The natural world is an almost perfectly closed loop, a finely tuned and living panoply of checks and balances. You've got predators eating herds of progressively smaller organisms, the herbivores eating the plants, the plants making oxygen and the scavengers cleaning it all up.
Everything plays a role. Nothing goes to waste. There are no great white sharks without benthic marine algae. No wings without the wind.
It is the same for mixed martial arts. Exactly the same.
In MMA, without the losers, there can be no winners. They nourish the lands with their very blood. In return, maybe they get a taste of the limelight. Or maybe, when a big fish starts to fade, a few lucky losers get the chance to take a big, wet bite out of him as he slowly drifts toward the bottom.
It's beautiful, in its way. It's the web of life. And I believe it illustrates that the true heroes aren't the ones who have "the gold" or "the green" or are "good at fighting" or fit all nice and neat into another one of your prefabricated phony-baloney constructs.
No, the true heroes are the faceless men, who stride to the ring time and again to take their beating, so that others may soar higher. And in performing this terrible sacrificial dance, they unknowingly sustain something bigger than themselves.
It's time for these warrior poet loser heroes to step out of the darkness and take their bow. These are the 25 biggest tomato cans in the history of the sport of mixed martial arts.
These are the men who lose out loud, man. They don't lose behind their desks like some desk jockey, bro. In some cases, it means getting knocked out. In others, it means tapping like you're trying to bring back Morse code. Methodologies aside, these men have made careers out of losing fights.
A few ground rules.
First, true tomato candom is about sustained sucking. We're not talking about guys who lost a few times and walked away. That sort of sanity has no place on this list. These also aren't guys who suffered a string of losses during an otherwise decent career, or pro wrestling types who tried MMA once but left just as quickly after losing to some construction worker .
So with that, here they are, submitted for your consideration.
If for some reason anyone should take exception to any of this, please take solace in the knowledge that any one of these guys could almost certainly kick my butt.
They didn't make careers out of losing fights, and thus aren't tomato cans per se. But they still deserve a nod.
- Akebono Taro (pictured) (0-1)
- Giant Silva (2-6)
- James Toney (0-1)
- Yoshihiro Takayama (0-4)
- Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson (4-2)
- Eric "Butterbean" Esch (17-10-1)
- Hong-man Choi (12-6...actually, he might be too good to include here, but ah, screw it)
Record: 24-19-3 (1)
Fed to: Alistair Overeem, Renato "Babalu" Sobral
All right, let's kick this off with the best tomato can name of them all. And that's saying something.
He has since moved on to kickboxing, where he is still active. In fact, he's lost three straight. Looks like he's still got it.
Fed to: Alistair Overeem, Ronny Markes, Tomasz Drwal
Here's a game within a game: count how many times Alistair Overeem appears as a can's most famous conquistador. This is two. Back in the day, The Reem used to crush cans like a homeless man running out of shopping cart space.
In other news, why is Michael Knaap wearing a girdle?
Fed to: Ken Shamrock
White-guy cornrows, Amish man's beard, name tattooed over chest, Santa Claus physique.
It just goes to show that while some people may be compelled down the tomato-can path, others follow it willingly.
Fed to: Ikuhisa Minowa, Diego Sanchez, Yuki Kondo
Some of Gassaway's more tomatoey highlights (aside from being named finalist for most appropriate name) include two taps to strikes and one tap to a headlock.
No word on whether the headlock was administered by "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan. But I'd bet it almost certainly was. That guy had some powerful-looking arms.
Brian, next time you're in a headlock, remember the universal counter: The Atomic Drop.
Fed to: Melvin Manhoef, Phil Baroni, Mark Hunt, Hidehiko Yoshida, Evangelista Santos
Not the world's longest-tenured tomato can, and for that, he loses points. But he makes the list for the sheer density of that opponent list. With the exception of Yoshida, all have enjoyed noteworthy runs.
Nishijima served as Hunt's fifth-ever MMA opponent. Would Mark Hunt be where he is today without Yosuke Nishijima? No one can say for sure. Would he be homeless, or winless? It's possible.
Yosuke Nishijima's message to you, Melvin, Phil, Mark and Evangelista: you're welcome.
(Photo h/t: Susumu's Gallery)
Fed to: Giant Silva, James Thompson
He might be the most fearsome-looking can on this list. But he's all tomato on the inside, baby.
Kidding aside, Miller is a born fighter, and as a result won many fans, especially in Japan.
Fed to: Brock Lesnar, Don Frye, Ikuhisa Minowa
You may remember Kim most fondly as Lesnar's first MMA victim. But also during his "can"ure—if you will—Kim dropped a heartbreaker to Bob Sapp. Heartbreaker here meaning knockout.
Fed to: Anderson Silva, Rich Franklin, David Loiseau
The Kansas City middleweight lost to Silva back in 2005, in "The Spider"'s second defense of his Cage Rage title. All but four of Stout's losses came by stoppage.
Record: 16-14 (1)
Fed to: Kimbo Slice, Alistair Overeem
OK. We've got this guy Kimbo Slice, right? Big star on the Internet. He hits like a truck but can't do anything else, including run.
