18. Jordan “Young Gun” Mein (27-9)
(Photo via MMAJunkie)
Just 16 years old, a teenage Jordan Mein fought current UFC star Rory MacDonald at Rumble in the Cage 17 in his hometown of Lethbridge, Alberta, back in June 2006. He lost the fight via first-round rear-naked-choke.
Mein then won a bunch of fights on the regional circuit over the next five years, got signed by Strikeforce, wrecked Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, and moved on to the greener pastures of the UFC once the Strikeforce buyout happened.
He defeated Dan Miller in his Octagon debut at UFC 158 but lost to Matt Brown at UFC on FOX 7, an L that doesn’t look so bad in hindsight.
Although the loss to Brown set him back, look for Mein to make waves in the UFC over the next five years or hopefully longer, as he’s a very talented mixed martial artist and definitely one of the most promising Canadians signed to the UFC.
17. Mike “Quicksand” Pyle (25-9-1)
(Photo via Getty)
It was November 13, 1999, when an unknown 24-year-old named Mike Pyle took on another unknown fighter in Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in what was both fighters’ first pro MMA bout, at International Sport Combat Federation in Memphis, Tennessee, the home state of both men.
“Rampage” would go on to win a unanimous decision over Pyle, and would then go on to achieve greatness in PRIDE and the UFC, winning the light heavyweight title from Chuck Liddell at UFC 71 and the lineal PRIDE title from Dan Henderson at UFC 75. Although he has went on a sour run as of late, he is generally regarded as one of the top light heavyweight fighters of all time.
Pyle, on the other hand? He carved out a nice niche as a welterweight and finally made it to the UFC in 2009 after 10 years trying to get there, and so far he’s posted a solid 8-4 record in the promotion.
Oh, and he made it big in Hollywood, appearing in Men in Black III. And he has an awesome mullet, too. And a sexy wife. Not bad for a guy who lost his very first fight.
16. Kimo Leopoldo (10-7-1)
(Photo via PRIDE/DSE)
Back on September 9, 1994, 26-year-old Kimo Leopoldo took on Royce Gracie at UFC 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Back in the day, Gracie was the best fighter in the sport, and Kimo eventually tapped to a first-round armlock — but not before making Gracie so exhausted that he couldn’t continue in the tournament. It was a moral victory, even if it still counted as a “L” on Kimo’s record.
Kimo would then go on to become one of the most popular mixed martial artists of the 1990s, appearing in the early UFC tournaments and being known as the scary-looking tattooed guy who walked into the Octagon with a cross strapped to his back. He also fought Dan Severn to a draw at PRIDE 1.
A bit of a strange fellow? Sure. But Kimo is still a near-legend in the sport and earned his place on this list.
15. Rafael Dos Anjos (20-6)
(Photo via MMAJunkie)
On September 25, 2005, a 20-year-old Rafael dos Anjos fought Adriano Abu at Juiz de Fora: Fight 1, deep in Brazil. Dos Anjos would lose the fight via split decision, a frustrating result for anyone’s first match.
But he didn’t let the loss deter him, as the Brazilian bounced back from that loss to eventually make it to the UFC and become a staple of the UFC lightweight division, where he’s compiled a solid 9-4 record.
And now, in 2013, Dos Anjos is riding a five-fight win streak and is closing in on a shot at the UFC lightweight championship.
14. Cub Swanson (20-5)
Cub Swanson was just 19 when he first competed in pro MMA, and for his first fight he took on future UFC fighter Shannon Gugerty at Total Combat 4 in Tijuana, Mexico.
Just 15 seconds into the first round, Swanson tapped out to a rear-naked choke.
He bounced back, though, and made his way up the ladder to became a contender in the WEC before losing via double flying knee KO in eight seconds to eventual UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at WEC 41.
After the UFC/WEC merger, Swanson made it to the UFC and was supposed to fight Erik Koch at UFC 128, but he broke his face in training and missed over a year of action.
However, he bounced back yet again and started winning fights left, right, and center, recently breaking into the top five of the division with five-straight wins, including a stunning KO of Dennis Siver at UFC 162.
As crazy as it sounds, a rematch with Aldo may be not as far away as we think. Impressive for someone who didn’t even last 15 seconds the first time he fought.
13. Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout (19-9-1)
(Photo via MMAWeekly)
Sam Stout was just a 19-year-old Canadian boy when he fought Jay Estrada at Total Martial Arts Challenge on June 7, 2003 in Cicero, Illinois, and he ended up losing the fight via first-round rear-naked choke.
But under the guidance of the late Shawn Tompkins he went on an amazing run in the old TKO promotion and when he finally made it to the UFC, he put on an amazing fight with Spencer Fisher at UFC 58 that would guarantee a career with the top promotion in the sport.
After that amazing fight with Fisher, Stout has gone on to be one of the most exciting lightweights in UFC history, earning himself six Fight of the Night awards and one Knockout of the Night award for his legendary scraps.
Still only 29 years old, Stout will always have a spot on the UFC roster if he continues to stand and bang, although he will most likely never fight for the title unless he goes on some magical run. Even so, he’s had a great ride and it’s not over yet.