MMA: The 13 Most Under-Appreciated Fighters in MMA History

Matt Saccaro@@mattsaccaroContributor IIIOctober 26, 2011

MMA: The 13 Most Under-Appreciated Fighters in MMA History

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    There are men in MMA such as Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre who will always be remembered. Then, there are the men that deserve to be remembered but, sadly, won't be.

    These men are the most under-appreciated fighters in the history of mixed martial arts.

    Their struggles go largely ignored, as do their accolades.

    But now the time has come to set the record straight, to give credit where credit is due. Who are these under-appreciated fighters and why should they be remembered? Read and find out!

Gene Lebell

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    Of all the fighters in MMA history who are under-appreciated, Gene Lebell is perhaps the least known.

    Lebell is a legend in the sport of Judo and is credited with teaching the "almighty" Bruce Lee how to grapple.

    What makes Lebell even more important is that he was truly one of the first mixed martial artists. He fought boxer Milo Savage in a mixed rules fight—really the first proto-MMA fight on television in the United States—and choked him out.

    Lebell deserves to be appreciated for his influence in the development of MMA, even more so than Bruce Lee.

Art Jimmerson

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    Before you start writing a scathing, vitriolic comment, please hear me out.

    Art Jimmerson is under-appreciated for two reasons.

    First, the man was actually a decent boxer and he just made an unfortunate choice to participate in the UFC (and then to wear just one glove but that's besides the point).

    Second, Art Jimmerson was the fall-guy for the Gracies. He wasn't paid to lose or anything like that, but he was a sacrificial lamb. The Gracie family knew that Jimmerson had no chance against Royce at UFC 1!

    The Gracies needed a hapless striker to build their empire on, Jimmerson was that unfortunate individual.

    Since then, the boxer's career faltered. However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for "King Arthur," he is now employed at a UFC gym!

Jason Delucia

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    Jason DeLucia was one of the few strikers who got schooled on the ground and then decided to actually learn the ground game.

    He challenged Royce Gracie to a fight, thinking his Kung Fu could trump all styles, and was humiliated badly. The experience helped him tremendously, since having even minor grappling experience in the UFC was like bringing a crowbar or some other weapon into the cage with you.

    DeLucia went on to have a mildly successful MMA career, going 33-21-1 and beating the likes of current UFC fighter Chris Lytle, Japanese cult icon Ikuhisa Minowa (a.k.a. "Minowaman") and Japanese legend Masakatsu Funaki (who we'll talk about later).

    Unfortunately for DeLucia, he is probably most famous for getting his liver ruptured by Bas Rutten in the Japanese Pancrase organization.

    Is he one of the best ever? No, but he's definitely under-appreciated (if not totally forgotten) for what he was; a decent fighter who realized his faults and went out to correct them.

Anthony Macias

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    Anthony Macias was another fighter who had a career after a failed UFC stint. He was famously the recipient of many suplexes courtesy of Dan Severn and threw a fight to Oleg Taktarov. He went 26-15 and actually had more victories via submission. Which is ironic because he started his career as a Muay Thai fighter.

    Macias fought a long career that, at the beginning, seemed as though it would be successful (14-4 first three years of career) but always managed to come up short.

    Still, he has been forgotten by MMA fans but it's not what he deserves. He could have competed with the talent in the UFC once he started cross-training, he just wasn't given a chance.

Keith Hackney

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    Keith Hackney is the owner of a modest 2-2 record in the UFC but it's not his record that's important.

    Hackney is underrated because he was one of the few traditional martial artists in the UFC's early days that made an effort to truly become well versed in all ranges of fighting.

    Despite losing to Royce Gracie at UFC 4, Hackney fought well. He was the first traditional martial artist to stymie Gracie's takedown and clinch attempts.

    Hackney was a strong guy, had heart, and most importantly, had the desire to learn more. However, the cards just didn't play out in his favor.

Marco Ruas

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    Sadly, Marco Ruas is a forgotten name in MMA.

    Despite winning UFC 7, people still don't remember "The King of the Streets."

    Ruas is most famous for chopping down the massive Paul Varelans with leg kicks in the 13th minute of their bout.

    He came up short in the Ultimate Ultimate 1995 semifinals to Oleg Taktarov and was never seen in the Octagon again.

    Ruas is definitely under-appreciated as far as old-school fighters go. After all, he showed that the true skill of a martial artist will always overcome the raw power of a brawler/bully like Varelans.

