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Who’s next up for the UFC Hall of Fame?

On July 10, just one day prior to the most symbolic event in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, two men will be transformed into legends of the octagon as they are honored by being inducted intoDon Frye the organization’s illustrious Hall of Fame.

In order for us to properly judge the candidates for the position we should assess the standard by taking a look at the accomplishments of the Hall of Fame inductee past.

It’s impossible to think about the origin of the UFC without the lanky 6’1″ Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist that goes by the name of Royce Gracie popping into your head. The winner of the first, second and fourth UFC tournaments, Royce went undefeated in his first twelve fights in the octagon before an ill-fated return at UFC 60 that resulted in his battering at the hands of future Hall of Famer Matt Hughes.

Another man synonymous with the origin of the UFC, Ken Shamrock was right in the thick of things from the very start, tapping out Pat Smith with a vicious heel hook at the very first UFC before falling victim to a gi choke at the ……..gi of Royce Gracie. Of course Gracie went on to win that tournament and Shamrock went on to finish his career in the octagon with a record of 9-6 and a Superfight Championship to his credit.

Both Gracie and Shamrock were inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame during the promotion’s tenth anniversary event held during UFC 45.

Dan Severn fought for the UFC a total of ten times beginning at UFC 4 in 1994, and ending at UFC 27 in 2000. “The Beast” is a UFC Superfight Champion, and the winner of the fifth and Ultimate Ultimate 95 tournaments. He holds wins over MMA legends such as Oleg Taktarov, Tank Abbott and Ken Shamrock during his time with the company and ultimately finished off his UFC career with an overall record of 6-4. Believe it or not, the 51 year old veteran of over fifteen years and 111 battles in MMA is still going strong, racking up his most recent victory in May of 2009 where he defeated Steve Eakins by way of decision at a Gladiator Challenge event in Nevada.

Severn was added to the exclusive club during UFC 52 on April of 2005.

Hands down one of the most, if not the most beloved figure in the history of mixed martial arts, let alone the UFC, Randy Couture has entered battle 19 times for the UFC, losing only six of those contests against some of the best fighters to compete in the game. Couture went undefeated in his first seven trips to the octagon. He’s a tournament champion from the old school days of the UFC and has somehow managed to keep himself relevant after more than a dozen years fighting for the promotion. One of only two multiple weight class champions in the organization’s history, Couture is the UFC’s only five time champion.

Couture made the list during The Ultimate fighter 3 Finale on June of 2006.

The most recent inductee into the UFC’s Hall of Fame was Mark Coleman who received the nod during UFC 82. “The godfather of ground and pound”, more commonly referred to as “The Hammer” flipped the world of MMA upside down when he exploded onto the scene back at UFC 10 where he used his monstrous physiqe along with his strong background in wrestling to take all of his opponents to the canvas where he mauled them with a new form of fighting coined as “ground and pound”. Coleman looked invincible during his six bouts with the UFC where he won two tournament championships and became the organization’s first ever heavyweight champion before being outpointed by Maurice Smith in what was considered to be a tremendous upset at the time. Coleman currently has a UFC record of 6-4 with his last trip to the octagon ending badly as he was TKO’d at the hands of Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 93. Coleman is next set to face off with Ultimate Fighter Season One finalist Stephan Bonnar at UFC 100.

Now that we’ve had a chance to examine the talent currently inhabitting the most elite club in the most recogniazed fighting promotion in the world today, come along with me as I take a closer look at the men that I consider to be the front-runners for consideration in the upcoming UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Charles “Mask” Lewis Jr.: Lewis’ vision he projected through his hugely successful MMA clothing line played an enormous role in the development of the sport and the UFC at the same time. Lewis started TapouT out of the trunk of his car with nothing but a couple thousand dollars and a huge dream. Him and his crew were setting up t-shirt stands at dirt floored King of the Cage events at shows where they would hardly cover there travel expenses. Mask’s persistence and passion for the sport payed off as now you can’t seem to go anywhere without bumping into someone sporting a TapouT hat, t-shirt, or just simply have an enormous TapouT decal stuck to the rear window of their car or truck. TapouT went on to be a major sponsor and endorser for the UFC brand and it’s fighters so what better way to honor the sport’s most recent fallen ambassador than putting him side by side with some of the greatest men that have ever competed in the sport that he held so close to his heart.

