UFC: Junior Dos Santos, Urijah Faber and 5 Fighters Stuck in No Man's Land
Every UFC fighter steps into the Octagon with the hope of elevating themselves to a UFC title shot. But what happens when there's a major roadblock in the way?
That's the situation in which guys like Junior dos Santos and Urijah Faber find themselves. The end result of fighting is always to push up the rankings, but for these guys, there's only so far they can go. The fighters on this list find themselves in a bit of limbo in that they can defeat nearly every contender thrown their way, but UFC gold is just outside their grasp.
There's always hope for something drastic to change for them to be featured in another title fight, but that's unlikely to happen unless the current champion in their division falters.
Junior dos Santos
Fans everywhere can agree that in recent years, dos Santos has been the second-best heavyweight in MMA.
Unfortunately for the Brazilian, the man who is the best, Cain Velasquez, already owns two victories over dos Santos. And they're not just wins, Velasquez dominated nearly every second of the last two meetings between he and JDS.
JDS will be doing his training at Nova Uniao in the future so let's hope this sparks a change in the career of dos Santos. He came into the Velasquez fights with little strategy outside of attempting to land a knockout punch, completely negating all the other aspects of his game that allow him to land the knockout blow.
Unless Velasquez manages to look extremely weak against Fabricio Werdum later this year with dos Santos taking someone's head off, JDS is unlikely to see another chance at heavyweight gold so long as it's at American Kickboxing Academy around Velasquez's waist.
Benson Henderson has defeated a number of the guys currently residing at the top of the lightweight division. One man he doesn't own a victory over, however, is current UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis.
Henderson dropped a unanimous decision at the final WEC event to Pettis and lost by submission at UFC 164. That marks two losses to the current champion, and Dana White hasn't been big on Henderson's performances in the past.
The former UFC lightweight champ was able to secure a finish in his last fight against Rustam Khabilov but will be pitted against Rafael dos Anjos with Pettis on the sideline filming The Ultimate Fighter opposite Gilbert Melendez.
The problem for Henderson is that besides dropping two fights to the current champion, each of them had a signature moment that will be hard for UFC fans to forget about. From the "Showtime Kick" in their WEC clash to Henderson tapping out in the Octagon, fans have vivid memories of Henderson falling short against the current champion.
If Henderson can continue to finish fights, he may get another chance if Pettis is the champ, but even though he may want revenge on his rival, he may want to pull for Melendez to defeat Pettis in their meeting. Henderson already owns a victory over the former Strikeforce champ, and a Melendez win would open the door for "Smooth" Henderson to get another crack at UFC gold.
Faber has become the poster boy of being stuck in limbo recently. Faber has consistently defeated every fighter put in front of him, outside of his title matchups. Actually, the Team Alpha Male fighter has gone undefeated in every non-title bout during his UFC tenure.
Whereas most of these fighters on the list find themselves in no man's land since they've lost fights to the current champions, Faber now finds himself in limbo because his teammate is the current division champion.
Faber had already dropped two fights against Renan Barao, but where Faber failed, T.J. Dillashaw succeeded. Considering both men are teammates, it's unlikely we will see Faber get another shot at the UFC title with Dillashaw as champion.
The California Kid still hasn't shown visible signs of decline, he's still as quick and talented as he's always been, but at what point does the grind of fighting become too much trouble? Collecting a paycheck is nice and all, but Faber is one of the more marketable fighters in the UFC and can likely enjoy a steady stream of revenue that doesn't involve training camps and getting hit.
Faber will look to merely "stay busy" in a fight that many are considering one of the more lopsided contests in recent memory as he faces Alex Caceres. The fight will be Faber's first time on the preliminary portion of a UFC card.
Miesha Tate finds herself in no woman's land after dropping two fights to current UFC women's bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey, along with a loss to former top challenger Cat Zingano.
Tate has become a major star for women's MMA and is still one of the most recognizable fighters in the sport—not just women's MMA. But for all the accolades and popularity Tate has been enjoying outside the cage, she hasn't found much of it inside the Octagon.
Yes, Tate was able to pick up the win against Liz Carmouche, but it was by the slimmest of margins. Many of these fighters have displayed the ability to stay relevant in their divisions, but Tate has struggled thus far in her UFC career.
It's clear that she hasn't been able to evolve her striking game to match her grappling attack, and it's limited her progress in the UFC. She'll still be featured routinely on UFC cards due to her drawing power, but it's evident that Tate's chances at gaining UFC gold (whether it's Rousey or anyone else) are slim to none.
Wait what? A UFC champion stuck in limbo?
I know, it doesn't make sense at first, but Demetrious Johnson has hit what some would call a glass ceiling. Yes, he's the UFC flyweight champion and heralded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters, but it hasn't translated into Johnson becoming a star for the promotion.
UFC 174 suffered from a weak lineup combined with an even weaker buildup. It will likely be one of the lowest drawing pay-per-views in recent memory, and Johnson's name is going to be associated with that.
Fans haven't gravitated to Johnson in quite the same way they have other dominant champions. Whether it's the "size factor" or his fighting style, Johnson isn't the big draw the UFC desperately needs.
The UFC have given Johnson the opportunity to grow a fanbase by competing on national television multiple times, but that likely won't help UFC 174 buy rates. It's a shame, too, that many fans will tune out when Mighty Mouse steps into the cage because he's without a doubt one of the most technical fighters on the UFC's roster at the moment.
Outside of a "rivalry" with John Dodson, there aren't many options to help elevate Johnson's drawing power and the flyweight division as a whole. Sure, there are a number of guys who are quickly approaching title-contender status, but if nobody is buying, how does Johnson break through to the other side to become the star he can become?