There are contenders and there are pretenders. Unfortunately, many fans have trouble telling the difference.
When a fighter wins (even against poor competition) some fans hop on what's called a "bandwagon" and talk that fighter up like he's the next big thing.
Most of the time, these bandwagons are abandoned when the fighter loses and he becomes known as the next big thing that wasn't (see: Brandon Vera).
So who are the biggest pretenders in each weight class in modern MMA? Read and find out!
We'll start off with the lightest weight class and work our way to heavyweight.
Keep in mind that the five fighters aren't ranked per se, but all of them are pretenders nonetheless.
Another thing to think about is that bantamweight is a relatively thin division, it's pretenders may be "better" than pretenders in other divisions pound-for-pound.
Antonio Banuelos is one of the last remaining relevant fighters training at Chuck Liddell's famous training camp, The Pit, but he doesn't really deserve to have a prominent reputation or a ranking in the top 10.
He is only 2-3 in his last five and is 19-7 overall.
Simply put, he started losing when the competition got tougher. That's the very definition of a pretender!
Like any true pretender, he's fled to Japan to feast off lesser fighters and professional wrestlers.
Great wrestler, not as great a bantamweight MMA fighter. Has a mouth bigger than the mountains.
Look at the picture, need I say more? He should definitely stick to featherweight and leave bantamweight behind.
Fabiano during his prime in the IFL.
Wagnney Fabiano was the "next big thing" at featherweight, lost to Mackens Semerzier, and then tried his hand at bantamweight.
The hype around his name couldn't save him. After beating mid-echelon competition (without being able to finish them, mind you), Fabiano got submitted by Joseph Benavidez.
When the UFC merged with the WEC, Fabiano wasn't asked to join.
At 36 years of age, it's unlikely that he'll make a dent in the division any more.
Zach Makovsky is the Bellator bantamweight champion, but the truth of the matter is that his 14-2 record doesn't hold up when scrutinized.
Makovsky is 14-2, but there are probably several guys in the UFC bantamweight division who could beat him handily.
Even if Makovsky isn't a pretender, we won't know until we see him fight against some really great fighters, which we haven't seen yet.
Urijah Faber's popularity is often misinterpreted to mean skill. Urijah Faber was the greatest fighter of the lighter weight classes in the world until those weight classes started to become populated by other fighters.
Faber couldn't even beat a perennially mediocre Mike Brown.
Faber won't ever capture the featherweight belt or the bantamweight belt (so long as Jose Aldo and Dominick Cruz are still the champions).
As fellow Bleacher Report featured columnist Tim McTiernan said to me the other day: If Faber goes to flyweight, he'll be the only fighter in UFC history to lose title fights in three different weight divisions.
What fighters at 145 pounds aren't fit to shine featherweight champion Jose Aldo's shoes? Read on and you'll see.
Micah Miller is 17-4 (1 NC), but all four of those losses were when he stepped up in competition.
When he tried out for this past season of The Ultimate Fighter, he was submitted by the unheralded Steven Siler, proving that Miller was more or less a can crusher the whole time.
People talked up George Roop after his knockouts of Chan Sung Jung and Josh Grispi, but after his loss to Hatsu Hioki, MMA fans realized that Roop was a 12-8-1 fighter who was never going to be more than a gatekeeper or mid-level fighter at featherweight.
Roop has never strung more than three wins together and has almost always faded against good competition.
People thought Mark Hominick was better than he really was because of what he did to Jose Aldo in the later rounds of their fight.
Any delusions of grandeur Hominick fans had have since evaporated due to the Canadian's seven-second knockout loss to Chan Sung Jung.
At one time, Joachim Hansen was considered one of the best fighters in the world outside the UFC.
Amongst some misguided MMA fans who think that the UFC is a joke, this reputation still lingers.
However, Hansen is just a pretender (both at lightweight and featherweight). He is 5-5 in his last 10, with all of those losses coming to decent fighters and the victories over not-so-decent ones.
