Gatekeepers in MMA are fighters who have the skills to beat 90 percent of their peers, but they always come up short against the elite fighters in their division. These fighters are a great litmus test for up-and-coming stars, but they rarely ever make it to the top. Many fighters remain gatekeepers throughout their careers, but some raise their game to the next level and prove that they belong in the championship leagues. Here are 5 UFC gatekeepers who proved everyone wrong.
Before Amanda Nunes became the greatest female MMA fighter of all time, she was one of the top UFC gatekeepers when the likes of Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, and Cat Zingano were ahead of everyone else. The Brazilian had her ups and downs in the early part of her career, losing two of her four bouts in Strikeforce and Invicta after going 6-1 in Brazil.
She made a successful start to her UFC career however, beating Sheila Gaff and Germaine de Randamie, but was finished in the third round of her title eliminator against Zingano. At that point in her career, Nunes was just another fish in the pond, but she made massive improvements to her game afterward, winning her next three fights and earning the title shot against Miesha Tate. She decimated ‘Cupcake’ despite being a +250 underdog.
Nunes hasn’t looked back ever since, beating the likes of Ronda Rousey, Valentina Shevchenko, Holly Holm, and Cris Cyborg among others en route to unmatched greatness.
Amanda Nunes has knocked out Holly Holm, Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg all in the first round.
She's also the first woman to hold UFC belts in two divisions. @espnmma
— ESPN (@espn) June 6, 2020
Michael Bisping was one of the top UFC gatekeepers before he made life fair by knocking out Luke Rockhold in their middleweight title fight at UFC 199.
Bisping fought absolutely everybody back in his day. From Vitor Belfort to Anderson Silva to Dan Henderson to Georges St-Pierre, the Brit fought the best in his time and never said no to a fight. But despite being a fan favorite, he appeared to always be one step behind the rest of the guys in his division, up until he earned the short-notice opportunity against Rockhold and cashed onto it.
He defended his title once, against Dan Henderson, before losing it to GSP, and then retiring after his loss to Kelvin Gastelum.
Four years ago today, the legend of Left Hook Larry was born when @bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold at UFC 199.
On that night, he finally captured the UFC title after a 10 year run with the promotion 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/oPqS4CqX49
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) June 4, 2020
Glover Teixeira joined the UFC in 2011 at 17-2 and won his first five fights in the promotion to earn his shot at the light heavyweight title against Jon Jones, but he lost by unanimous decision. He spent the next few years as a solid gatekeeper, scoring wins against the likes of Rashad Evans, Jared Cannonier, and Misha Cirkunov but losing to Alexander Gustafsson, Corey Anderson, and Anthony Johnson.
Many thought his time was up after he was defeated by Corey Anderson in 2018, but since then, he’s piled up a five-fight winning streak and will fight Jan Blachowicz for the lightweight belt at UFC 267 in October. If the 41 year old wins the belt, he will become the second oldest fighter in UFC history to do so, after Randy Couture, who become a UFC champion at 43 years old.
Miesha Tate is one of the biggest names in women’s MMA, and back in her era, she was among the few top names in her division, alongside Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano. However, as long as Rousey was champion, Tate was unable to get her hands on the belt. She fought Rousey twice, in Strikeforce and in the UFC, but she lost both times. She also lost in her title eliminator against Cat Zingano.
After her second loss to Rousey, however, Tate won four in a row and challenged Holly Holm for the bantamweight title, and beat her by fifth-round submission. Tate lost the belt to Nunes and retired after losing to Raquel Pennington, but she’s back again, better than ever, and she’s itching to take her revenge from ‘The Lioness’.
Derek Brunson improved his winning streak to five in a row this weekend at UFC Vegas 36, where he beat Darren Till by submission in the third round. He also called for a title shot, which he totally deserves once Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker settle their score.
Brunson has long been one of the best UFC gatekeepers in the middleweight division. His last five wins have come against up-and-coming prospects like Till, Kevin Holland, Edmen Shahbazyan, and Elias Theodorou. However, his UFC losses have come against the likes of Robert Whittaker, Israel Adesanya, Yoel Romero, and Jacare Souza, all of whom are elite.
The American is adamant to prove that he’s not a gatekeeper but a top contender, and a championship-level fighter, and he’s potentially one or two wins away from proving his doubters wrong. He already has proved many wrong with his recent wins.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) September 4, 2021
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