He's anchoring the fight card on CBS...lots of people will tune in. We've gotta get this guy a win. Who do we send in? Whoooooo do we send?
James Thompson: I can do it!
James, to reiterate, because we cannot stress this enough: We need a man who can't take a punch of any kind and who will offer NO significant resistance.
Thompson: I've lost 11 times by T/KO! I've GOT this!
(Wipes tear from eye.) You're a brave man, son. Now go out there and can it up like you've never canned it before.
(Side game: three mentions for Overeem)
Fed to: Rashad Evans, Alexander Shlemenko
I like to think that when Salmon woke up, he was like "Hey, wha happened?"
One of the most famous knockout victims in UFC history currently owns a seven-fight losing streak.
Fed to: Kimbo Slice, James Irvin (2x), Roy Nelson
Another piece of red meat for the Kimbo machine. But it goes much deeper than that.
Here's your Bo-Cantrell-Is-A-Tomato-Can statistic: In two fights with Irvin, one with Kimbo, one with Paul Buentello, one with Tim Persey and two with the immortal Dave Huckaba (all striking-related stoppages, by the way), Cantrell, by my calculations, lasted an average of one minute and 14 seconds.
Fed to: Shane Carwin, Houston Alexander
Say hello to "The Shermanator"—a finalist in both the "Best Name" and "Best Nickname" portions of our Mister Tomato Can competition.
He also once tapped to an Ezekiel choke. Exotic! That's just the kind of special experience our judges like to see in a true Mister Tomato Can contender.
Notable losses: Gary Goodridge (twice), Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
Maybe it's just a bad picture, but he looks a little like a kid trying to get into a cookie jar. But he knows he only has 30 more seconds before his mother comes back and sees what he's doing.
He has 30 seconds to get into the jar, eat a cookie, replace the lid, put the jar back and climb down off the kitchen chair. I'm...I'M NOT GOING TO PULL THIS OFF!
Nortje is probably best known for being on the receiving end of a strange and extended after-the-bell beating from Sokoudjou.
Fed to: Tim Sylvia, Tank Abbott, Andrei Arlovski, Antonio Silva
"Cabbage" might be the most famously hard-headed fighter in UFC history. He was only knocked out once, in a novelty fight with a fading Tank Abbott (pictured).
Correira also was the first man to welcome Mr. Sylvia to the Octagon. And a warm welcome it was; Sylvia won by second-round TKO.
Fed to: Dan Severn, Bas Rutten, Ricco Rodriguez, Antonio Silva, Brett Rogers, Tim Hague
Villareal has laid claim to his own wing of the Tomato Can Hall of Fame. It's a result of an unusual demographic specialization, one which he pursued and made all his own.
Ruben Villareal likes to lose to old guys.
In 2006, he lost by first-round TKO to a 41-year-old Bas Rutten, who was fighting for the first (and, it turned out, only) time since retiring seven years prior. Dan Severn took a decision from Villareal in 2004 at the spry age of 46.
But his candom failed him against Don Frye. Villareal pulled out a draw with the 39-year-old Frye in 2006, then sullied his reputation even further when he knocked Frye out six years later.
Fed to: Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop, Mauricio Rua, Dan Henderson, Matt Hughes, Alistair Overeem, Babalu Sobral, Ricardo Arona, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Yuki Kondo...
Despite fighting in Japan from 1998 to 2010, the shoot fighter and ex-pro wrestler fought only four times in Pride. He spent most of his career with the Rings promotion.
During his Pride stint, he lost all four of his fights, to Wandy, Cro Cop, The Reem and Shogun in succession. Then he left, presumably because he had nothing left to accomplish.
(Side game: four mentions for Overeem)
Fed to: Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Frank Shamrock, Kazushi Sakuraba
Vernon "Tiger" White has some MMA accomplishments that fall into the non-tomato can category. In fact, he held the King of the Cage light heavyweight belt from 2000 to 2003.
At first glance, it might just be enough to keep him from receiving such a meritorious distinction as a spot on this list. Luckly, we looked a little closer.
Turns out the men who challenged him for his strap consisted of David Dodd, Marvin Eastman, James Lee and Mike Rogers.
When he wasn't defending his title against Tae Bo instructors, White found time to lose to Bobby Southworth and Lew Polley, who you might remember as Junior dos Santos' ill-tempered assistant on Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter.
How did he fit it all in? Quite a motor on this guy.
(Photo h/t: MMABay)
Fed to: Good God, where do I start...Renzo Gracie, Anderson Silva, Wanderlei Silva, Quinton Jackson, Igor Vovchancyn, Guy Mezger (2x), Ken Shamrock
As you can see, losing to the best was Otsuka's forte.
He got so good at it that he became a specialist. Got a blue-chipper in need of some resume padding? Call in Otsuka. When you've absolutely got to have the best.
