10 Most Underrated Fighters in Mixed Martial ArtsPosted on July 28, 2012, 06:08 PM by Daniel Cassidy
As serious mixed martial arts fans, many of us have been around the sport long enough to know potential when we see it. It usually comes in the form of a fresh face, but can also exist in a journeyman who has seemed to find a new found focus and determination. However on some occasions, it can take a fighter years to find the discipline or focus needed to channel that potential. Some of the fighters on this list have seemed to suffer from that lack of focus, some have suffered bad luck/timing or have even had injuries to deal with, while others seem to be one good opportunity away from truly proving themselves and what they’re capable of. And in some situations, who knows, it might even be a combination of all three.
It’s sometimes difficult to tell why a fighter isn’t living up to their potential, but in the cases of the fighters we’ve listed below, they’ve shown the potential and natural ability, they just need to either obtain or overcome one of the factors I’ve listed above.
Here’s a list of the ten fighters that we feel are the most underrated in MMA today.
Bryan Fontez’ Picks…
Rousimar “Toquinho” Palhares
Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out whether a fighter is truly a one trick pony or not. With both dominant and disappointing performances against some top competition, Palhares has become the proverbial black sheep of the Middleweight division. He’s also exhibited some more than questionable behavior in the octagon at times which hasn’t seemed to help his cause. But make no mistake this man is a master of leg destruction. His knee bars and heel hooks are soo quick and efficiently devastating, that they’re becoming legendary. And although he’s suffered defeat at the hands of Nate Marquardt and more recently Alan Belcher, we’re also talking about a guy who’s gone the distance with Dan Henderson and defeated highly touted prospect Dan Miller. We may never see Palhares snatch a belt or even a title shot, but ultimately that will be up to him. He may even be a little to top heavy for his division and could potentially benefit from dropping to welterweight. But what “The Tree Stump” (his nickname translated in english) lacks in my opinion is simply, the focus and determination to round out his game and take his career a little more seriously. With a recent injury we’ll have to wait and see what the future has in store for Rousimar Palhares.
This is a man who has simply had a combination of bad luck and bad timing in his career. Coming off of a career threatening eye injury where he suffered a detached retina and had to have it surgically repaired and reattached, Belcher is undeniably one of the middleweight divisions very best. Out of everyone on this list I’ve seen some of the most serious potential from Belcher. He’s shown world class skills in all areas proving that he is a humble and well versed student of mixed martial arts. On a four fight winning streak against the likes of Wilson Gouveia, Patrick Cote, Jason Macdonald and Rousimar Palhares, Belcher now has his sights set on the horizon, for what is undoubtedly the biggest test of his career. Having recently called out former UFC champion Vitor Belfort to a fight in Brazil via twitter, he seems to have gotten exactly what he asked for. With an 88% career finishing rate, finishing 16 of his 18 losing opponents, we’ll get to see what kind of fighter Alan Belcher truly is. UFC 153 will answer a lot of questions about both fighters. But most importantly, the one that we’re focusing on right now, which is… Is Alan Belcher an elite Middlweight? Does Alan Belcher have what it takes to crack the top 5? Is Alan Belcher UFC Championship material? Only time and results will tell.
This undefeated heavyweight monster has won all 9 of his fights, finishing 8 of his opponents via TKO/KO, 4 of which he dispatched in the first round. And the only person to take him to a decision was Joey Beltran, whom I won’t even count because the guy is next to unfinishable anyway. If Mirko Crocop were Batman, Stipe Miocic would be Nightwing, taking over the spotlight as the new beacon of hope and pride for the nation of Croatia. He’s shown some serious striking ability and seems to be solidifying a spot as a serious future contender for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. Miocic is the EXACT definition of an underrated fighter, which is why he was one of the first fighters to make this list. He’s gotten little to no fame or press coverage, the fans don’t really talk about him and the fighters haven’t acknowledged his existence. But if he keeps up these stats and dominant victories, the entire world will know his name soon enough. If I were a Heavyweight I’d be keeping my eye on this guy right now, so that I’m fully prepared when I end up fighting him, because anyone who takes this guy at anything less than 100% serious, is going to wake up to a stadium of bright lights and 16,000+ screaming fans wondering what the hell just happened.
