Okay, so we all know what is going to happen this weekend. Shogun Rua and Jon Jones are going to go at it for the UFC LHW strap in New Jersey. This fight has been broken down and analyzed so much in the past few weeks it is almost unbelievable to me that it was only made official six weeks ago. I am not too interested in predicting fights, although I'll throw out an outrageous prediction every now and then for fun and the chance to say that I saw it coming if it goes the way I say it would.
But in one of the recent Bones Jones threads on BE I saw a few members discussing the fact that Jones has never tasted real defeat in a mixed martial arts fight, and until he does, won't be able to reach his full potential. I'm sorry that I don't have a link to the comments but it isn't a groundbreaking theory. The idea that you have to lose before you win is found across almost all sports.
I think that it is most relevant in hockey, where just about every Stanley Cup champion in recent memory has lost out in the playoff rounds before finally winning it all. It is less true in other team sports such as football (free agency changes teams so much from year to year) basketball (adding a star or two or three in one season can propel a team to the title, ala the 2008 Boston Celtics) and baseball (where championships are largely bought by the major market teams), but certainly when looking at the individual stars who lead their teams to titles in those sports, quite a few have lost with other teams before breaking through.
The comments made me think if it perhaps was applicable to mixed martial arts fighting and so I decided to look at all the UFC champions post TUF to see how many guys had won a UFC title without first suffering a defeat. I chose to go from the post TUF era because the UFC had undergone a lot of changes and while there had been some great champions (Randy Couture being one), it was not uncommon to see a fighter come into the organization and fight for the title instantly, or after one fight. Also the level of competition was not as high pre TUF.
After compiling the numbers this is what I found:
Champions who suffered a loss before winning the title:
Georges St. Pierre
The fact that so few men have challenged for the title while holding an undefeated record underscores how difficult it is to reach the highest level of the UFC without losing. In six championship fights involving an undefeated fighter, three men have won, two have lost and one fought to a draw. Doesn't tell us much at all. That being said, Evans lost his title in his first defense. Machida won a controversial decision over Rua, then lost an immediate rematch. Cain has yet to fight, as has Carwin and Maynard. GSP has gone on to become one of the most dominant champions ever.
Does anyone make anything of this, or is the UFC still too young for us to judge the impact a loss has in the making of a champion.