The most overused phrase in MMA? – Fraud Check

2024 seems to be the year of the ‘fraud check’. I wanted to take a look at the supposed checks that have happened in 2024 and determine whether this was a legitimate concept in the UFC. Let’s start with a definition to work from. Despite the phrase being branded so freely, I can’t actually find a definition across social media or MMA platforms. The Oxford Dictionary defines fraud as ‘person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.’ It is by this definition I will be basing the majority of my analysis. 

Before I started exploring the fighters who were in the fraud check category, I believed there was only one fighter who was legitimately fraud checked: Askar Mozharov. For those unaware of this fighter, he changed his name, created a fraudulent record filled with imaginary fights and managed to take this lie to the grandest stage of MMA, The UFC. Mozharov fulfilled his dream and fought in the UFC but was quickly despatched by Alonzo Menifield and his fraudulent activity was brought to everyone’s attention. He was cut from the UFC, where it was then revealed he had failed a PED test. He has not fought since.

I may have taken the term too literally with Askar Mozharov. So with straws ready to clutch, and salt ready to pinch. Lets dive into the first contender:

Benoit Saint Denis vs Dustin Poirier- This fight was actually the reason I began writing this article in the first place. 13-1 Judo black belt, Benoit Saint Denis was on a 5 fight win streak in the UFC with an impressive head kick finish against Matt Frevola. The hype around him was undeniably palpable and it was deemed by the UFC hierarchy that a big name was to be his next opponent. That being said, jumping from unranked Frevola to future hall of fame inductee, #4 ranked Dustin Poirier seemed like a mountain for any prospect. Both fighters agreed and the fight went ahead. I’ve watched this fight twice now and cannot see this being called a fraud check. Merely a fighter who was bumped too high, too soon. I firmly believe that with a bit of time off, and a steadier increase in opponent quality, we can see Saint-Denis make a serious push in the division.

Robelis Despaigne vs Waldo Cortes-Acosta – There have been many examples that prove how pivotal the word ‘mixed’ is in Mixed Martial Arts. Robelis Despaigne Vs Waldo Cortes-Acosta has to rank near the top. As a 35 year old Taekwondo black belt, Robelis Despaigne made his MMA debut in 2022. Without the luxury of years left of his career to hone an array of martial arts, Despaigne must have resigned himself to see how far a single martial art can take him in the sport. This strategy was sure to work until someone deduced his mono-martial arts capabilities and decided to exploit his vast weaknesses in the clinch, in the takedown and on the floor. Cortes-Acosta may have put on a boring display for some people but he ground out the win and highlighted where Robelis was lacking. This being said, if Robelis was to spend 6 month + working on takedown defence alone, he may hide this glaring ground game weakness. There is an argument to be had that this was a fraud check of Robelis being a ‘mixed martial artist’ as this fight clearly proved he was no such thing.

Nursulton Ruziboev vs Joaquin Buckley – Firstly, I must say that I am a fan of Nursulton Ruziboev. A 30 year old prospect with 47 professional fights under his belt. When I read some people say that his loss to Joaquin Buckley was a fraud check I was honestly a little taken aback. Buckley could potentially be 1 or 2 fights away from being in the title picture and Ruziboev took him the distance. Did this fight highlight he wasn’t ranking ready? Absolutely. But to determine this is a fraud check was baffling to me. I still believe that Nursulton could be a contender in this division, based on his unique frame for this division and his years of in ring experience. We shall see.

Shamil Gaziev vs Jarzinho Rozenstruik – Gazievs fight against Rozenstruik was one that I watched live. I will be honest, I had not heard of Shamil before this fight but the build up package and commentary led me to believe he could have been a serious contender in the division and that Rozenstruik was in for a tough night. What I saw was a very one dimensional fighter who gassed far too soon. I hesitate to say this was due to lack of preparation or simply being unfit. I would be more inclined to say this was an adrenaline dump due to Shamil being in his biggest fight to date. Taking nothing away from Rozenstruik but this was hardly a clinical MMA masterclass he put on. Simply the work of an experienced fighter who knew what he had to do to get the job done. The jury is currently still out on Gaziev until he has had a few more fights in the UFC, but certainly he is not ready for such an opponent in the next year or 2. Throughout all of my research, this was the one of the closest to being a fraud check. With only 1 prior fight in the UFC and only 1 fight ever going the distance, this was clearly a demonstration of someone not ready for this standard, not ready for 5 rounds and potentially not ready for the UFC. 

Joe Pyfer vs Jack Hermansson- Lastly we have Joe Pyfer. I am a huge Joe Pyfer fan and Jack Hermansson was definitely his biggest challenge to date. Having rewatched this fight again I do not believe this was a fraud check in any capacity. This was simply being hyped too fast of which there was nothing that Joe could have done about this. He took Jack to the decision and the power in his hands was undeniable. Hermansson looked rocked every time Joe landed his punches. Joe is only 27 and despite a slight dampening on his hype, I do believe he is one to keep your eye on in the next few years. As a caveat to this, Joes performance at UFC 303 further proves this was not a fraud check.

To conclude, I don’t believe anyone who has multiple fights in the UFC can be considered a fraud barring one, maybe 2 very specific examples. The UFC remains the biggest MMA platform around the world and to reach these heights is an accolade in its own right. That being said, I do believe that fighters can be a victim of their hype: Gaziev, Despaigne and Joe Pyfer can all testify to this. Maybe I will revisit this list in a year or so to see how these fighters are doing.

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