The 10 Greatest Undefeated Fighters in MMA: 2012 Edition

In June 2010, we posted a list of the ten greatest fighters who had yet to take a loss. By November 2011, none of their perfect records were still intact, proving once again what a cruel sport MMA is. Half of the fighters on our original list — Shane Carwin (#1), Megumi Fujii (#2), Ryan Bader (#6), Evan Dunham (#7), and Lyle Beerbohm (#10) — have even lost *twice* since then. So we decided to start over from scratch and come up with a new ranking of undefeated MMA fighters. Check it out, and let us know who you think will hold onto their ’0′ the longest. -BG

#1: DANIEL CORMIER (10-0, six wins by first-round stoppage)

Notable victories: Jeff Monson at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum (UD), Antonio Silva at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov (KO R1), Josh Barnett at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier (UD)

Next fight: TBA

The former collegiate wrestling star and Olympic competitor went through hell to get to where he is today. Less than three years after kicking off his MMA career, Cormier battled his way to a career-defining matchup against ex-UFC champ Josh Barnett — a catch-wrestling savant with four times as many fights on his pro record as Cormier — in the finals of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix. But Dan didn’t need to turn the meeting into a grappling match. As he also demonstrated against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in his previous outing, Cormier packs enough speed and punching-power to win fights with his striking alone. It’s only a matter of time before he enters the UFC to take on the best in the world, and we have a feeling he’ll make an immediate impact.

#2: MICHAEL CHANDLER (10-0, eight wins by stoppage)

Notable victories: Patricky Freire at Bellator 44 (UD), Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 58 (sub R4), Akihiro Gono at Bellator 67 (TKO R1)

Next fight: TBA

Michael Chandler is the perfect example of how a tournament can transform a fighter from unheralded prospect to breakout star. After winning his first two Bellator appearances by swift first-round stoppage in 2010, Chandler was invited to participate in the promotion’s season four lightweight tournament. The Xtreme Couture product sliced through it, starting with a first-round submission of Polish prodigy Marcin Held, and ending with a decision win over knockout artist Patricky “Pitbull” Freire in the finals. Then, Chandler did the unthinkable — he took the lightweight belt from Eddie Alvarez, choking out the formerly untouchable Bellator champ in the fourth round of an insane Fight of the Year candidate last November. (A follow-up non-title match against Akihiro Gono was little more than a one-minute showcase of his killer instinct.) In eight months, Chandler went from 5-0 up-and-comer to newly-minted champion with a win over a top-ten ranked opponent. Is it okay if we use the “meteoric rise” cliché, just this once?

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#3. RONDA ROUSEY (5-0, all wins by first-round armbar)

Notable victories: Sarah D’Alelio at Strikeforce Challengers: Gurgel vs. Duarte (sub R1), Julia Budd at Strikeforce Challengers: Britt vs. Sayers (sub R1), Miesha Tate at Strikeforce: Tate vs. Rousey (sub R1)

Next fight: Sarah Kaufman, late summer TBA

It seems that there are two paths to recognition as a female MMA fighter — be a fight-finishing beast like Cris Cyborg, or a feminine symbol like Gina Carano. In the relatively brief time we’ve been aware of her, Ronda Rousey has proven herself to be both. Add in a dose of Sonnen-esque trash-talk, and it’s easy to see why we’ve become infatuated with the bronze-medal-winning Olympic judoka. After dispatching her first four pro opponents in a combined time of two minutes and 18 seconds, Rousey fought/talked her way to a Strikeforce title shot against bantamweight champ Miesha Tate. Was it too much too soon? Not exactly. Rousey went home with a new belt and another shattered arm for her trophy case, proving once again that success is the best revenge.

#4: TRAVIS BROWNE (13-0-1, nine wins by first-round stoppage)

Notable victories: James McSweeney at the TUF 11 Finale (TKO R1)Stefan Struve at UFC 130 (KO R1), Chad Griggs at UFC 145 (sub R1)

Next fight: Ben Rothwell @ UFC on Fox 4, 8/4/12

Travis Browne answers the age-old question: “What if Tim Sylvia was a fucking badass?” Browne has the imposing height and reach of the Maine-iac, but uses those natural gifts with a bloodthirsty aggression that has led to most of his opponents being laid out in the first five minutes. “Hapa” entered the UFC on a three-fight stretch where he knocked out Brian Campbell, Abe Wagner, and Aaron Brink in a combined 52 seconds (!), and did everybody a favor by squashing TUF 10 heel James McSweeney at his UFC debut in June 2010. Though a follow-up match against Cheick Kongo was a dirty mess of a fight that ended in a draw, Browne’s been golden ever since, most recently turning Chad Griggs from Strikeforce Cinderella-story to ex-heavyweight.