Evan Tanner: Tanner was another man that represented himself, the sport and the UFC as well as anyone could throughout the course of his short lived time on this earth. Tanner put it all on the line for the UFC for a staggering seventeen bouts over what ended up being nearly a decade. It was UFC 18, way back in 1999 when Tanner first showed his smug mug with his trademark smile on the scene of the UFC as he submitted Darrel Gholar with a rear-naked choke in the very first round. Evan went on to claim the UFC’s middleweight championship at UFC 51 where he beat the tar out of Dave Terrell for the first round TKO stoppage. Tanner finished out his career with the UFC with an impressive 11-6 record racking up wins over dangerous fighters such as Phil Baroni and Robbie Lawler along the way.

John McCarthy: “You ready? You ready? Let’s get it on!!”. You show me a UFC fan that doesn’t have “Big” John McCarthy’s legendary fight opening catch phrase engraved into their brain and I’ll show you someone that started following the sport sometime after the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter. 6’4″ and 240 pounds, they don’t call him “Big” for nothing. McCarthy has been around since the very beginning. He got his start at UFC 2 and went on to referee every single main card fight for the UFC from the second event through UFC 31 when the promotion was first sanctioned. “Big” John refereed a total of 535 total bouts with the UFC. If there was an undisputed champion in the world of MMA refs, McCarthy would be it.

Joe Rogan: The UFC just isn’t the same when Joe Rogan isn’t on the mic. His voice and the UFC broadcasts have become synonymous with one another during his more than twelve years spent with the company. Rogan got his start with the UFC way back in 1997 where he was a post-fight interviewer. He held his job as a post-fight interviewer until 2002 when he jumped into the saddle as a UFC color commentator and hasn’t looked back since. A huge fan and a great ambassador of the sport, it’s just a matter of time before Rogan winds up in the UFC Hall of Fame where he belongs.

Tito Ortiz: There isn’t a single other name on this list more deserving to be in the UFC’s Hall of Fame as “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz. Now whether he gets that type of recognition and respect from the UFC this upcoming July 10 is doubtful at best. It’s no secret in the world of mixed martial arts that UFC President Dana White and Tito Ortiz…….well, they hate one another to be quite honest. However, when you look at the fact that Tito is a three time octagon champion that has fought twenty one of his career total twenty two professional bouts with the UFC it becomes impossible to make a believable case as to why a fighter of his caliber would somehow be undeserving of the nod.

Frank Shamrock: Although Shamrock only had five fights with the UFC, he made every one of them count. Frank went undefeated in his career with the UFC and never once took part in a non-title match-up. Five title fights, five wins, five spectacular finishes, it doesn’t get much better than that. His biggest wins in the octagon came over the likes of Jeremy Horn and Tito Ortiz.

Pat Miletich: Pat is another guy that absolutely belongs in the Hall of Fame but his political differences with the UFC, and more notably Dana White, put him in the same boat as Tito Ortiz. It will be interesting to see how the UFC and Dana handle Miletich and Ortiz in regards to the HOF in the future. But if you throw all of the political BS out of the window and just take a look at Miletich and his accomplishments inside of the octagon, he’s a shoe in. A ten fight veteran with the UFC, Pat put together a record of 8-2 and was a four time defending welterweight champion between 1998 and 2001.

Don Frye: Frye is one of those guys that will never seem to get the respect he deserves until he’s gone. Hopefully that’s not the case when it comes to the UFC’s HOF as you would be hard stretched to find many people that have had more success during their time spent within that legendary eight sided cage. Ten fights with the UFC and a 9-1 record, that’s how Don Frye gets down. Don is a two-time UFC tournament winner and his only loss was to a peaking Mark “The Hammer” Coleman at UFC 10. Frye is without a doubt one of the most well remembered and beloved fighters in the organization’s history.

Tank Abbott: You either love him or you hate him, there’s no hazy inbetween area with a brawler as rugged and controversial as David “Tank” Abbott. Tank just so happens to hold a very special place in my heart as his mauling of John Matua at UFC 6 was one of the original fights that spiked my interest in the sport. Do I think he belongs in the UFC Hall of Fame? Well yeah, eventually, but it has nothing to do with his record or what he stood for, and everything to do with what he meant to the still developing sport. There are a whole lot of people that are longtime fans of the sport that never would have cared about the UFC if it wasn’t for the plus sized pit fighter and his ability to leave people beaten within an inch of their lives in the cage. The sport was barbaric in the early ages and Tank was Conan the Barbarian.

