In the past month of UFC action, you can see two very different ways that fighters can receive title shots and two different reactions to them. On the one hand you have Ronda Rousey being fast tracked to a rematch versus the only woman to defeat her in Holly Holm, despite being absolutely mangled and embarrassed on that fateful night in Melbourne, Australia at UFC 193. A large section of fans are scratching their heads at this decision and wondering why the streaking Miesha Tate wasn't given the next title shot against the fresh champion.
On the other hand, you have Donald Cerrone facing off against Lightweight Champion Rafael Dos Anjos this month. Loved by the fans for his wicked striking and loose tongue, Cerrone have always come so close to getting a title shot only to have it slip away but now he finally received it. No arguments from anybody, "Cowboy" deserves the title shot above all else.
Not everybody has taken the harrowing and long path to a title opportunity as Cerrone though. Throughout the promotion's history there have been several fighters who just kind of fell in to the title picture. This includes fighters who were on losing streaks or lacked experience in the weight class they were challenging in. When you look at the following 15 entries, you are forced to shake your head and wonder how they got the shot no matter how well they did in the fight.
P.S. I've decided to exclude Joe Soto's match with T.J. Dillashaw from the list due to the UFC having to find a replacement for Renan Barao on spectacularly short notice of a day. It's a miracle they found anyone at all.
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15 Nate Quarry vs. Rich Franklin - UFC 56
Nate Quarry's lasting achievements of his life in my opinion would include escaping his insane Jehovah's Witnesses upbringing and pulling off the Running Man in a pro MMA fight. His title fight versus Rich Franklin however is not on that list.
First off, the big reason why Quarry received the shot had to be because of appearance on the original Ultimate Fighter season as it was the biggest reason the UFC hit the mainstream. It sure as hell wasn't for beating Shonie Carter and Pete Sell, whose greatest claim to fame is being the victim of this knockout.
The whole match was too much too soon for Quarry as Franklin quickly knocked him out in two and half minutes of the first round and turned Quarry into a wooden board on a canvas.
14 B.J. Penn vs. Georges St-Pierre - UFC 94
As the only true superfight the UFC ever did, GSP and B.J. Penn faced off for the second time in their careers although this time as champions of their respective weight classes. While no doubt Penn was extremely talented and riding a wave of momentum, people seemed to forget just what happened the last time Penn fought at Welterweight.
Prior to dropping to Lightweight, Penn was pinned down and smashed by the larger Matt Hughes after badly gassing in the third round of their title fight. Combine that with a split decision loss to GSP before that and it's a wonder how Penn received a title shot at UFC 94 after defending his Lighweight title just once.
13 Chris Cariaso vs. Demetrious Johnson - UFC 178
A collective chorus of "who?" sprung about from casual and even some hardcore UFC fans when the babyfaced Filipino was announced as the challenger for Flyweight champion Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson at UFC 178. Ranked all the way at number eight in the UFC rankings, fans were left scratching their heads as Cariaso got the title shot despite his three fight win streak.
As Dana White explained to UFC.com though, the organization was left with few options as actual number one contender John Dodson was out with an injury and Johnson defeated any other challenger who wasn't already booked in a fight. Essentially, Cariaso got the shot from process of elimination and it showed as Johnson quickly disposed of him in the second round via kimura. How did this headline a PPV card again?
12 Nick Diaz vs. Georges St-Pierre - UFC 158
Oh how I feel the hate coming for this one. Over in Strikeforce, Nick Diaz ran the welterweight division in that promotion, winning the championship in January 2010 and defending it three times before moving on to the UFC and defeating B.J. Penn in his return to the company.
In reality, Diaz's mouth earned him his title shot just as much as his wins did. While he didn't necessarily face any bad fighters in Strikeforce, the talent level of his challengers ranged from mediocre to pretty good. Also, it's hard to believe that beating a 170 pound B.J. Penn and losing to Carlos Condit would equate to a title shot but when you can talk s***like Diaz can, conventional wisdom goes out the window. GSP's cleansing of his division is also the reason why Diaz got the shot.
Ultimately Diaz couldn't touch the greatest welterweight of all time as GSP jabbed and took Diaz down at will en route to a unanimous decision victory in his hometown of Montreal.
