The sport of mixed martial arts has given us a wide variety of fighters over the years. A majority of those fighters who have competed in our favorite MMA bouts have simply allowed their in ring/cage performance do the talking. At the same time there are plenty of fighters who have taken things a step further and trash talked their opponents in promos and press conferences leading up to their fight. Regardless of how a fighter wants to promote themselves, the brand they are fighting for can hype them up however they want and to whatever extent they feel necessary. Fight promotions want fighters who can connect with their audiences in unique ways. Take someone like Chael Sonnen for example. Sonnen's been in a number of main events (six in the UFC) despite the fact that the Oregon native is just 10-8 in his WEC/UFC career. There's no doubt that his WWE style mic work played a factor in the UFC matchmaking process.
Traits like this have allowed Sonnen and a number of other fighters to cement their legacy in combat sports history regardless of how they may have performed throughout their career. Its hard to formulate an opinion on a fighter when promoters are focusing on certain aspects of a fighter outside of their athletic abilities.
Our previous list of the Top 15 Overrated MMA Fighters discussed fighters primarily associated with the UFC. This list will include some fighters from the flagship MMA promotion but will also feature other fighters outside of the UFC as well. Some fighters are still riding their hype trains while others on the list once rode the hype like non other but crashed and burned into MMA oblivion. Here are the top 20 overrated fighters in mixed martial arts:
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20 Paige VanZant
When it comes to the sport of MMA, fighters like Paige VanZant stand out from the rest of the competition. It isn't her striking or her ground game that's turning heads but more so her looks that have won over a good portion of the fighting community. Unfortunately the UFC is no beauty contest; in fact it's probably the farthest thing from it. After racking up three straight wins in the UFC, VanZant was pitted against former Ultimate Fighter contestant Rose Namajunas. The fight would be an eye opener for MMA fans as Namajunas exposed weaknesses in the Team Alpha Male member's game by out striking her 78-6 and controlling her on the ground for a majority of the five round contest.
She is now 1-2 in her last three fights with her most recent fight being a submission loss to Michelle Watterson at UFC On Fox 22. Only 22 years old, there is still time for her to rebound but a third loss in a row could prove worry some for the fighter.
19 Yoshihiro Akiyama
The man known as “Sexyama” in MMA circles is quite the decorated combatant having won gold medals in the 2001 Asian Championships and the 2002 Asian Games in the sport of judo. Unfortunately for Akiyama he hasn't seen much success in his stint with the UFC. His first fight would be against Alan Belcher at UFC 100. The fight earned Fight of the Night honors and saw Akiyama earn a split-decision victory. It was a back and fourth battle that had many intrigued at what Akiyama had to offer. Flashes of his judo skills appeared in a few of his fights, particularly in his bout with Jake Shields, and his exciting style has kept him around since 2010 but he has had little success with the promotion with a record of 2-5 and is all but retired from the sport at this point as he is undecided on his fighting future. His last fight came against Alberto Mino at UFC Fight Night 79 which he lost via split decision.
18 Bob Sapp
Bob Sapp might be one of the most physically imposing fighters to ever put on a pair of gloves. Unfortunately MMA is not all about muscles and Bob Sapp is the perfect example of that. The 6-foot-5, 330 pound giant became a fan favorite in Japan and was even pitted against legends in the MMA and kickboxing world such as Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop but has been exposed by almost everyone that doesn't let his size get the best of them.
The former NFL guard has lost his last 13 MMA fights and has been accused of throwing recent MMA bouts simply for a paycheck. Here's a glimpse of how delusional Sapp is today. He's probably better known for playing Switowski in The Longest Yard.
17 Hatsu Hioki
Upon his first fight in the UFC, Shooto veteran Hatsu Hioki had a decent amount of pressure coming over from Japan. The Sengoku Featherweight Champion and TKO Featherweight champion was looking to become the first Japanese born UFC champion but ultimately failed to do so. After having two great showings against George Roop and Bart Palaszweski it looked like Hioki was starting to gain some ground in the 145 lb division. He was offered a title shot but deemed himself unready for one so he took on Ricardo Lamas instead. Hioki should have taken the shot while he had the chance as he would drop a unanimous decision to Lamas. From there things went downhill quickly as he went 1-4 in his last five fights before being released from the promotion.
