MMA: 6 Fighters Whose Careers Were Ruined by Grudge Match Losses
Two months ago, one of the most anticipated grudge matches in mixed martial arts for quite some time went down—Jon Jones retained his UFC light heavyweight title with an emphatic, unanimous-decision victory over his former teammate at Greg Jackson's camp, Rashad Evans, at UFC 145 in Atlanta.
Can Evans recover—or will Jones prove to have stolen his soul, as the cliche goes?
The following synopsis of what has befallen six other recent losers of UFC grudge matches presents a picture that does not bode well at all for Evans.
The World's Most Dangerous Man is an old hand at grudge matches—his celebrated dust-up with Don Frye was how 2002's "Pride 19—Bad Blood" received its name.
But four years later, Shamrock pushed the envelope too far in stirring up a feud with Tito Ortiz following a one-minute, 18-second TKO loss to The Huntington Beach Bad Boy at "UFC 61—Bitter Rivals" (don't you just love these subtitles of events?).
Shamrock and Ortiz coached opposite one another on Season Three of The Ultimate Fighter, then got it on again at an event appropriately labeled "UFC—The Final Chapter," in which Shamrock did marginally better, lasting two minutes and 23 seconds before getting TKO'd again.
That was indeed the final chapter for Shamrock in the Octagon.
Since then, Shamrock's exploits include a win over the late Ross Clifton that was later changed to a no-contest because Shamrock flunked a drug test; a decision verdict over the same Johnathan Ivey that Sean McCorkle laughably owned in Ivey's immediately prior fight (his lone official victory since the twin defeats to Ortiz) and, most recently, a two-minute TKO loss to Mike Bourke, whose chief claim to fame up to that point had been when he forfeited a 2006 fight against Mike Whitehead because he refused to take off his wrestling shoes prior to entering the cage.
On January 11, 2002, Jens Pulver showed The Prodigy, BJ Penn, that he still had a lot to learn, earning a majority-decision win over Penn at UFC 35. Resentment between the two smoldered from then on, leading to their selection as the coaches for Season Five of The Ultimate Fighter five years later and to a rematch at the season's finale.
This time, however, it was Penn who would emerge victorious,holding onto to a rear-naked choke after Pulver had clearly tapped. Pulver then dropped to featherweight, necessitating a move to the WEC as that weight class did not yet exist in the UFC.
After defeating Cub Swanson in his WEC debut, Pulver fell completely apart, losing six in a row, four of them in under two minutes, thereby neglecting to be included in the WEC's eventual absorption into the UFC.
One did not have to be a fan of "Little Evil" to be moved by the sight of him standing in the cage reduced to tears after his quick losses in the WEC—a devastating reminder of the effect that losing a heated grudge match can have on even the noblest of warriors.
A Lion's Den teammate of Ken Shamrock, Vernon "Tiger" White apparently shared Shamrock's penchant for making fights personal, but picked the wrong person to mess with in 2004—none other than reigning UFC light heavyweight champion Chuck Liddell.
In a way, White's trash talk can be seen as having worked, as it "earned" him the opportunity to fight The Iceman despite having gone 0-2-1 in his three most recent fights.
After getting brutally knocked out by Liddell in the first round at UFC 49—subtitled "Unfinished Business," obviously due to the feud White had provoked—White did not resurface for more than a year despite not sustaining any apparent injury in the loss.
White went 2-7 in his last nine fights, including a loss to Lew Polley—who Junior dos Santos fired as his assistant coach during Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter—before retiring in 2010.
Victories in his first seven fights earned David Heath a ticket to the UFC, in which he debuted in August of 2006 at UFC 62, submitting Cory Walmsley in the first round.
Following a split-decision win over Victor Valimaki at UFC Fight Night 7 in December, Heath advanced to a meeting with the likewise-undefeated Lyoto Machida at UFC 70 in April of 2007. Heath would fight gamely in defeat, running the future UFC light heavyweight champion to a unanimous decision.
Four months later, the Oklahoman was matched up against Renato Sobral, better known by his nickname "Babalu," at "UFC 74: Respect"—a subtitle that would prove absolutely clairvoyant when for some mysterious reason Heath thought it a good idea to appear at the weigh-in wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the mug shot of Babalu's arrest in connection with an incident outside a Florida casino from a few weeks prior.
This enraged the popular Brazilian, who took out that rage in a brutal scene in the second round in which he intentionally held onto an anaconda choke so long that Heath was rendered unconscious.
Heath lost his next fight to Tim Boetsch at UFC 81 and has not been seen in the Octagon since, carving out a marginal existence in the MFC and small local shows.
As for Babalu, he was summarily cut by Dana White after the bout and has never returned to the UFC either—proving that an MMA grudge match can be just like Erma Bombeck's rat race:
Even if you win, you're still a rat.
A promising and exciting welterweight striker from Britain, Paul Daley got his big break when he was signed by the UFC in 2009.
After registering back-to-back first-round knockouts over Martin Kampmann and Dustin Hazelett, Daley was booked to fight Josh Koscheck at UFC 113 with a coaching appearance opposite champion Georges St. Pierre on Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter, and a title shot, on the line.
What started out as innocuous banter between the two of them on the Underground Forum—with Daley posting photo-shopped images of Koscheck sporting various outlandish hairstyles—soon turned ugly and bad blood was definitely on the agenda by the time the fight went down on May 8, 2010.
In the fight itself, Koscheck repeatedly frustrated Daley with his wrestling, talking trash all the while as he is well-known to do. Immediately after the bell sounded in what the judges would render as a unanimous decision in Koscheck's favor, Daley came up from behind Koscheck and sucker-punched him.
UFC President Dana White acted swiftly, not only releasing Daley on the spot, but vowing never to re-sign him even if he turned out to be, in White's own words, the best 170-pounder in the world.
But has Daley in fact put White's promise on that score to the test?
Following four victories over mediocre opponents for four different promotions on three continents, including one for Strikeforce, which was not yet under Zuffa's auspices, Daley returned to Strikeforce (by that time now owned by Zuffa) where he was demolished by Nick Diaz, then smothered by Tyron Woodley.
Then came two more wins over clearly out-manned foes, both via decision. He then suffered his third straight loss for Strikeforce when he dropped a split decision to Kazuo Misaki in March, which has turned out to be Daley's last fight on Zuffa's junior circuit. This parody of a "victory tour" will now move on to Bellator.
Once one win away from fighting for the UFC welterweight title, Paul Daley is going nowhere mighty fast.
Twice Wanderlei Silva faced Quinton "Rampage" Jackson for Pride in Japan, and twice "The Axe Murderer" lived up to that moniker, knocking out Jackson on both occasions, in 2003 and 2004. The two light heavyweight bangers would meet for a third time on this side of the Pacific, at UFC 92 in Las Vegas on December 27, 2008, with a thick air of nastiness on both sides hanging ominously over the proceedings.
But this one would have a different ending, with Jackson registering a vicious knockout after just three minutes and 21 seconds. This caused Silva to seek redemption at middleweight, after first losing a 195-pound catchweight fight to Rich Franklin at UFC 99.
After toughing out a decision win over Michael Bisping at UFC 110 in his 185-pound debut, Silva lasted all of 27 seconds against Chris Leben at UFC 132, prompting widespread calls for his retirement.
Though he rebounded with a second-round TKO of former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le at UFC 139 this past November, Wanderei Silva's days as any kind of realistic UFC title contender—he was ranked in the top 10 at light heavyweight as per most sources going into UFC 92—are rather obviously over.
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