11 Patrick Cote vs. Anderson Silva - UFC 90
There's plenty of ways I could describe Patrick Cote: a good dresser, power puncher and a worthy representative of Canadian MMA. A credible threat to Anderson Silva? Not so much.
Back in the days before the UFC Middleweight division caught on fire, Anderson Silva ruled over one of the weaker weight classes in the UFC and the promotion's booking of Patrick Cote as a challenger to the championship is proof of that. After defeating the legend Dan Henderson and unifying the PRIDE and UFC Middleweight championships, Silva appeared to be taking it easy in his fight with Cote before the challenger's knee blew out in the third round. Not like either fighter was doing much before that.
10 Thales Leites vs. Anderson Silva - UFC 97
If Cote had almost no chance of defeating Silva outside of a puncher's chance, Thales Leites had even less of a shot at UFC 97 when he took on arguably the best fighter in MMA history for the Middleweight championship. Lacking a wrestling pedigree to compliment his great Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game, Leites' victories over Drew McFedries and Nate Marquardt (helped by two points being deducted from Marquardt) inspired little hope in fans that Leites was the man to beat Silva. Unfortunately for fans, Silva knew that.
Silva toyed with the BJJ artist for five rounds at UFC 97, denying most of his takedown attempts and Leites did little more but lie on his back in later rounds hoping for Silva to just climb into his guard. The fight was so bad that the Montreal crowd began to chant for Georges St-Pierre as Leites proved how undeserving of the shot he was.
9 Frankie Edgar vs. B.J Penn - UFC 112
Anybody who knows me knows how much I love Frankie Edgar. As much as I admire the kid from the New Jersey, even I have to wonder how Edgar got the shot versus B.J Penn back at UFC 112.
While no doubt Edgar looked like a credible challenger in the title fight, Edgar's previous victories didn't scream title shot. Yes he beat Sean Sherk at UFC 98 but his final win before facing Penn was against Matt Veach. Who? Exactly. Edgar's only loss at that point of his career, Gray Maynard, was riding an undefeated streak and was passed over in favor of Edgar. Unlike other fighters on this list though Edgar became one of the best fighters of all time and made the most of his title shot by defeating Penn via unanimous decision.
8 Randy Couture vs. Tim Sylvia - UFC 68
Not even this awesome video could convince me that Randy Couture deserved his title shot versus Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia at UFC 68.
Not only did Couture lose his last fight to Light Heavyweight legend Chuck Liddell which led to his first retirement, but he also lost the last two fights he had at heavyweight to Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriquez. And then the UFC grants him a heavyweight title shot in his first fight out of retirement.
The only way this story gets any crazier if he were to defeat the 6"8, 265 pound giant of a champion WAIT WHAT HE DID!? Damn that's impressive, still doesn't justify the title shot though.
7 Sean Sherk vs. Kenny Florian - UFC 64
Not even a swordsman outfit could save good old Kenny Florian from disaster at UFC 64 when he stepped into the octagon versus the tetris game of muscle mass known as Sean Sherk. The first Lightweight title fight since the promotion disbanded the division in 2003, the vastly more experienced Sherk pummelled Florian with aggressive wrestling and ground and pound to cruise to a unanimous decision victory.
Even an elbow that sliced Sherk open badly couldn't convince people that Florian had a chance versus Sherk. His record was after all a mere 5-2 heading into the bout and lost to Diego Sanchez, a smaller man than Sherk, so one didn't have to look far to predict the result of this title fight.
6 Matt Serra vs. Georges St-Pierre - UFC 69
While everybody was ready to crown Holly Holm's win over Ronda Rousey as the greatest upset in MMA history, Matt Serra was just chilling in the background wondering how everybody forgot his victory over Georges St-Pierre back at UFC 69.
A big reason why Serra's victory was so shocking was due to how he got the shot in the first place. Defeating Pete Spratt, Shonie Carter and Chris Lytle on the fourth season of The Ultimate Fighter netted Serra a title shot as per the special win reward of that TUF season. Essentially, Serra beat a few journeymen on a reality show and then beat the best welterweight in MMA history via the submission known as punching your face until you want me to stop. MMA is weird folks.
