The Five Most Underrated Fighters in MMA
Underappreciated + Underexposed = Underrated.
It’s a simple formula that describes a host of current MMA fighters who are simply not receiving the proper dap they deserve.
With so many organizations and fighters scattered throughout the globe, it is understandable a few are not properly valued at an ideal level.
These men may be familiar names to hardcore fans; however, they remain outside the purview of the mainstream to varying degrees.
Without further ado, here are five of the most underrated fighters in the sport:
1) Jussier Da Silva—Shooto/Tachi Palace Fights—(7–0)
Out of sight, out of mind for the consensus No. 1-ranked flyweight and current Shooto South American 123-pound champion.
He’s the best fighter in a weight class that is not recognized by the larger MMA promotions such as the UFC, Strikeforce, or DREAM.
As a result, “Formiga,” which means “ant” in Portuguese, has never fought in the United States (yet).
He has only competed in Japan and in his native Brazil, where he is a product of Nova Uniao Kimura in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte.
The UFC sister promotion World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) has flirted with adding a 125-pound division for some time now, but has yet to pull the proverbial trigger.
The good news is that the 25-year-old recently inked a four-fight deal with California-based Tachi Palace Fights.
He will make his promotional debut on December 2.
2) Marlon Sandro—World Victory Road—(17–1)
The current World Victory Road Featherweight Champion Sandro is arguably the most talented 145-pound fighter in the world not named Jose Aldo. Ironically, he also happens to call Nova Uniao home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Aldo, of course, is the current WEC champion and a consensus top five pound-for-pound fighter.
Both men have gone on record as saying they would never fight one another and this remains one hurdle keeping Sandro from signing with the WEC and fighting in the United States.
If it came to fruition, there is a very real possibility he may breeze through two or three top WEC contenders and be staring at a title shot in short order. This would create an undesirable logjam if Aldo was still king.
These circumstances are neglecting Sandro of rightful exposure, of fighting top talent on a consistent basis, and it is detrimental to his bank account.
He is a unique fighter in that he’s jiu-jitsu-based with God-given, dynamic power in his hands. He’s a fighter that should be viewed and appreciated.
Although yet unannounced, expect a battle with Shooto 143-pound champion Hatsu Hioki in his near future.
3) Eddie Alvarez—Bellator—(20–2)
The fighting pride of Kensington in Philadelphia, Pa., Alvarez burst onto the scene in “The Land of the Rising Sun” during the 2008 DREAM Lightweight Grand Prix.
He won over Japanese fans with his aggressive boxing style and hard-nosed demeanor.
Simply put—he’s a finisher.
That style is aesthetically pleasing to viewers. He has taken out his opponent in 18 of his 20 career victories (11 by knockout, seven by submission).
His back-and-forth wars with Joachim Hansen and Tatsuya Kawajiri during the tournament were both legitimate candidates for “Fight of the Year” in all of MMA that year.
In 2009, he began to finally establish himself in the United States as he would go on to become Bellator’s inaugural lightweight champion by winning their first-season tournament.
A New Year’s Eve 2008 loss to Shinya Aoki remains his only career blemish at 155 pounds.
His level of consistency has also allowed him to become a staple in the top five of the lightweight rankings over the past two years.
That notwithstanding, he remains a bit of an enigma to the general MMA populous hampered by the limited market share of Bellator.
He will take on a familiar face in former UFC fighter/Sports Illustrated cover boy Roger Huerta on October 21 at the Bellator 33 event in his hometown of Philadelphia.
The Liacouras Center is a mere three miles from his old neighborhood.
4) Hector Lombard—Bellator—(27–2–1)
If your local Fox Sports Net affiliate has been kind to you over the past few months, you’ve gotten a chance to see Lombard in peak form.
After capturing the Bellator middleweight title in season one, he triumphantly returned for the second stanza with back-to-back knockouts of UFC veteran Jay Silva and Herbert Goodman in non-title bouts. He disposed of both men in a combined 44 seconds.
More impressive yet is his active win streak. Since November 2006, he is 19–0–1.
That’s not a typo.
Critics of his resume will quickly point out that he has not exactly faced a murderer’s row time in and time out, and they would be correct to a certain point.
If given the opportunity someday to fight in a top promotion such as Strikeforce or the UFC, he has both the physical tools and the skills necessary to be a serious threat to their upper-tier 185-pounders.
“Shango” is scheduled to defend his crown against Alexander Shlemenko on October 28 at Bellator 34. Don’t plan on blinking.
5) Evan Dunham—UFC—(11–0)
Four up and four down for Dunham in his brief UFC tenure.
He is coming off his most impressive win to date, defeating Xtreme Couture teammate Tyson Griffin in June at UFC 115 via split decision. Had it not been for a rogue judge, it would have been correctly scored as unanimous.
It was a thorough domination of the 10-fight UFC veteran Griffin by embracing his reach advantage, effective counter punching, and displaying superior grappling.
Since then, however, he has been lost in the shuffle a bit by fellow lightweights like Frankie Edgar, BJ Penn, Gray Maynard, Kenny Florian, and even Takanori Gomi and George Sotiropoulos to a certain degree.
Despite his growing resume, he remains a blip on the radar screen.
A win over former UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk on September 25 at UFC 119 would go a long way in cementing his status as a credible commodity and future title challenger.
Derek Bolender is the lead MMA staff writer for BleacherReport.com. He has also contributed to outlets such as CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, and MMAmania.com.
Follow him on Twitter (@DerekBolender).
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