Underdog stories are enormously popular in all sports, and there has been no shortage of inspirational “Cinderella stories” this year when it comes to the Ultimate Fighting Championship [UFC]. Here are five fighters who captured not just the attention of fans, but their hearts as well:
1. Mark Hunt — The “Super Samoan” mixed martial artist’s UFC career got off to an encouraging 5-1 start that included a New Year’s Eve 2004 split decision victory over Wanderlei Silva. But then Hunt lost six consecutive fights over the next four years, and his career appeared to be in shambles. At UFC 127 in February 2011, Hunt got back on the winning side when he earned a Knockout of the Night bonus in a victory over Chris Tuchscherer. Hunt’s three victories over the course of the year led to an online campaign and trending #RallyforMarkHunt hashtag to get him consideration for a potential title fight. While Hunt’s May 2013 loss to Junior dos Santos in Las Vegas brought an end to his four-match winning streak, the contest was named the Fight of the Night and many fans continued to keep their faith in the “Super Samoan.”
2. Ilir Latifi — The Swedish light heavyweight had been toiling away in relative obscurity when he filled in for injured teammate Alexander Gustaffson on just five days’ notice and made his UFC debut against Gegard Mousasi at UFC on Fuel TV 9 in Stockholm on April 6, 2013. While “The Sledgehammer” lost the contest in a unanimous decision, UFC President Dana White told MMAjunkie.com that Gustaffson will “absolutely” get another fight. After competing in small Swedish shows for very little money, Latifi’s story of shedding 27 pounds in three days to make the 206-pound limit was nothing short of inspiring.
3. James Krause — The mixed martial artist had an impressive amateur career and won his first 10 fights after turning pro. Krause was one of 32 fighters selected to compete on the FX reality TV series “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” in March 2012, but was eliminated from the show after suffering a first round TKO to lightweight Justin Lawrence. MMA Weekly reported that “Krause was devastated that his possible one-time shot at UFC stardom was over before truly beginning,” but Krause later made his UFC debut as a late-replacement for the injured Isaac Vallie-Flagg at UFC 161 in June 2013 against Sam Stout. Krause earned Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night bonuses with a guillotine chokehold in a third-round submission victory.
4. TJ Grant — Despite being considered an underdog in his UFC 160 bout with Gray Maynard, Canadian MMA fighter Timothy Jerome “TJ” Grant put the world on notice when he knocked out “The Bully” a little over two minutes into the first round. Before the fight, Dana White had said the winner would be next in line to fight Benson Henderson for the UFC Lightweight title. The former construction worker was a relative unknown since debuting at UFC 97 in April 2009, but now stands on the brink of a championship.
5. Bobby “Vicious” Voelker — According to the Kansas City Star, the 34-year-old mixed martial artist had only fought once in two years with a “nasty knee injury” in between when “Vicious” was invited to replace an injured fighter for a bout against Robbie Lawler at the July 2013 “UFC on Fox” event in Seattle. While Voelker lost the bout in a second round knockout, trainer Van Powell told the Star that it was “really a Cinderella story” since Voelker had gone from being ranked 60th one fight ago to fighting the eighth-ranked guy in the world.
Sources: http://www.mmajunkie.com/news/2012/04/rally-falls-short-mark-hunt-aint-gonna-fight-champ-junior-dos-santos-at-ufc-146, http://www.mmajunkie.com/news/2013/04/despite-lopsided-loss-ilir-latifi-will-get-another-ufc-fight, http://topmmanews.com/2013/04/20/dana-white-announces-tj-grantmaynard-winner-to-fight-for-ufc-lightweight-title/, http://www.kansascity.com/2013/07/25/4367967/kcs-voelker-excited-about-ufc.htm
… this is a guest post by Ken Tabor a martial arts hobbiest and Internet entrepreneur. He blogs about martial arts equipment at Knucklesdown.net. If you want Ken to share is finds on MMA and Martial arts with you follow him on Twitter.