Let me preface this by saying that each of the fighters listed in this list deserve most of the accolades they receive, and in most cases, would deserve the label “legend” without holding UFC gold. I’m basing this off achievements inside the Octagon or those on the short list for H.o.F. status. I am not including such “one and done” UFC champs as Matt Serra or even first time champs like Dave Menne simply because no one refers to them with such regard or calls for their induction into the UFC Hall of Fame.
#5 – Evan Tanner
Tanner ranks #5 on this list simply because after his untimely death, the outcry from fans was that he should be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. To earn his MW title he had to beat Phil Baroni, Robbie Lawler, and David Terrell. Each of them had less than a dozen fights under their belts as opposed to Tanners 30+, and only Lawler would grow into a top fighter. Couple that with Evan never defending his belt or earning another shot at one, and it’s hard to argue his grounds for induction. Tanner was a good fighter, more importantly he was a great man. But neither of those qualities should get one inducted into the H.o.F.
#4 – Vitor Belfort
“Vitor Belfort, former UFC LHW champion.” Sounds nice, but it isn’t quite as cut and dry as that. Belforts title shot came after a loss to Chuck Liddell followed by a win over Marvin Eastman. He stepped in the cage against reigning UFC LHW champ Randy Couture, the man that literally knocked him out of the HW division. In a bout that lasted less than one minute, Vitor threw a single punch wherein his wrist caught Randy in the eye, slicing Couture’s cornea with a loose piece of tape, prompting the MMA industry to develop safer gloves. A fight that should have been ruled a no contest was instead called a TKO win for Belfort. His reign wouldn’t last long as he lost his next fight in a rematch with Couture. He would also be given title shots at MW having never fought at MW in the UFC, and most recently LHW again. Vitor has had a career resurgence as of late and is on the cusp of yet another title shot. The only difference between then and now is that he might actually deserve this one.
#3 – Andrei Arlovski
Arlovski’s name has been made off the fact that he was a former UFC HW champion. But that title should come with an asterisk as Andrei never actually beat a UFC champion to earn his belt. Andre fought Tim Sylvia for the interim title, as the HW belt was held by Frank Mir at the time. He then beat Justin Eilers, who was coming off a loss to Paul Buentello, before being announced the undisputed HW champ when it was reveled that Mir could no longer defend his belt. He would then beat Buentello, the second biggest win of his career, before suffering a TKO at the hands of Sylvia and then losing the immediate rubber match. It wasn’t until after his championship fights that he put together his most impressive win streak over the toughest competition of his career. Overrated fighter? No. Overrated champion? Yes.
#2 – Mauricio Rua
“Shogun” is a bona fide legend in MMA, but this article is about UFC champs not MMA champs. The Brazilian’s UFC run mostly consists of wins against fighters in the twilight of their careers. Rua entered the UFC as the #1 LHW in the world and was immediately upset by Forrest Griffin. He then went of to beat an over the hill Mark Coleman and Liddell before finally looking like the “Rua of old” in his two fights with Lyoto Machida, only to lose his first title defense in a performance many fighters have said was the worst Shogun ever. He’s 5-5 in the UFC and of his wins three are retired, two beat him the first time around, and one was Brandon Vera. Rua’s record before the UFC is one of envy, but simply looking at his time inside the Octagon, it’s hard not to say he may be overrated.
#1 – BJ Penn (at welterweight)
Penn is arguably the greatest Lightweight fighter of all time. He is tied as the longest reigning UFC LW champ and defended his belt a record three times, all by stoppage. But I’m not writing about BJ the LW champ, I’ writing about BJ the Welterweight champ. Penn beat Matt Hughes when he had less than ten fights under his belt (almost 40 for Hughes) and had never fought at WW before. So, how can he be overrated? Because “The Prodigy” has been judged off that one win his entire UFC WW career. Immediately after winning the belt, BJ left the UFC. He returned to the WW division more than two years latter and lost to Georges St-Pierre. He was then granted a title shot again against Hughes in which Hughes avenged his prior defeat. He took another 2+ years away from the division before returning for another title fight, this time against GSP, which he lost again. After his losses to Frankie Edgar at LW, he returned almost two more years latter and complies a record of 1-1-1 in his next three fights at WW. Over seven years, Penn compiled a record of 2-5-1 in the UFC WW division with both wins being over Hughes. During all of these fights, Penn was consistently ranked in the Top 10 of the division. A Welterweight Penn is the definition of overrated. A fighter who’s name, skill set and personality far exceed his actual accomplishments inside the Octagon.
As stated above, most of these fighters are legends in their own rights and have more to stand on than their UFC belts. Other notable mentions are Brock Lesnar, Frank Shamrock, and Quinton Jackson.