#5: CHRIS WEIDMAN (8-0, five wins by first-round stoppage)

Notable victories: Alessio Sakara at UFC Live: Sanchez vs. Kampmann (UD), Tom Lawlor at UFC 139 (sub R1), Demian Maia at UFC on Fox 2: Evans vs. Davis (UD)

Next fight: Mark Munoz @ UFC on FUEL TV 4, 7/11/12

His nickname is “All American,” but you might as well call him Mr. Clutch. When Chris Weidman made his UFC debut against dangerous middleweight striker Alessio Sakara, he was just 4-0 at the time and coming in as an injury replacement on just two weeks’ notice. Despite the lack of preparation, Weidman’s top-shelf wrestling chops and unbreakable spirit carried him to a unanimous decision victory. Two masterful first-round submissions of Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawlor followed, proving that the Serra-Longo product was the real deal. Weidman passed the biggest test of his career at UFC on FOX 2 in January, coming in once again as a last-minute injury replacement against Demian Maia. Though his conditioning began to fail him late in the fight, he didn’t stop pushing forward, and the judges rewarded him for the effort. With a little more seasoning — and a full training camp — Weidman will be a threat to any contender in the middleweight division.

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#6: PAUL SASS (13-0; eight wins by “Sassangle,” three by heel-hook)

Notable victories: Jason Young at OMMAC 4 (sub R1), Michael Johnson at UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson (sub R1), Jacob Volkmann at UFC 146 (sub R1)

Next fight: TBA

Also known as one of the greatest one-trick ponies in MMA, Paul Sass kicked off his career with seven consecutive triangle-choke victories. Once he racked up ten professional wins in his native Liverpool, Sass was picked up by the UFC where he’s gone 3-0 so far, with all wins coming by first-round submission. His latest appearance at UFC 146 was by far his most impressive. Facing lightweight contender Jacob Volkmann — who had out-pointed five straight opponents since dropping from welterweight — Sass needed less than two minutes to tie up Volkmann on the mat and submit him with a triangle-armbar, thus saving us from another uncomfortable post-fight interview.

#7 BEN ASKREN (10-0, four wins by first-round stoppage)

Notable victories: Dan Hornbuckle at Bellator 22 (UD), Nick Thompson at Bellator 40 (UD), Douglas Lima at Bellator 64 (UD)

Next fight: TBA

Maybe you don’t like his top-control-based style of fighting, and maybe his unapologetic attitude about it makes you like him even less. Doesn’t matter. Ben Askren‘s wrestling expertise — honed during a legendary collegiate career — suggests that he’ll probably be Bellator’s welterweight champion as long as Bellator’s welterweight division exists. So while Dana White has called him “the most boring fighter in MMA history,” we feel obligated to quote Pat Miletich’s more respectful viewpoint: “The level of wrestling in mixed martial arts needs to improve in order to stop a guy like Ben Aksren from controlling them and putting them on their back.”

#8: STIPE MIOCIC (9-0, seven wins by KO/TKO)

Notable victories: Joey Beltran at UFC 136 (UD), Phil De Fries at UFC on FUEL: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger (KO R1), Shane Del Rosario at UFC 146 (TKO R1)

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Next fight: TBA

Any fighter who pulls on a pair of Croatian flag shorts sets himself up for lofty comparisons. But this 29-year-old knockout machine (and firefighter/EMT) has exceeded our expectations, going 3-0 in the UFC since his debut last October. In his last fight, Miocic faced another undefeated heavyweight blue-chipper in Shane Del Rosario, and demonstrated the difference between “prospect” and “contender,” pulling off the gnarliest elbows-from-above TKO since Melendez vs. Kawajiri. The UFC’s heavyweight division is deeper than ever this year, and it’s because young lions like Miocic and Travis Browne are coming in to clear out all the dead weight.

#9: JIMY HETTES (10-0, nine wins by submission)

Notable victories: Jacob Kirwan at MASS: Inauguration (sub R2), Alex Caceres at UFC Live: Hardy vs. Lytle (sub R2), Nam Phan at UFC 141 (UD).

Next fight: TBA; he was supposed to face Steven Siler next month, but had to withdraw last week due to injury.

We don’t like to toss around the word “prodigy” unless it’s truly warranted, but honestly, Jimy Hettes is the Little Man Tate of grappling. At just 24 years old, the Pennsylvania native is already an expert, innovator, and educator of the ground game, and submitted his first nine MMA opponents with shocking ease. The only guy he wasn’t able to finish was Nam Phan in his last UFC appearance, and even then, the thrashing he gave Phan was so lopsided that two judges scored the fight 30-25. We can’t wait to see Jimy’s run in the UFC featherweight division continue once he’s healthy again.

#10: KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV (17-0, 13 wins by stoppage)

Notable victories: Vadim Sandulitsky at ProFC Ukraine Cup 3 (sub R1), Arymarcel Santos at ProFC 36 (TKO R1), Kamal Shalorus at UFC on FX: Guillard vs. Miller (sub R3)

Next fight: Gleison Tibau at UFC 148, 7/7/12

There’s a good chance you may not be familiar with Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov, so here’s a brief primer: Nurmagomedov is a 23-year-old Russian lightweight who made his MMA debut a week before his 20th birthday, and spent three years running through local competition in Russia and the Ukraine before the UFC took notice. The 17-0 start to his career is nearly unprecedented, outside of Megumi Fujii. Judging from the above weigh-in photo, he might be a Ben Askren fan. And in his Octagon debut, he choked out former WEC standout Kamal Shalorus, which earned him a crack at longtime UFC vet Gleison Tibau in July. The former Combat Sambo Russian National Champion currently trains out of KDojo MMA in Fairfield, New Jersey. God help the CagePotato writers who have to type his name during liveblogs. (Not it, guys.)

– Ben Goldstein