MMA Stars That Faded in 2011
Every year is becoming the biggest for mixed martial arts, though, 2011 was especially significant.
The flyweight division has become more popular than ever, with Ian McCall at the helm of the "little guys," who will now be introduced into the UFC.
OneFC made it's presence known and will continue to product more live events in Asia and neighboring countries.
Despite all the success that MMA has garnered as of late, many of the stars that inhabit mixed martial arts as a whole have begun to fizzle out before our eyes, changing the direction of the sport as we know it.
A former UFC title challenger and consensus No. 2 welterweight, Jon Fitch opened up 2011 with a disappointing draw with former champion BJ Penn.
He closed out the year last December, after mending from injury, with a decisive knockout loss to the unheralded Johny Hendricks, plummeting Fitch down the 170-pound ranks.
The Bellator featherweight champion wanted to include another world title to the mantle, as he made his foray into the promotion's bantamweight tourney.
First, in April of last year, Warren took on WEC veteran Marcos Galvao in a catchweight affair, and though he earned the decision win, many believed that the Brazilian rightfully deserved the nod.
Next, Warren took on former Olympic medalist Alexis Vila, who upset the Michigan native with a first-round knockout, taking him out of the 135-pound field.
After returning to the cage following his second battle with diverticulitis, Brock Lesnar was pitted against Strikeforce transplant Alistair Overeem, a former K-1 World Grand Prix champion.
"The Demolition Man" devastated Lesnar inside of the first round, crippling him with knees to the body before finishing off the wilted fighter with a kick to the body and subsequent ground-and-pound blows.
After the TKO defeat, Lesnar announced his retirement from the sport.
Mirko Cro Cop
For one reason or another, Mirko Cro Cop just has not looked like the same man who once ruled the Pride heavyweight division with an iron fist.
When the Croatian first entered the Octagon, he was widely considered in the top three of the division, though, he quickly plummeted with decisive losses.
In 2011, Cro Cop went winless in battles against Brendan Schaub and Roy Nelson, both of whom finished off the former K-1 star with strikes inside of the third round.
After his latest loss to Nelson last October, Cro Cop announced his retirement from mixed martial arts.
The former UFC light heavyweight champion opened 2011 with a convincing decision victory over Rich Franklin, though, he closed out the year in devastating fashion.
The original Ultimate Fighter was pitted against former Pride star Mauricio "Shogun" Rua last August, who Griffin had submitted in their initial battle. The Brazilian deftly finished Griffin on strikes, claiming the knockout victory inside of the first round.
The loss is his third KO loss in his last five fights, which has made Griffin question his longevity in the sport.
Former UFC and Pride great Don Frye was thought to have exited the sport in 2009 when he suffered a loss to hot up-and-comer Dave Herman, though, "The Predator" made one last run at the top.
The former two-time UFC tournament winner took on journeyman Ruben Villareal this past December in a light heavyweight affair, where "Warpath" dismantled the aging veteran with heavy shots, prompting the first-round knockout in the process.
Frye has lost five of his last seven fights.
Former UFC lightweight champion Jens Pulver has since tried his hand in the featherweight and bantamweight divisions, though, he is still proving unsuccessful.
In 2011, Pulver went 2-2 in battles against unheralded opponents; however, he closed out the year in disappointing fashion as "Lil Evil" incurred another knockout loss at the hands of Timothy Elliot, who stopped the former world champ with a knee to the chin.
Pulver is now 3-8 in his last 11 outings.
After having stepped away from the sport for nearly a year-and-a-half due to contract disputes, Cristiane Santos returned to the cage last December.
The former Strikeforce women's 145-pound champion deftly defeated the world ranked Hiroko Yamanaka, finishing off the Japan import in just 16 seconds.
However, shortly after the bout, "Cyborg" had tested positive for steroids and the result of her bout with Yamanaka has been ruled a no-contest. The Brazilian will now suffer a fine and a one-year suspension handed down from the California State Athletic Commission.
Once praised as the best heavyweight fighter on the planet, Fedor Emelianenko has been arguably the fastest descending star that the sport has seen.
His first loss came at the hands of Fabricio Werdum in 2010, though, the Russian has done little to repair the decisive defeat, as he was subsequently stopped by Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson—who knocked out the former Pride champion inside of the first round.
