With the ever growing appetite for mixed martial arts (MMA), fans are turning in more than ever to watch two modern day gladiators duke it out for supremacy in the octagon. More fans means greater audiences for the fighters to prove their worth, and so we have seen a great increase in popularity of many of the stars of the UFC. From current champions to popular overseas stars, more than ever have fans turned out to see their favourite fighter leave it all in the cage. Below is my personal list of UFC fighters who could easily be considered underrated throughout their career.
For a former champion to be considered underrated may seem to be a somewhat strange statement, but hear me out on this one. When Frankie Edgar was booked to take on the great BJ Penn for a shot at the UFC lightweight championship, not many gave the New Jersey Slugger much of a chance.
Touted as too small for the division and without a ‘killer instant’ – he only had two finishes under the UFC at the time- Edgar didn’t let all the doubters holding back and in one of the most surprising results in lightweight history, with a decisive victory over the future hall of famer. Not only did he defeat who many seen as one of the pound for pound greats, but done so in such a manner that made Penn look distinctively average.
The resulting rematch proved that it was no fluke.
Despite eventually losing the belt, in a very close decision, Edgar has looked championship material over the past four years, dropping two close decision fights against Benson Henderson, then an even closer decision against Featherweight champion Jose Aldo.
With some of the best boxing in the sport, Edgar’s movement and intelligence can only be measured next to his massive heart and will to win. Sure he may not knock heads off in spectacular fashion as some do, but the fact he has been involved in seven championship bouts, and is still in his prime, shows that Frankie is far from done on his already spectacular career. The fact he now fights in a division where is smaller stature isn’t under scrutiny may see more plaudits flying his way.
Fighting in a division that was dominated by one man for nigh on 7 years is no easy task. But the UFCs welterweight division was deemed stagnant and without any true challengers for 175 kingpin Georges St Pierre. One man managed to challenge that, that man was the always dangerous Carlos Condit.
After a spree of fights that included first minute flying knee knockouts and last round comebacks, Condit came face to face with Stockton slugger Nick Diaz for an interim title shot and eventual shot at GSP. He duly obliges and won a hard fought effort, in which his intelligence as a fighter was made apparent.
His encounter with GSP was what got him in the headlines, as he was the first man in close to seven years to making the Canadian look human, almost securing a spectacular head kick knockout. Despite going on to lose the match due to the superior wrestle of the champ, he proved he was one of the most dangerous fighters in the division. Whilst not a household name, Condit is a definite fan favourite with lethal striking and a killer instant to go with, if he can work on his takedown defence, we could see a future welterweight champion.
At forty years of age and with a frame that makes you think he’s in the wrong sport, the Super Samoan Mark Hunt is a story every UFC fan appreciates. After the closure of Pride FC Mark Hunt was given the opportunity to take a pay out on his remaining contract that was transferred over to the UFC after its purchase of the Japanese promotion. Deciding to earn his money, the Super Samoan chose to stick it out and bang first with the best heavyweight that the division had to offer.
A definite striking based fighter, the former kick boxer lost his first fight in the UFC to submission, as many of his previous defeats did. Glancing at his record you would see a man with more loses than wins, and nearing forty, you be forgiven for thinking you wouldn’t be hearing from the New Zealand native any time soon.
However, a string of violent knockouts has cemented his place in one of the hardest divisions in the UFC, as well as showcasing his greatly improved ground game, showing that despite questions over age, weight, professional record (9 wins to 8 losses) you can have great success at the highest levels.
More of a part time fighter these days due to his numerous roles in action films, Cung Le’s fighting skills can be best described as straight out of a film. Never in a boring fight, Le has a background in Tae Kwon Do and kick boxing that has provided fans with some of the flashiest (yet technically sound) kicks you are likely to see in the sport.
Fighting mostly in other organisations, and with only eleven fights under his belt at the tender age of 42, many have not had much of a chance to see Vietnamese-American in action. A now successful actor, Le still fights on occasion in the UFC, giving more fans a chance to see what he is truly capable of.
Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson is a current world champion and undefeated at flyweight, the newest addition to the UFC’s weight classes. A relatively new division has seen an under appreciation for the smaller fighters at 125 pounds. Despite having all the skillsets of their heavier counterparts, as well as unrivalled speed, this new division shows its infancy with a lack of depth and star talent beyond the top 10.
Perhaps this is why not many have seen the greatness in the making of the champion as he has simply ran through an already thin divison. Some may view it as not as competitive as other weight classes, but Johnsons is a definite contender in the pound for pound rankings.
The scary thing is he is continuing to grow as a fighter, with a solid wrestling base (a must in MMA) as well as possibly the fastest footwork, and ever improving hands (ask Joe Benavidez). He may not be a tall imposing figure, standing at a modest 5 ft 3 in, but in terms of outright talent, he up there with the elite of the sport, just not many people have noticed it yet.
So many things can determine why some UFC fighters are more underrated than others, but one thing is for sure, that as long as two fighters are willing to leave everything in the octagon for our entertainment and pleasure, they will unquestionably find themselves with a few admirers.