16 Todd Duffee
With a giant fist tattoo on his back and a physique that made the rest of the heavyweight division look like they needed a trip to fat camp, Todd Duffee was ready to set the MMA world on fire and he did just that. At UFC 102, Duffee debuted against UFC veteran Tim Hauge and set a record for the fastest knockout in UFC heavyweight history after landing a straight left jab and some follow up ground and pound to end the fight in just seven seconds. In his next fight at UFC 114 Duffee was set to take on Mike Russow. Three days before the fight, Duffee, in an interview with MMA Fighting, stated “I've been overhyped but I'm not overrated by any means.”
Well I hate to say it but Duffee may have been wrong with this statement as Russow would go on to stage one of the most spectacular victories in UFC history after knocking out Duffee in the third round and providing MMA fans with one of the most well renowned moves in the history of the sport, the hammerfist of doom. Duffee has failed to bounce back in his second stint with the UFC and is currently 4-3 in the promotion.
15 Mark Kerr
With a resume that includes being a two-time UFC champion it might come as a surprise to see Kerr on this list. The thing to keep in mind is that those title reigns came during a period of time in the UFC in which the competition was not exactly at its peak. He's best known for his victory against Igor Borisov in which he used a technique known as the “can opener” to submit his opponent but lost a majority of his fights against top competition such as Igor Vovchanchyn and Heath Herring and he has gone 3-11 in his last 14 fights. His PED use is also a red flag in his career but is also a tale that many can learn from.
14 Ben Askren
Ben Askren is one of the more perplexing fighters in the sport of MMA. The former Bellator Welterweight champion is currently 15-0-1 (one No Contest) but don't let the record fool you as Askren has been criticized for playing fights safe and riding out decisions for a majority of his career. It got to the point that Bellator decided not to renew his contract which resulted in Askren becoming a free agent (keep in mind he was still champion at this point).
He is now competing for ONE FC where he is the current welterweight champion. Dana White refused to sign Askren during his time as a free agent so the chance to face some stiffer competition is all but out the window at this point.
13 Stephan Bonnar
Stephan Bonnar and Forest Griffin are known for their historic fight at the first Ultimate Fighter Finale. The two had very different career paths afterwards however. Griffin would go on to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship while Bonnar would go back and fourth between wins and losses for a majority of his career. A couple of failed drug tests at UFC 62 and UFC 153 are a bit of a blemish on the fighter's resume as well.
He was never able to break the top five in the Light Heavyweight division but that really didn't matter since his first fight with Forest was basically the reason why he was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. A hall of famer for one fight? Seems like a bit of a stretch, doesn't it?
12 Ken Shamrock
If anyone on this list needs to hang up their gloves for good it's Ken Shamrock. His last fight, which was a third match up with Royce Gracie, was one that left MMA fans with a bad taste in their mouths. His nickname of “The World's Most Dangerous Man” probably doesn't apply at this point but the fact that his name is still relevant in the sport today is pretty absurd.
In the later stages of his career, Shamrock was matched up with a number of opponents that could have been used to put him over but he ultimately lost to them which included the likes of Kimbo Slice and Roberty Berry. I'd like to remember him more for his wrestling career at this point anyway.
11 Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto
Better known by his nickname, “Kid” Yamamoto is somewhat of a legend in Japan. His flying knee knockout of Kazuyuki Miyata is quite the sight to see but outside of that there isn't much to loathe about when it comes to the MMA veteran. Rather than focusing on one division, Yamamoto bounced around between featherweight, lightweight and bantamweight but hasn't been able to accomplish much in any of them. After signing a contract with the UFC in 2011, he made his debut against current UFC Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson at UFC 126 but lost the fight via unanimous decision.
Yamamoto has yet to secure a victory inside the octagon and his last fight at UFC 184 against Roman Salazar ended in a no contest after Salazar was deemed unfit to continue after an accidental eye poke in the second round.