5 Bethe Correia vs. Ronda Rousey - UFC 190
Ah good old Bethe Correia. When Correia wasn't making suicide jokes she was busy convincing herself that she was actually a worthy challenger to the then female kingpin of the UFC, Ronda Rousey.
It's very simple to explain how Correia got the title shot: she beat the right opponents. Not the right opponents in terms of rankings mind you, Correia instead soundly defeated Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler, both of whom are teammates of Ronda Rousey. That was apparently all she needed to get a shot as the combined UFC records from Correia's wins was an astonishingly awful 1-7.
Despite her brash attitude, Correia offered nothing for Rousey in Brazil at UFC 190 as the champion smashed her in 34 seconds via KO. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea to antagonize Ronda Rousey so much eh Bethe?
4 Justin Eilers vs. Andrei Arlovski - UFC 53
Pop quiz MMA fans, who on earth is Justin Eilers? In a miraculous case of luck, Eilers somehow found himself standing across from UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski at UFC 53. Well to be fair, he wasn't standing for long as Arlovski knocked him out within the first round to retain his title. This would have been the same result as Eilers' previous fight which he also lost via KO. But how the hell did he get there?
Well Eilers was never supposed to be Arlovski's opponent, that was supposed to be Ricco Rodriguez. Rodriguez was a former ADCC and UFC World Champion and while he was on a losing skid of his own, his resume made a title shot a little more sense than a Eilers especially considering that Rodriquez had beaten Arlovski in the past. Rodriguez however couldn't find any training partners for the fight so the shot was given to Eilers. So really, Eilers got the shot because Rodriguez didn't find a good camp. Seems legit to me.
3 Jon Jones vs. Vitor Belfort - UFC 152
Jon Jones is the best Light Heavyweight of all time. No doubt about it, but that reputation definitely didn't come about from defeating Vitor Belfort in Toronto at UFC 152.
Belfort, as you may have noticed, hasn't been a light-heavyweight since 2007. However Belfort saw an opportunity at a UFC championship when Dan Henderson's injury created the whole UFC 151 debacle and he filled in for Hendo to face Jones. Once again, an injury to the actual number one contender caused a non-deserving fighter to rise up and take the spot.
Oddly enough Belfort became Jones' biggest challenge as he almost snapped Jones' arm with an armbar in the first round but once Jones escaped it was smooth sailing for the champ until he ended the fight via fourth round Americana. Keep in mind, this is me ignoring the entire TRT situation with Mr.Belfort which Deadspin's Josh Gross covered in great detail a few months ago.
2 Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen - UFC 159
The other poster boy for Testosterone Replacement Therapy, Chael Sonnen came into UFC 159 versus Jon Jones competing in a weight class he hadn't competed in for eight years and as the loser of his fight for the Middleweight title versus Anderson Silva. WHAT?!
Here ladies and gentlemen is the power the Oregon Gangster. When Dan Henderson pulled out of his UFC 151 fight versus Jon Jones, Sonnen stepped up to the plate and offered to take the fight but Jones refused. This led to the UFC booking Sonnen opposite Jon Jones on the 17th season of the Ultimate Fighter and granting Sonnen a title shot. Why? Because Chael Sonnen can talk the best game in MMA history.
Oh wait I forgot to mention the fight. Yeah, Jones crushed him within one round. NEXT!!!
1 Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture - UFC 90
Here it is, you knew it was coming and here it is. Pro wrestling/college wrestling superstar Brock Lesnar burst onto the MMA scene in 2007 by defeating the legendary umm, Min-Soo Kim. Well then he faced former UFC Heavyweight champion Frank Mir and... lost via kneebar in the first round. Finally Lesnar managed to get a victory over a quality opponent in Heath Herring. Now into the offices of the UFC:
"Brock won a fight? Well hot damn he deserves a title shot, put him in there against that guy we hate! No not Frank Shamrock, Randy Couture with the title on the line!"
Yes, Lesnar is a tremendous athlete and went on to become one of the longer reigning heavyweight champions in UFC history but come on now. There is no way 2-1 record justifies being put in the cage with the heavyweight champion. I find hard to imagine any other title shot being more undeserving than this.
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