Vitor Belfort and 10 of the Most Undeserving MMA Title Challengers
This concept is nothing new to mixed martial arts fans.
Every once in a while, someone will get a title shot who really doesn't deserve it. In result, MMA fans everywhere are left scratching their heads, asking "What the (expletive)?"
Sometimes these guys get title shots based on their popularity, political reasons, or just because of a lack of legitimate contenders.
Here are 10 fighters who really didn't deserve the title shot they were given.
Steve Jennum and Harold Howard
Vs. each other, UFC 3
Neither Jennum or Howard really fought their way in to the finals.
In Howard's case, he was supposed to face Royce Gracie in the semifinals of the third UFC tournament. But before the fight started, Gracie's corner threw in the towel, and Howard moved on to the finals without even fighting an alternate.
On the other side of the bracket, Ken Shamrock had already won two fights for his spot in the tournament. There are conflicting stories as to why Shamrock pulled out of the finals, but most believe that Ken's end goal was to fight Gracie again. So when Gracie didn't make it to the finals, Shamrock didn't continue on.
Steve Jennum stepped in as an alternate to take on Howard for the UFC tournament title, and disposed of Howard in less than two minutes.
Vs. Matt Hughes, UFC 56
After going 2-1 in his first three fights in the UFC, Joe Riggs was awarded a shot at long-time welterweight champion Matt Hughes. Back in those days, victories over Chris Lytle and Joe Doerksen were enough to put you in the title picture.
There were two major problems before the fight took place.
First, Riggs was training with Hughes at the time he accepted the fight. Hughes basically told him to scram.
Second, Riggs never actually fought for the title. The day before the fight, Riggs missed weight badly. Hughes agreed to fight Riggs in a catchweight bout, and submitted him in under four minutes.
Vs. Wanderlei Silva, Pride 23
You could put just about every Japanese fighter who challenged Silva for his title in a hat, pull one out, and put their name in the title of this slide.
During his long run as Pride Middleweight Champion, Silva faced many fighters who were dubbed "the great Japanese hope." Ok, so I may be making that up, but that's what it sure felt like.
In the end, none of the Japanese fighters Silva faced were able to knock him off his position at the top of the division.
Vs. Chuck Liddell, UFC 54
After defeating Randy Couture for the light heavyweight crown at UFC 52, Liddell made the first defense of his title against Jeremy Horn.
Yes, Horn held a victory against Liddell, but that happened way back at UFC 19. Then Horn got another victory at UFC 22, and didn't fight for the promotion again until his rematch with Liddell for the title.
At the time, the light heavyweight division in the UFC was pretty much comprised of Liddell, Couture, and Tito Ortiz, but couldn't they find anyone better than Horn for their champion to make his first title defense against?
Vs. Alistair Overeem, Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery
So let me get this straight. Under the EliteXC and Strikeforce banner, Rogers beats up four guys who are nowhere near the top of the division.
Ok, so you may be a prospect.
Then Rogers knocks out Andrei Arlovski, who was more than likely just coming back to reality after getting knocked out by Fedor.
Arlovski has a glass chin. Not all that earth shattering.
Then Rogers puts up a decent fight against Fedor, but ends up getting knocked out.
No shame in that.
Then Rogers gets the first crack at Overeem's heavyweight title, and ends up getting manhandled.
I don't get it either.
Vs. Matt Hughes, UFC 60
By the time this fight went down, the sport had done laps around Gracie. It had evolved to a point where even the casual fan knew that he would have no chance against Hughes.
Even though the match took place at a catchweight of 175 lbs, Gracie didn't deserve to be in the same arena with the welterweight champion, much less inside the Octagon against him.
But that didn't stop the UFC from putting it together. They sold a bunch of seats and pay-per-views based off of Gracie's name, and we all witnessed one of the pioneers of the sport get mauled.
Vs. Randy Couture, UFC 91
Yup, Lesnar's mainstream appeal earned him a shot at the true linear UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Why else can you explain someone who's career high being defeating a way past his prime Heath Herring getting a chance to fight for the belt?
Brock made good on his opportunity, as he earned a TKO victory, and became the true UFC heavyweight champion.
Vs. Rich Franklin, UFC 64
Silva had gone 3-2 in his last five fights before signing with the UFC. In his debut, he scored a quick knockout victory over Chris Leben, and then was fast-tracked to a title shot against Rich Franklin.
There weren't many fans—or middleweight fighters—who were happy about Silva getting the title shot, but Dana White was so impressed with Silva that he went with it.
Silva destroyed Franklin on that night back in 2006, and hasn't looked back since.
Vs. Anderson Silva, UFC 126
Seriously, don't you need to fight at least once in a division before you take on the champion?
Belfort getting a shot at Silva was nothing more than the product of a cleaned out middleweight division. You take Anderson Silva out of the mix, and the division is wide open.
But, with Silva still in the division, the UFC will continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel to find more challengers for him.