The three largest and most stable MMA promotions (UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator) have snatched up nearly all of the top talent in the world. But there are still a few great fighters that have managed to slip through the gaps.
The former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion became collateral damage in the Zuffa/Golden Glory fallout. After her release from the company she moved up a weight class to headline the premier Invicta FC card against Romy Ruyssen. This was actually a rematch of a 2008 bout where Coenen won by rear naked choke in the second frame. She was also the victor this time around, picking up an easy unanimous decision.
A former middleweight challenger, Leites has had only one loss out of seven fights since being dropped by the UFC. Matt Horwich was the man to do it, but Leites nullified the loss in March by submitting Horwich with an arm-triangle. Among his five other post-octagon matches, are victories over Dean Lister, Jeremy Horn and Jesse Taylor. He is also the only man to stop surging Swede Tor Troeng in the last 5 years.
Ayaka Hamasaki/Naho Sugiyama
I know this is a bit of a cheat, but Hamasaki and "Sugi Rock" are so similar, one could easily mistake them for the same person. Hamasaki is 5’2", 115 pounds, Sugiyama 5’1" 105 pounds. Both have 8-0 records, both are reigning Jewels champions, and they both even debuted on the same weekend, Sugiyama on October 24, 2009, Hamasaki on October 25th.
"Streetfight Bancho" may have a seemingly unimpressive 17-9 record but the former Dream Featherweight champion has fought and beaten some of the best in the world. He is a veteran of Shooto, K-1, WEC, Strikeforce and obviously Dream. His victim list includes Hatsu Hioki, Chase Beebe, Bibiano Fernandes, Kazuyuki Miata and Takeshi Inoue.
Another unfortunate victim of the Zuffa/Golden Glory blowup, the big Russian is by far the best heavyweight not contracted under any significant MMA promotion. The Pride, Strikeforce and Dream veteran has knocked out Pedro Rizzo, Andrie Arlovski and Alistair Overeem. Among his 19 victories are six more KOs, 9 submissions and a decision win over Fabricio Werdum.
With 37 professional fights (as well as a few exhibition matches) "The Grandmaster of Flying Submissions" is definitely one of the more experienced fighters in the sport. The former Dream lightweight and Shooto welterweight champion has beaten some of the best fighters of the last decade and in such a variety of submissions that it would be preposterous to list them all.
A former 205-pound titlist in KSW and now Poland’s premier middleweight, Khalidov has an eight-year career that has led him to overcoming opposition from more than a dozen countries around the world. After opening with a modest 3-3 record he has since gone 22-1-2 in professional competition. Oh, and his last defeat was a decision loss to a man he had knocked out the fight before.
The multiple time BJJ world champion, often known as Bibi, also started his MMA career with a less than stellar record. Although the two losses in his first three fights were against Urijah Faber and "Kid" Yamamoto. After putting that rocky start behind him, he went on to win 2 Dream grand prix tournaments, and 2 world championships in 2 different weight classes.
LaRosa is a ten-year veteran, a pioneer and arguably the greatest female fighter in the sport’s history. Who was the first major champion of women’s MMA? No, it wasn’t "Cyborg". It was Larosa. In 2007 Bodog Fight (an ambitious and ultimately short lived promotion) pit Tara against the undefeated Kelly Kobold. The fight would see LaRosa become the first female bantamweight champion in American history. Two years before "Cyborg" beat Carano.
"The Crusher" was one of the best lightweights in the world and fought for the championship in three different organizations. Since a drop to 145 a year ago, he’s been undefeated and is one of the top fighters in the eastern hemisphere. Sadly for Kawajiri he was within striking distance of a title shat against Hiroyuki Takaya when the Dream promotion came to an untimely (yet still denied) end.