10 Best UFC Fighters with 3 Fights or Less Under Their Belt
When thinking about competitors who lack experience inside the Octagon, prospects come to mind.
However, some of the best fighters in the world have only had a couple of UFC bouts. A select few, such as Eddie Alvarez, have never even competed on the biggest stage in MMA.
While it's not easy to climb the ranks in smaller promotions, highly ranked UFC newcomers can fight their way to a championship rather quickly. Right now, multiple fighters with less than four UFC appearances are set to compete for titles in the coming months.
Alexis Davis will challenge Ronda Rousey on Saturday. Gilbert Melendez, meanwhile, will coach opposite Anthony Pettis on The Ultimate Fighter 20 before getting a second crack at UFC gold.
Where do Davis and Melendez rank among UFC fighters with three or fewer trips to the Octagon? Here are the top 10 fighters with less than four UFC appearances.
10. Tarec Saffiedine
UFC Record: 1-0
UFC Wins: Hyun Gyu Lim
Although his last Strikeforce bout occurred in January 2013, Tarec Saffiedine has only been healthy enough to take one walk to the Octagon.
The final Strikeforce welterweight champion, he was a promising addition to the UFC welterweight division. However, injuries have prevented him from gaining momentum with his new promotion.
He ended a 12-month hiatus when he met Hyun Gyu Lim in January. While the matchup ended up being more competitive than it probably should have been, Saffiedine's leg kicks left Lim barely able to walk at the end of the contest. The win showed signs that the Belgian could return to the form he had in a similar win over Nate Marquardt, who he also leg kicked for five rounds to claim the Strikeforce crown.
Currently ranked No. 10 among 170-pound contenders, Saffiedine could make a serious run at UFC gold if he can find a way to evade the injury bug.
9. Alexis Davis
UFC Record: 3-0
UFC Wins: Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Rosi Sexton
Since losing to Sarah Kaufman in her final Strikeforce appearance, Alexis Davis has been on a roll.
The Canadian submitted Hitomi Akano and Shayna Baszler under the Invicta FC banner before joining the UFC roster. Since then, Davis has won three more fights, including a decision win over UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche in November 2013.
Winning five consecutive bouts was enough for her to earn a shot at the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship. While she's a huge underdog heading into her meeting with Ronda Rousey, Davis has proved she's among the best in the 135-pound division.
With three UFC fights under her belt, Davis would not have been included had this list been made after July 5.
8. Cat Zingano
UFC Record: 1-0
UFC Wins: Miesha Tate
For nearly 15 months, Cat Zingano has been the top contender in the women's bantamweight division.
In her UFC debut, she stopped Miesha Tate with strikes. While that was supposed to be enough to earn her a title shot against Rousey, knee injuries and a family tragedy have prevented Zingano from returning to the Octagon.
However, she is now back to training. Among current UFC fighters, she might be the biggest threat to knock Rousey off her perch atop the 135-pound class.
7. Gegard Mousasi
UFC Record: 2-1
UFC Wins: Mark Munoz, Ilir Latifi
Barring bout cancellation, Gegard Mousasi is one month away from being ineligible for this discussion.
At UFC 176, Mousasi will compete in his fourth UFC bout, a rematch with Ronaldo Souza, whom he stopped with an upkick in September 2008. If he can find a way to beat the Brazilian again, Mousasi would be near the front of the line for a shot at the winner of Saturday's middleweight title fight between Chris Weidman and Lyoto Machida.
In his three UFC appearances, Mousasi has only lost to Machida. However, he recently rebounded with an impressive submission win over Mark Munoz to remain in title contention.
6. Tim Kennedy
UFC Record: 3-0
UFC Wins: Michael Bisping, Rafael Natal, Roger Gracie
Tim Kennedy has wasted no time taking care of business inside the Octagon.
With three UFC wins on his record, he has climbed to the No. 6 position in the middleweight rankings. While Bisping has never fought for a UFC championship, beating him like Kennedy did in April makes a fighter elite in the 185-pound division.
