barao is the very best fighter in the world. And considering his 7-0 record under the UFC banner, one might be inclined to agree. 

    Inspired by Renan "The Baron" Barao’s perfect organizational record, here are the 10 best active fighters who have never lost in the UFC.

Jon Jones: 20-and-Matt Hamill

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    A list like this can't completely ignore the circumstances surrounding Jon Jones' one and only loss.

    Back in December 2009, Jones took on the strong wrestler Matt Hamill at The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights finale.

    And Hamill didn't stand a chance.

    Jones landed a trip on Hamill with two and half minutes to go in the first round and quickly secured full-mount. From there, things went from bad to hellish for "The Hammer." Jones reigned down a violent blaze of elbows and punches to Hamill's face. 

    But after a bit of frustration from not getting the finish from referee Steve Mazzagatti, "Bones" (presumably in the heat of the moment) threw down four consecutive illegal downward 12-6 elbows. 

    Mazzagati originally took a point away from Jones but, when Hamill was unable to continue, the current UFC light heavyweight champion was handed the most technical of losses.

    Eleven fights later, his official record stands at 20-1.  

Honorable Mentions

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    15. Gunnar Nelson

    “Gunni” Nelson, the Icelandic prospect, kicks off this list at 15 above his training partner Conor McGregor (2-0 in the UFC). Nelson, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, has integrated a karate-style stance to his method of fighting and, as a result, is 3-0 in the UFC with two submission victories.

     

    14. Ali Bagautinov

    Despite a recent two-year ban from the International Sambo Federation following a positive test for Methylhexaneamine, Bagautinov still has a date with flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson at UFC 174. Bagautinov’s modest 3-0 record has already landed him a title shot, but it may be attributable to a lack of viable contenders in the UFC's lightest weight class.

     

    13. Yoel Romero 

    Maybe the most accomplished wrestler to ever step foot inside the Octagon. The 37-year-old Romero is undefeated in both the UFC and middleweight. His grappling and natural punching power are forces to be reckoned with at 185 pounds.

     

    12. Ryan LaFlare

    LaFlare doesn’t possess the power nor a style capable of producing many finishes, but his well-rounded game is good enough for a perfect 4-0 record inside the Octagon. With the way this southpaw mixes up calculated striking and timely takedowns, chances are he’ll break into the division’s Top 10 within a year. 

     

    11. Myles Jury

    Myles “The Fury” Jury is 5-0 in the UFC. He’s recorded two finishes, one a guillotine submission of Chris Saunders and the other a knockout victory over The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 runner-up Ramsey Nijem. Most recently, Jury completely outclassed the original Ultimate Fighter winner Diego Sanchez at UFC 171.

    He expects to continue his climb up the UFC’s lightweight division at UFC Fight Night 44 where he meets the heavy-handed Abel Trujillo.

10. Kelvin Gastelum

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    At just 22 years old, Kelvin Gastelum is 3-0 in the UFC and undefeated in his career.

    He also seems to be on pace to be the greatest Ultimate Fighter winner of all-time.

    Victorious in his latest showing—a wonderful tussle against the always-brutal Rick Story—this welterweight prospect showcased a potent jab and respectable footwork. These improved striking abilities on top of a strong wrestling base make up a very formidable skill set for such a young fighter.

    And Gastelum is going to need it. The chances of any prospect breaking into the upper echelon of the sport’s most dangerous division anytime soon seem bleak.

    But, as clearly demonstrated in his upstaging win over a heavily-favored Uriah Hall just over one year ago at The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale, “Mini Cain” doesn’t bother to constrain himself to odds.

    This humble young man takes one more step forward in pursuit of welterweight glory on June 28 when he faces off against Nicholas Musoke in Zuffa, LLC's first appearance in San Antonio, Texas since WEC 43 in 2009.

9. Tim Kennedy

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    Middleweight contender and Twitter persona extraordinaire Tim Kennedy has yet to taste defeat since dropping a decision loss to Luke Rockhold back in mid-2012.

    That was for the Strikeforce middleweight belt, and Kennedy is doing everything in his power to earn another title shot—this time in the UFC.

    Kennedy has won his last four fights—three coming inside the Octagon. In his organizational debut, he proved himself too well-rounded for Brazilian jiu-jitsu maestro Roger Gracie and earned a unanimous decision victory—despite giving up six inches in length and five inches in reach.

    Next, Kennedy—an Army Ranger—put on a show for his fellow troops at UFC: Fight for the Troops 3 when he blasted Rafael Natal with a left hand and pounced on his helpless body for the knockout.

    These two impressive outings (and a very creative Twitter callout) were enough to secure Kennedy the highest profile fight of his career against Michael Bisping. To the surprise of the majority of the MMA media, Kennedy consistently beat Bisping to the punch and utilized tremendous grappling to pull off a huge upset.

