The UFC’s roster is now a huge, sprawling list of over 600 fighters. Unsurprisingly, a number of them end up flying under the radar of the fans.
Right now, the UFC is home to a number of top-class fighters who are under the radar, but actually have surprisingly great octagon records.
Whether these fighters can find a way to break out as stars in 2023, or whether they continue to be unheralded, remains a question mark right now. However, it’s safe to say that in terms of their skills, they’re all well worth watching.
Here are five under-the-radar fighters who actually have great UFC records.
#5. Roman Dolidze – UFC record: 6-1
This past weekend saw Georgian middleweight Roman Dolidze pick up his biggest UFC win to date, as he stopped longtime veteran Jack Hermansson via TKO in the second round.
Prior to the bout, which Dolidze took on late notice, Hermansson was ranked at No.8 in the division. Therefore, it’s likely that Dolidze may well end up rising into the top 15 at worse when the rankings are next updated.
However, while he’ll definitely come into view for many fans going into 2023, it’s arguable that the Georgian should already have garnered some notable hype even prior to the Hermansson bout.
After all, his current octagon record stands at a hugely impressive 6-1, with four of those wins finished via KO or TKO. More to the point, his single loss to Trevin Giles in March 2021 came under controversial circumstances. Many fans felt that Dolidze, who was making his debut at 185 pounds, deserved the nod from the judges.
Essentially, Dolidze is a classic example of an exciting fighter who has slowly climbed up the mountain in the UFC, taking on tougher opponents each time until it becomes impossible to ignore him. Judging by his current form, 2023 should see him finally become a known quantity to the fans.
#4. Damir Ismagulov – UFC record: 5-0
A glance at the UFC’s top-15 lightweights shows a number of the promotion’s biggest star names, from Islam Makhachev and Dustin Poirier to Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor.
However, one name in the rankings that might well go unnoticed is Damir Ismagulov. Currently ranked at No.12, it’s likely that many fans, particularly casual ones, wouldn’t be able to pick the Russian out of a line-up.
Despite this, Ismagulov has a remarkably strong octagon record of 5-0, compiled over the past four years. In fact, he hasn’t lost a bout in MMA overall since September 2015, giving him one of the lengthiest win streaks on the UFC’s roster.
So why aren’t more people talking about him? The likelihood is because Ismagulov has yet to finish an opponent inside the octagon.
Sure, it’s not like he’s been squashing overmatched foes; Guram Kutateladze and Thiago Moises are extremely tricky fighters. However, it’s harder for the promotion to market someone without at least one highlight-reel finish.
Despite this, Ismagulov clearly does have plenty of striking power – he hurt Kutateladze badly on the feet and has 12 pre-UFC knockouts to his name. So, if he can pick up his first finish in 2023, he should no longer fly under the radar for anyone.
#3. Chris Gutierrez – UFC record: 7-1-1
When former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar announced his plans to retire after one final fight last month, many fans were stunned that Chris Gutierrez was chosen as his last ever opponent.
After all, the promotion had always tended to use aging veterans to build up hot prospects on their way out, and yet Gutierrez was flying under the radar for most fans leading into the bout.
However, in reality, maybe ‘El Guapo’ should’ve garnered more hype. He came into his clash with Edgar with an outstanding octagon record of 6-1-1, with his only loss coming to Raoni Barcelos in his 2018 debut.
More to the point, two of his losses had come in violent fashion, including a spinning backfist finish of Danaa Batgerel. Many fans also felt he deserved the nod in his draw with Cody Durden, which saw him recover from a bad first round to take the final two stanzas.
Gutierrez was able to turn out the lights on Edgar’s octagon career last month, but given that ‘The Answer’ was already badly damaged prior to that fight, it seems that ‘El Guapo’ remains under the radar.
If he can continue to win, particularly in the same entertaining fashion that he did against Edgar, that could well change in 2023.
#2. Grant Dawson – UFC record: 7-0-1
Usually, any fighter able to put together an unbeaten UFC record over the course of eight fights would garner plenty of hype, particularly if they’d been able to finish five of their seven wins.
However, that hasn’t been the case for Grant Dawson, who not only remains under the radar with the fans, but also seemingly with the promotion itself. Despite his outstanding record, ‘KGD’ remains unranked.
Why is this? The likely explanation is that Dawson has floated between weight classes during his run with the UFC, with his first three wins coming at 145 pounds and his fourth coming at a 150-pound catchweight.
Since early 2021, Dawson has fought exclusively as a lightweight, although he did miss weight for his recent late-notice bout with Mark Madsen. Given that none of his four victims at 155 pounds were ranked prior to their fights with him, it makes sense that ‘KGD’ hasn’t cracked the top 15 yet.
Despite this, it’s clear that Dawson is ready for a run at the elite. Prior to their bout, Madsen was a 12-0 hot prospect who looked set for a push towards the top, and so it’s only fair that ‘KGD’ now gets that opportunity.
He might not be the most charismatic fighter on the roster, but Dawson is certainly legit, and so hopefully, 2023 will give him a chance to prove that against the best in the world.
#1. Belal Muhammad – UFC record: 13-3-1
Most fighters who crack the UFC’s top 10 in their weight class can no longer be seen to be flying under the radar, but somehow, it still feels like welterweight contender Belal Muhammad is being unfairly ignored.
‘Remember the Name’ has a remarkably strong octagon record of 13-3-1, he hasn’t lost a fight since January 2019, and he’s coming off a brutal knockout finish of a highly-touted prospect in Sean Brady.
Despite this, many fans just don’t mention him in terms of possible title contenders at 170 pounds, preferring to discuss the likes of Khamzat Chimaev, Colby Covington and Gilbert Burns.
To say that it’s tricky to understand would be an understatement. With wins over Vicente Luque, Stephen Thompson and Demian Maia on his ledger alongside that win over Brady, Muhammad’s record stacks up against any other welterweight in the promotion.
More interestingly, it’s not like Muhammad isn’t charismatic, either. In fact, he’s arguably one of the better microphone workers in the division.
Basically, it feels like he simply can’t go ignored for much longer – and one more big win in 2023 could push him over the edge towards stardom.
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