10 Holly Holm
Regardless of how Holly Holm's career ends, she will always be known for being the one to dethrone Ronda Rousey. She outclassed Rousey in every way possible and provided another example of how no one is invincible in MMA. Before she could get comfortable with the title, Holm saw her own unbeaten record disappear after losing the belt to Miesha Tate via rear-naked choke in the fifth round of her first title defense at UFC 196. The fight with Rousey was a perfect match up for Holm. The Tate fight not so much. Tate used her wrestling to her advantage and was able to outclass Holm on the ground. The lack of a ground game is a glaring hole in Holm's repertoire but it shouldn't come as a surprise as she comes from a boxing and kickboxing background.
9 Hector Lombard
Six years ago, if you saw Hector Lombards record of 31-2-1 on paper you would have guessed that he was on the same level of greatness as Fedor Emelianenko. He was the reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion and he was wrecking all of the competition put in front of him. Fight fans were waiting for him to make his debut in the UFC and it finally happened at UFC 149 when Lombard took on UFC middleweight Tim Boetsch. The fight was highly uneventful and Lombard, who at the time had 17 knockout victories to his record, lost via split-decision. Lombard's had mixed results in the UFC but nowhere near the level of success he had in Bellator. He is now riding back-to-back losses and a third could see his UFC career cut short.
8 Travis Lutter
There are some really bad match ups in MMA. Travis Lutter played part in one of the worst match ups of all time. Back in 2007, Anderson Silva was coming off a knockout win over Rich Franklin at UFC 64 that earned him the UFC Middleweight championship. For some reason the UFC thought it would be a good idea to give Lutter a title shot after winning The Ultimate Fighter 4. Lutter, in what was probably the most important fight of his career, missed weight by two pounds so the title fight was changed to a three-round, non-title fight. At UFC 67 Silva would handle Lutter with relative ease and won the fight with a triangle choke in the second round. Safe to say Dana White wasn't to happy with Lutter afterwards.
7 Vitor Belfort
When it comes to the USADA era of the UFC, there is no better fighter than Vitor Belfort to use as a prime example of what happens when fighters are not allowed to use banned supplements anymore. In this case Belfort was using TRT, which was banned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission in February, 2014. UFC 187 would be the first event that Belfort would not be allowed to use TRT after using the supplements and racking up three highlight reel knockouts in his three previous fights against Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold and Dan Henderson. The winning streak in 2013 earned Belfort a title shot at former champion Chris Weidman. The key note about those wins was that we were seeing Belfort pull off techniques that we didn't see him do when he was 19.
Once he was off TRT, his game changed immensely. In his fight with Weidman, his stamina seemed to go out the window after throwing a quick flurry in the beginning of the first round. Moments later Weidman scored a take down and secured full mount and rained down strikes while Belfort tried to maintain a defensive position but Weidman would earn the TKO victory which resulted in a loss in what could possibly have been the last title fight of his career. This isn't the first time Belfort has been in hot water with PEDs which is why his career will forever be in question.
6 Anthony Pettis
Pettis will forever be known for the “Showtime Kick” during his first fight against Ben Henderson at WEC 53. It was one of the most iconic moments in the history of the sport but Pettis most likely holds his second win over Henderson at UFC 164 on a higher pedestal as the win earned him the UFC Lightweight Championship in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was only able to defend his belt once though before losing it to Rafael Dos Anjos in a one-sided TKO loss to the Brazilian. He is now 1-3 in his last four fights. His latest loss came at the hands of Interim Featherweight Champion Max Holloway in what was another tough TKO loss. His flashy striking ability has now been overshadowed by his lack of take down defense and at this point it's tough to determine what's next for the former champ but his best days may very well be behind him.
5 Sage Northcutt
Our first glimpse of Sage Northcutt came from an episode of Dana White's web series Lookin' for a Fight. After witnessing a near flawless performance by Northcutt at Legacy Fighting Championship 42, White decided to give him shot on the UFC Fight Pass Prelims at UFC 192. He would debut against lightweight Francisco Trevino, who missed weight by five pounds. The weight difference posed no hindrance on Northcutt's abilities as “Super” Sage quickly disposed of Trevino with a TKO in just under a minute in the first round. White was once again impressed with the 20-year-old's talent and stated that he looked “unbelievable”.
