For years now the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been considered the premier promotion in mixed martial arts, but that is not to say that they have all of the premier talent in the world in their roster. While there are seemingly dozens of new promotions popping up around the world each month, there are only a few who can come close to competing with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, namely Bellator, One FC, and World Series of Fighting. These promotions show the most growth and level of talent that compares to the Ultimate Fighting Championship and it is with that in mind that this list ranks the top 10 fighters not currently in the UFC.
It does not matter if the fighter had fought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship previously, as long as they are currently signed to another promotion, they were considered for the list. Rankings were compiled after looking at a fighter’s record, strength of competition, if they are a champion in their promotion, and how well they performed in fights. It does not matter if a fighter comes off as a big fish in a small pond, if they have been performing well and in dominant fashion then they were a candidate for the ranking. Simply because a fighter may not be facing the best competition that they can does not mean that they are not a great fighter, though a lack of strong competition can affect a fighter in the various conversations concerning who is the “greatest of all time,” but those conversations are for another time and place.
So please read, enjoy, and let us know what you think down in the comments section. How would you have ranked these differently? Are there other fighters that you felt should have made the list or that one of the entries should be ranked differently?
Honorable Mention: Michael Chandler (12-3)
The former Bellator Lightweight Champion gets an honorable mention as he has gone into a skid recently, losing his last three matches after being undefeated in 12 fights. With finishes over Eddie Alvarez, Rick Hawn, and David Rickels, Chandler definitely has the resume and skill to be a top fighter but he has apparently lost his rhythm as of late, losing a rematch and his Lightweight Championship against Eddie Alvarez and then losing his next two fights to Will Brooks, the second time by TKO. So if Chandler is able to turn it around, especially if he wins the title again, he would definitely make the list proper.
9 Alexander Volkov (23-4)
The former Bellator Heavyweight Champion is number 10 on the list with an impressive MMA record of only four losses in 27 fights, even more impressive is that only four of his victories have gone to the judges’ scorecard. Despite getting trounced by Vitaly Minakov and losing the Bellator Heavyweight Title at Bellator 108, Volkov has bounced back with four finish victories and winning the Season 10 Heavyweight Tournament, setting up a rematch with Minakov for the title at a later date. If he is able to get the belt back around his waist, he could easily rise up through this ranking.
8 Cris 'Cyborg' Justino (12-1 (1))
The top female MMA fighter in the world for many years, Cyborg Justino has spent the last few years trying to get over the stigma of being caught using performance enhancing drugs in 2011. Despite that, Justino has racked up impressive wins over fighters like Gina Carano, Shayna Baszler, and Marloes Coenen on two occasions; she has shown to have the skills necessary to utterly destroy her competition. As the inaugural Invicta Featherweight Champion, she now has a chance to wipe the slate clean and show what she can do free of PEDs. There's no doubt that someday we'd love to see Cyborg challenge Ronda Rousey for her UFC Women's Bantamweight Title.
8. David Branch (15-3)
After being released from the UFC where he had a 2-2 record and his only notable moment coming from being knocked unconscious by a slam from Gerald Harris, David Branch would find a new home in the World Series of Fighting. Branch is currently on a five-fight win streak including a win over Jesse Taylor to become the WSOF Middleweight Champion. In the course of this current streak, Branch also gained wins over former WEC Middleweight Champion Paulho Filho and former UFC Middleweight contender Yushin Okami.
7 Douglas Lima (26-5)
With a MMA record of 26-5, with only three wins coming by way of decision, current Bellator Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima is one of the deadliest Welterweights outside of the UFC. Since June 2009, he has only lost one out of 15 fights, against Ben Askren at Bellator 64. After the loss to Askren, Lima would start his current five-fight win streak, which includes wins over Ben Saunders in the Season 8 Welterweight Tournament and Rick Hawn to win the Welterweight Championship and is expected to face the winner between Paul Daley and André Santos.
6 Patricio Freire (23-2)
With only two decision losses to Pat Curran and Joe Warren on his professional MMA record, Patricio Freire has been shown to be a force to be reckoned with. A staple of the Bellator Featherweight Tournaments, Freire has made it to the finals in all three of the tournaments that he has been a part of, winning two of them. Last September he would avenge his most recent loss to Pat Curran, beating him by unanimous decision. He would then defend the title for the first time a few months later, beating Daniel Straus by submission at Bellator 132.
5 Joe Warren (12-3)
As the current Bellator Bantamweight Champion and former Featherweight, Joe Warren has made a name for himself in the MMA world for his world class wrestling and ability to control all aspects of a fight. After beating Joe Soto for the Bellator Featherweight Championship in only his seventh professional fight, Warren would suffer a setback, getting knocked out by Alexis Vila in the Bantamweight Tournament Quarterfinal, and then knocked out in the next fight to Pat Curran, losing the Featherweight Title. Yet he would bounce back, winning the Season 9 Bantamweight Tournament and eventually the Undisputed Bantamweight Championship from Eduardo Dantas.
4 Emanuel Newton (25-7-1)
When the season 8 Lightheavyweight tournament started in Bellator, many expected newly signed King Mo Lawal to run through the competition on his way towards a title shot, unfortunately he would get knocked out cold by a spinning back fist from eventual tournament winner Emanuel Newton. The two would meet again for the interim title with Newton winning again, this time by unanimous decision. Upon finally beating Attila Vegh for the undisputed title, Newton has gone on to defend the title twice already with a third defense coming up on February 27th.
3 Will Brooks (15-1)
As the current Lightweight Champion for Bellator, Will Brooks has certainly made a name for himself despite never having fought in the UFC. Having lost only one fight out of 16 in his professional career, Brooks has shown himself to be a capable fighter against any Lightweight. With wins over Drew Dober, Saad Awad, and two wins over Michael Chandler, Brooks has shown that he deserves the recognition he gets as one of the top Lightweight fighters in the mixed martial arts community, and a win in his next fight against Dave Jansen could further cement his status. Who knows, maybe we'll see him in the UFC before we know it.
2 Vitaly Minakov (14-0)
We now get to the fighters who have yet to be defeated, yet still aren't fighting in the world's biggest promotion. As the current Bellator Heavyweight Champion and fighter who has finished all but two of his opponents, Vitaly Minakov has made quite a name for himself in just a short amount of time. Despite having a background in Sambo and Judo, Minakov has won most of his fights by knockout in the first round. After beating Alexander Volkov for the Bellator Heavyweight Championship, Minakov solidified his spot as a top Heavyweight with an impressive unanimous decision victory over longtime UFC Heavyweight Cheick Kongo.
1 Ben Askren (14-0)
Former Olympic wrestler and collegiate champion Ben Askren is easily the best Welterweight in the world outside the UFC. Debuting professionally in 2009, Askren has gone undefeated in 14 matches, winning most by decision. Yet despite a strong wrestling background he has developed his striking and submission skills, winning his last four fights by either TKO or submission. He has also defended the Bellator Welterweight Championship four times and just recently became the new Welterweight Champion for Singapore-based promotion One FC. Unfortunately, his grinding style has made many call him a boring fighter, which has hindered his chances of getting into the UFC, which has cut grinding fighters like Jake Shields and Yushin Okami in the last couple of years.