GRINUPS: The Top Ten Fighters who have never competed in UFC, from Ben Askren to Lance Palmer to Michael Chandler

By Nick Grinups, MMAATorch contributor

Michael Chandler (photo credit

This is a top ten list for fighters that have never competed in the UFC. 

1. Ben Askren – Welterweight – (15-0) – ONE FC – age: 32

The 32 year old former freestyle wrestling Olympian is the current ONE FC Welterweight Champion.  The Wisconsin native is sporting an undefeated MMA record.  Askren also won the season 2 Bellator welterweight tournament and defended his belt successfully before moving to the ONE FC organization.  Askren uses his overpowering grappling that could give anyone in the world fits.  Many MMA enthusiasts have expressed their interest in seeing Askren take on the world’s best at 170 pounds.

Key career wins: Joey Hieron, Andrey Koreshkov

2. Michael Chandler – Lightweight – (15-3) – Bellator – age: 30

The current Bellator Lightweight Champion was a 2x All-American wrestler for Missouri and has shown skills in every department of MMA, hence his last knockout of Patricky Freire.  Chandler has been the face of Bellator since his arrival in 2010 after starting his young career in Strikeforce.  He has also shown his ability in going to war against top level current UFC fighters – Will Brooks and Eddie Alvarez. 

Key wins: Eddie Alvarez and Akihiro Gono.

3. Justin Gaethje – Lightweight – (16-0) – World Series of Fighting – age: 27

The 27 year old is the current and only World Series of Fighting Lightweight Champion.  Gaethje comes from a grappling background but has finished 14 of his 16 opponents to date with 13 of those finishes coming from TKO.  The WSOF Champion is a very well-rounded fighter using leg kicks and technical boxing to out-work his opponents.  The Colorado native is continuing to improve in all aspects of MMA and with his long 5-11 frame. He could be a tough match up for anyone in the UFC.

Key wins: Melvin Guilliard and Dan Lauzon

4. Vitaly Minakov – Heavyweight – (18-0) – EFN/Bellator – age: 31

This decorated sambo fighter from Russia is a perfect 18-0 since starting his professional fighting career.  The former Bellator champion (was stripped due to contract disputes) is currently fighting under the Eurasia Fight Night banner and is 4-0 with all stoppages in the EFN promotion.  The Russian has looked dominating in every one of his 18 fights and uses his Sambo submission skills to finish most of his opponents. Minakov is relatively young for a heavyweight and has the athletic skill and gas tank to compete at the top level.

Key win: Cheick Kongo

5. Liam McGeary – Light heavyweight – Bellator – (11-0) – age: 33

The 6-6 British Light Heavyweight Champion uses his unorthodox ground game and long frame to keep himself out of danger against his opponents.  He caught legend Tito Ortiz with an inverted triangle which is something you don’t see too often in high level MMA.  McGeary is rumored to be fighting Phil Davis, who is a former UFC contender, so we will see exactly where he stands with the elite 205 pounders.

Key wins: Tito Ortiz and Emmanuel Newton

6. Marlon Moraes – Bantamweight – WSOF – (17-4) – age: 28

Moraes hasn’t lost since 2011 when he started his career with a 5-4 record.  Since then, it has all started to click for the Brazilian native, winning his last 12 fights and finishing his last three opponents under the WSOF banner.  The current WSOF champion uses beautiful technique to breakdown his opponents with powerful legs kicks and constant movement.

Key wins: Tyson Nam and Miguel Torres

7. Andrey Koreshkov – Welterweight – Bellator – (19-1) – age:26

The Russian is the current Bellator Welterweight Champion and is 10-1 under the Bellator banner.  The young fighter has only one blemish on his record and that was against #1 on this list, Ben Askren, when he was just 23 years old. Since that loss, Koreshkov has reeled off six straight wins including a one-sided five round pounding of former UFC Lightweight Champion Benson Henderson. Koreshkov uses an in-your-face style to beat his opponents and has looked very dominant as of late.  Keep an eye out for a possible match up with newly signed Rory MacDonald towards the middle of 2017.

Key Wins: Benson Henderson and Douglas Lima.

8. Shinya Aoki – Featherweight – ONE FC – (39-6) – age: 33

The Japanese legend has fought in almost every major promotion except for the UFC.  Aoki has been in the forefront of the Japanese MMA scene since 2003.  He has fought all over the globe in Dream, Pride, Strikeforce, One FC, Rizin, and Bellator.  Aoki is known for his exceptional grappling game which has claimed 25 victims via submission.  The 33 year old veteran is the current ONE FC champion and is a huge draw overseas but has shown he can still compete with elite fighters.

Key wins: Caol Uno, Eddie Alvarez, Rich Clementi, and Kazsushi Sakuraba

9. Eduardo Dantas – Bantamweight – Bellator – (18-4) – age: 27

Dantas is the current Bellator Bantamweight Champion, hailing from Brazil.  “Dudu” uses his long 5-10 frame to frustrate them with his reach and ground game.  Dantas only loss in Bellator was to Joe Warren in a close contest.  The 27 year old Brazilian rebounded by beating Marcos Galvao for the Bantamweight Title in dominating fashion.  Dantas has proven he can beat any opponent on any day and he has worked out his consistency against top opponents.

Key wins: Wilson Reis, Zack Makovsky and Marcos Galvao.

10. Lance Palmer – Featherweight – WSOF – (11-2) – age: 28

Palmer is a former four-time Division I wrestling All-American for the Ohio State Buckeyes.  The Ohio native found his home in Sacramento with Team Alpha male and has shown his ability to use his wrestling to set up his power punches.  He is the current WSOF champion and was able to get his title back against a tough Alexandre Almeida who beat him in December of 2015.  Palmer hasn’t faced the toughest of competition during his five year professional career, but has shown that his technique and grit is up there with the toughest in the world.

Key wins: Alexandre Almeida and Rick Glenn.

Honorable Mention:

Patricio Friere, Daniel Strauss, Michael Page, Magomed Bibulatov, Mamed Khalidov

(Nick Grinups has previous written about MMA for He wrestled 15 years and ended his career wrestling Division I for Drexel University, where he graduated with a double major in Finance and Marketing. He wrote for the school paper at Drexel as well. He grew up boxing and doing judo to stay in shape for wrestling. He has also done some BJJ while training. He has been an MMA fanatic since 2006 and has been immersed in learning about the sport as it has grown. He is also a stand-up comedian in Philadelphia and involved in the advertising/marketing industry.)

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