    And of course, true to form, Kennedy wasn’t the least bit shy to rub the win in the faces of his skeptics on Twitter:

    The MMA "experts" at @BloodyElbow @BR_MMA and @MMAjunkie went 2-21 in predicting my fight last night. :-)

    — Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) April 17, 2014

    Kennedy is moving forward with an open mind. Recently, he joined the Joe Rogan Experience and expressed interest in a variety of intriguing possibilities including a rematch with Ronaldo Souza and even a drop down to welterweight.

8. Alexis Davis

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    Having fought the crème de la crème of women’s MMA over the last seven years, Alexis Davis has proven to be one of the very best female fighters in the sport, regardless of weight class.

    “Ally-Gator,” as Davis is called, is a combined 7-1 in Strikeforce, Invicta FC and the UFC—an impressive feat. But it’s her 3-0 record under the UFC banner that lands her on this list. 

    She’s earned herself a shot at Ronda Rousey’s throne by outworking each and every one of her UFC opponents. Davis has scraped out decision victories over Rosie Sexton, Liz Carmouche and, most recently, Jessica Eye at UFC 170 earlier this year. 

    Ahead of her showdown with Rousey, Davis has begun to train her wrestling at the famed gym Team Alpha Male.

    The Sacramento-based Team Alpha Male is notorious for numerous unsuccessful bids for UFC gold, but the move still gives Davis her best shot of stealing Rousey's championship belt at UFC 175 in Las Vegas, Nev.

7. Khabib Nurmagomedov

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    From making talented lightweights look really bad to wrestling real-life bears, there doesn’t seem to be a thing the Dagestani phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov can’t do.

    At just 25 years of age, Nurmagomedov is 6-0 in his UFC career and a remarkable 22-0 overall. He’s often described as having a Combat Sambo base, but his skill set is looking more and more indecipherable to his opponents with each passing victory.

    Per FightMetric, Nurmagomedov has managed to pull off an almost inconceivable 32 takedowns in his last three fights.

    This stretch of grappling supremacy includes Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Rafael dos Anjos and two of the most physically imposing lightweights the sport of MMA has to offer—Pat Healy and Abel Trujillo.

    His opponents have plenty to worry about.

    Nurmagomedov's takedown ability looks like the very best in the division, and his flinging, abnormal striking doesn't make things any easier.

    This scary blend of skill and ingenuity seem more than capable of pushing "The Eagle" to heights that very few lightweights have ever seen.

    In an interview with M1 Global (h/t MMA Fighting), Nurmagomedov states he is currently eyeing a return to the Octagon in September and anticipates a title shot with a win then.

6. Ronaldo Souza

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    Ronaldo Souza, winner of 10 of his last 11 fights, has shaken up the middleweight division since his UFC debut a year ago.

    As of late, “Jacare” seems to have taken the "gentle art" and flipped it on its head—finishing all but one of his last six opponents since losing the Strikeforce middleweight belt to Luke Rockhold. 

    Souza has made easy work of UFC veterans and middleweight contenders during his three-fight winning streak inside the Octagon.

    He finished former title challenger Yushin Okami in one round after a volley of hard punches, and his ultra-aggressive style of grappling was too much for Chris Camozzi and TriStar phenom Francis Carmont to handle.

    After such a strong run through some of the middleweight division’s top talent, the five-time World Jiu-Jitsu Champion has made it very clear that he has his eyes set on a UFC title shot.

5. Ronda Rousey

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    Ronda Rousey is lethal to the point where it’s just unfair.

    She is 3-0 in the UFC and a proud owner of an imposing 100 percent finishing rate in her nine-fight MMA career.

    Rousey has been extended past the first round just once as a professional (by rival Miesha Tate last December). But after finishing Tate by armbar for the second time in four fights, Rousey pulled off an eight-week turnaround to face-off with Sara McMann at UFC 170.

    She finished her title challenger with strikes in just 66 seconds—the fastest knockout in UFC women’s bantamweight history.

    This Olympic-level Judoka has garnered a huge fan following as a result of her brilliance inside of the cage and brashness outside of it. She even accounts for the UFC’s second-best selling pay-per-view of 2014 with 340,000 buys at UFC 170, second only to UFC 172 that featured Jon Jones. 

    Rousey has defended her UFC crown three times and looks to continue her reign against the surging Alexis Davis at UFC 175 on July 5.

4. Daniel Cormier

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    Daniel Cormier makes his way into this ranking at No. 4 ahead of Ronda Rousey despite having never fought for a UFC championship.

    Rousey’s run through her weight class doesn’t compare to the depth of quality victories Cormier has already put together in his relatively short fighting career (though the UFC's fighter rankings would disagree).

    Cormier’s incredible résumé began in Strikeforce when the now-defunct promotion hosted the Heavyweight Grand Prix, featuring titans Fedor Emilianenko, Alistair Overeem, Sergei Kharitonov, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and Brett Rogers.