Masakatsu Funaki

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    "Who," you ask?

    Masakatsu Funaki was a legendary professional wrestler and legitimate catch wrestler in Japan, one of the best of all time in the island nation.

    He was the co-founder of the Pancrase organization which, at the time, was one of the only real "mixed" martial arts promotions in the world, due to the fact that many of its competitors could strike (albeit with open hands) as well as grapple.

    Funaki was a two-time King of Pancrase and has notable victories over legends such as Ken Shamrock, Frank Shamrock, Guy Mezger and Bas Rutten. In fact, he is the only man to have victories over both Shamrock brothers and Bas Rutten.

    Funaki deserves to be remembered due to his preservation and cultivation of the martial arts in Japan, as well as his illustrious fighting career that came to an end in 2008 when he retired.

Guy Mezger

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    Guy Mezger is one of the quintessential unsung heroes of MMA history.

    He has a 4-1 record in the UFC and managed to win the UFC 13 tournament, choking out Tito Ortiz in the process.

    He went on to fight in Japan, but unfortunately lost most of his high-profile fights. Perhaps, that is why he has been unfairly forgotten.

    Mezger was one of the few fighters in the early days to be well rounded in all areas, and he deserves to be remembered as an important fighter for it.

    Also, he should be remembered because him handing Ortiz defeat, may have provided the young "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" with increased motivation and fire to get in the cage and dominate.

    In a world where fans only remember Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, and Tank Abbott, Mezger sticks out as a guy who sorely needs to be preserved in our memories because of his skill relative to the rest of the world at the time.

Pat Miletich

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    Pat Miletich begins a part of the slideshow I like to call "The Forgotten Champions," that features fighters who captured a UFC title but are rarely (if at all) spoken of in MMA today the same way their more well-regarded contemporaries are.

    Miletich is hardly mentioned nowadays due to not getting along with UFC president Dana White.

    "The Croatian Sensation" already had 19 fights and a 17-1-1 record by the time he entered the UFC in 1998.

    He won the lightweight tournament at UFC 16. Miletich then became the first-ever UFC welterweight champion at UFC: Ultimate Brazil and had four successful title defenses—all of which took place while the UFC was owned by SEG.

    Militech would lose his title to Carlos Newton in Zuffa's second UFC event, UFC 31. Miletich only had four bouts in his career after losing his title.

    Miletich is without a doubt one of the most under-appreciated champions in UFC history.

Maurice Smith

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    At 12-13, Maurice Smith didn't have an exceptional career in MMA, save for the fact that he won the UFC heavyweight title by beating Mark Coleman at UFC 14 (it's worth noting that Smith was still below .500 when he did this).

    However, Smith's true importance and what people should remember about him, is that he was really the first striker to defeat a great grappler, showing that striking arts had their place in MMA.

Dave Menne

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    Even though Dave Menne crumbled when he fought even decent competition, he was still the first ever UFC middleweight champion.

    The man wore the same belt as Anderson Silva, he should be remembered for that.

Kevin Randleman

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    Sadly, Kevin Randleman is remembered mainly for suplexing Fedor Emelianenko, losing to Roger Gracie, and for suffering from a nasty staph infection.

    He is not remembered for his greatest accomplishment, capturing the UFC heavyweight championship!

    Randleman was a great wrestler but he could never develop a fully well-rounded MMA skillset. Eventually, other fighters caught up to Randleman and he just couldn't adapt.

    Still, the man was a great champion. Unfortunately, you wouldn't know that from the way he is talked about on the Internet.

Frank Shamrock

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    Frank Shamrock was one of the only true "undisputed" champions MMA had ever seen. He had beaten the best in Japan and the best in the United States.

    As the adopted brother of Ken Shamrock, Frank was shown the ways of submission grappling earlier than most and he excelled at it, eventually becoming King of Pancrase.

    After his successful run in Pancrase, he became the first UFC light heavyweight champion at UFC Japan, defended the belt four times and then dropped the belt due to lack of competition.

    Frank Shamrock also was a champion in the WEC (before the Zuffa buyout) and in Strikeforce.

    An unfortunate rivalry with UFC president Dana White, has kept Frank out of the UFC hall of fame and practically out of UFC history entirely.

    He is therefore under-appreciated since the UFC doesn't acknowledge what he's done and, as a result, many fans (knowingly or unknowingly) don't acknowledge his accomplishments either.

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