With the emergence of Lyoto Machida, the impending return of Cro Cop, the UFC’s slate of upcoming blockbuster fights, Strikeforce’s potential emergence as a solid number two promotion, and tonight’s spectacular-looking DREAM event there is a lot to be happy about if you’re an MMA fan. Since I feel the need to ruin things when they’re going good, here’s a quick list of some of MMA’s biggest letdown. The qualifications here are simple: anyone who, for one reason or another (whether it be from a big victory, a string of victories, or some outside notoriety) seemed to have a promising future in this sport, only to fail in epic fashion. And now, in no particular order, nine of the biggest “bust” fighters in MMA history:
Houston Alexander: This Nebraskan single father of six burst onto the UFC scene with a stunning KO of surging contender Keith Jardine, who was fresh off his victory of TUF poster boy Forrest Griffin. Alexander’s assault on Jardine was followed up by a thunderous stoppage of Alesso Sakara. Alexander had arrived and the division was on notice. He followed the Sakara beat-down with three consecutive losses, one of which was an eight second KO at the hands of James Irvin at UFC Fight Night 13. Alexander went from “potential title challenger” to “cautionary tale” quicker than you can say “learn how to fucking grapple.”
Kimbo Slice: While those with common sense and any semblance of intelligence knew Kimbo was not legitimately an elite level MMA fighter, he still entered the sport with a wave of notoriety and serious knockout power in his hands. Most agreed that if Kimbo put in the time and took it slow (just like my relationship with your sister), he had the physical tools to at least be moderately successful in the sport. After winning his first four fights (including his exhibition fight with Ray Mercer) Kimbo was knocked down by a weak jab that came from a UFC washout who happened to be sporting a pink hairdo. This took place on network television in prime time. Kimbo has not fought in the sport since, but has instead spent his time doing cameo roles in porn movies based on stoner flicks.
Mark Hunt: After being submitted by Hidehiko Yoshisa in his MMA debut at PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004, Hunt went undefeated in his next five fights, including consecutive victories over highly regarded world beaters Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop. It was at this point that Hunt — a K1 striker — was exposed on the ground three consecutive times in a row. His proponents still pointed to the fact that Hunt was a threat to anyone on the feet due to his famous chin, only to get KOed in his last fight by Melvin Manhoef. Despite his setbacks in MMA, Hunt is a tubby Samoan who hits hard and dyes his hair bright colors, meaning he’ll always have a job in Japan.
Kevin Jackson: The 1992 Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling started his MMA career with 3 consecutive victories, two of which took place in the same night to win the UFC 14 middleweight tournament. Jackson was destined for MMA greatness, only to get submitted in consecutive fights by Frank Shamrock and Jerry Bohlander. Jackson’s losses sent a message to those who thought anybody could be successful at this Ultimate Fighting nonsense: It doesn’t matter how skilled an athlete you are because if you don’t show up with a well-rounded game you won’t go far in this sport.
Gabriel Gonzaga: Gonzaga, a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, started his UFC career with three consecutive stoppages. In the heavyweight division at the time, that was enough to put you on the short list of title contenders. He was rewarded for his efforts by being put in the role of “sacrificial lamb” to new UFC employee Mirko Cro Cop, who was fresh off his dominant victory in the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix 2006. Gonzaga’s head was expected to be punted into David Spade’s lap in the second row from a Cro Cop left high kick but it was instead Gonzaga who ended Cro Cop’s title hopes with a foot to the cranium. (I cried into my beer when this happened). Since that time, Gonzaga has been stopped from punches every time he stepped into the cage with a quality opponent, dropping fights to Randy Couture, Fabricio Werdum, and most recently Shane Carwin. The Team Link member will likely be kept on UFC cards for the foreseeable future, but the IMDB page for such cards should list his name as “Can Beater.”
Pete Sell: The Long Islander and training partner of Matt Serra entered the UFC as a talented prospect who was booked to get brutally KOed by fellow New Yorker Phil Baroni. Instead, Sell made anyone who bet the underdog that night a rich man as he submitted Baroni at the end of the third round. The kid had been plucked from obscurity and turned himself into a UFC star overnight. Despite two Fight of the Night winners against Nate Quarry and Scott Smith, Sell has gone 2-5 since the victory over Baroni. Sell’s UFC career is finished for the foreseeable future, but he can always make money teaching at Serra’s jiu-jitsu schools or tossing drunken guidos (and their blow outs) out of Long Island clubs.
Mark Kerr: ‘The Smashing Machine’ started his career with eleven consecutive victories, eight of which came by stoppage, all within two years. He had won two UFC tournaments and became a force in the early days of PRIDE. Kerr was universally regarded as unstoppable. He then went 4-10 with 1 NC and had a highly-publicized documentary chronicling his rampant steroid use aired on HBO. Anybody who sanctions a Mark Kerr fight at this point in time should be charged with attempted murder.
David Terrell: If Terrell wasn’t so pathetically fragile, he might be a contender in the UFC’s middleweight division. After knocking out the then highly ranked Matt Lindland in a mere 24 seconds during his UFC debut, Terrell lost a fight to the late Evan Tanner that had the vacant middleweight title on the line. After suffering a few injuries that put him out of action, Terrell returned over a year later to submit the always tough Scott Smith. That was over three years ago and Terrell has been booked to return only to bow out due to injury more times than I can count. And I can count pretty high, or at least that’s what my mother tells me.
Brandon Vera: ‘The Truth’ suffered a similar fate as Gabriel Gonzaga: he entered the UFC heavyweight division with multiple impressive stoppages, only to lose when he stepped up in competition. After four victories (one over current interim title holder Frank Mir), Vera was marketed as the UFC’s next great star. A contract dispute with his manager put him out of commission for nearly a year and he has gone 2-3 since, losing every time he fought a quality opponent. When a fan base that generally cries about the uneven financial treatment of its sports athletes calls you overpaid, you know that your career is a bust.
Think I missed anybody? Think somebody is wrongfully on this list? Yell about it in the comments.
*CORRECTION* Mark Hunt was originally referenced to as a Hawaiian when in fact he is a Samoan. Shawn will be sent to Remedial Islanders Studies until he can tell his portly tan people apart.