Vitor Belfort and the 25 Most Undeserving Title Challengers Ever
In the early years of mixed martial arts, promotions like the UFC and Pride were beginning their rise to infamy thanks to memorable battles set forth inside their respective cages and rings.
Great champions like Wanderlei Silva, Frank Shamrock, Fedor Emelianenko and Chuck Liddell eventually rose to prominence thanks to victories over world renowned competition.
However, there have been a few questionable decisions as far as rightful title challengers, which, in the pecking order of their divisions, made little to no sense.
Honorable Mention: Brock Lesnar
It was clear early on that the UFC made intentions to run Brock Lesnar straight towards a shot at the heavyweight title.
The former NCAA Division I wrestling champion debuted in the organization with just one fight under his belt, taking on former UFC titleholder Frank Mir.
The submission whiz cinched up the submission victory, evening Lesnar to 1-1 overall.
Lesnar returned to the Octagon a few months later and earned a dominant decision victory over Heath Herring, which earned him a shot at the world heavyweight title after just three fights under his belt.
The former WWE star made the most of his opportunity, defeating then-champion Randy Couture and later defending his crown twice against his rival in Mir and the heavy-handed Shane Carwin.
It's hard to argue with the success that Lesnar has cultivated in his short amount of time in the sport, as he has easily become the biggest and most consistent pay-per-view draw in the organization's history.
25. Gil Castillo
After his unsuccessful bid at UFC middleweight gold, Gil Castillo dropped down to the welterweight class, where he took home a decision victory over an unheralded Chris Brennan, earning him a shot at then-champion Matt Hughes.
Hughes finished Castillo inside of the first round.
24. Vitor Belfort
After a four-fight win streak outside of the Octagon brought him back to the UFC, Belfort clinched a knockout victory over former champion Rich Franklin in September of 2009.
Then and there would have been a great time for the Brazilian to challenge Anderson Silva for the title, riding the momentum of his victory; however, a subsequent injury sidelined the bout until February 2011—nearly a year and a half after Belfort was last seen in the cage.
When they finally met, Belfort was finished inside of the first round with a "Knockout of the Year" performance turned in by Silva.
23. Tim Sylvia
During his reign as king of the heavyweights, Sylvia was initially stripped of his title after testing positive for P.E.D's after his knockout win over Gan McGee.
However, the UFC instead allowed Sylvia to regain his belt when he took on Frank Mir for the vacant title.
The submission specialist cinched up an armbar victory in just 50 seconds into the first round. Call it karma.
22. Keith Jardine
Former UFC fighter Keith Jardine eventually made his way to the hexagon this April when he took on former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi.
Though Jardine earned a few takedowns against the Armenian, Mousasi bludgeoned and battered the face of "The Dean of Mean" and looked well on his way to a decision victory before the bout ended via controversial draw.
Despite the contentious end to the bout, Jardine was granted a shot at middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in his next outing, filling in for the more appropriate challenger, Tim Kennedy, who was sidelined with injury.
21. Jason Miller
"Bully Beatdown" host Jason "Mayhem" Miller challenged then-Strikeforce champion Jake Shields for his belt in November of 2009.
Heading into the bout, Miller was 1-1-1 in his previous three outings, losing by decision to Ronaldo Souza, defeating Kala Hose and then reaching a No-Contest with the Brazilian in their rematch.
For five rounds, Miller was dominated by the submission ace in Shields, who took down Mayhem at will, mounting him on several occasions before succumbing to a decision loss.
20. Falaniko Vitale
After leaving the UFC, Robbie Lawler would later become the Superbrawl middleweight champion with an emphatic knockout victory over fellow Octagon vet Falaniko Vitale.
The Hawaiian would next lose by submission to the aforementioned Jason "Mayhem" Miller and would enter a rematch with Lawler for the Icon Sport middleweight belt on the heels of a two fight losing streak.
Lawler knocked out Vitale again in their second battle, claiming another world title and another emphatic victory.
