Climbing to the top of the mountain and becoming a champion in mixed martial arts is an extremely challenging prospect.
Few fighters ascend to the throne in their respective weight classes and sit atop of their division as champion.
MMA requires a unique blend of strength, endurance, flexibility, power, innate skill and the heart of a warrior to become the best.
Many competitors have shined brightly labeled No. 1 contenders and have challenged for titles, only to be decimated in their attempt for the crown.
Most recently, "The Phenom" Vitor Belfort had his championship hopes crushed by a well-placed and devastating front kick by the greatest striker in this sport, Anderson "The Spider" Silva.
Even though Belfort was defeated, he is still a truly remarkable fighter with talent and skills unequaled by many within the UFC and no one outside of the sport.
Possessing amazing fighting skills keeps this list of competitors relevant within their divisions.
However, none of the following fighters will once again challenge for a title or furthermore, sit atop their respective weight classes as champions again.
Even though they may never again be labeled as the No. 1 contender or win an additional title, these fighters have all earned their due respect and can hold their heads high with pride for their accomplishments inside the Octagon.
Please follow along as I provide you with 10 fighters who have fallen from greatness.
I welcome your comments.
Gabriel Gonzaga knocking out Mirko Cro Cop
From 2001-2006, Mirko Cro Cop was a dominant force within the Pride heavyweight division. Outside of losses to top-tier talent Fedor Emelianenko, Mark Hunt and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cro Cop victimized the division for over five years.
Known for his lethal left leg, this former Croatia's police Special Forces member decimated his opposition leaving carnage in the cage with seven victories as a result of (T)KO from his fatal kicks.
During this run, Cro Cop challenged for the Pride heavyweight championship on two separate occasions and won the 2006 open-weight Grand Prix tournament.
In 2007, Cro Cop signed with the UFC and was instantly regarded as a threat for the UFC heavyweight championship.
Unfortunately, that prediction never came to fruition. In his second UFC fight, Cro Cop himself was knocked out by a brutal head kick from the Brazilian, Gabriel Gonzaga.
Reeling from that KO loss, the Croatian continued his downward spiral losing four of his next 10 contests.
He's 4-5 in the UFC since 2007, and this one-time most lethal striker on the planet is now challenging to compete for his job.
A loss to Roy Nelson at UFC 137 will be Cro Cop's third straight defeat resulting in a dismissal from the sport's biggest promotion.
Dan "The Outlaw" Hardy stormed onto the UFC welterweight scene behind a flurry of fists and dominant performances by the outspoken, brash Brit.
Four dominant victories between 2008-2009 set "The Outlaw" up for a showdown with Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight championship.
Losing a one-sided affair to the sport's pound-for-pound king at UFC 111, Hardy's demise did not end there.
His rise back to prominence was thwarted by four successive defeats, most recently at the hands of a guillotine choke by Chris Lytle at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on Aug. 14.
"I think I had the quickest rise and the quickest fall the UFC's ever seen. Four fights up, four fights down," Hardy told MMAJunkie.
Re-evaluating his career, Hardy is hopeful for a reinvention of his talents.
"I think I just need to really dedicate the time to it and either come back in a blaze of glory and make a run for the belt or do something else. I'm not sure yet," Hardy stated.
The UFC welterweight division is stacked with talent. Hardy's quest to climb back up the ladder will be an arduous one.
With the emergence of Rick Story, Charlie Brenneman and the rejuvenation of BJ Penn at the 170-pound division, in addition to solid contenders Carlos Condit, Jon Fitch and the recently added Nick Diaz all gunning for Georges St-Pierre's elusive title, I do not see Hardy defeating all these top prospects to be once again considered as the No. 1 contender.
Mauricio "Shogun" Rua has long been regarded as one of the top mixed martial artists on the planet.
Currently ranked the No. 2 light heavyweight by Sherdog and the No. 10 pound-for-pound fighter in the world, this Brazilian is the former UFC light heavyweight champion and Pride middleweight grand prix champion.
With these accolades deservedly provided "Shogun," how could I add Rua to a list of fighters who have fallen from greatness?
That answer is simple—three consecutive knee surgeries.
As a strength and conditioning coach and someone who has worked with professional athletes since 1998, I have first hand experience with respect to the debilitating impact that knee injuries have on dynamic athletes.
Basketball players who suffer micro-fracture surgeries are a shell of their former selves. Running backs in the NFL rarely remain in the league following a knee injury. The force and impact placed on the joint is too great to remain competitive.
