UFC 139 Results: Stephan Bonnar and Our Favorite Journeymen Light Heavyweights
As the premier MMA promotion in the world, it sometimes comes as a shock to many that the UFC has a number of recognizable, popular journeymen fighters.
In boxing, the thought of a journeyman fighter being on the main card of a PPV event or the headliner of a live cable TV card is absurd. By contrast, the UFC not only properly employs its loyal journeymen, but some, like Stephan Bonnar, are promoted as if they were world champions or contenders themselves.
In some people's minds, if a fighter isn't working his way towards a title shot, then he should be cut from the UFC or retire, but here are six fan-favorites who would beg to differ.
Cyrille "The Snake" Diabate (MMA: 17-8-1, UFC: 2-2)
Coming in at No. 6 is French kickboxing specialist Cyrille Diabate. This journeyman fighter is currently sitting right at .500 in the UFC after his UFC 138 loss to Anthony Perosh. He also boasts a professional kickboxing record of 32-8-2.
Diabate spent most of his 12-year career in the European and Japanese circuits with relative success. Before entering the UFC, he squared off with notable fighters such as Shogun Rua and Renato "Babalu" Sobral.
Diabate's fan base is centered in Europe, and the UFC has made sure to capitalize on that by having him fight twice in UK-based events.
At 38 years old, it is unlikely Diabate will be making waves in the division or significantly improving his wrestling skills, but with his elite level of striking and quality grappling, you can bet on an exciting fight each time he enters the cage.
Krzysztof "The Polish Experiment" Soszynski (MMA: 26-11-1, UFC: 6-2)
The No. 5 spot goes to The Polish Experiment himself, Krysztof Soszynski. Despite having been a professional MMA fighter for less time than anyone else on this list, Soszynski sports more professional MMA fights than all the rest with 38 and counting.
At 34, Soszynski is still relatively young enough to string together a few more wins to be a legitimate contender. His losses to fellow fan-favorite journeymen Stephan Bonnar and Brandon Vera are still fresh in people's minds.
We'll get to find out which direction Soszynski is headed when he squares off against lesser-known, journeyman fighter Igor Pokrajac on Dec. 10 at UFC 140.
Brandon "The Truth" Vera (MMA: 12-5(1), UFC: 8-5(1))
The hardest person to place, Brandon Vera sits competitively at No. 4. Once a viable contender at heavyweight, this journeyman fighter has gone .500 since dropping to light heavyweight.
Like others on this list, he's had relative success against mid-level fighters, but always seems to come up short when faced with top competition like Jon Jones or Thiago Silva. (To his credit, Silva failed his post-fight drug test.)
It's unlikely we'll be seeing The Truth headline another fight card anytime soon, but it is possible his win over Eliot Marshall was enough to get him off of Facebook and back onto the main card—or at the very least, the televised prelim.
Look for Vera to get another mid-level journeyman fighter in his next fight while he waits for Silva to get licensed and make his return.
Vladimir "The Janitor" Matyushenko (MMA: 26-5, UFC: 7-3)
The one-time title challenger, Vladimir Matyushenko, finds a home at No. 3. The Janitor is arguably the most successful fighter on this list and is right on the border between journeyman and gatekeeper for the light-heavyweight division.
His three losses inside the Octagon have only come at the hands of current or former champions. Add on the fact that since making his return to the UFC, he's gone an impressive 4-1 (including wins over a relative who's who of lesser-known, journeymen fighters) and you wonder why more people don't know or care who he is.
At 40 years old, no one expects Vlady Maty to make a serious run at the title, but at the same time, no one expects him to retire anytime soon either. Besides, he's currently 1-1 with Lil' Nog, and everyone loves a rubber match.
Matyushenko will face his stiffest competition since losing to Jon Jones when he squares off against Alexander Gustafsson on Dec. 30 at UFC 141. A win will prove The Janitor still has a lot of gas in the tank, whereas a loss will boost Gustafsson up the ladder and relegate Vlady Maty to beating up lesser competition again.
Antônio Rogério Nogueira (MMA: 19-5, UFC: 2-2)
First runner-up goes to Pride veteran Antônio Rogério Nogueira, or as we've all come to affectionately call him, Lil' Nog.
Lil' Nog had already faced a who's who of opponents before entering the UFC, and after making his debut with a TKO win over Luiz Cané, many thought he would make big waves in the division.
Unfortunately, his performance against Jason Brilz and losses to Ryan Bader and Phil Davis didn't live up to the hype. Nonetheless, Lil' Nog is still a game opponent, and at 35-years old, he is showing no signs of slowing down.
While Lil' Nog is currently set to fight former champion Tito Ortiz on Dec. 10 at UFC 140, I'm sure he'd like a rematch against Shogun Rua so he could avenge a loss from the throwback days of Pride.
Stephan "The American Psycho" Bonnar (MMA: 14-7, UFC: 8-6)
Back on April 9, 2005, Stephan Bonnar fought an exciting back-and-fourth match against Forrest Griffin at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in what would be known as the fight which brought about the golden age of the UFC, and Mixed Martial Arts as a whole.
While Forrest Griffin would go on to eventually capture the UFC light-heavyweight championship, Bonnar would see his fair share of ups and downs. But, he never stopped being a fighter's fighter, and the UFC's true go-to journeyman fighter.
Since that loss, The American Psycho has seen both his wins and losses come in groups, and aside from avenging his fluke loss to Krzysztof Soszynksi, his only other losses inside the Octagon have come to current or former UFC champions.
Bonnar is currently riding a three-fight winning streak, and while his next opponent has yet to be named, this is usually the time when he would face a step-up in competition.
Despite rumors about a matchup with Rampage Jackson being put to rest, it is still time to give Bonnar a top-level guy to test how much he's improved since his three-fight losing streak.
Options to consider are Griffin-Bonnar III, Rich Franklin, the winner of Ortiz-Nogueira or even Brandon Vera.
While these six fighters might have more popularity or notoriety than others, that doesn't mean the other journeymen don't equally do their part to help shape future contenders and champions, put on exciting fights and create the depth of the most competitive division in all of MMA.
So, the next time you tune in to see one of your favorite up-and-coming fighters battle it out, make sure to take a little time to get to know something about the fighter on the other side of the cage—like Jason Brilz, who lost a close split-decision to Lil' Nog, or Eliot Marshal, who has finished five of his 10 opponents by (T)KO. And let's not forget about Igor Pokrajac, who TKO'd Todd Brown at the very last second of the first round in his last fight.
Make sure to take some time to comment about the fighters mentioned, or tell us who your favorite journeyman fighter is, regardless of division.
Never forget that it takes more than champions and contenders to make a division because there is always a journeyman ready to step up to the challenge. And that's the bottom line.
Be sure to follow Justin Fuller on Twitter @JustinFullerMMA.
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