7 Fighters the UFC Needs to Bring Back
Fighters come and go, but out of sight is not necessarily out of mind when it comes to the fans of warriors past. Sometimes, a pink slip is what it takes in order to get fans to rally behind a fighter.
With the recent rumblings that former Ultimate Fighter contestant and eventual title contender Patrick Cote will step in to face Cung Le at UFC 148, it makes us think about other fighters who we want to see back in the Octagon.
This isn't just a list of people who we want to see come back. This is a look at fighters who have either earned their way back into the UFC or have something that they can offer. This is a look at seven fighters that the UFC needs to bring back.
Former Ultimate Fighter: Season Six fighter Ben Saunders went 4-3 in his original run inside the Octagon. He picked up highlight reel knockouts of Marcus Davis and Brandon Wolff, and he had a fan-friendly style that was sure to provide fireworks.
Clearly someone looking to help the company and improve his own stock when possible, Saunders was willing to step in at UFC 111 against the always dangerous Jon Fitch after Thiago Alves had to pull out of the contest due to brain abnormalities.
After being grinded on by Jon Fitch, the UFC gave Saunders another wrestler who held him down in Dennis Hallman. The back-to-back losses sent Saunders out, who was given specific instructions on how to return.
Sorry everyone I tried to fight my best these past two fights but ended up getting outworked. The UFC has officially cut me. The good news is they told me to work on my wrestling and ground game and then come back. So that is all I am going to be doing, improving dramatically and show them I belong. Much respect to Swick, Fitch, and Hallman as they were the better men on those nights and have my full respect. To fight such names is a true honor.
Since his release, Saunders has gone 6-2, fighting mostly for Bellator. His losses came after admirable performances in the finals of the Season 5 tournament and the semifinals of the Season 6 tournament.
With Saunders unlikely to find his name in the next welterweight bracket, and his display of vastly improved ground work, the time is right to bring back. A fight with Martin Kampmann would be good fun if the Dane falls to Ellenberger this weekend. Both men have great striking and vastly underrated submissions.
Three-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion Jake Rosholt got a raw deal the first time around. Going 2-2 under the Zuffa umbrella, Rosholt began in the WEC, where he finished opponent Nick Osternck with strikes.
Rosholt would stumble in his UFC debut, getting caught with a guillotine choke by Dan Miller; however, he quickly rebounded by choking out Chris Leben with an arm triangle at UFC 102.
After a series of back-and-forth exchanges with Kendall Grove at UFC 106, Rosholt would fall victim to a triangle choke, courtesy of Grove's dangerously long legs. The loss was enough to send Rosholt back to the independent scene.
Since his departure, Rosholt has fought eight times, notably winning fights in Bellator and Shark Fights. His post-UFC record is 6-1-1, and in his last fight, he avenged his only loss by defeating Matt Horwich. Rosholt takes on 16-9 Matt Thompson on June 2 for the Xtreme Knockout organization. If he can pick up another win, there is no reason to keep him waiting any longer.
The middleweight division has been beefing up as of late, and the addition of Rosholt would add another quality fighter to a division that sees frequent rotation of its Top 10 rankings.
Zuffa houses the best talent in the world, right? Then why is former title contender Thales Leites hanging out on the independent circuit?
After winning five straight in the Octagon, Leites unsuccessfully challenged Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Championship in one of the most lackluster title affairs in history, as Leites was unwilling to deviate from his plan to bait Silva into a ground fight.
In any event, Leites was brought back to the UFC for another contest against boxer Alessio Sakara at UFC 101. Most who watched the contest thought Leites would undoubtedly take home a decision win after 15 minutes; however, two judges disagreed, and Leites lost a controversial split decision.
Leites would be released after the bout. However, Dana White claimed that he was unaware that Leites had been let go, and that he would reverse the decision. Apparently, making sure the Brazilian had a job fell off of White's to-do list, as Leites was never reinstated.
Leites has won six of seven fights on the independent circuit, including wins over Dean Lister, Jeremy Horn and Jesse Taylor. His sole loss, ironically, also to Matt Horwich, was avenged back in March. Now touting an overall record of 20-4, it's time that Leites fights where he belongs: the UFC.
Going into UFC Fight Night 24, Jon Madsen was undefeated, possessed a 4-0 record in the UFC and finished Gilbert Yvel with strikes less than two minutes into his most recent fight. To think that he was on the chopping block was absurd.
Madsen was offered a fight against his DeathClutch teammate, Mike Russow. Unlike fighters from AKA or Jackson's, Madsen and Russow were not willing to say no to UFC matchmaker Joe Silva. This act of compliance should have earned both fighters brownie points with the boys in charge.
The first round of their fight was two heavyweight fighters trying to knock each other's block off. It's the kind of action that fans want to see. The second frame, however, featured more grappling, and the men started to tire from the action. At this point, Madsen's eye had swollen completely shut and the ringside doctor stopped the fight after the second round.
