This weekend sees Joseph Benavidez challenge for the vacant UFC Flyweight title against Brazilian contender Deiveson Figueiredo, and should ‘Joe-B-Wan’ come away with the gold – he’s the big favourite, especially after Figueiredo missed the 125lbs Flyweight limit – his current status as one of the greatest UFC fighters not to hold a UFC title would finally come to an end.
But while Benavidez has his chance to right that wrong this weekend, there are plenty of other great fighters who did some tremendous things inside the Octagon, but unfortunately just couldn’t get their hands on a UFC title, be it because a monstrous champion stood in their way or due to various other reasons.
In no particular order, here are the 5 greatest UFC fighters to never hold a UFC title.
#1 Joseph Benavidez
We may as well start with Joseph Benavidez, as he’s got the chance to remove himself from this list by beating Deiveson Figueiredo for the vacant UFC Flyweight title this weekend. For now though, ‘Joe-B-Wan’ could easily be considered the very best fighter to not get his hands on UFC gold. Incredibly, he could also be considered the best to miss out on WEC gold, too.
Benavidez debuted in the UFC in 2011 following the WEC roster’s move into the promotion, and at that point he was widely recognised as one of the best Bantamweights on the planet; 2010 had seen him miss out on winning the WEC 135lbs title after he lost a tight split decision to champion Dominick Cruz.
After 2 UFC wins at Bantamweight, it was announced that Benavidez would be dropping to 125lbs in early 2012 to take part in a 4-man tournament to decide the promotion’s first Flyweight champion. After knocking out Yasuhiro Urushitani, the Team Alpha Male stalwart advanced to the final, where he was to face off with fellow WEC veteran Demetrious Johnson for the title.
In yet another razor-close fight, Benavidez again came up short; despite knocking Johnson down in the fourth round and coming close with a guillotine choke, ‘Joe-B-Wan’ found himself on the wrong end of a split decision. Undeterred, Benavidez won his next 3 fights – two by KO – to set up a rematch against ‘Mighty Mouse’.
This time though, he was thoroughly outclassed, and suffered the first knockout loss of his career just 2 minutes into the fight. Since then, though, Benavidez has gone 9-1 with the only loss being a contentious split decision to Sergio Pettis, with future champ Henry Cejudo being one of his victims.
Take away the loss to Pettis, and Benavidez would have a record of 28-4 – with his only losses being to Cruz and Johnson, 3 times in title fights. Remove Johnson from the equation, and the likelihood is that we’d be talking about Benavidez as a pound-for-pound great and the best Flyweight of all time right now.