The losses totaled a three-fight skid, the worse of Emelianenko's career.
Since the July defeat to Henderson, "The Last Emperor" has cinched two victories over Jeff Monson and Satoshi Ishii, though, he will need to do much more than that in order to regain his world-renowned praise.
A former UFC title contender, Matt Lindland has long been in the downside of his career, though, his most recent setback solidified where the former Olympian stands amongst the elite.
In his lone bout of 2011, the Team Quest product took on budding prospect Mamed Khlalidov under the KSW banner last May, where the Chechen submitted Lindland in just 95 seconds, slipping him into unconsciousness with a guillotine choke.
It's the fourth loss of Lindland's last five, which were all finishes.
A former three-time world champion, Robbie Lawler went from being among some of the best in his class to an irrelevant figure in the middleweight division.
After a swift knockout victory over the aforementioned Matt Lindland in December of 2010, Lawler earned his shot at Strikeforce gold when he took on Ronaldo Souza for the belt. After an early knockdown, Souza was able eventually wrangle the former high school wrestler to the mat and submit him inside of the third round.
Soon after, Lawler was then pitted against Greg Jackson fighter Tim Kennedy, who controlled Lawler on the mat for the whole three rounds of action, cinching the decision win.
Lawler went winless in 2011, though, he has since made amends by earning an emphatic knockout over touted prospect Adlan Amagov earlier this month.
Charles Oliveira entered the UFC in a fever, finishing both Darren Elkins and The Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero by aesthetically pleasing submission maneuvers.
Riding the wave of momentum to the top, Oliveira was pitted against top contender Jim Miller in December of 2010, though, he was upset by his fellow jiu-jitsu black belt, who submitted Oliveira inside of the first round.
Hoping to rebound from the first loss of his career, the Brazilian next took on wrestling standout Nik Lentz, who was submitted by Oliveira. However, the bout was later ruled a no-contest after an illegal knee was determined as the cause of the finish.
Next, Oliveira was pitted against Donald Cerrone, a three-time WEC title challenger. The kickboxing savant stopped "Do Bronx" inside of the first, claiming the "Knockout of the Night" award in the process whilst making Oliveira go winless in 2011 and prompting a move to the featherweight division.
The coveted and beloved Kazushi Sakuraba has shown little regard for his own well being, as the 42-year-old continued to trudge along in his dwindling career.
After suffering a career-worst three-fight skid, Sakuraba returned last September in order to take on submission whiz Yan Cabral in a welterweight affair.
The Brazilian came out swinging early, catching Sakuraba off guard, forcing him to eventually succumb to the staunch jiu-jitsu skills of Cabral in the second, as the black belt stopped the Japanese star with an arm-triangle choke midway through the round.
Sakuraba has now lost six of his last eight bouts.
Before Dan Hornbuckle entered the Bellator field, he was widely considered among the elite of the welterweight class, or at the very least, a prospect who could soon break into the upper echelon.
Hornbuckle battled his way to the finals of the season three welterweight tournament where he met Ben Askren in June of 2010. However, the Olympic hopeful dominated "The Handler" on the mat for three lackluster rounds of action.
Looking to vie for another shot at the world title, Hornbuckle re-entered the tournament fray in 2011, though, he was knocked out of the field early when rival Brent Weedman earned a decision win over the 31-year-old.
Hornbuckle looked to make amends for the loss, though, he turned in an incredibly flat performance against Luis Santos, who also took home a decision win over the Sengoku veteran, who was promptly released from the promotion following the back-to-back losses.
The former two-time welterweight champion looked to be on his way back to a title shot in late 2010, though, rival BJ Penn had other plans.
After piling up a three-fight win streak over the likes of Matt Serra, Renzo Gracie and Ricardo Almedia, Hughes succumbed to the heavy hands of the Hawaiian at UFC 123, who knocked out the UFC Hall of Famer in seconds.
Next, Hughes made his return to the cage last September, where he was originally set to take on The Ultimate Fighter season one winner Diego Sanchez, though, "The Dream" suffered an injury in training.
Josh Kosheck was pegged as his replacement, and the enigmatic AKA fighter knocked out Hughes inside of the first round.