Mixed martial arts is no different than the other major sports. Knee injuries in MMA develop additional scar tissue which limits a fighters training intensity and effects their camps.
Additionally, the training itself causes further damage to the knee joint requiring substantial rehabilitation and time away from skill development.
Furthermore, conditioning and weight cuts are directly impacted by a fighter's inability to train with the same volume and intensity that allowed them to rise to prominence in the first place.
Rua is an explosive fighter requiring tremendous strength, power, and movement. Losing a step in quickness as well as suffering a loss in power with his strikes, "Shogun's" once-dominant stand-up skills have diminished in their effectiveness.
"Shogun's" three knee surgeries will never heal to 100 percent. His future as a fighter will forever more be impacted by the surgeon's knife.
This one-time UFC light heavyweight champion will never defeat the likes of Jon Jones or even challenge the quickness and explosiveness of Rashad Evans.
Winner of season one of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin's future within the UFC looked very bright.
Rising to prominence and capturing the UFC light heavyweight championship with a defeat of Quinton Jackson at UFC 86 in 2008, Griffin's ascension to the title was as a result of his tremendous heart, dedication, cardiovascular conditioning and work ethic.
Good at all facets of the fight game, yet not great at any of them, Griffin is a true warrior but is not dominant on his feet or on the ground, with six knockout victories and seven submission wins.
Known for his propensity to stand and trade inside the Octagon, this over-confidence in his stand-up skills cost Griffin back-to-back defeats at the hands of Anderson Silva and Rashad Evans.
A talented fighter without a dominant skill-set, Griffin's ability to defeat the top-tier talent including Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones, Quinton Jackson, and the aforementioned Rashad Evans is unlikely.
A respected competitor, Griffin's talents as a fighter should always be viewed with high regard. Unfortunately, these talents will never again secure a No. 1 contender ranking for the former TUF champion.
Defeating Kenny Florian in the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego "The Vision" Sanchez was crowned the middleweight champion of TUF.
Tearing through five straight opponents, including victories over Nick Diaz and Karo Parysian, Sanchez was destined for greatness.
Unfortunately, his destiny was short-lived. Suffering back-to-back defeats to both Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, Sanchez attempted to reinvent himself within the UFC lightweight division.
Earning two straight victories in his new weight class, "The Vision" catapulted into the No. 1 contender ranking challenging the then-UFC lightweight champion, "The Prodigy" BJ Penn.
Receiving a savage beating at the hands of "The Prodigy," holes in Sanchez's game were exploited as Penn destroyed "The Vision" en route to a TKO victory as a result of a doctor's stoppage.
Known for his tenacity, aggressiveness, and cardiovascular conditioning, Sanchez's ground game at one time dominated the opposition.
However, today's competitors all possess equally versed ground abilities. Additionally, Sanchez's stand-up skills have never been exceptional.
Without a dominant facet to his skill-set, "The Vision" will remain competitive. Moving back to the welterweight division, Sanchez has earned two straight victories.
If he continue his winning ways at 170 pounds, then his destiny will not be that as a gate keeper.
This one-time 12-0 light heavyweight was the top prospect alongside Jon Jones. Ryan "Darth" Bader rode his explosive right hand and excellent wrestling pedigree to the top of the UFC light heavyweight division.
Defeating the likes of Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Bader was one victory away from challenging for the championship.
Along came Jon Jones and out went Bader's hopes to compete for the title.
Suffering a one-sided defeat in February of 2011 to the current UFC light heavyweight champion, Jon "Bones" Jones, "Darth" was then provided a second chance to prove his worth as the top prospect within the division.
Along came Tito Ortiz, and once again, out went Bader's hopes to compete for the title.
Thrashing the former TUF tournament winner at the 1:56 mark of Round 1, Ortiz's annihilation of Bader in July has crushed the promise of this former Arizona State University wrestling standout.
Bader's one-dimensional skill-set in which he is reliant on his explosive right hand and wrestling pedigree will not challenge the top fighters in this division.
Because Bader is young and for the most part, injury free, "Darth" still possesses potential. However, I do not believe his potential will challenge the likes of Lyoto Machida, Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans or the aforementioned Jon Jones.
C.B. Dollaway, like his fellow TUF brethren, rose to stardom because of his involvement on The Ultimate Fighter reality show.
