The Worst UFC Losing Streaks
UFC 146 was the day that Dan Hardy saved his career.
The former welterweight title challenger, in search of his first win since late 2009, finally snapped his four-fight losing streak by starching kickboxing specialist Duane Ludwig with a patented left hook.
Coming into Saturday night, there was little doubt that a loss would be the end of Hardy's UFC career, no matter how much Dana White, Joe Silva and company love his penchant for "bringing it." Three losses in a row are usually a quick ticket out of town, and fans were already calling for Hardy's contractual head before he even stepped into the Octagon against Ludwig.
(Side note: I'll never understand the bloodlust of fans in regards to cutting fighters. These competitors literally put their lives on the line for our entertainment and we applaud fighters who 'go for it' and don't 'play it safe.' But lose a couple of fights—even in exciting fashion—and watch the tweets roll in from people calling for your livelihood to be taken away. Talk about cold-blooded.)
But now that Hardy has a fresh winning streak to build on, he leaves behind a less-than-esteemed list of colleagues who still have their collective backs against the wall. Consider this your ultimate Who-Needs-A-Win list, as we take a look at the fighters with the worst current UFC losing streaks and where they will go from here.
The Three-Strikes-You're-Out? Club
Before we get into real dredges of this list, let's take a brief moment to acknowledge the fighters who have hit the magical three-fight losing limit, only to be granted another lease on life.
The club ranges from former title contenders (Mark Hominick, 3-3 overall in the UFC) and all-time greats ("Kid" Yamamoto, 0-3 and still searching for a U.S. win outside of Hawaii) to "Ultimate Fighter" winners like Efrain Escudero, whose three-fight losing streak has stretched over two stints with the organization.
Veterans like Jeff Curran and Keith Wisniewski have also come up short in their last three UFC appearances, while Ricardo Funch and Kamal Shalorus would both sport undefeated career records if not for their 0-3 marks in the Octagon.
Interestingly, no light heavyweights or heavyweights currently on the UFC roster are on worse than a two-fight losing streak. But considering the depth of the lighter divisions, which typically have more fighters under contract to begin with, it makes sense that Joe Silva can show a little bit more leniency.
Current UFC losing streak: 4
Career UFC record: 2-5 (11-7 overall)
"Ultimate Fighter 5" finalist Manny Gamburyan's four-fight losing streak is a bit deceptive, considering two of those losses bookend a 3-1 career in the WEC that saw him drop to 145 lbs and unsuccessfully challenge Jose Aldo for the featherweight title. But in a sport where performing on the big stage is what matters most, Gamburyan's time is quickly running out.
After dislocating his shoulder in his TUF 5 finale match against Nate Diaz, and rebounding with back-to-back submission victories, Gamburyan suffered two straight losses at the hands of Rob Emerson and Thiago Tavares, the latter of which inspired him to drop to featherweight and transfer to the WEC. But with the merger and subsequent adding of the smaller weight classes, Gamburyan was back under the UFC banner only to lose back-to-back decisions to Tyson Griffin and Diego Nunes in his return.
Even ignoring his two earlier losses before dropping down in weight, Gamburyan is still 0-3 in his last three Zuffa appearances. A potential loser-leaves-town match against Michihiro Omigawa (1-3 in his latest UFC stint) awaits at UFC on Fox 4, and Gamburyan will look to have his hand raised for the first time in the Octagon since 2008.
Current UFC losing streak: 4
Career UFC record: 0-4 (34-15 overall)
Like Manny Gamburyan, John Alessio's UFC losing streak can be tracked over several stints with the promotion. But unlike Gamburyan, Alessio began his streak all the way back in 2000 at UFC 26.
Amazingly, Alessio debuted with the UFC against defending welterweight champion Pat Miletich, who would win the fight by second-round armbar. That would be Alessio's only UFC appearance for six years, until dropping two decisions to Diego Sanchez and Thiago Alves in 2006 (which sandwiched a submission win in the WEC).
Fast-forward six more years, after stints in the WEC and a slew of regional promotions around the world, and a now-lightweight Alessio was stepping in for an injured Matt Wiman to face Mark Bocek at UFC 145. Bocek would take a decision victory, but as most late injury replacements do Alessio will have another shot to earn an elusive first UFC victory.
That chance will come against Shane Roller at UFC 148, and Alessio will try to avoid becoming the only 0-5 UFC fighter currently on the roster.
Current UFC losing streak: 4
Career UFC record: 1-4 (13-5 (1 NC) overall)
Let's be honest, Yoshihiro Akiyama's UFC record would be 0-5 if not for a controversial (read: robbery) decision over Alan Belcher back at UFC 100.
Since that win, 'Sexyama' has lost in just about every way possible, giving up a come-from-behind submission to a zombie Chris Leben, dropping straight sets to Michael Bisping in England and being on the wrong end of a Knockout of the Night by Vitor Belfort.
Akiyama, undersized for the division at 5'10, hoped that a drop to 170 lbs would rejuvenate his career (notice how every fighter on our list has dropped a weight class?) but he lost a decision to Jake Shields despite fighting on his Japanese home turf. An injury forced the judoka out in his upcoming bout against Thiago Alves, so we will have to wait and see if Akiyama can break the streak and earn his first win in three years.
Three Fight-of-the-Night bonuses certainly have bought Akiyama more breathing room than the average fighter. The competition that he's faced in the UFC includes two title contenders in Shields and Belfort and potentially two more in Bisping and Belcher, but goodwill and performance awards only last for so long.
Current UFC losing streak: 5
Career UFC record: 1-5 (7-6 overall)
Start Googling Steve Cantwell and the second autofill option that pops up is 'Steve Cantwell Cut.'
Searching that option will lead you to forum threads dedicated to answering one question: how does a guy who lost his last five fights still have a job with the UFC?
No one has an answer—"he knows where the bodies are buried" is the best guess I've seen. It's almost as puzzling as the fact that once upon a time, Cantwell was one of the hottest light heavyweight prospects in the UFC, only to see his career nosedive under the bright lights of the big stage.
Cantwell joined the WEC in 2007 when he was only 20 years old. After suffering a 41-second TKO to Brian Stann in his debut, Cantwell would finish his next two opponents in a combined 3:00 even, then knocked out Stann in a rematch to claim the light heavyweight championship. Now just days after turning 22, Cantwell debuted with the UFC with an arm-snapping submission of Razak Al-Hassan, pocketing a Submission of the Night bonus in the process. He was 7-1 at the time, with all seven wins by finish, only two of those making it out of the first round.
But since then? Ouch. Five straight decision losses, two of which have come since Cantwell dropped to middleweight last year. The drop came after absolute destruction at the hands of Cyrille Diabate, which saw two judges award 10-8 rounds (including one scoring the fight 30-25).
I mean, OUCH.
He's still just 25, so there's hope that Cantwell might be able to turn his career around. But if and when he does fight again, it seems like a certainty that he will do so with his job on the line. After all, the UFC wouldn't keep a fighter with six straight losses.... Would they?