Fast forward to UFC on Fox 22 and Northcutt was not only on the main card but he would go on to earn the highest payout of the night after submitting Cody Phister in the second round via guillotine choke. The buzz around Northcutt was now greater than ever but it would not last long as a month later he was submitted by Bryan Barberena.
4 Michael "Venom" Page
Referred to as simply “MVP” Michael Page is the biggest name and talent currently on the Bellator roster. The 29-year-old first came to the attention of MMA fans when a video showcased the fighter knocking out Ben Dishman with a Tornado Kick in just over a minute into the fight. Along with the fancy striking comes a bit of showboating every now and then as well. There's nothing wrong with a bit of confidence but a step up in competition wouldn't hurt either. He's fought a laundry list of no names with the most notable opponent being Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. Yes, he did finish Santos with a devastating flying knee but Santos hasn't been relevant in any middleweight division in almost six years.
It's clear that Bellator doesn't want this man to lose as a single loss in MMA can set a fighter back quite a bit. He already has eight fights under the Bellator banner so a shot at Bellator Middleweight Champion Rafael Carvahlo shouldn't be too far out of the picture at this point.
3 Brock Lesnar
Lesnar is an enigma. The man started a trend for professional wrestlers such as Dave Batista and Bobby Lashley to follow (Yes there is one more but we'll discuss him later) and did so with great success. While he did capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship, there were still questions to be answered regarding Lesnar's true MMA capabilities. He used his size to his advantage against smaller opponents like Randy Couture but fell victim to more seasoned strikers such as Alistair Overeem. When it comes down to it, there are more questions then answers with Brock Lesnar's MMA career. He is most likely finished with MMA after his most recent fight at UFC 200 against Mark Hunt, which was later ruled a no contest after Lesnar tested positive for clomiphene.
If that truly was his last dance in the octagon, Lesnar will walk away with a record of 5-3-1. One can't help but wonder what things would have been like if he never had to deal with the diverticulitis.
2 Ronda Rousey
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Rousey had it all. Movie deals, commercial gigs and the reputation of being the baddest women on the planet. That all came to a screeching halt back in 2015 at UFC 193 when Holly Holm out struck her 44-25 and viciously knocked her out in the second round of Rousey's eighth straight title defense. The fight was an indicator that Rousey's striking may not have been what it seemed to be after she knocked out Bethe Correia three months earlier at UFC 190.
Current UFC Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes only made things worse for Rousey after she finished the former champ in just 48 seconds of the first round in their fight at UFC 207. This hype train seemed to have no end in sight but it crashed into a brick wall at full force.
1 CM Punk
CM Punk might be the biggest name to come out of the WWE in the last ten years. His followers march to his every beat and for good reasons. His straight-edge rebel lifestyle is what made wrestling fans fall in love with him since day one. After unceremoniously departing from the WWE in 2014, Punk made it known to his fans that a career in MMA was not out of the question. If Brock Lesnar could do it then why couldn't CM Punk? Well Brock Lesnar was a NCAA Division I wrestling champion with an overall record of 106-5 in his four years of college. CM Punk was simply a fan of the sport. Big difference. That didn't matter though as Dana White decided to do something completely out of the ordinary and sign a fighter with no amateur or professional MMA experience whatsoever.
In January 2015, Punk made his way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin and began training at Roufusport MMA Academy. Injuries delayed his debut against Mickey Gall for over a year but the two would finally face off on September 10th, 2016 at UFC 203. Gall shot for a take down moments into the fight and it was all but over from there. A few transitions later Punk found himself in a rear-naked choke and was forced to tap two minutes and 14 seconds into the first round. There were plenty of people interested in the fight though as Punk's UFC experiment doubled UFC 203's pay-per-view revenue. In the end Punk may have been one of the biggest hype machines the sport of MMA has ever seen, but you have to give credit to anyone that's willing to step inside the octagon.
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