His meteoric rise through the UFC middleweight rankings was exacerbated by his 5-1 record inside the Octagon in his six following fights after leaving the show.
Defeating mid-level talent, Dollaway's skills were put to the test in March when he faced off against the hard-hitting Filipino, Mark Munoz.
Suffering a TKO loss in just 0:54 seconds of Round 1, "The Doberman's" lack of bite in this matchup and subsequent complaining caused by what he believes was an early stoppage, has left a sour taste in the mouths of the fans.
Looking to rebound from his complaint-riddled bout with Munoz, Dollaway was recently defeated by the up-and-coming middleweight prospect Jared Hamman this past weekend at UFC Live on Versus 5.
Physically, Dollaway possesses tremendous skills and great potential. Mentally, however, he does not have the resolve to battle through the elite of the UFC middleweight division.
Honestly, I will be surprised if he is victorious in his next contest and remains employed by Dana White.
Yves Lavigne coming to the rescue of Rich Franklin
Rich "Ace" Franklin is a stand-up guy and someone I have trained with on numerous occasions. An excellent role model and a true ambassador to the sport, it pains me to add this potential Hall of Fame fighter to this list.
Reality, however, supersedes my personal opinion of Franklin.
"Ace" dominated the UFC middleweight division for two years defeating all adversaries until facing off against Anderson "The Spider" Silva at UFC 64 in 2006.
Decimated by Silva's unequaled striking abilities, Franklin was overwhelmed with the various weapons and striking angles that "The Spider" imposes in his matchups.
Climbing back up the ranks to challenge for the championship again in 2007, "Ace's" fate was no different on that night in front of his hometown of Cincinnati as Silva demolished the former champion battering Franklin with a brutal assault of knee strikes.
The quintessential nemesis, Anderson Silva is Rich Franklin's Achilles heel and someone that "Ace" will never defeat.
Competing within the light heavyweight division and various catch-weight bouts, Franklin has enjoyed nominal success with a 4-3 record after that fateful night in Cincinnati.
On the tail-end of his competitive fighting career, Franklin will always be remembered for his class both inside and outside of the Octagon but will never embrace a championship belt again.
"The California Kid" Urijah Faber placed the 145-pound weight class on the mixed martial arts' map.
Without Faber's success within the WEC featherweight division, subsequent competitors including Dominick Cruz, Mike Brown, and Jose Aldo would not receive the recognition and publicity they do now.
A pioneer within the sport, Faber's five title defenses drew millions of fans to the WEC landscape and proved that the lower weight classes can be a force within the sport.
Recently dropping to the bantamweight division, Faber's hopes for another championship were thwarted by the current UFC bantamweight title holder, Dominick Cruz.
Battling Cruz to a five-round decision loss, Faber does not possess the necessary tools to reclaim a title belt by defeating Cruz.
With the rise of fellow Team Alpha Male fighter Chad Mendes and other top-notch competitors including Demetrious Johnson through the ranks, the likelihood of "The California Kid" once again wearing championship gold is very slim.
Brock Lesnar sat atop the UFC heavyweight division for almost two years. Dominating the opposition with his unrivaled strength and power, this freak of nature steam-rolled through his competition.
A one-dimensional fighter, Lesnar's lack of a balanced skill-set was exploited by the current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.
Picking apart the behemoth of a man with pin-point strikes and devastating leg kicks, Velasquez secured the title in just 4:12 of Round 1.
Fast forward a year and Lesnar is now suffering from his second bout of diverticulitis. This debilitating intestinal disease ravages the host's body sapping their strength, body weight and overall physical attributes.
Diverticulitis has rendered Lesnar a fraction of the man he once was. Reliant on his body size, physical strength and power; without those dominant aspects Lesnar has lost his strengths inside the Octagon.
Not a talented striker with a minimal ground game, Lesnar's hopes to reclaim a title hanged in the balance of his genetic capabilities.
Because of the disease, Lesnar can not train to the level he needs to so as to enhance his overall fighting abilities.
Proficient striking takes years to accomplish and many grueling hours inside the gym. Without the ability to train, this former champion will never enhance his skill set.
The advent of young heavyweights including Junior dos Santos, Pat Berry, Matt Mitrione and Travis Browne will continue to excel in their fighting abilities as Lesnar continues to recover from this disease.
It will be impossible for this former champion to accelerate the learning curve and defeat any of these rising stars to once again challenge for the title.