Brian Ortega challenges champion Max Holloway for the featherweight title at UFC 231 in Toronto on Dec. 8. Should Ortega win the belt, he would join a relatively small group of undefeated champions.
Heading into UFC 231, only 12 fighters have won their first UFC title before ever suffering their first defeat. Those men and women to reign as undefeated champions are listed below in chronological order.
Mark Coleman became the first UFC heavyweight champion when he submitted Dan Severn at UFC 12 in 1997. The win kept Coleman undefeated at 6-0, with all of his fights taking place in the UFC. He previously had won the tournaments at UFC 10 and 11. Coleman lost his next four fights.
Randy Couture, who had won the UFC 13 heavyweight tournament, won a decision over Maurice Smith at UFC Japan (sometimes called UFC 15.5) in 1997 to win the heavyweight title and go to 4-0. He was stripped of his championship title the following month after a contract dispute. Couture lost his next two fights in different promotions.
Tim Sylvia was the lesser regarded B-side of his title fight against champion Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41 in 2003. After nearly being submitted, Sylvia stopped Rodriguez in the first round to win the UFC heavyweight title with a 15-0 record (2-0 in the UFC). Sylvia won his next fight against Gan McGee but would relinquish his title a short time later after a positive test for steroids.
Rashad Evans became the third “Ultimate Fighter” winner to win a UFC title when he beat another “TUF” winner in Forrest Griffin at UFC 92 for the light heavyweight title in 2008. That put Evans at 13-0-1 (8-0-1 in the UFC), the one draw coming in his 11th career fight against Tito Ortiz in 2007. After winning the title, Evans lost his next fight by second-round knockout to Lyoto Machida.
When Lyoto Machida won the light heavyweight title from Rashad Evans at UFC 98 in 2009, the “Lyoto Machida Era” was set to begin. It lasted two fights. Machida won the title to go to 15-0, made it to 16-0 (8-0 in the UFC) with a unanimous-decision win over Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 104, then lost to Rua in the rematch at UFC 113.
Nine fights into his career, Cain Velasquez became the undefeated UFC heavyweight champion in 2010. He stopped Brock Lesnar in the first round at UFC 121 to go 7-0 in the UFC. He lost his next fight to Junior dos Santos, then won four in a row, including getting his title back from dos Santos.
Ronda Rousey was installed as the UFC champion when the promotion launched its women’s bantamweight division at the end of 2012. She was 6-0 and the last Strikeforce women’s champion. Rousey won the first female fight in UFC history against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157 in 2013, then won five more in a row, with only one lasting beyond the first round. Her first loss came against Holly Holm at UFC 193.
Chris Weidman became the first UFC fighter to defeat Anderson Silva and the only MMA fighter ever to knock out Anderson Silva when the Long Islander won the middleweight title at UFC 162 in 2013. That win made Weidman 10-0 in his career (6-0 in the UFC), and he would defend his title successfully three times – the second longest streak in UFC middleweight history behind Silva – before his first loss in December 2015.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk defeated champion Carla Esparza via second-round knockout for the women’s strawweight title at UFC 185 in 2015. Jedrzejczyk improved to 9-0 (3-0 in the UFC) and went on to make five successful title defenses before losing to Rose Namajunas via first-round KO at UFC 217.
Holly Holm was a world champion boxer and kickboxer before transitioning to MMA in 2011. She won her first 10 fights, the last of which being the shocking knockout victory over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193 in 2015. Holm’s win over Rousey made her 3-0 in the UFC. She then lost her next three bouts.
Cody Garbrandt became the bantamweight champion when he beat Dominick Cruz at UFC 207 in 2016 to move to 11-0 in his career, 6-0 in the UFC. Garbrandt lost his next two fights: a title defense against T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 217 and the rematch at UFC 227.
UFC 223 fight week in April 2018 had its share of drama, but when it came time for the fights, Khabib Nurmagomedov did what he always had done: win. The Russian beat Wantagh’s Al Iaquinta for the lightweight title to go 26-0 as a pro fighter (10-0 in the UFC). He won his next fight, a fourth-round submission of Conor McGregor at UFC 229, which ended with more drama than their previous encounter six months earlier.