Chuck Liddell: A case could easily be made that no man is more deserving of this honor than “The Iceman” Chuck Liddell. Twenty two of Liddell’s career total twenty eight professional bouts have come fighting under the UFC umbrella. He made his MMA debut fighting for peanuts at UFC 17 in Mobile, Alabama back in 1998 and fought his way up to become the most popular and symbolic fighter to ever step foot inside of the octagon. A former UFC light heavyweight champion, Chuck defended his title four times during his championship reign, putting the belt on the line against men such as Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz.

Matt Hughes: Is there really any question as to whether Hughes belongs in this category or not? While Hughes still has a few fights left in him, so did every other current member of the elite club at the time of their induction. Hughes has long been the type of fighter that you either love, hate, or love to hate, but regardless of your feelings on the country boy from Illinois you have to respect his accomplishments during his time spent with the UFC. Hughes has put it all on the line against some of the best the game has had to offer in the UFC for close to ten years a total of twenty one times. He’s a two-time welterweight champion that has defended his title a total of seven times making Matt one of the most decorated champions in the history of the organization.

B.J. Penn: Penn has accomplished what very few men will ever be able to do in the UFC in becoming a multiple weight class champion. Only B.J. and Randy Couture have accomplished the feat during their time spent with the company.The most impressive thing about Penn’s two title runs is that they were separated by a gap of four years showcasing his ability to stay relevant in the most stacked fighting promotion on the planet. Penn came out of nowhere when he jumped up a weight class at UFC 46 to immediately challenge and dethrone Matt Hughes who seemed to be unstoppable at the time. Penn dropped back down to his starting weight at The Ultimate Fighter 5 Finale to catch Jens Pulver in a rear-naked choke and returned at UFC 80 to submit Joe Stevenson with the same stranglehold en route to becoming the UFC’s lightweight champion. A title which he still holds and plans to defend at UFC 101 against Kenny Florian. I just think it’s going to be hard for the UFC to vote someone into the HOF when they are currently a defending champion. This reason of thought comes into play with the next name on the list as well.

Anderson Silva: While just as deserving as anyone on this list in a sense of what he has accomplished during his time with the company, Silva is just way too current and relevant to be added to this list just yet. On paper it’s not even a question as to whether or not he deserves a spot. “The Spider” holding the record for most consecutive title defenses alone justifies his worthiness of the club. Five consecutive title defenses, and it would have been six if Travis Lutter had manned up to his contracted obligation to make the weight limit, but that just wasn’t the case at UFC 67 as Lutter’s embarrassment resulted in a non-title fight triangle choke victory for Anderson. All in all, Silva has fought for the UFC eight times and he has his hand raised every single one of those times compiling victories over elite fighters such as Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt along the way.

Deep in my heart I feel as if every name that I have previosly listed deserves a spot in the UFC’s Hall of Fame at one point or another. All have played their own truly signifiant roles in the development of the UFC, and the sport in the process.

However, there are only two spots up for grabs this time around, and which two men are the most deserving of the recognition can only be left up to speculation, and personal opinion. Who deserves it the most? It’s impossible to judge.

I would personally love to see “Big” John McCarthy get a spot in the hall where he belongs. There are few men that have done as much for the sport and the UFC that he has.

I wouldn’t be he least bit dissapointed if the UFC decided to honor either Evan Tanner for his accomplishments in the octagon, or Charles “Mask” Lewis for his accomplishments outside of it. Are there others maybe a little more deserving at this point? Sure, but if one of these two men get the induction it would be very honorable on the UFC’s part.

If we’re judging fighters and their accomplishments during their time spent with the UFC, you just have to go with either Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell or Matt Hughes. However, as previously stated, the bad blood between Tito and Dana make him a verly ulikely candidate at this point.

Who do I choose if there’s a gun to my head? I’m going with Chuck Liddell and Evan Tanner, final answer.

Which two legends of the UFC would get your vote if it was the decision was left up to you?