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Chris Leben and the Top Gatekeeper in Every Division

Matthew HemphillCorrespondent IINovember 6, 2011

Chris Leben and the Top Gatekeeper in Every Division

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    Chris Leben came up short again at UFC 138 and though he probably has a few more years left in his career it's a good guess he will probably never be a champion.

    With that said he is still the measuring stick the rest of the middleweight division is tested by.

    He is one of those fighters that every division needs.

    The one that separates the future title holders and their challengers from the rest.

    Though it is a job no fighter really wants, he does it well and better than any other middleweight.

    He isn't alone.

    Here are the best gatekeepers by division.

Heavyweight: Cheick Kongo

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    This might be a bit biased as I have already written an article about Kongo and his gatekeeper status.

    However, it is worth mentioning the man's last two losses in recent years have been to former title holder Frank Mir and current champion Cain Velasquez.

    It's true Kongo should probably have a loss to UFC-newcomer Travis Browne but he was able to escape with a draw.

    Browne has also beaten his last two opponents since his draw with Kongo and is undefeated in the UFC so it might just prove the point even more.

    Kongo recently beat Matt Mitrione in his first step up.  

    Mitrione was starting to get some buzz and fans wanted to see if he could live up to the hype.

    Considering Kongo was able to beat him by unanimous decision he succeeded in stopping the hype train and kept his status as the UFC's best heavyweight gatekeeper.

Light Heavyweight: Rich Franklin

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    This is one of a few slides that will catch some flak.  After all, Franklin is a former middleweight champion.

    However, this article is about gatekeepers in their weight classes and in the light heavyweight division. Franklin is just that.

    The man has traded wins and losses ever since he stepped up to the 205-pound division.

    Franklin has beaten a faded Chuck Liddell, Matt Hamill and Wanderlei Silva, but dropped fights to Forrest Griffin, Vitor Belfort in a 195-pound fight and a close decision to Dan Henderson.

    Alternately getting losses against the top of the division and beating most of the faded veterans along with talented, but limited fighters is what a gatekeeper does.

    It seems to be what Franklin has become.

Middleweight: Chris Leben

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    The man who started this article.

    Leben was a man who at one point was undefeated in the UFC.

    He only lost to then uncrowned future champion Anderson Silva.

    Then better fighters started making their way to the UFC.

    Though he lost to some competition that might be stopped by gatekeepers in the past, his recent improvement has helped him get him wins and a new-found niche in the UFC.

    The best middleweight litmus test for future champions.

    It isn't exactly what Leben started fighting for, but it is entertaining for the fans.

    Considering he has now lost to Stann and Munoz while beating everyone else, it is safe to say Leben still has plenty of life in his UFC career.

    It just won't be as a champion.

Welterweight: Josh Koscheck

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    It's tempting to put down Koscheck as a challenger rather than a gatekeeper.

    Even with two losses to George St-Pierre he still is at the top of the UFC welterweight division and could probably take on most welterweights who even think about challenging for the title.

    At the same time he has dropped fights to Paulo Thiago and Thiago Alves.  He also refuses to fight teammate Jon Fitch so it might be possible that Fitch could also beat Koscheck.

    On the other hand Koscheck might just have a weakness for Brazilians with the name Thiago.

    It's more likely Koscheck, for as much as he has improved, still just isn't the best.

    It will also be interesting to see how he does in his next fight after facing Matt Hughes.  The UFC might match him up with another top fighter and if Koscheck ends up on the wrong side of victory then he will have cemented his status as gatekeeper.

Lightweight: Kenny Florian

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    This is probably the most subversive pick for gatekeeper and might even beat Kongo for best gatekeeper in the UFC.

    Florian has mostly lost to champions and beaten everyone else.

    Normally that wouldn't mean gatekeeper status, but two things change this.

    The first is that Florian recently lost to Gray Maynard in a non-title fight, showing he could lose to someone other than a champion.

    The other is the sheer amount of title shots he has lost.

    He has lost three different shots at the lightweight and featherweight titles.

    At this point he may be the championship gatekeeper, but it still means that he loses consistently to a high level of competition.

    It just happens to be the highest level of competition.

    Depending on if Florian does fight again and how the rest of his career goes, he may just become the best gatekeeper the UFC has ever seen.

    That might be a bittersweet thing for Florian, but it would still be impressive nonetheless.

Featherweight: Leonard Garcia

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    Garica may just be the worst gatekeeper on this list.

    He loses more fights then any other man in this article, but he loses to some of the better fights and more importantly he always loses in a way that is fun and gives his opponent a run for their money.

    Part of being a gatekeeper is being able to give any opponent a tough time and Garcia certainly does that.

    It might not be pretty and it certainly isn't technical, but Garcia always makes opponents and fans get rowdy and anxious when he comes out swinging.

    Garcia might one day be in danger of keeping his job even with his style of fighting, but it isn't going to be for another fight or two.

    As for his status as gatekeeper, he might just have to win his next fight to keep it.

Bantamweight: Takeya Mizugaki

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    Mizugaki is probably one of the more underrated fighters in the UFC and the most underrated in the bantamweight division.

    The Japanese fighter has only lost to Urijah Faber, Miguel Torres, Scott Jorgenson and Brian Bowles in his UFC and WEC career.

    Each one is either a former champion or a top contender and with the exception of Faber, none have been able to finish him.

    Even Faber had to choke him unconscious to win the fight.

    Mizugaki's determination to continue on even when the odds are stacked against him and not tap might be a little foolish and dangerous, but they also make him one of the best bantamweights for which to test fighters with.

    At 27 years old, Mizugaki might do more with his career, but even if he doesn't he still has made a great career as being a tough as nails competitor in the UFC.

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