Chang Sung Jung
Every time I watch this guy I can’t help but feel that he’s a few small adjustments away from being one of the best featherweights in the world. The guy brings it every single time. Some people often forget that he’s finished 11 opponents in his 13 career wins, 8 of which were by submission and 3 via KO. He fight of the year in 2010 and submission of the year in 2011, both of which were against Leonard Garcia. He’s now riding a 3 fight winning streak against some of the division’s best. With an award winning once in a lifetime twister submission over Garcia in their rematch, a 7 second KO over Mark Hominick winning him Knockout of the night, and a beautiful D’arce Choke over serious contender Dustin Poirier late in the 4th round, winning him Submission of the night AGAIN. The Korean Zombie has now put himself in a position to challenge for the title and rank himself among the divisions truly elite. He has all the makings of a future champion and I would pay serious money to see him fight Jose Aldo, because boy would that be a crazy fight! Let’s hope it happens sooner rather than later.
Showtime! This kid is only 25 and he’s already been a champion. 15 victories of 17 career fights, with 12 finishes, 10 of which were in THE FIRST ROUND!! Crazy!! I haven’t seen numbers like that since… Well I can’t EVER recall seeing that kind of statistic in the lightweight division to be quite honest. Not even mentioning the fact that most of his opponents were legit Lightweights at the top level of the WEC’s heyday. With that said, upon his debut in the UFC, Pettis seemed to suffer some form of either over confidence or Octagon jitters against Clay Guida, suffering a loss via Unanimous Decision, but has since gotten back on track with a win over Jeremy Stephens and a brutal head kick KO of Joe Lauzon. This kid truly is a beast. Not many people are mentioning his name after the one loss, but we’re talking about a guy that’s gone the distance with the current UFC Lightweight Champion and won convincingly. At 25 years old you can’t do that without some serious talent and skill. The sky is the limit for Pettis and to be honest, as long as he can stay focused and disciplined, I don’t see anyone being able to defeat him when the pieces all come together and he finally hit’s his prime.
Daniel Cassidy’s Picks…
Quickly rising to prominence following a devastating first round TKO of former p4p King Miguel Torres, McDonald's place on this list is because of his weigh class, the still relatively new (to the UFC at least) Bantamweight class. Holding a 15-1 record, his only loss is against Cole Escavado, later rectified in a rematch. Known for his heavy hands, the young fighter made waves when he became the youngest UFC fighter at just 20. Now 21, McDonald is on the cusp of a title shot in a very stacked division. With such a record, coupled with his age, the sky is the limit for this talented youngster. Still unknown to most fans, he is definitely "One to watch" in the future.
Losing just once in the past 4 years, to Alexsander Gustafsson, New Zealander Te-Huna is 15-5 overall, and 4-1 int he UFC. With 3 KO finishes in the UFC, Te-Huna is making waves in the 205 pound division. Despite his credentials, he remains relatively under the radar to most fans, with only 1 main card fight to his resume. Following his handling of UFC veteran Joey Beltran over 3 rounds, his next fight will say a lot. Clearly in possession of some very heavy hands, Te-Huna deserves a step up in competition is his next bout, as well as a spot on the main card. Winning the coveted "Fight of the Night" honors in the Beltrain bout, this fight was his coming out party, his first on a main card, giving a great account for himself.
Brit Pearson will next be seen coaching British fighters as a stint on The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes opposite George Sotiropoulos. Despite going 2-2 in his last 4, fans have been quick to write off the Brit. Looking to rebound against the Australian, the always game Pearson has proved himself as a mixed martial artist with his well rounded skill set. He earned his place in the UFC winning the 9th season of TUF under the coach Michael Bisping. He holds notable wins over Denis Siver, Spencer Fisher and Junior Assuncao, as well a as a razor thin split decision loss to dangerous Edson Barboza which many believe he won. This year, once TUF wraps up, Pearson is expected to return to FW, looking to make a run at the 145 pound title.
Devastating KO artist Travis "Hapa" Browne is undefeated in his pro MMA career, the only blemish on his record is a draw against veteran Cheick Kongo. Browne has only twice gone the distance in his career, finishing the other 9 opponents inside the distance. The Hawaiian native was last seen in highlight reels around the world superman punching all 7 foot of Stefan Struve into a first round KO. Despite this, The Greg Jackson fighter is still fighting fringe opposition. In his next bout he looks to make a statement as well as a name for himself against Antonio "Big Foot" Silva. The fight will finally earn him the recognition he deserves, and will silence critics.
Despite his extensive credentials, many fans remain unconvinced by Vietnam born Sanshou fighter Cung Le. Last seen spin kicking his way to a unanimous decision against tough as nails veteran Patrick Cote, Le still remains under rated in the Middleweight division. Possessing a deadly arsenal of kicks, Le is still seen by fans as an actor predominately, despite his background. Proving in his 2 UFCs bouts that he is a handful on the feet, he is a well respected wrestler on top of it, making him a tough fight for anyone. With the win over Cote, Le's next fight is expected to fight on the UFC's first Chinese card in November.