UFC president Dana White loves to tell his fighters never to leave things in the hands of the judges, but it’s fair to say that some of his roster don’t always follow that advice.
Right now, there are a number of fighters competing in the UFC who, while relatively successful, seem to struggle when it comes to finishing their opponents.
Often, this doesn’t make them any less popular. Some of them can count themselves among the bigger stars in the promotion. Despite this, it’s rare to see them win before the final buzzer.
Here are five UFC stars who regularly struggle to finish their opponents.
#5. Belal Muhammad – UFC welterweight
There are a number of observers, Daniel Cormier included, who believe that Belal Muhammad and not Colby Covington should be in line for the next shot at the welterweight title.
They might have a point. ‘Remember the Name’ has not been beaten in a nine-fight run that dates back to 2019, and takes in victories over some of the best fighters in his division.
However, one reason why the UFC may have overlooked Muhammad is his overall lack of finishing ability inside the octagon.
To be fair, ‘Remember the Name’ did dispatch Sean Brady in ruthless fashion in his last bout. Brady had never been beaten before, but Muhammad put him away with a violent flurry of punches in the second round.
However, prior to that, six of his previous seven wins had gone the distance, including his victories over Stephen Thompson, Vicente Luque and Demian Maia.
Before his current run, too, he’d gone the distance in four of his five other octagon wins. Overall, Muhammad has 13 UFC victories under his belt, and only three of them have ended before the final buzzer.
‘Remember the Name’ is undoubtedly a great fighter, but perhaps this missing piece of the puzzle is what will prevent him from climbing to the top of the welterweight mountain.
#4. Katlyn Chookagian – UFC flyweight
Katlyn Chookagian has been renowned as one of the best female flyweights in the UFC for a long time now, dating back to her move to the division back in 2018.
‘Blonde Fighter’ has picked up nine wins at 125 pounds, and has only suffered four losses, one of which was a highly controversial split decision defeat to Jessica Eye.
However, none of those nine wins saw her finish her foe, with all of them instead going the distance. In fact, Chookagian’s two wins as a bantamweight prior to her move to 125 pounds also went the distance, too.
In this instance, it seems like Chookagian’s fighting style – which tends to involve her looking to pick her opponents apart on the feet – is largely to blame.
Usually, fighters find that they pick up a lot of finishes over lower-level foes prior to arriving in the UFC. ‘Blonde Fighter’, on the other hand, only stopped three of her seven opponents prior to her promotional debut.
At this stage in her career, it doesn’t feel like Chookagian will change up her fighting style any time soon. Unfortunately, then, it’s also unlikely that she’ll become any bigger of a star, even if she continues to win most of her bouts.
#3. Leon Edwards – UFC welterweight champion
There are a few things about UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards that, right now at least, seem enshrined in truth.
Firstly, after his second win over Kamaru Usman a couple of weeks ago, ‘Rocky’ is the best 170lber on the planet. Secondly, his head kick knockout of ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ in 2022 is up there with the greatest finishes in octagon history.
However, looking at that head kick and taking it as the norm for Edwards would actually be a big mistake. In fact, it’s easier to argue instead that ‘Rocky’ should probably be considered a fighter who often struggles to finish his foes.
Prior to that legendary knockout of Usman, Edwards had won 10 of his previous 11 fights in the octagon, with the other being a no contest with Belal Muhammad.
Interestingly, though, just two of those 10 fights ended before the final buzzer – a submission win over Albert Tumenov back in 2016 and a TKO stoppage of Peter Sobotta in 2018.
Remarkably, Edwards’ stoppage of Sobotta came in the final second of the third and final round of the fight, too – meaning had the referee been very slightly slower, he’d have had a ninth decision win to his name.
Prior to this run, as well, Edwards had finished just one opponent in the octagon, stopping Seth Baczynski in 2015.
So should ‘Rocky’ be considered a point-fighter? It’s debatable, as the native of Birmingham, England, is an aggressive fighter for the most part.
However, head kick of Usman aside, there’s definitely an argument to suggest he struggles for finishes, even if that doesn’t make him any less of a fighter or champion.
#2. Merab Dvalishvili – UFC bantamweight
Following his dominant win over former bantamweight champion Petr Yan a couple of weeks ago, there’s a very real argument that Merab Dvalishvili might be the best 135lber in the UFC right now.
‘The Machine’ does not hold the title – his teammate and friend Aljamain Sterling does – but he is on the best win streak in the division and the pace that he sets in his fights seems to be something nobody can cope with.
However, one thing that cannot be said about the native of Georgia is that he’s a deadly finisher inside the octagon.
Of his nine wins inside the octagon, just one has come inside the distance – his incredible come-from-behind stoppage of Marlon Moraes in 2021.
That win, which saw Dvalishvili recover from a horrendous knockdown in the first round to destroy Moraes in the second, was amazing to watch. Interestingly, it was also one of the few times he’d had to rely on something other than his incredible pressure to win.
Outside of that, none of the Georgian’s opponents have really been able to stop his clinch work, takedown and forward movement, leading most of them to defeats. Even Ricky Simon and Frankie Saenz, who beat Dvalishvili in his first two octagon appearances, didn’t really beat him, per say.
Saenz won a split decision that arguably should’ve gone the other way, and Simon was awarded a TKO win after a controversial referee stoppage in the third round of a fight that Dvalishvili was clearly winning.
Overall, then, it may be the case that if an opponent can force Dvalishvili out of his comfort zone, as Moraes did, he’s more than capable of unleashing a nasty finish.
Until someone can do that, though, it’d be crazy for him to change his style to something more reckless. He might not be the best finisher, but he’s a genuinely phenomenal fighter.
#1. Holly Holm – former UFC bantamweight champion
Holly Holm will always be revered by longtime fans of the UFC for her famous head kick knockout of Ronda Rousey back in 2015.
At the time, ‘Rowdy’ was seen as unbeatable, but across two rounds, Holm picked her apart and then finished her with a picture-perfect kick to the dome, largely ending her career as a top-level MMA fighter too.
However, while ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ is often pushed as a major star by the promotion, headlining numerous shows and fighting in plenty of title bouts, she’s only ever replicated that head kick finish once.
That came against an overmatched Bethe Correia in 2017, giving Holm her second highlight-reel moment in the octagon.
Outside of those two wins, though, every single one of Holm’s other victories has come via decision. While she was highly dominant in some of those fights, most notably against Megan Anderson and Yana Santos, she never really came close to finishing them.
What’s even more remarkable is the fact that despite being part of the UFC’s roster for eight years now, ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ has only actually picked up eight wins over that time.
In that sense, not only is Holm a fighter who often struggles to finish her foes, but she’s also a rare example of a superstar whose record isn’t quite as good as her reputation might suggest – even if she remains one of the most feared female fighters in the world.