He was like William H. Macy's character in The Cooler (and that's the second time I've referenced that character this week...I need to watch some new movies). When a blackjack table gets too hot at the casino, you called in the cooler, i.e., the professional loser. One or two bets later, and the seats are empty.
Otsuka is the same. Just using his own shortcomings for the benefit of the company.
Fed to: Ricco Rodriguez, Bobby Hoffman, Seth Petruzelli, Kyle Kingsbury
OK, first of all, it's always a good sign when you're fighting outdoors. It's even better if there's a circus tent clearly visible in the background. And if you're fighting outside next to a tent AND you're wearing red, white and blue shorts, well, you might just be a big-time tomato can, my friend.
Batastini's opponent list should tell you all you need to know about his timeline of tomato can terrificness. When you've lost to both Bobby Hoffman and Kyle Kingsbury, you might have had a long run as a tomato can.
And if that's not enough, he lost to Bo Cantrell. TWICE!
Fed to: Wanderlei Silva, Igor Vovchanchyn, Vitor Belfort, Rodrigo Gracie, Paulo Filho
Some men have an innate gift for music. Others, a knack for machinery, or perhaps silver working.
But make no mistake. Over his 11-year career, Matsui proved he was a different kind of man, and one with a calling all his own. And he worked tirelessly to advance and perfect it. It was the art of losing professional MMA fights.
The longtime Pride fighter and hand-picked Kazushi Sakuraba practice can lost to hall of famers and no-names alike. Strikes or submissions, stoppages or decisions, Carlos Newton or Carlos Toyota. It made no difference.
See, Matsui wasn't motivated by the same things that movitate you and me. The name on the marquee meant nothing to him. Matsui stepped between the ropes for one reason and one reason only. He was going to pick up the L, or he was going to win trying.
Sadly, sometimes it did come to that. Jose Landi-Jons and a young Quinton Jackson (thanks to an illegal Jackson groin strike...way to go, Rampage) were two for whom the Matsui Plan simply didn't pan out. Don't blame anyone too harshly, though. You shouldn't expect everyone to be on par with such an artist.
Fed to: Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop (2x), Wanderlei Silva, Mark Coleman, Alistair Overeem
The head, the myth, the legend.
Fujita was Cabbage before Cabbage was Cabbage. He notched some good wins over guys like Ken Shamrock, Mark Kerr and Gilbert Yvel. But that just shows why he's the Cadillac of cans. He's the can the big boys kick around.
If you're not familiar, Fujita became famous for his inhuman ability to take a beating. Eventually, that came to be what people expected of him. And he delivered on that expectation. Over and over again.
(Five for Overeem)
Fed to: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Ikuhisa Minowa, Kazuyuki Fujita
Bob Sapp fights never went to decision.
Seven of his losses came by submission. Four times, Sapp tapped to strikes. You know what I call that? Commitment. This is a tomato can's tomato can.
Here he is "fighting" fellow tomato can Jan Nortje, aka, Cookie Jar Guy. Pop quiz: who looks more pathetic in this photo?
Answer: Bob Sapp. It's always Bob Sapp. He's like the elephant who's afraid of the mouse.
To draw an analogy to the sports world, Bob Sapp is the Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson of MMA. Big body, crusty personality, huge talker, a ready snarl. But when it came down to brass tacks, just as tissue-papery soft as you could possibly want to see.
I actually use an old poster of Bob Sapp when I'm in need of a mild exfoliant. So gentle against my skin.
Record: 48-75 (4)
Fed to: Kazushi Sakuraba, Diego Sanchez, Dennis Hallman, Yves Edwards, Jake Shields, Dan Severn, Yuki Kondo
If you thought it was crazy that a Bob Sapp fight never went to decision, try Shannon Ritch on for size. None of his 75 losses went the distance. Not one.
Over the years, "The Cannon" has proven very effective "cannon fodder," if you take my meaning, for others in the fight game. But it's not just the sheer numbers that bear that out. It's the efficiency of it all. He's the McDonald's of tomato cans.
Ritch has a whole system down. He's tapped to strikes nine times, and overall has submitted on 53 occasions. And that's to say nothing of his 18 defeats by TKO. What can you say? The guy is a losing machine.
I even hear tell Ritch now offers a special "express submission" level of service. For VIPs only. If you select this option, Ritch will tap during the glove touch. Tired of all that pesky training? Forget it! With the Shannon Ritch express submission plan, your victory is worry-free!
And don't fret that you missed the train, either. "The Cannon" is still chugging along. In fact, just last November, Joe Riggs knocked him out in 56 seconds.
Fed to: Jake Ellenberger, Nik Lentz, Paul Bradley
At first, I was afraid I may have stolen a bit of my own thunder recently when I put Allen atop this list as well. But then I came to my senses and realized, hey, Kenneth Allen cannot be over-recognized. It simply isn't possible.
I mean, look at that record. The guy is 1-31. The dedication! The persistence! The guy's currently on a 19-fight losing streak. That's right...he is still actively fighting! Who can stop this inhuman monster, before he loses again?
I'll tell you who: nobody. So best just relax and enjoy the ride. After all, you're riding with the king.