Ben Askren, Fedor Emelianenko and the 5 Best Fighters to Never Fight in the UFC

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2013

Ben Askren, Fedor Emelianenko and the 5 Best Fighters to Never Fight in the UFC

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    The UFC failed in its attempt to court coveted legend of the sport and former pound-for-pound king Fedor Emelianenko.

    But in other cases, like that of unbeaten former Bellator MMA welterweight champ Ben Askren, company president Dana White simply passed on a high-profile free-agent signing.

    Fascinated with the Russian's aura and extraordinary killer instinct, White spent years trying to land Emelianenko—the heavyweight he believed would change the UFC—only to ultimately fail in his conquest.

    Askren, conversely, met with White in November, but apparently didn't impress the UFC's czar enough to get a spot in the company's deep 170-pound division.

    Regardless of how it unfolded, the following fighters possessed the ingredients to consistently flourish in the UFC, but for one reason or another, got left out in the cold by White and company.

    Here are the five best fighters who've never graced the Octagon.

Honorable Mentions

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    Shinya Aoki: 

    Age: 30

    Record: 34-6

    Status: Active

    Igor Vovchanchyn

    Age: 40

    Record: 55-10

    Status: Retired

    Eddie Alvarez

    Age: 29

    Record: 25-3

    Status: Active

5. Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino

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    Unwilling to make the drop to 135 pounds following her fruitful stint with Strikeforce, Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino took the advice of her manager, Tito Ortiz, and hastily parted ways with the UFC.

    Cyborg, who's won 12 of 14 bouts since turning pro in 2005, quickly linked up with Invicta FC, where she won the company's inaugural featherweight title with a TKO of Marloes Coenen in July.

    Considered one of the top pound-for-pound female fighters in the world, Cyborg will be hard-pressed to find a genuine challenge outside the UFC. But until UFC president Dana White adds a 145-pound women's division, Cyborg may remain on the outside looking in.

4. Michael Chandler

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    Perhaps the most talented fighter competing outside the UFC, Michael Chandler suffered his first loss in controversial split-decision fashion to Eddie Alvarez in a lightweight title bout at Bellator 106 in November.

    Chandler won his first scrap with Alvarez at Bellator 58 in November 2011, a bout that was deemed Yahoo! Sports 2011 "Fight of the Year."

    A former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, Chandler won the Bellator Season 4 Lightweight Tournament before besting Alvarez in their first meeting to snatch the lightweight strap.

    Dropping his last bout—another captivating brawl with Alvarezdid little to smudge the pristine reputation of Chandler. 

    But aside from a rubber match with Alvarez, Chandler has little to look forward to in terms of competition in Bellator. Sooner or later, the Alliance MMA stalwart must make the ascent to the UFC.

3. Ben Askren

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    He doesn't possess the most captivating style, but former Bellator MMA welterweight champ Ben Askren sure is efficient. 

    Askren has won each of his 12 fights, nine of which took place in Bellator, and has yet to surrender a takedown in that span.

    A brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Askren won a pair of NCAA Division I wrestling championships before competing in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in freestyle wrestling. 

    A consummate grinder with superb functional grappling skills for MMA, Askren, like the two fighters before him on this list, must ultimately migrate to the UFC—at least if he intends to realize his full potential in the sport.

2. Rickson Gracie

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    Despite amassing a pristine 11-0 pro record, fans will never know precisely how dominant the most revered member of the Gracie clan, Rickson, could have become.

    Arguably the best grappler in his extraordinarily gifted family, Gracie took his first pro fight in 1980 and his last in 2000. He won each of his 11 bouts by submission, 10 of which came in the first round. Only Yoshihisa Yamamoto managed to survive more than one round with Gracie.

    Filmmaker Robert Goodman immortalized Gracie in the 1999 documentary Choke, which recounted the renowned grappler's experiences in Vale Tudo Japan 1995.

    Still, Gracie never followed his younger brother Royce into the UFC, where he surely would have represented the family with honor and given the world's top middleweights fits.

1. Fedor Emelianenko

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    The mystique surrounding the world's top pound-for-pound fighter quickly faded when Fedor Emelianenko suffered three straight setbacks in Strikeforce between June 2010 and July 2011.

    But prior to his first legitimate loss, which came against Fabricio Werdum, Emelianenko essentially went unbeaten for more than nine years, going 32-1 with one no-contest.

    UFC president Dana White had long yearned to sign Emelianenko during his prolific run. In January, White admitted to Bleacher Report that a bout between "The Last Emperor" and Brock Lesnar nearly came to fruition following the death of Emelianenko's father.

    Emelianenko's first loss was a controversial TKO due to a cut from an elbow from Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, a setback he later avenged with ease.

    A master in both sambo and judo, Emelianenko floored and submitted opponents at will in his illustrious career. In 40 scraps, Emelianenko pulled off 16 submissions, including six armbars.

    An equally lethal striker, The Last Emperor not only won 11 fights via knockout, he also roughed up eight foes in entertaining decision wins.

    Defensively, Emelianenko was a nightmare for opponents because he was so difficult to knock out, submit or control.

    From an offensive prospective, Emelianenko thrived off unpredictability. No one ever knew how they'd lose to him, but until Werdum, not many expected to best Emelianenko.

    Truth be told, though, fans and experts are forever left with the question: How would UFC champs like Lesnar, Randy Couture, Junior dos Santos or Cain Velasquez have fared against Emelianenko?