Donald Cerrone and the UFC's 5 Biggest 'Bridesmaids' Right Now
Every sport has them. Talented guys. Likable guys. The guys your dad roots for. But in the end, the guys who just couldn't pass over that hump. They are the bridesmaids of their professions.
Here are the five biggest bridesmaids in the UFC today.
You may wish to quibble with the specific definition of "bridesmaid," but the main parameters for inclusion are someone who has never put the UFC gold around the waist and someone who has repeatedly received and fallen short in either title fights, eliminator bouts (official or unofficial) or both.
Here's what it does not mean: a guy who lost a title fight once. We're looking for patterns here. Savvy?
That's great. So onward, then, to the list, which will surely not foment any dissent from anyone. Giddyup!
Every other UFC women's bantamweight
5. Jim Miller
Jim Miller exemplifies a lot of the themes I mentioned in the intro: high popularity, exciting style, plenty of wins, a relative richness of job security and a track record of falling—and falling hard—when the competition is at its toughest.
In 18 career UFC contests (and that's a high number of contests), Miller has feasted on the soft underbellies of his opponents' games. Melvin Guillard doesn't want to learn how to grapple? Great, choke him out in two minutes. Joe Lauzon doesn't feel like defending himself on the feet? Great, give him 40 stitches.
But when the other man is well-rounded and there are big chips on the table, Miller is routinely turned back at the pass. In his only formal UFC title eliminator, Miller succumbed to Nate Diaz by second-round chokeout. Most recently, the New Jerseyite was knocked out by Donald Cerrone in what was probably a title eliminator eliminator.
It's not for lack of trying, but at age 30, it's hard to know how many runs Miller has left.
4. Joseph Benavidez
Thank the great good lord for T.J. Dillashaw. In mastering the previously unmasterable Renan Barao to take the UFC bantamweight strap, Dillashaw removed the bridesmaid anchor draped around the collective neck of the Team Alpha Male camp.
But there are still individuals within said camp who can't live down the moniker. Benavidez is a prime example. He's 20-4 in his entire career. All four losses came to champions, and three came in his only championship bouts.
Granted, two of those were under the WEC banner, both against their bantamweight champ, some guy by the name of Dominick Cruz. One of the losses came when Cruz was champ, the other didn't.
Back in the UFC, Benavidez fought Demetrious Johnson twice for the flyweight belt, and twice came up short.
That's the perfect definition of a bridesmaid. Somewhere between gatekeeper and champion.
3. Donald Cerrone
Donald Cerrone is on one heck of a run right now. But you know what? We've seen this movie before.
The swaggering Colorado cowboy rips off a few wins, typically in spectacular, bonus-winning fashion. Excitement builds like a rising tide. Then he just hits a wall.
Just because he hasn't hit a wall yet in this particular run doesn't mean that one can't or shouldn't take a cautionary lesson from history. Now, don't get me wrong, his current run—Evan Dunham, Adriano Martins, Edson Barboza and the aforementioned Mr. Miller—is nothing to sneeze at. It's probably the best of his career, UFC or otherwise.
But if you look closely, there's not a made man in the bunch. Look at the true contenders Cerrone has faced: Rafael dos Anjos, Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz. All of them were losses. Cerrone has never fought for a UFC belt, but back in the WEC, he did so three times—twice against Benson Henderson and once against Jamie Varner. He lost all three times.
The next fight of Cerrone's frenetic 2014 isn't set. Originally, it was phenom Khabib Nurmagomedov, until the Dagestani went down with a knee injury in training. Now, Jorge Masvidal, an exciting fighter, is calling Cerrone out.
Either of those fights could net Cerrone yet another performance bonus to supplement his extreme sports habit. Only the latter would be likely to net him a win, at least if you're using history as a judge.
UPDATE: Looks like Cerrone may now be matched up with one Mr. Eddie Alvarez. I'm putting my money on the Bellator transplant.
2. Urijah Faber
Fairly or not, Urijah Faber is probably the poster child for UFC bridesmaids.
As noted, Dillashaw helped him out on that front when he won the big one for Team Alpha Male, the camp Faber kingpins. Faber also has a big feather in his cap based on his title runs with the WEC.
But in the big, bad UFC, Faber is a big oh-fer in title matches. Twice against Barao and once against nemesis Dominick Cruz, it wasn't quite Faber's night.
After a win over lighter-regarded Alex Caceres, Faber is now headed to Japan to face journeyman Masanori Kanehara in September. The UFC will probably see to it that the charismatic California kid will do a few interviews while he's over there, but is this a sign of the times for the 35-year-old Faber?
Who knows? A rubber match with Cruz, who is just now returning to action after missing years with injuries, may be inevitable and could reveal a lot about both men.
1. Gray Maynard
Gray Maynard gets my vote as the biggest bridesmaid on the UFC roster right now.
"The Bully" lived up to his nickname in powerful efforts over Diaz, Miller and plenty of others. He also did win a title eliminator match back in 2010 when he bested Kenny Florian.
But there's a flip side to that coin, as you might imagine. First, Florian was one of the great bridesmaids in UFC history, never capturing a title before he retired despite several valiant attempts. Second, Maynard not only has a track record of losing the big one, but doing so when the oddsmakers were solidly in his corner.
In 2011, Maynard fell short in that fabled title-fight series with Frankie Edgar, fighting to a draw in a bout in which Maynard was favored and then losing by TKO in the rematch.
After that, it appeared Maynard lost his fastball. He decisioned Clay Guida, but then lost convincingly to underdog T.J. Grant in a title eliminator. A first-round TKO in a rematch with Diaz in his next fight established him as someone no longer in the contender ranks. His fights with Edgar and Grant (all three) established him well before as the UFC's biggest bridesmaid.
Don't stand in the bouquet's path. Just let him catch it.