Kennedy's next appearance will remove him from this group. However, he is still waiting to hear who will be next for him.
5. Luke Rockhold
UFC Record: 2-1
UFC Wins: Tim Boetsch, Costas Philippou
Luke Rockhold was the final Strikeforce middleweight champion, so it does not come as a surprise that he has found success in the UFC middleweight class.
In his first trip to the Octagon, he ventured to Brazil, where he ran into Vitor Belfort and a spinning heel kick. Rockhold has responded well since that setback, though. Finishes against Tim Boetsch and Costas Philippou have the American Kickboxing Academy product back in the running for a shot at the 185-pound crown.
Right now, he is awaiting news on his next adversary. When he does step into the Octagon again, Rockhold will be ineligible for this list of competitors with less than four UFC bouts.
4. Ronaldo Souza
UFC Record: 3-0
UFC Wins: Francis Carmont, Yushin Okami, Chris Camozzi
With three wins in three UFC bouts, Ronaldo Souza hasn't wasted any time since joining the world's top MMA organization.
The world-class grappler has beaten Francis Carmont and Chris Camozzi on the ground. However, he's also gotten it done with his striking, stopping Yushin Okami with punches in the opening round.
In August, Souza will no longer be considered among these fighters, as he'll compete against Gegard Mousasi in his fourth UFC outing. An impressive win in that matchup could be all "Jacare" needs to get his first crack at UFC gold.
3. Gilbert Melendez
UFC Record: 1-1
UFC Wins: Diego Sanchez
While Melendez has only beaten Diego Sanchez inside the Octagon, he remains one of the most talented UFC fighters with less than four trips to the biggest stage in MMA.
The former Strikeforce champion debuted with a title fight against Benson Henderson, and he'll soon get his second shot at the UFC 155-pound championship. Set to coach opposite Anthony Pettis on TUF 20, Melendez will challenge "Showtime" in January.
Although he doesn't have many big UFC wins, Melendez was widely considered the best non-UFC fighter in MMA for years prior to his signing with the promotion. "El Nino" defeated Josh Thomson, Jorge Masvidal, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Clay Guida and many more prior to joining the UFC roster.
2. Dominick Cruz
UFC Record: 2-0
UFC Wins: Demetrious Johnson, Urijah Faber
This list has been primarily comprised of Strikeforce imports and fighters in the newly formed women's bantamweight division. However, former WEC champion Dominick Cruz is also still short of four UFC appearances.
Battling a series of injuries, he has not competed since an October 2011 win over Demetrious Johnson. "Mighty Mouse" has since become a dominant flyweight champion, while Cruz had his bantamweight title taken away due to inactivity.
Dominick Cruz eyeing potential August return, interested in Takeya Mizugaki match-up http://t.co/TnMgvHJz2i— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) June 26, 2014
Cruz's return appears to be nearing, but he's been close to coming back before, only to suffer another setback. The only thing keeping him from topping this list is that it has been so long since he's competed that it's hard to know whether he'll be the same fighter.
1. Ronda Rousey
UFC Record: 3-0
UFC Wins: Sara McMann, Miesha Tate, Liz Carmouche
With only nine MMA bouts on her record, Ronda Rousey tops this list despite competing under the UFC banner for one-third of her career.
Already, she has beaten Sara McMann, Miesha Tate and Liz Carmouche, who are considered among the toughest contenders in her division. Next up for the women's bantamweight champion will be Alexis Davis, who isn't being given much of a chance to dethrone the queen of MMA.
I want to say these Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis odds are crazy, but, nah, I still wouldn't put money on Davis. http://t.co/6xJppQepCf— Ben Fowlkes (@benfowlkesMMA) June 30, 2014
Following her bout with Davis on Saturday, Rousey will no longer be a fighter who would be eligible for this list. And with how active she has been since joining the UFC roster, it's unlikely she'll be considered new to the UFC for very long.