    When Cormier—a replacement for Overeem—won the whole thing, it sent massive shockwaves through the heavyweight division. His run through the tournament included a wonderful display of ring generalship against the far more experienced and north-south choke master Jeff Monson.

    He also showed off with a one-round wrecking of “Bigfoot” (becoming the first man to truly separate Silva from his senses) and a seminar in wrestling against Barnett, repeatedly lifting and throwing the former UFC champion around the cage with ease.

    Of course, Cormier’s list of world-class triumphs doesn’t stop there.

    He also holds wins over long-time UFC contenders Frank Mir and Roy Nelson in addition to a ground-and-pound TKO victory over the massive and recently surging Soa Palelei back in 2010.

    “DC” co-main events UFC 173 with MMA legend Dan Henderson this weekend in a bout that could very well be enough to earn the winner a title shot.

3. Chris Weidman

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    Chris Weidman, the current middleweight champion, has perhaps the most integrated skill set in all of MMA.

    His takedown prowess and jiu-jitsu acumen, on top of a masterful gauge of distance and rangy striking ability, make it very easy to see how he’s been able to accumulate a perfect 7-0 record in the sport’s most talent-filled promotion.

    Even the division’s greatest fighter, Anderson Silva, didn’t stand a chance of putting a halt to this state-of-the-art combat machine.

    “The All-American” has left Silva both unconscious and incapacitated on a stretcher in less than four rounds of fight time. 

    But the champ isn’t completely indestructible—despite the 11 flawless outings in his four-year career.

    Earlier this year, Weidman underwent minor surgery on both of his knees. The setback forced him out of his scheduled title defense against former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 173.

    Weidman is now set to meet the Karate stylist at UFC 175 on July 5 in what could be the most stacked card put on by the organization this year.

2. Renan Barao

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    Renan Barao is neither the best fighter in the world or on this list.

    His longevity against quality competition just doesn’t exceed the next fighter to be featured. But his current 33-fight unbeaten streak is still plenty astonishing.

    The 27-year-old Barao made his MMA debut back in April 2005, making him just 18 when he squared off with João Paulo Rodrigues de Souza and suffered the only loss of his career.

    Taking the loss in stride, Barao has since propelled himself to the pinnacle of the 135-pound weight class and a winning streak almost unparalleled in the history of this sport. 

    At 32-1, with 1 no-contest, “The Baron” has been crowned the UFC Bantamweight Champion and is riding hot on a ridiculous 22-fight winning streak.

    This includes seven straight victories under the UFC banner and nine straight under Zuffa, LLC. He also picked up two wins fighting in the WEC, defeating top-10 flyweight Chris Cariaso and recent Bellator title challenger Anthony Leone.

    Already a three-time defending champion (including his two interim title defenses), Barao’s latest challenger is Team Alpha Male standout T.J. Dillashaw, who, depending on who you talk to, hasn’t lost in nearly three years.

    Barao—a monstrous 8-1 betting favorite—headlines UFC 173 along with Dillashaw this weekend at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.

1. Jose Aldo

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    Jose Aldo is an MMA colossus.

    Only 27 years old and already the greatest featherweight of all-time, Aldo holds an unblemished record in his Zuffa career—6-0 in the UFC and 8-0 in the WEC.

    He resembles a natural calamity inside the cage, immersing his opponents under a wave of savage combination punching and earth trembling leg kicks. 

    This Brazilian cyclone first touched down for the world to see back in 2008 at WEC 34. Aldo, just 21 at the time, darted right through former No. 1 featherweight Alexandre “Pequeno” Nogueira, dishing out a violent serving of elbows on the ground to earn a TKO in Round 2.

    Aldo then knocked out four straight opponents in less than one calendar year to earn himself a title shot, including a seven-second annihilation of current top-5 featherweight Cub Swanson via a jaw-dropping double flying knee.

    Against Mike Brown, Aldo proved himself too fast and too much for the two-time defending world champion to handle. That night in November 2009, “Scarface” took his place atop all 145-pound fighters.

    And no one has been able to unseat him since then.

    Not superb strikers like Mark Hominick or Chan Sung-Jung.

    Not power-grapplers and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts like Manvel Gamburyan, Kenny Florian, Chad Mendes or Ricardo Lamas.

    Not even former world champions and pound-for-pound level talent like Urijah Faber and Frankie Edgar.

    Despite their virtue and noble efforts, the featherweight king reigns on.

    Essentially out of fresh contenders, Aldo’s next title defense is set to take place in Los Angeles, Calif. against a man he's already turned back, the reinvigorated and highly-developed “Money” Mendes at UFC 176.

    With a second win over Mendes, Aldo will have had such authority over the 145-pound weight class that a jump up to lightweight will seem to be the only step forward.