Five MMA fighters who were one fight away from greatness

Profile Picture: Danny Howard

May 19th, 2020

While MMA fighters aren’t known for having glossy records, there are still fighters who couldn’t put it together long enough to be considered great.

Let's take a look at those who fell short in the one match that could have solidified their legacy. These are five fighters who were one fight away from greatness.

Kenny Florian (vs. BJ Penn)

Florian is often regarded as the best fighter in the UFC to never win a title, and he went winless in three title attempts. The loss that hurt the most was against Penn at UFC 101, where Florian boasted he would “kill the master” to capture the lightweight title.

Unfortunately for Florian, he was out of his league. Penn dominated, en route to a fourth-round submission that left Florian in tears.

Josh Koscheck (vs. Georges St-Pierre II)

A good talker in the fight game can often build an illusion that they are better than they really are, so it definitely hurts when the mouth writes a check their butt can’t cash.

This was the case with Koscheck, who badgered St-Pierre for a rematch that happened three years after their competitive first encounter, and his talk made the build to the fight more interesting than it had to be.

GSP dominated Koscheck in the rematch, and Koscheck was never the same. He won two more fights, then rode a six-fight losing streak all the way to retirement.

Kevin Lee (vs. Tony Ferguson)

Lee was positioned as the next big thing at lightweight, but his impressive physique and strength came at the expense of punishing his body to make weight.

With the interim title on the line against Ferguson, Lee looked like he was ready to rise to the occasion and validate the hype train, before he got complacent and tapped to a triangle choke. The loss sent Lee on a 2-3 run over the next three years, when he looked more like a journeyman than a future champion.

Chael Sonnen (vs. Anderson Silva)

Though Sonnen’s pre-fight build ahead of his first fight with Silva was fight promotion 101, Sonnen would have gone supernova if he backed up his talk to dethrone Silva.

It looked like Sonnen was about to do just that, as he dominated Silva throughout the fight, but Silva got Sonnen to tap to an arm triangle with just seconds left.

While Sonnen continued to talk his way into more fights before hanging it up, this was the one he needed to win the most.

Antonio Silva (vs. Cain Velasquez I/II)

When the biggest win of a fighter’s career is against Fedor Emelianenko, it shouldn’t take much more to attain greatness.

Somehow, Silva missed the boat, when he was torn apart like notebook paper in both of his fights against Velasquez.

Velasquez squashed Silva in the first round of each fight and Silva was damaged goods from that point on. Silva only won one fight over the next four years before he called it quits.