In the UFC, title fights are opportunities for top contenders in the promotion's divisions to claim the sport's ultimate prize. It's how new champions are crowned and how legacies are built. Part of what makes Jon Jones such a legendary figure is how thoroughly he dominated Maurício 'Shogun' Rua to claim the 205 lbs title.
But immediate success isn't necessary. Sometimes, certain fighters are catapulted into title fights before they're ready to take on such a massive challenge. In other instances, they simply emerge from their failure to dethrone the champion with a massive difference from which they never recover.
Some challengers have looked as dangerous as a fighter has ever looked inside the octagon prior to earning title fights. After facing the reigning champions, however, they're never the same again. This list compiles five such top contenders who experienced massive declines after a title fight.
#5. Marlon Moraes – former UFC bantamweight
At one point in time, Marlon Moraes was an extremely successful 135'er. The Brazilian was a physical force well-known for his powerful kicks and Brazilian jiu-jitsu skill-set. He is a former WSOF bantamweight champion, and his UFC debut was surrounded by significant hype.
Unfortunately, he suffered a split-decision loss to Raphael Assunção. That, however, was not the end of 'Magic Mike's' story in the promotion. He embarked on a four-fight win streak that included a brutal knockout win against future bantamweight titleholder Aljamain Sterling.
His fourth consecutive win was fueled by revenge as he avenged a loss to Raphael Assunção by capturing a submission win. Alas, that was the last time 'Magic Mike' looked dominant. He faced Henry Cejudo for the vacant 135 lbs title but suffered a TKO loss and never looked the same afterwards.
He won a contentious split-decision against José Aldo, which many people thought that 'Scarface' won. It was the last win that 'Magic Mike' had. He lost all five of his subsequent UFC bouts via KO before debuting in the PFL, where he also lost, this time to Sheymon Moraes via another KO.
#4. Jorge Masvidal – UFC welterweight
Jorge Masvidal spent most of his career as a journeyman. He was always technically gifted with a solid base in every facet of MMA, but he was on the wrong end of countless split-decisions. The culprit behind his poor performance was his low output inside the octagon. This all changed in 2019.
'Gamebred' faced Darren Till in his foe's home country, earning a thrilling second-round KO. He followed his stunning win by flatlining Ben Askren with the fastest knockout in UFC history, a jaw-dropping victory that earned him a 'BMF' bout with Nate Diaz. 'Gamebred' emerged victorious with a third-round TKO.
Thus, he was crowned the UFC's symbolic 'BMF' champion. He faced Kamaru Usman on short-notice but failed to dethrone the then welterweight kingpin. His subsequent bout was a rematch against 'The Nigerian Nightmare'. But 'Gamebred' suffered yet another defeat. Only this time, it was a knockout.
Suddenly, the 'BMF' champion was on a two-fight losing streak after suffering the first true knockout of his career. His third bout was not a return to form. Instead, he was on the receiving end of a lopsided loss against Colby Covington. 'Gamebred' went from being a title challenger to no longer being ranked in the top ten.
#3. Thiago Santos – former UFC light heavyweight
The light heavyweight has had several power-punchers in the past. But the 205 lbs division's most well-known Brazilian knockout artist in recent memory was Thiago Santos. At the time, 'Marreta' was a middleweight export in the UFC. He punctuated his 205 lbs debut with a TKO via doctor stoppage.
Two more knockouts followed and 'Marreta' earned himself a title fight against Jon Jones. Unfortunately, the former middleweight suffered numerous knee injuries the bout, including a torn ACL, PCL, MCL and meniscus. Additionally, he fractured his tibia and partially tore his other meniscus.
He has never been the same since. He lost four of his next five fights, with his final loss being a TKO against future light heavyweight kingpin Jamahal Hill. Due to his lack of success in the UFC after his fight against Jon Jones, 'Marreta' signed with the PFL in the hopes of snapping his winless streak.
#2. Dominick Reyes – UFC light heavyweight
It looks like the UFC fighters who have faced Jon Jones suffered from career downswings after their bouts with 'Bones'. Dominick Reyes is yet another fighter who was the victim of this same sequence of events. In the past, 'The Devastator' was an undefeated phenom who was well-known for his crippling power-puncher.
He was the victor of 12 fights before he clashed with 'Bones'. Despite a spirited effort, Reyes failed to dethrone the greatest 205'er of all time. The unanimous decision loss he was dealt was the first of more defeats to come. Alas, his subsequent losses weren't decisions.
He suffered three consecutive defeats after his loss to 'Bones', with every loss being a knockout. Whatever happened to him against Jones left Reyes without the ability to absorb his opponent's blows. He's currently on a four-fight losing streak who now sits outside the top ten rankings of his division.
#1. Bethe Correia – former UFC women's bantamweight
Bethe Correia's claim to fame came from her victories over Ronda Rousey's friends, Jessamyn Duke and Shayna Baszler. After each win, she held up four fingers and pulled one of her fingers down to signal her victories over 'The Four Horsemen', a group consisting of 'Rowdy' and her aforementioned friends.
This earned her a title fight against Rousey. Despite Correia's best attempts at psyching out the former Olympian, it was to no avail. She suffered a humiliating first-round knockout against a woman who was, at the time, predominantly known for her grappling skills. It was Correia's first-ever professional loss.
She suffered yet another loss to blemish her once perfect record, but managed to bounce back with a win against Jessica Eye. This, however, was not a sign of things to come. Her next six fights led to four losses, one draw and only one win. It was a remarkable decline that inevitably caused her to retire from MMA.