Ten fighters who have fallen short of the ultimate goal
In every sport, you have those athletes that never quite made it to the very top; competitors who were excellent, but fell short of taking the final step to become champions.
Dan Marino, Marcel Dionne, “Teddy Ball Game” — they’re all Hall of Famers and among the very best ever to grace their respective sports, but none of them every earned a championship.
The UFC isn’t without fighters in similar situations; tremendous athletes who have experienced great success, but fallen short of the ultimate goal.
Here’s my top ten list.
(Note: Guys who came to the UFC on the downside of their careers are not included. That means no Wanderlei, no Cro Cop.)
People are going to cringe at my decision to include Chael Sonnen in this list, but facts are facts: he’s beaten three top 10 middleweights in the last four fights, and damn near beat Silva at UFC 117 too.
He went 1-2 in his first UFC run, but has cranked it up a notch after losing to Maia to start his second tour of duty. Considering he’s in line for a second title shot in the span of 18 months or so, I’d say he’s earned his place at the low end of the list.
Diego Sanchez has crafted a pretty nice career for himself in the UFC. His 12 wins put him in a tie for 11th all-time in UFC history, but he’s just never been able to take that next step.
He ran into a motivated and focused BJ Penn in his lone UFC title fight, and dropped back-to-back bouts to two of the AKA welterweight triplets at one point. His lone “bad loss” isn’t even that bad; John Hathaway’s a tough kid with a bright future. Sanchez has just been one of many welterweights to come around at the wrong time.
All but two of Koscheck’s fights have come inside the Octagon. He’s improved by leaps and bounds from his days as just a wrestler on Season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter, but he hasn’t been able to take that final step to claim championship gold.
Koscheck could spend the rest of his career as a top 5 welterweight, but he’ll never rise above #3 either. That pretty much sums up why he’s here on this list.
7. Don Frye
UFC Record: 9-1
Notable Wins: Gary Goodridge (2), Tank Abbott
Notable Loss: Mark Coleman
Frye won a pair of UFC tournaments and lost to Coleman in the finals of another, the only loss in the first 16 fights of his career.
If there were title belts during his time in the UFC, I’m pretty sure Frye would have won one. He was beyond tough and pretty well-rounded for his time. I’d love to see how Don Frye in his prime would do against some of the best of today. One thing is for sure — he’s got the best ‘stache in the business.
Maynard has been this close to claiming UFC gold on two occasions now, and both times, Frankie Edgar has come back from the brink. You could see how much it stings in Maynard’s teary eyes at the UFC 136 post-fight press conference. He’s beaten a bunch of guys that have been or currently are top 10 lightweights, and rag-dolled two-time lightweight title challenger any Florian when they met at UFC 118.
But he’s still come up short so far, and after last weekend’s loss to Edgar, it might be a while before he’s back in the mix again.