Heels: Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar and MMA's 20 Biggest Bad Guys
As you may recall, last week I listed the biggest "babyfaces" in MMA. This week, we were sitting around the virtual newsroom and decided we should close the loop by banging out some slides on MMA's biggest heels.
Give a big assist on this to last week's news cycle. First, Alistair Overeem scorched a toilet bowl with his Bane-level testosterone. Then, Brock Lesnar made a dramatic return to dramatic combat performance art on Monday Night Raw, during which time he attacked Jon Cena, whom I believe may be the champion and/or a popular figure. So it was a busy week on the heel front.
Before we go any further, I do remember reading something somewhere about Brock Lesnar retiring from mixed martial arts. But you know what? I don't care. No way he's not going on this list. Other than him, it's active fighters only. Here, why don't we say this list covers fighters active as of Dec. 30, 2011? There we go.
Also, as with the companion list, this covers public personas only (hence the pro wrestling comparison). So if so-and-so didn't sign your cousin's T-shirt one time, I'm truly sorry, but it doesn't mean he necessarily belongs on this list.
Honorable Mentions: The Insane and the Incarcerated
These guys probably aren't famous enough to have "personas," per se. But they're rotten enough to earn a mention nonetheless.
"Lightning" Lee Murray
Edilberto "Crocota" de Oliveira
20. Maiquel Falcao
In 2002, he allegedly committed that most sophisticated of white-collar crimes, the assaulting of a woman. (He was later arrested for it.)
In addition, his very brief UFC tenure was punctuated by controversy (not all of it his doing, but still).
The "Big Rig" is on the road back to legitimacy now, provided he can continue his streak of not assaulting women. Less than a month ago, he won his Bellator debut in the middleweight tournament quarterfinals.
19. Jamie Varner
During his salad days in the WEC, Varner always came off as less than tough and more than a little underhanded. Even the fighter-on-fighter enmity seemed real in this case.
He had his moments, but the general MMA public didn't exactly start a riot when they learned he wouldn't move to the Octagon after Zuffa purchased the WEC, or last fall when he announced his retirement, or later in the fall when he unretired.
18. Matt Hughes
His legendary status keeps him from being even higher on the list.
By and large, he generally comports himself with dignity. But make no mistake: Hughes has some villainous tendencies. He seems to have that smirk surgically grafted onto his face. He doesn't have different facial expressions; he just changes smirks.
And among those who watched season four of The Ultimate Fighter, who could forget Hughes, in a scene straight out of a middle school cafeteria, taunting a young Georges St-Pierre about defending the armbar? Not exactly an endearing moment.
17. Gabe Ruediger
Just a terrific heel. He could be even higher if every fight he picked in the UFC hadn't ended with his abject destruction (0-3, two KOs and a submission).
The beating administered to him by one Joe Lauzon (pictured here on the receiving end of some Ruediger tomfoolery) has gained some fame for its, eh, spiritedness. But apparently Ruediger kept up the grudge even after the fight had ended. Don't know if I'd care enough to see the rematch, though.
16. Joe Warren
The "most dangerous person in the world" has some of the same carnival-barker qualities that have worked so well for Uncle Chael. The problem for Warren is that he doesn't have Sonnen's walk-it-like-you-talk-it bona fides, at least not as consistently as he would apparently like to think he does.
Kind of tough to make too many jokes, though, after his last fight. That wasn't fun. I'm like a sad clown right now.
15. Sean Sherk
I think Sean "The Muscle Shark" Sherk is a Hall of Famer. "I" here meaning "Sean 'The Muscle Shark' Sherk."
14. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson
13. War Machine
12. Josh Barnett
11. Paul Daley
If you read his comments, though, it's not hard to tell he's more just having a laugh and hyping a fight than he is being an actual jerk. At least, that is, until he gets carried away, which is borderline inevitable.
Either way, though, he's good at it.
10. Shinya Aoki
Aoki has a somewhat unusual brand of villainy. The heel stuff he does is malicious, but also random and even slightly confusing. He's like a six-year-old's conception of an MMA bad guy.
9. Nick Diaz
8. Michael Bisping
7. Alistair Overeem
The 'Reem isn't ranked so high based on one positive drug test.
6. Tito Ortiz
Here at the end of his career, the Babe Ruth of MMA heels is trying to make a face turn. That fact in and of itself is just the latest evidence that he knew exactly what he was doing when he carried the bad boy mantle all those years.
5. Junie Browning
4. Gilbert Yvel
3. Josh Koscheck
Every now and then, the line of thought surfaces that "Josh Koscheck embraces his role as the bad guy."
I've got a problem with that line of thought. Because it implies he has a choice.
The more you learn about Kos, the more you understand what a prickly character he is. The fans can't stand him. Other fighters can't stand him. His former coaches and teammates can't stand him. He leaves a trail of bus victims wherever he goes. Usually when you need a friend in your corner, you can go to an old high school or college mentor. Not Koscheck.
So might as well run with it, right? The most hated fighter in the UFC (according to Dana White, anyway) would love everyone to think it's all some kind of super-savvy public relations scheme to earn him better fights, more money and more column inches.
Maybe those are the end results, and that's fine. But the idea that it's all intentional? Horse biscuits. The fact of the matter? Some guys are just jerks.
2. Chael Sonnen
If this were a list of guys who could sell a fight, or most soil-yourself-laughing hilarious fighters, Sonnen would be number one. But since it's a list of heels, there's one guy who tops him...who could that be...whoooooo could it be...
1. Brock Lesnar
He'll always be the baddest SOB on this list.
MMA fans hated him. And even though he's gone, they may have more reason to hate him now than ever. After all, the angry, bullying heavyweight left pro wrestling for MMA, won the title, defended it twice and then rid himself of the sport before the sport could rid itself of him.
(Of course, to the surprise of few, he is fanning those flames now that he's safely back on the prefab side of the athletics spectrum.)
Sure, a couple of bad losses hastened the exit, as did his struggle with diverticulitis. But he still went out on his shield, fighting the best. He never became an unabashed novelty act. He was never exposed for a subpar or fatally flawed fighter. He never had to lower his championship-level standards. He didn't have to watch himself slowly decline. He came, he saw, he conquered, he left for a cushy WWE contract.
The demands of the pro wrestling road were what made him leave in the first place. Now, he seems to have an agreement that alleviates those demands. His MMA run surely gave him the leverage he needed to achieve that, against a notoriously hard-headed negotiator in Vince McMahon.
I'm not saying it was all part of a grand five-year master plan, but Lesnar's not a dumb guy, either. He read the writing on the wall, and he read it to his advantage. I take my hat off to him. But it has to make MMA purists grind their teeth at night. Their worst fears about Lesnar tarnishing the sport and what not were arguably realized.
To put it another way, Lesnar fell off the horse that was MMA. To paraphrase what he himself observed after beating Heath Herring back in 2008, he got back on long enough to ride it out of town, baby.