Mixed martial artists can be catapulted into the limelight after just a few good performances, but as they leave a slippery mix of blood and sweat on the floor in the Octagon, not everyone in the audience believes the hype.
A fighter’s reputation isn’t built on their record alone, as fighters like Conor McGregor and Brock Lesnar can attest to. Some of the most highly regarded fighters are also some of the best talkers in the business, knowing what to say and when to say it. These may not always be the favourites in the odds from Paddy Power, but they will always draw in a sizeable crowd when they’re on the card.
In fact, most of the time, the biggest draws aren’t even the number one ranked fighter in their weight category. It’s their personalities which make them so marketable and gets the crowd on their side.
For those who go about their business in a quiet, understated manner, they can often be overlooked in favour of the more outspoken members of the roster. We have taken a look at three of the most underappreciated and underrated fighters in the UFC today.
1) Chris Weidman
Chris “All American” Weidman (14-3-0) looked set to become the next challenger to Robert Whittaker in order to once again become the UFC middleweight champion. This however, was dealt a cruel blow at the news that Kelvin Gastelum is now at the front of the queue for a shot at the championship.
34-year-old Weidman has previously defeated Gastelum via submission and currently sits one place above him in the middleweight rankings.
Often regarded as a grappler, his striking capabilities have often been underrated. He has twice knocked Anderson Silva out, the first time resulted in him winning the middleweight title. He has also stopped Munoz with a perfectly timed elbow and scored a beautiful TKO victory over Uriah Hall, who himself is a dynamic striker. In his second title defence, he managed to out-strike Lyoto Machida, winning via unanimous decision.
He has faced top-level competition since 2011 and has won almost all of them, suffering only 3 losses, all via TKO. His losses were to high-calibre competition but none of them were a result of them being a superior striker to him.
He holds victories over the likes of Silva (twice), Lyoto Machida, Mark Munoz, Uriah Hall, Tom Lawler, Alessio Sakara, Kelvin Gastelum, and Victor Belfort. His three defeats were at the hands of Luke Rockhold, who he meets at UFC 230 on November 3rd, Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi.
Often regarded as a wrestler, Chris Weidman also has a decent stand-up. He is one of the best middleweights in the world, but he doesn’t get enough credit for that.
2) Germaine de Randamie
Germaine de Randamie has been labelled “The Iron Lady” with a record of 7-3-0. The 34-year-old former women’s featherweight champion has recently moved back to the bantamweight division where she will take on Raquel Pennington at UFC Fight Night 139 on November 10th.
The Iron Lady’s decision to return to the bantamweight division was controversial, as she had recently won the featherweight championship when she announced her intentions. She drew criticism for refusing to fight Cris Cyborg while in the featherweight division, with some believing she was afraid to take on Cyborg, who is regarded as one of the toughest women in the UFC today.
Her reputation has been damaged by controversies and poorly managed PR gaffes, which has led to the fall in her position among the fans of UFC. She controversially defeated Holly Holm to claim the featherweight championship, having hit her opponent after the bell rang to end the round.
The manner of her victory over Holm and unwillingness to fight Cyborg has led to some fans forgetting the fact that he is a legitimate talent. She was a kickboxing champion at the age of 16 and from the start of her UFC career she has fought the tougher competitors, claiming victory more often than not.
Fans may not like her but she has proved her worth in the UFC and is a legitimate threat to anyone standing at 135lbs.
3) Conor McGregor
”It’s funny to say this because of how popular he is and what a huge star he is, but I think Conor McGregor is one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC,” Dana White said on the UFC Unfiltered podcast. “Every time Conor McGregor comes out to fight somebody new and it’s a wrestler or it’s whatever, this is the fight that Conor is going to lose.”
Yes, he’s famous inside and outside the bounds of UFC fandom but somehow, he has got this notion surrounding him that he’s going to lose the next fight. Conor fought Jose Aldo and won when everybody said he’d lose. He knocked out Alvarez when everybody thought he’d lose, and the same happened when he fought Chad Mendes.
He’s accurately rated when it comes to striking, it’s his grappling and ground game that is underrated and he’s underrated as a whole. He has been defeated 3 times via submission, which perhaps explains why his ground game is often questioned. With that being said, he went to ground against the current UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway as well as Diego Brandao and Denis Siver, but didn’t struggle. Yes he can lose the ground game, but he can also hold his own.
His fame is the result of his notorious personality, after which he’s nicknamed. But fame doesn’t ensure the accurate rating. Too often people have underestimated him and he has proved them wrong. In his next fight, against the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov, he is once again being considered the underdog, but with some impressive victories in the past, this could be yet another where McGregor defies expectation.