The allure of a non-UFC fighter fighting in Japan (due to PRIDE nostalgia) is the only thing that keeps Hansen's name going.
Like with Joachim Hansen, Maximo Blanco was hyped up because he was beating Japanese cans in devastating fashion.
When he went to the United States and fought a gritty journeyman in Pat Healy, he faltered and was submitted in the second round.
He was since signed by the UFC and dropped to featherweight, put he likely won't succeed (like many fighters who made their fame on the Japanese circuit).
Even lightweight has its share of pretenders.
Like with several other fighters on this list, fans thought Eddie Alvarez was amazing simply because he was one of the only prominent fighters outside the UFC.
Alvarez is 22-3 but he hasn't exactly faced a who's who of the division. His most difficult opponent was arguably Shinya Aoki (we'll get to him soon), and he failed that test in a minute and a half.
Most recently, Alvarez lost Michael Chandler, a fighter who no one had ever heard of before winning the lightweight Bellator tournament and challenging Alvarez.
Shinya Aoki is often mentioned in lightweight rankings but undeservedly.
The majority of Aoki's wins are against fighters of lesser caliber. His loss to Gilbert Melendez demonstrated what would happen if Aoki left the safety of DREAM and went to the UFC to fight the world's best: He'd lost convincingly.
Aoki is basically just a Jiu-Jitsu fighter in a world of mixed martial artists.
Believe it or not, George Sotiropoulos was once considered a top-flight lightweight.
After beating Joe Lauzon, the Sotiropoulos hype train was full steam ahead. Shortly after that fight, it derailed in a spectacular wreck.
The Australian was derailed in upset losses to Dennis Siver and Rafael Dos Anjos—the latter by devastating knockout.
Even if Sotiropoulos manages to win his next fight, he'll never be more than a pretender at 155 pounds.
The UFC likes to pretend that Dennis Siver is a dangerous lightweight because of his European origins.
But fans in the know are keen to the UFC's marketing ploys. They know that Siver is basically just a glorified gatekeeper. If he wasn't German (or a Russian-born German to be precise), he'd have been canned long ago.
Nate Diaz does have some good, legitimate victories, but a lot of his hype is due to his last name.
Whenever he fights an average wrestler or an above-average non-wrestler, he loses.
Who are the pretenders at welterweight?
Dan Hardy is one of the most overrated fighters in the history of the UFC.
If he wasn't English, he would've been kicked out of the UFC long ago. But because he's English and likes to "stand and bang," he keeps getting second, third and fourth chances.
But don't let this fool you into thinking Hardy could be a force at welterweight one day. He is a pretender through and through.
How Jay Hieron wound up being considered one of the world's best welterweights, we'll never know.
The truth is, Hieron's record is 22-5. He is 0-2 in the UFC and his biggest wins are over Joe Riggs and a young Jake Ellenberger.
There's no reason to think Hieron is more than a pretender.
Brian Ebersole has beaten some decent fighters, but thinking he's a champion-level fighter is a mistake.
He's a good wrestler and grappler but that's it; he's just good, not great.
Diego Sanchez was once undefeated in the UFC and his future appeared to be rosy. Unfortunately for him, his career didn't pan out the way many thought it would.
Sanchez has lost many of his fights against high-level fighters and shows no indications of stopping this trend any time soon.
He's simply not talented enough to hold the belt at lightweight or welterweight.
Nick Diaz is one of the most entertaining fighters at welterweight today, but he's also one of the most overrated.
Anyone who thinks Diaz can get the UFC welterweight championship from Georges St.Pierre seems to have forgotten the fact that Nick Diaz, like his brother Nate, has always struggled against even average wrestlers.
If you can't beat wrestlers, you can't succeed in the wrestler-heavy welterweight division.
Are there any prominent middleweights who are actually pretenders?
Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard is considered one of the best middleweights in the world despite not beating anyone that great.
When he actually beats a great competitor, then he can be thought of as more than just a pretender.
Like with Dan Hardy and Dennis Siver, it's Michael Bisping's nationality that makes him so prominent in the UFC's marketing—not because of his skill.
