UFC: Who Is the Promotion's Version of LeBron James?
As the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder battle it out for the ultimate prize in the NBA, the spotlight—as it always is in the NBA—is on the superstars on the court.
For the Thunder, Kevin Durant and Russel Westbrook are the two big names. Although Dwyane Wade remains the heart and soul of the team, it is clear LeBron James is the biggest star on the team.
Not only the team but James is also likely the biggest star in the NBA. Hearing that line would lead one to believe James has a bevy of fans, but this is not the case, as he is one of the most hated sports figures in recent memory, even possibly of all time.
"The Decision" will forever be etched in the minds of sports fans for years to come. Despite being one of the most talented players to ever step onto the court, James simply can't shake the negative image that follows the superstar wherever he goes.
The same could be said of a number of fighters competing inside the Octagon. They are some of the most talented fighters in the sport today yet seem to hear more boo's than cheers when entering an arena.
Which UFC star would you consider to be the LeBron James of the UFC?
Michael Bisping/Chael Sonnen
Photo by Joey Hill for MMA Recap
Both Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping both know what it means to be an athlete like LeBron James. Sonnen and Bisping have walked through average competition but have fallen short when title implications are involved.
Bisping in particular has seen a number of title opportunities slip from his grasp after a handful of losses have ended some impressive winning streaks by the Brit. Sonnen saw his chances at a world title escape him by being submitted by Anderson Silva after dominating the champion for four-and-a-half rounds.
Both men are also no stranger to a microphone and are some of the best hype men in the business. I'm fairly confident Bisping and Sonnen could sell you placing a bet on a one legged man in an a** kicking contest.
Like Bisping and Sonnen, James has seen his chances at a title fall just out of reach during his career. While running the show in Cleveland, James found it impossible to overcome the lack of talent surrounding him in his attempts to win a world title. Prior to Game 6 and 7 against the Celtics, James had disappeared in certain games during crunch time.
Either Bisping or Sonnen could be considered the UFC version of James for their lack of ability to get the job done when it matters most.
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Jon Jones is the unquestionable king of the light heavyweight division. He's dismantled four former world champions and an Ultimate Fighter winner en route to becoming one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Jones brings a blend of strikes that are both unorthodox and powerful. Combine that with his strong wrestling base and it would seem Jones has no weaknesses.
That doesn't stop MMA fans from taking to the Internet forums to bash Jones on an almost daily basis. From his demeanor to his characteristic smirk, fans seem to analyze ever inch of Jones' being. Even when he made an incredible act by catching a thief, fans still refused to change their image of Jones.
With his recent DWI conviction, Jones' negative image with MMA fans isn't likely to change anytime soon and will certainly have the talented superstar getting booed everywhere he goes.
Jones could be compared to LeBron James in that they seem to be able to perform with such ease. James' size and speed create match up nightmares no matter who he plays against, while Jones has a freakish physical frame with an incredible reach advantage over nearly everyone in the division.
Georges St. Pierre
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Despite being two of the biggest stars in their sports, LeBron James and Georges St. Pierre are some of the most criticized by their fans.
GSP has become a dominant force throughout the years and has reigned over the 170-pound division since capturing the title at UFC 65. A small hiccup against Matt Serra was quickly erased, as St. Pierre destroyed Serra in their rematch. Bouts against Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck, and Dan Hardy are some of the most one-sided contests in UFC history.
Even though he's dominated his competition, GSP routinely is criticized for being a safe fighter and refusing to take risks. There are a number of fighters where St. Pierre could've finished his opponent but instead chose to play it safe.
Like GSP, James is accused of "playing it safe" at times. The superstar can fall in love too much with jump shots instead of taking it to the rim. James could likely score on just about every play if he drove the lane.
Another area where James is accused of playing it safe is at the end of games. There's been a few times where James had the opportunity to hit a game-winning shot but chose instead to "play it safe" and pass to a teammate.
As both men have become the face of their leagues, the criticisms will only continue to grow as fans are exposed to them even more than what they already are.
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
BJ Penn entered the UFC as one of the most talented jiu-jitsu artists to step inside the Octagon. Penn would become one of the most well-rounded fighters over the course of his career by adding amazing takedown defense and some of the best boxing in all of MMA.
Yet, Penn never seemed to meet the expectations fans placed upon him. After years of being atop the lightweight rankings, Penn seemed to get complacent at times. This complacency made Penn take it easy in training and his cardio visibly suffered in the Octagon.
But when Penn was focused on his opponent, it was scary to see how good he could truly be. His victories at lightweight were extremely dominant, as fighters couldn't seem to find a weakness to exploit in Penn's game.
The comparisons to LeBron James start here, as James has had his moments where a lack of focus was evident. Yet when James is focused, as he was against the Celtics, he was unstoppable. James is human and knows he has the talent, which sometimes has made him not play up to his full potential.
Another comparison that Penn could draw from James is when things are not going their way. Penn is notorious for having an excuse or complaint following most, if not all of his losses. James is routinely shown arguing for and against calls during NBA games, which certainly prevents anyone outside Dade County from cheering for James.
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Perhaps no fighter draws such a close comparison to LeBron James than Anderson Silva. The UFC Middleweight Champion entered the promotion in dramatic fashion by completely demolishing the fan favorite Chris Leben.
Silva would continue his run of domination after dispatching Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, and perhaps most impressively, Forrest Griffin, among other fighters. Still, the Brazilian has drawn a great amount of criticism for his performances against Thales Leites and Demian Maia.
In the bouts Silva danced around the Octagon in an embarrassing performance for his opponents. His greatness seemed so great that he could literally pull up a chair, take a seat, and still keep his belt. It was so bad after the Maia fight that Dana White left early and told Ed Soares to give Silva the belt himself.
Like Silva, James has had his moments where a lack of focus caused fans to create a stir. His dances during games in particular caused not only fans but other players to dislike James.
The two men are some of the best at what they do and should be praised for their performances, but often times are overly criticized instead. Although "The Decision" and the Maia/Leities bouts occurred over two years ago, fans still have the instances fresh in their minds when discussing the two superstars.