MMA is a complicated sport, after all, it’s an amalgamation of various intricate martial art forms. It’s a rarity to find a fighter proficient enough in every aspect of the game, and thus, rating fighters becomes all the more difficult.
Of course, there are the prodigal talents who were born to fight and are regarded as well-rounded specimens of MMA, but, you also have fighters whose weaknesses were apparent enough to exploit. The laughable fact is that many of the aforementioned fighters with noticeable chinks in their armor surprisingly went on to capture the top prize of the UFC.
Call it dumb luck, a momentary flash of brilliance or the result of unavoidable backstage politics; there were many Champions in UFC’s history that were hyped to the hilt. They may have won the title but were far from the best in their respective divisions and were found out sooner rather than later.
Agreed, you can be lacking in one facet of the sport and still have a respectable reign with smart game plans. However, consistency is what sets the champions apart from the rest and the names on this list lacked that too.
In this slider, we’ve mentioned overrated champions on the basis of the quality of their reign and the era they fought in. Now, the overrated-debate is a highly controversial and subjective topic. So, save your opinions and suggestions until the end of the slider.
#5 Forrest Griffin
It’s tough to hate a UFC Hall of Famer. Griffin was part of some memorable Light Heavyweight slugfests during his 7-year run with the UFC and won The Ultimate Fighter Season One.
Credited for catapulting the UFC’s mainstream credentials after ‘The Most Important Fight in UFC History’ against Stephan Bonnar, Griffin was naturally one of the hottest prospects in the promotion. He was bound to be pushed as a title contender but he could not capitalize on the hype that surrounded his likable persona.
Griffin staked his claim for Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson’s Light Heavyweight title by pulling off the upset of the year against Mauricio Rua. He realized his dream of becoming champion by beating Rampage at UFC 86 via unanimous decision by outpointing the loud-mouthed champion with a leg kick strategy. His reign, however, ended as a result of a clobbering he received at the hands of Rashad Evans in the subsequent fight.
He never recovered from the loss as he got humiliated in his first-round KO defeat by Anderson Silva in his next fight. Griffin fought four more times after the Silva bout and notched up wins against Tito Ortiz and Rich Franklin before hanging up his gloves due to chronic injuries.
#4 Johny Hendricks
The curious case of Johny Hendricks.
The NCAA Division I All-American almost upstaged the greatest Welterweight of all time in George St Pierre in one of the most controversial decisions in MMA history. Nonetheless, Hendricks was given another crack at the belt after Rush vacated the title.
He defeated Robbie Lawler and finally reached the pinnacle of the 170lb division with a unanimous decision victory. Hendricks, however, lost the title to Lawler in his first defense and it all went downhill from there on.
Bigg Rigg was one of the best Welterweights before the advent of USADA. The anti-doping organization’s arrival meant Hendricks was barred from using IV bags to help with weight cuts. He missed weight thrice after his loss against Lawler and was forced to move up to the Middleweight division but was discernibly a shadow of his old self.
Hendricks lost 5 of his last six fights (3 savage knockouts) and eventually announced his retirement in June 2018 to focus on coaching.
#3 Brock Lesnar
The Beast Incarnate is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion with a record of 5 wins, 3 losses, and 1 draw. The statistics itself should tell you why Lesnar is on this list. The highly accomplished freak of nature may have brought in tons of buzz for the UFC during his time with the promotion but it also exposed the biased matchmaking activities of the biggest promotion in the world.
The former WWE Champion lost to Frank Mir in his UFC debut but was suspiciously granted a title shot after notching up a solitary win against Heath Herring. He won the Heavyweight title against a worn out 45-year-old Randy Couture and walked around as the baddest man on the planet
He did follow it up with a redemptive annihilation of Frank Mir at UFC 100. In his next title defense, Lesnar submitted the then-undefeated Shane Carwin, however, the win was majorly due to Carwin mistakably gassing himself out in the first round itself.
Lesnar was then pitted against Cain Velasquez – a man of his size and arguably greater skill. Cardio Cain imposed his technical superiority on the 'Jacked-up White Boy' and finished the fight in the first round. Lesnar’s misery continued as he was TKOed in his next fight by the towering Alistair Overeem.
And just like that, the former NCAA I All-American's lucrative first stint with the UFC came to a brutal end which was later on attributed to his well-documented struggle with Diverticulitis. Lesnar eventually returned at UFC 200 to beat Mark Hunt, only to see the win being converted into a no-contest after he tested positive for Clomiphene.
#2 Tim Sylvia
6’ 8”, 271lbs, 2-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, overrated? Yes! Now, there is a section of the fanbase who would jump to defend Sylvia but the matter of the fact is that he was downright overrated.
Sylvia ruled the Heavyweight division at a time when Japan was the home of top Heavyweights in MMA. Sylvia may have victories over some of best UFC Heavyweights at that time, but in hindsight, he may have not even stood a chance against the likes of Fedor and Nogueira (he has losses against both legends).
His first reign wasn’t all that bad as Sylvia successfully defended the title once against Gan McGee before dropping it to Frank Mir in an armbar loss.
His second reign, however, ended at the hands of Randy Couture, who came out of retirement to get a 5-round unanimous decision win. At 44 years old, Couture was called upon to save the stagnant Heavyweight division from the clutches of Sylvia, need we say more?
#1 Matt Serra
Serra is the Vanilla Ice of MMA; a one-hit wonder. Serra’s stock rose to unimaginable levels when he pulled off the ‘upset of the decade’ after he knocked GSP out at UFC 69 to become the new Welterweight Champion.
The only other feather in Serra’s cap was the Ultimate Fighter 4 win that granted him the GSP title shot, and that’s pretty much it. Serra lost the Welterweight strap in his first defense as GSP returned all guns blazing and earned a second-round finish to reclaim the title.
Serra fought just thrice thereafter – a KO win against Frank Trigg and two decision losses to Matt Hughes and Chris Lytle. He retired with a record of 11-7 in 2013 and has since become a trainer.
Being the first American to have obtained a Black Belt under Renzo Gracie, the UFC Hall of Famer may have been a skilled jujitsu practitioner and one of Dana White’s favorites, but he was an overrated Welterweight Champion and that’s the bottom line.
He gave genuine contenders such as Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, and Chris Lytle a run for their money in close decision losses but could never quite be at the top for a sustained period due to injuries. An underrated fighter for sure but an overrated champion in the history books.
I’m sure you have many names to add to this list, so feel free to jot them down below in the comments section.