19. Kazushi Sakuraba
Pride veteran Kazushi Sakuraba eventually pared down to the welterweight division, where he took on Dream champion Marius Zaromskis.
At 42 years old and on the heels of a two-fight skid, Sakuraba was finished inside of the first round after the Lithuanian literally detached Sakuraba's ear from his head.
18. Hiroshi Izumi
Olympic Judoka Hiroshi Izumi entered a light heavyweight championship battle against Dream titleholder Gegard Mousasi on the heels of a four-fight win streak.
The biggest win of his career came at the expense of Ikuhisa Minowa, though his 4-1 was not exactly "contender" worthy.
Mousasi made quick work of the Japanese fighter, finishing him off with strikes in a little over three minutes into the opening round.
17. Kit Cope
After striking out of the UFC with a submission loss to Kenny Florian, Kit Cope took his 2-3 to the WEC, where he immediately challenged for the promotion's vacant belt opposite of Rob McCullough.
"Razor" dominated Cope in the early on in the bout, though the 34-year-old eventually submitted to an injury sustained in the first few moments of the fight, giving McCullough the belt.
16. Olaf Alfonso
Pride and WEC veteran Olaf Alfonso entered a Palace Fighting Championships battle with Jeremiah Metcalf on the heels of a decision loss to Phil Baroni.
Alfonso was 7-10 overall and challenged Metcalf the welterweight title, upsetting the young and wily fighter with a first-round submission victory, earning him the belt in the process.
He lost the title soon after with a TKO loss to Kyle Pimentel.
15. Houssain Oushani
Under the WEC banner, James Irvin earned the heavyweight championship and was looking to make the first defense of his title against Houssain Oushani.
So, who is Oushani? Who knows, considering the man entered the championship tilt with an 0-0 record, though he left the cage on the heels of a knockout defeat.
He would eventually exit the sport altogether, going 0-2.
14. Kenny Florian
After two unsuccessful bids at lightweight gold, Florian knew his options were limited when he lost a decision to then-top contender Gray Maynard.
Florian then dropped down to the featherweight class, where he took on Diego Nunes, earning a close decision victory over the Brazilian. The fight earned him his third title shot, this time against 145-pound kingpin Jose Aldo.
The Black House fighter trumped Florian for five rounds, taking the decision victory.
13. Jorge Patino
After successive losses to fellow Brazilian Jose Landi-Jons, Jorge Patino took on Pat Miletich for the UFC title.
Twenty-one minutes of action later, Miletich made the first successful defense of his welterweight title, dominating the jiu-jitsu black belt both on the feet and on the ground.
12. Nate Quarry
Season one veteran of The Ultimate Fighter, Nate Quarry later made a successful transition to the Octagon, going 3-0 in his first three outings with the UFC.
After a five-month stint in the organization, Quarry took on then-champion Rich Franklin for the middleweight title.
"Ace" rocked Quarry, eventually sealing the deal with a crushing left hand, earning arguably the most emphatic knockout victory of his career at the expense of the TUF alumnus.
11. John Lober
At UFC 17.5, Frank Shamrock was looking to make the third defense of his 205-pound title when he took on rival John Lober.
"The Machine" was 3-5-2 overall leading into the bout, and he had earned a very controversial split-decision victory over Shamrock some years prior.
"The Legend" finished off Lober with first-round strikes in their rematch.
10. Maurice Smith
After running up a 4-7 record, Maurice Smith entered the UFC in July of 1997 and immediately challenged then-champion Mark Coleman for the heavyweight title.
The wrestling powerhouse tired as the fight wore on, and Smith began to utilize his impressive kickboxing acumen, which earned him the upset decision victory after 21 minutes of action.
9. Tank Abbott
In his two previous outings, Abbott went 0-2, losing to notables Don Frye and Vitor Belfort in succession, both finishing off the heavy hitter inside of the first round.
