10. Clay Guida (31-15)
Guida personifies the overachiever archetype. A unique personality with a long mane of hair, a tendency to belch mid-fight and a high-energy, non-stop style, he has relied for years on his endless endurance, freakish ability to absorb punishment and his willingness to embrace the grind to defeat many notable opponents over a career that now spans 11 years and 46 professional fights.
The Illinois native wrestled for Johnsburg High School and later Harper Junior College, where he was part of a team that won the 2001 junior college national championship. He fell into MMA essentially by accident: Guida’s brother, Jason Guida, was scheduled to fight, and the promoters announced that they needed someone to fill in. Guida, who was then working as a union carpenter, agreed to step in and was doing well before his opponent submitted him.
That loss launched Guida’s career as a professional. After a rough 3-3 start, he ran off 15 straight wins, including a victory over future World Extreme Cagefighting and Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor Bart Palaszewski. He lost his next fight but later triumphed over future great Josh Thomson to win the vacant Strikeforce lightweight championship. Longtime champion Gilbert Melendez took that belt, and shortly thereafter, Guida found himself in the UFC.
While he has had numerous ups and downs over his eight years and 20 fights in the UFC, Guida can claim to be the only man to defeat future lightweight champion Anthony Pettis under the promotion’s banner; and the nine post-fight bonuses and two “Fights of the Year” -- against Roger Huerta and Diego Sanchez -- he has earned speak to his status as a perennial fan favorite.
Number 9 » It was hard to believe that a skinny guy in a gi could really be a representative of the most badass fighting art on the face of the planet, but the fashion in which he carved his way through a succession of bigger, stronger and more athletic competition in the early no-holds-barred events fully underlined the effectiveness of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.