The 10 Best Fighters to Never Fight for a UFC Title
Everyone roots for the bridesmaid. Be it a shortcoming of skills, problems between the ears or just plain bad luck, plenty of great and talented athletes never end up getting their shot at the big tamale.
MMA is no different. This list counts down the 10 best UFC fighters still in search of their swipe at the brass ring.
The list contains the best active fighters in the UFC right now, not active fighters outside the UFC or UFC fighters with the best all-time resumes. That's why you don't see Fedor, Wanderlei Silva or Michael Chandler on the list. That list would be far too easy.
It also doesn't include fighters, such as Johny Hendricks, who have already been officially scheduled for a title fight. And interim title fights count.
Travis Browne (Heavyweight, 15-1-1)
Rafael dos Anjos (Lightweight, 20-6)
Rory MacDonald (Welterweight, 15-1)
Darrell Montague (Flyweight, 13-2)
Martin Kampmann (Welterweight, 20-7)
10. Cub Swanson
It's hard to believe the 29-year-old featherweight has never fought for a belt during his nine-year pro career, which stretches back to King of the Cage. The closest he came was a WEC title eliminator, which he lost to Jose Aldo.
That may change soon.
Swanson is on the best streak of his fighting life, having taken five in a row over stiff competition, with four of those wins coming by knockout. He's not at the very top of the contender heap, but he's pretty darn close.
9. Sara McMann
The Olympic wrestler is a perfect 7-0 as an MMA pro, including 1-0 in her fledgling UFC tenure. Once Ronda Rousey finishes filming movies and television shows and warring with Miesha Tate, it's a good bet McMann will be waiting to greet her.
8. Glover Teixeira
Knowing how the UFC operates, until a fight is signed, sealed and your face is on the promo poster, I'm not counting it.
Yes, Glover Teixeira has been promised the next light heavyweight title shot. But the UFC has been known to waver on its promises (just ask Lyoto Machida). Teixeira's career was interrupted for a while thanks to visa issues, but the 33-year-old Brazilian is freight-training now, with a perfect 5-0 mark in the Octagon.
Can he beat Jon Jones? Eh, probably not. But he's still a great fighter who's earned the right to answer that question in live combat.
7. Cat Zingano
Cat Zingano earned a shot at champion Rousey when she kneed Miesha Tate's face into kitfo during the finale of The Ultimate Fighter 17.
But she was forced to defer the dream (and get plenty of conspiracy theorist tongues wagging in the process) when she tore her ACL on the eve of filming for TUF 18, in which she was scheduled to coach opposite the champ.
That paved the way for Rousey and Tate to renew their grudge on national TV. But whenever it finally runs its course, here's hoping the 8-0 Zingano gets a chance to cash in what she rightfully won.
In the meantime, Zingano goes through the paces of a long rehab and recovery. She's expected to return to action in February.
6. Michael Bisping
Give it up for the Dan Marino of the UFC.
Bisping was once the unquestioned king of the also-rans. All he did was win, and yet he could never quite get his name entered into the main event when a belt was involved.
But that reputation has taken a hit recently.
Though Bisping is a big name in the sport and a very good fighter, he consistently stumbles against the elites of his division, most recently Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen. If he wants to turn around his title-bout fortunes, he'll need to fight his way in. To date, he hasn't been able to do so.
We'll see if he can get it done against Mark Munoz when the two tangle in October.
5. Ronaldo Souza
Thanks to a newfound power-striking game to complement his world-class jiu-jitsu, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza is one of the hottest names in any division.
At UFC Fight Night 28 in August, the former Strikeforce middleweight champ brandished a big right hand to punish and then put away a respected opponent in Yushin Okami. What's more, he displayed quite the killer instinct in so doing.
As a result, the newly well-rounded Souza is rocketing up contender charts everywhere.
It will be extremely interesting to see whom he gets for his next opponent. The winner between Bisping and Munoz would be a mighty tasty title eliminator.
4. Ricardo Lamas
Ricardo Lamas might be the most overlooked fighter on the entire UFC roster.
Since debuting in the UFC as a featherweight, all Lamas has done is win. He's 4-0 in his two new fighting homes.
Yet he has never appeared to even seriously enter the title picture, always being elbowed out for a bigger draw.
Lamas is mad as heck and not going to take it anymore. And I don't blame him.
3. T.J. Grant
Further complicating the targeted meeting between Grant and new champ Anthony Pettis this December is the fact that Grant is still recovering from a concussion he sustained earlier this summer. Though Grant has earned the fight thanks to a 5-0 steamroll through a who's who of the lightweight division, which he joined in 2011, we'll just have to wait and see how the ball bounces for the well-rounded Grant.
2. Phil Davis
Despite being only 28 years old, it seems Phil Davis has been around the UFC forever. And, well, he has, first entering the Octagon more than three years ago.
The light heavyweight has racked up a record of 8-1-1 in that time, losing only to ex-champ Rashad Evans.
True, Davis is heavy on wrestling and light on just about everything else. But that one trick is a pretty doggone good trick, as you might expect from a guy who won a national title for it in college. What's more, he appears to be getting better with each fight (although, let's be real, he was gifted a decision win in August against Lyoto Machida).
Long story short is that Davis just keeps on winning and is one heck of a smart and marketable dude. He gets it.
And one of these days, he'll get that title shot, too.
1. Daniel Cormier
The Olympic wrestler and Strikeforce Grand Prix winner has never had traditional big league MMA gold around his waist.
But his effort to do so may reach a new gear if he can dispatch Roy Nelson at UFC 166 and then follows through on his pledge to drop down to light heavyweight.
On paper, the 34-year-old Cormier (12-0) has the power wrestling game to smother the dynamic attack of Jon Jones. Whether Jones is the champ or moves up to heavyweight, Cormier would be a breath of fresh air to a division stagnating under one man's dominance.
You'd have to think he'd be on the fastest of fast tracks to a title shot the moment he announced his decision to move down.