Abbott soon after took on then champion Maurice Smith for the heavyweight title, submitting to strikes inside of the first round.
8. Rodrigo Damm
Sengoku vet Rodrigo Damm made his way to the Strikeforce cage when he took on then-interim champion Gilbert Melendez.
Damm was coming off of a submission defeat against Eiji Mitsuoka and had failed to score significant victory over credible opposition. Melendez made quick work of the Brazilian, finishing him off with strikes in the second round, earning the knockout finish.
7. Luke Rockhold
A homegrown product of Strikeforce, Luke Rockhold ran up a 7-0 run inside the San Jose-based promotion.
Despite his impressive run, Rockhold had yet to cinch up a significant victory over any notable opposition, save for The Ultimate Fighter alumnus in Jesse Taylor and Paul Bradley.
After 17 months spent sidelined due to injury, Rockhold took on then-middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza, who had cinched up victories over the likes of Matt Lindland, Tim Kennedy, Jason Miller and Robbie Lawler in some of his more recent outings.
The Californian upset the Brazilian, earning a decision victory after five exciting rounds of action.
6. Hiromitsu Kanehara
Rings veteran Hiromitsu Kanehara entered the Pride ring, going 2-3-1 in his previous six outings and first taking on then-champion Wanderlei Silva for the Middleweight title.
In one of the most devastating performances of his career, Silva destroyed Kanehara with a bevy of stomps to the faces that yielded the Japanese fighter's corner to end the bout.
Afterwards, Kanehara would go on a career worst seven-fight losing streak.
5. Kiyoshi Tamura
The Brazilian made the first defense of his Pride Middleweight title against Kiyoshi Tamura. The Japanese grappler went 3-5 in his last eight outings and came into his championship tilt with Silva on the heels of a three-fight skid.
After a dominating first round turned in, Silva closed the show in the second where he earned a knockout victory courtesy of a hard right hook to the jaw that ended their 205-pound affair.
4. Mark Hunt
After suffering a submission defeat to Josh Barnett, Mark Hunt would later take on Fedor Emelianenko for the Russian's heavyweight title.
Emelianenko was originally scheduled to take on Mirko Cro Cop, though an injury sidelined the Croatian. Soon after, Barnett too was pegged to take on Emelianenko, but opted out of the fight as well.
Hunt was a late replacement for the "Last Emperor," and though he was game early on, ultimately succumbed to a another kimura defeat.
3. Brett Rogers
Under the Strikeforce banner, then-undefeated fighter Brett Rogers took on the touted Fedor Emelianenko, humanizing the former Pride champion after a bloody first round.
The Russian eventually earned an emphatic second-round knockout victory over the heavy hitter, though the performance some how justified a championship tilt against Alistair Overeem.
The Dutchman ended the heavyweight affair inside of the first round via TKO.
2. Patrick Cote
Heavy hitting Canadian Patrick Cote earned his shot at the middleweight title after running up a four-fight win streak inside the Octagon, taking on Anderson Silva.
Cote was coming off of a very lackluster performance against Ricardo Almeida, who had just returned to the UFC after a four-year layoff.
After the contentious split-decision victory, Cote had earned the shot thanks to the misfortune of the UFC's original contender, Yushin Okami, who had suffered an injury, forcing him to be sidelined for an allotted amount of time.
In one of the more eye-gouging performances of Silva's career, the bout mercifully ended in the third when Cote suffered a knee injury in the opening moments of the round.
1. Justin Eilers
The late and great Justin Eilers first entered heavyweight contention when he scored an impressive first round KO over the heavy hitting Mike Kyle.
However, in his next outing, Eilers was finished off by "The Headhunter" Pual Buentello, who scored a knockout of his own over Eilers.
After Buentello failed to gain medical clearance for a championship tilt against then title holder Andrei Arlovski, Eilers stepped in his place, only to succumb to first-round strikes.
Another knockout loss to Brandon Vera eventually signaled his exit from the promotion.