In the sport of MMA we see great fighters come and go every couple of years. Some stay longer than others and some sit on top of the UFC, become household names and perform as frustratingly consistent champions like Georges St-Pierre, Ronda Rousey and Anderson Silva.
For every champion who dominates his or her division however, there are usually a couple of top contenders and a whole bunch of fighters who get a contract with the UFC, fight a few times and then float back to the relative anonymity of the smaller promotions. However, there are some fighters who get stuck in the middle ground. They are the competitors who stay with the promotion for a while, make names for themselves but never manage to fight for the title.
For some of them, it's an issue of timing, as they just happen to enter their peak when two or three others fighters are dominating the top of their division. For others, injuries sustained on the way to the top can be headaches that hold back careers. But for the most part, it comes down to there being something about their game, whether it be striking, grappling, defense, cardio, or any of the other uncountable number of things important to performance in MMA, that is not up to an elite standard.
Here is our list of the greatest mixed martial artists who fought in the UFC but didn't or have yet to fight for a championship belt. This list will include former and present fighters, regardless of whether they held belts in other promotions. Finally, we will not include those fighters who as of November 11th, 2015 (the time of completion of this article) have been scheduled for title fights in the near future, so Donald Cerrone, Conor McGregor, and Luke Rockhold will not be here but get honorable mentions.
15 Amanda Nunes
I'll throw down a "spoiler alert" right away and say that Amanda Nunes is the only woman on this list. We decided to start with her because of the fact that the Strawweight division is too new to start a conversation like this in addition to the fact that she is the only high-ranking contender in the Bantamweight division who has yet to be ripped apart by Ronda Rousey. Holly Holm's dismantling is less than a week away at the time of writing, so she will not be included for the same reason as Conor McGregor and Luke Rockhold, as we noted above.
14 Cub Swanson
The case for Cub Swanson is a tough one to make, but we'll make it anyway, because he is a gifted fighter and one of the finest strikers in the Featherweight division. His last two fights ended in losses (both fights were absolute wars) to top five contenders Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar.
13 Gegard Mousasi
Admittedly, Dutch fighter Gegard Mousasi has not dominated the UFC in his two and half years with the promotion. The former Strikeforce and DREAM champions has gone 4-3 in the UFC, most recently losing via a huge finish by Jamaican striker Uriah Hall. His most notable win was against Dan Henderson, one of the most prolific warriors in the business.
At just age thirty, Mousasi already has over forty fights to his name; that can happen when one starts competing at age 18. Three of his six career losses have occurred in UFC competition and given his relative youth, he still has a few good years left fighting. He's a solid fighter, but his entire game will need some fine tuning if he is to rise above eighth in the Middleweight division, as his two other losses have been to some of the most technically sound Brazilians in the UFC; Lyoto Machida and Ronaldo Souza.
12 Mike Pierce
One of those reliable names who always put up a great show, Mike Pierce suffered from a tough 2011 and 2012, losing two of his four losses. He's 9-4 in UFC competition, with three of those losses coming to Welterweight stars Josh Koscheck, Johny Hendricks, and Jon Fitch. His fourth and most recent loss was to Rousimar Palhares, who was kicked out of the UFC after cranking the heel-hook submission he had applied on Pierce to win their 2013 fight. Pierce damaged some ligaments in his ankle, which originally caused him to miss what is now two years of MMA competition.
11 Travis Browne
Currently the number five in the UFC's Heavyweight division, Travis Browne has been competing in the promotion since the middle of 2010. It wasn't until he went up against Antonio Silva in 2012, that he lost his first professional fight. At that point he was 13-1-1 for his career. He's beaten Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, Brendan Schaub and of course Josh Barnett; not a slouch of an opponent among them. His two other UFC losses have come to two of the sport's finest, current champ Fabricio Werdum (in a title eliminator back in 2014) and former champ Andrei Arlovski.
10 Jim Miller
9 Phil Davis
8 T.J. Grant
7 Chris Lytle
I'll throw out an honorable mention here to Matt Brown, a two time victim of Chris Lytle who remains a solid competitor in the Welterweight division to this day and lost a title eliminator to Robbie Lawlor back in the summer of 2014.
6 Ryan Bader
One of the big questions in the UFC a couple of months ago was "what does Bader have to do to get a title shot?" It's a fair question, and the answer is "beat Anthony Johnson in January and stop complaining." Ryan "Darth" (but I prefer the nickname "Master") Bader entered the UFC in 2008, winning season 8 of TUF and then going undefeated in his first four fights, which saw wins over Keith Jardine and "Little Nog."
5 Michael Bisping
There's still time for Bisping although many of his fans and critics alike are skeptical. With Ryan Bader out of the way, we'll discuss another former TUF winner, Michael Bisping. The Count was a Cage Warriors Light Heavyweight champ for a year and a half before winning season three of the UFC's reality TV show.
4 Stipe Miocic
3 Ronaldo Souza
2 Khabib Nurmagomedov
1 Mirko Filipovic
Someone new to MMA fandom who looks at Mirko Cro Cop's recent record in the UFC may not be too impressed. He didn't join the UFC until he was heading into his mid 30s and already had almost thirty fights to his name. Until that point, he had been in the Croatian army and an anti-terrorism police force. During this time he started boxing and eventually got into MMA, the rest is history.
He's one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport with over twenty knockouts on his record. His time with Pride FC was amazing and he was on the giving end of some of that promotion's most incredible KOs. He lost two championship fights in Pride, getting submitted by Antonio Nogueira (Big Nog) and getting dominated by Fedor Emelianenko in 2003 and 2005 respectively. In 2006, he won the Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix, beating Josh Barnett. Barnett is the current number six in the UFC and a former Pancrase champ. Cro Cop's other victims include Wanderlei Silva and most recently Gabriel Gonzaga, in a long awaited rematch back in April. Despite consistently entertaining fights in the last several years, he just hasn't done enough to earn a title fight. It'd be great to see it happen for Filipovic, but at age 41, and looking at the (this is meant positively) meat covered robots currently dominating the UFC Heavyweight division, we don't see it happening.
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