Madsen was released following the fight, and it hardly seemed like a warranted move. With an 80 percent win rate, and a win over the often-praised Gilbert Yvel, Madsen was still in the beginning stages of a successful career.
Madsen signed on with Bellator for the Season 6 heavyweight tournament, although the organization later elected not to feature heavyweights this time around. It's likely that Madsen's contract was nullified when the tournament did not come to fruition as expected. His record and success in the UFC strongly suggests that he is not deserving of the walking papers he was given.
Apparently, losing to Mike Russow is a kiss of death. I wish that was a joke, but all four of his UFC opponents were released after falling to the DeathClutch wrestler.
For a brief time, Todd Duffee held the record for fastest knockout in UFC history, after knocking out Tim Hague in only seven seconds at UFC 102. In his followup performance, he out-struck Russow for the majority of three rounds.
Halfway through the final frame, Russow shocked Duffee and the rest of the world by landing one significant punch. The shot would land flush of his opponent's chin and disconnect Duffee from his senses in jaw-dropping fashion.
Duffee was released from the UFC after the fight and received an email stating that the loss to Russow was the cause. In an interview with Ariel Helwani, Dana White claimed that Duffee was cut due to attitude issues, and that the young fighter could work his way back into the organization.
With a cult following who cited Duffee as the next big thing, the chiseled warrior was brought in on short notice to fight Alistair Overeem for the DREAM heavyweight championship. He lost the bout in quick and decisive fashion, but then again, most Overeem opponents do the same.
In April, Duffee quickly knocked out Bellator and UFC veteran Neil Grove in 34 seconds to get himself back in the win column. He has signed on to face tomato can James Thompson in September. A second win would improve his overall record to 8-2.
Duffee trains with Daniel Cormier and Cain Velasquez at AKA. With that kind of wrestling tutelage to supplement his raw power and above-average striking, the 26-year-old stud is ready to get back in the cage with the level of talent that only the UFC can provide.
I know that I'm going to catch some guff for suggesting that Big Timmy has any business returning to the world's most elite organization for fighters, but he can do more good than most folks realize.
The former champion is willing to take a huge pay cut in order to fight. In a March interview, Sylvia stated that he would be willing to take "entry-level money" if it got him back in the UFC. When that didn't score him a shot with Dana, Sylvia took it one step further, stating that he was willing to go through the Ultimate Fighter house if necessary.
Sylvia knows that he has embarrassed himself a time or two, but he has cleaned up his act, winning six of his last seven fights, although he has competed mostly as a super heavyweight. His sole heavyweight fight during that time was a win under the ProElite banner back in November, so he is certainly capable of making the weight class, as he has done so in the past six months.
With his credentials alone, Sylvia can produce some additional viewership on any event. Need a strong co-main event for a UFC on FX show? A former world champion is an easily marketable draw on any event.
What about elevating younger talent? Sylvia thinks he can win, and if he can, then good for him. But if he can't, it can only do good things for the guys currently on the roster. Do you think Travis Browne wouldn't benefit from knocking Sylvia into unconsciousness? How about giving Stipe Miocic or Stefan Struve the opportunity to show off their potential by giving them the opportunity to beat a fighter who used to be on top of the division?
Sign the guy and let him fight for cheap. What's the worst that could happen? Either he wins, which makes people think he is on a comeback, or he loses, and a young fighter has a big name on his resume.
Mark my words: If Anthony Johnson doesn't move to light heavyweight, his kidneys are going to completely shut down and he is going to die a very young man.
After missing weight for a middleweight contest with Vitor Belfort, the UFC was quick to kick Rumble to the curb. And who can blame them? It was his third offense.
Johnson is an incredible fighter who has been pushing his body too hard in an attempt to fight at lower weight classes. Johnson is going to keep fighting, regardless of his employment status with Zuffa. Which means that he will continue to drain himself on the independent scene for smaller paychecks at the beckoning of promoters who truly don't care about his physical well-being. Sure, he will keep winning against regional competition, but at what expense?
This is a photo of former welterweight Anthony Johnson standing next to former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Do you see how there isn't a tremendous difference in size between these fighters?
Andrei Arlovski is not a small heavyweight who is too stubborn to drop down to light heavyweight. He stands at 6'4" and weighs in at 250 pounds.
Believe it or not, there is an 80-pound difference between these two men on the day of weigh-ins. Anthony Johnson is mostly known for the tremendous amount of weight that he (will likely fail to) cut before a fight.
Johnson has now entered the dangerous realm of his body disallowing him to continue cutting tremendous amounts of weight before fights. If Rumble is allowed another shot in the UFC under the condition that he only fight in the light heavyweight division, not only could he be successful, but it might save his life.