He's an all-right fighter but he's one-dimensional and lacks knockout power. He also has a questionable chin.
He can win fights against average to above-average guys, but will never break into the highest level of the division.
Chris Leben is popular because of his brash attitude and thrilling fighting style. But in all honesty, he's just not capable of being more than an above-average competitor.
He's proven with his submission victory over Yoshihiro Akiyama that he's more than just a brawler.
However, he's also proven that he can't handle the most important aspect of MMA: What happens outside the cage.
The square-jawed marine Brian Stann is excellent for marketing, especially since his striking-oriented style wows fans.
Although Stann has had a submission victory over Mike Massenzio, he is still one-dimensional and can't contend with the division's best, as indicated by his decisive loss to Chael Sonnen.
Jason "Mayhem" Miller got a lot of hype when he was coming back to the UFC to fight Michael Bisping.
All of that hype is now gone. Miller looked horrendous against Bisping (both in his striking and his cardiovascular conditioning).
He is definitely a pretender—perhaps the worst on the list.
What fighters are amongst the ranks of the pretenders at light heavyweight? Before you read, consider that light heavyweight champion Jon Jones makes many look like a pretender.
Quinton "Rampage" Jackson is another former champion but he, like Forrest Griffin, has no chance at beating current light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Aside from that fact, Jackson is basically just a boxer. He rarely uses his wrestling to take people down and hardly ever throws kicks. He is 2-2 in his last four and some would even argue 1-3 due to the controversial decision against Lyoto Machida.
If it wasn't for his personality and famous highlight-reel powerbomb of Ricardo Arona, it's unlikely he would've ever risen to prominence at all.
Gegard Mousasi is akin to several other fighters on this list in the sense that he was successful in prominent promotions outside the UFC and many people misconstrued that to mean he was clearly one of the best in the division.
When Mousasi lost a lopsided decision to "King" Mo Lawal and couldn't defeat a gassed Keith Jardine in a disappointing draw, Mousasi fans woke up. The Armenian is nothing more than a pretender.
Forrest Griffin may be a former champion, but his best days seem to be behind him.
In his last fight, he appeared demotivated and deflated. He is 2-3 in his last five and it appears as though the division (as well as the sport as a whole) is passing him by.
Ryan Bader will never hold a title and will never be more than a heavy-handed wrestler.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (a.k.a. Lil Nog) may have just beaten Tito Ortiz, but before that, he was on a two-fight losing streak.
Lil Nog simply doesn't have the skills to dominate the division, nor the time to develop them at 35 years of age.
Who are the heaviest pretenders in the UFC?
When Brendan Schaub started calling himself "The Legend Killer," it was premature. He was subsequently knocked out by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
He's an average heavyweight at best.
Cheick Kongo is a glorified kickboxer. He had an amazing comeback victory over Pat Barry, but that doesn't mean he's a contender.
Kongo makes great padding for the division, but that's all he'll ever be.
If Fabricio Werdum hadn't beat Fedor Emelianenko, he'd be so unimportant that his presence on this list wouldn't even be necessary.
Werdum couldn't hack it in the UFC. Just because he beat Fedor (in large part due to a mental mistake on Fedor's part) doesn't change that fact.
Frank Mir impressed many (including myself) with his submission win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but during the fight he was nearly knocked out!
The truth is, Mir won't get anywhere near the belt again. Fighters like heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos and Cain Velasquez are too far above him.
Brock Lesnar is one of the most polarizing figures in MMA and he's also one of the most overrated.
Lesnar is only 5-2 but he's considered by some fans to be a top heavyweight.
Lesnar's wrestling abilities are a bit exaggerated (he could hardly hold down Cain Velasquez and has only been able to use his wrestling well against non-wrestlers). He even had difficulty taking down an aged Randy Couture.
He also has deficient striking defense and is very green in terms of striking; he can't handle getting hit.
When all this is combined with the fact that Lesnar has had to suffer through diverticulitis twice, the end result is that he's a pretender.