Gatekeepers in Each Division
There are gatekeepers in every division. For anyone unfamiliar with this term, gatekeepers are experienced fighters who are used to test whether an up-and-comer is ready to fight a top 10 guy. They are usually also guys who have fought tough competition and come out short, but have beaten solid guys.
Here's my list of the divisions gatekeepers, and who I believe will never be any better than that...
Takeya Mizugaki - perhaps the perfect example of a gatekeeper. He's lost to Faber, Jorgensen, Torres and Bowles who have all fought for the WEC or UFC bantamweight title, whilst beating guys like Cole Escovedo and Rani Yahya: two guys I believe will never be in the upper echelon of the division.
Leonard Garcia - in my eyes the most entertaining fighter in the sport. Even a guy like Jon Fitch (yes I know he's in a different weight class) would be forced into a good ol' fashioned scrap with Garcia, and that's saying something! You can't help but love Bad Boy, who has perhaps lost fights to lesser competition, but lost in a style that will not see him cut in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, he has won fight of the night 4 times in his last 6 fights; but I doubt he'll ever fight for the featherweight belt anytime soon.
Gleison Tibau - for anyone unfamiliar with Tibau, he is a guy who puts on about 30lbs in the short time between weigh-ins and fight night. There is only one word to describe Tibau - animal. He's beaten tough guys in Kurt Pellegrino, Caol Uno and, most recently, Rafael Dos Anjos; but all at a time where these dudes are nowhere near title shots, or top-10 ranking for that matter. It's arguable whether Gleison is only a few fights away from a shot as the lightweight division is packed full of talent, but with 3 wins in a row he's certainly making a step in the right direction. Who knows what the future holds for the 28-year-old Brazilian.
Chris Lytle - a man who puts on a show whatever the occasion, and could go down as the best gatekeeper of all time. Throughout his illustrious career, Lytle has beaten Matt Serra, Dan Hardy and Brian Foster amongst others and is well known for his large amounts of FOTN, SOTN and KOTN awards. However, after a four fight win streak that saw Light Out at possibly the peak of his career, Brian Ebersole dominated Lytle en route to a unanimous decision victory which left Chris on the verge of retirement. After announcing that his August 14 affair with Dan Hardy would be his last in the octagon, he promised to put on a show, and that he did against Hardy with a third-round submission victory. Perhaps his aggressive style was the reason he never went on to get a title shot, but who knows.
Chris Leben - I have huge respect for Leben, he's another guy who throws fists at will and tries to give the fans what they want to see. However, after the loss to Mark Munoz at UFC 138, the first time Leben has been just a shot-or-two away from a title fight, he needs to long hard think about where to go from here. His 27-second KO of Wanderlei Silva, and FOTN performance in his win over Yoshihiro Akiyama were very impressive indeed, but it is perhaps clearer than ever that Leben will always be destined for gatekeeper status.
Stephan Bonnar - Such an exciting and great fighter, Bonnar has beaten respectable opponents in Keith Jardine, Krzysztof Soszynski and Kyle Kingsbury, and has finally got a three fight winning streak to his name for the first time in five years, but The American Psycho will forever be outside the top 10 I fear. Famous for his exciting battles against Forrest Griffin and trembling clinch work, Stephan regularly puts on a good display; however he has never beaten a fighter in the higher tier of the LHW division and for this reason has never been known as a 'contender'. With the exception of his loss due to a cut to Soszynski back in February of last year, the only losses of Bonnar's long career have been to past-or-future champions. With a good run of form, maybe it's time for a top-10 fight once again to test just where the American is in the division.
Cheick Kongo - Cheick is maybe just a win or two away from a title shot, but he's been in a similar position before and flawed. His comeback win over Pat Barry was superb in a fight many around the world thought would end in Pat's favour, but he looked less than impressive against Matt Mitrione in his UD victory. However, Kongo has not lost in his last four and with a couple more wins against tough opponents, he could be on his way to title contention.
Anyone believe there are better gatekeepers than this? I tried to steer clear of fighters who have fought for the belts in their divisions, with the exception of Mizugaki who was put into the bout with Torres at late notice.