“Father time is undefeated,” is a popular phrase often used when aging athletes refuse to accept the fact the end is near. The prospect of retirement is often a bitter pill to swallow. Great champions, who at one time couldn’t be touched, start to lose a step and fall back to earth.
For some fighters the regression is slight and occurs over an extended period of time. For others the drop is sudden and hard to make sense of.
Many great champions across the spectrum of athletics hang on much too long, unwilling to accept that their time had passed. They linger around hoping to recapture a fleeting bit of the magic they once possessed.
In boxing, it was greats like Ali and Leonard. NFL stars like Brett Favre and Jerry Rice could have called it a career long before they did. The NBA saw the same thing with greats like Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal and even Michael Jordan.
Here are seven UFC Greats who should hang it up.
Notable Wins: Wanderlei Silva (KO) PRIDE 33 Middleweight Championship; Fedor Emelianenko (TKO) Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson; Mauricio Rua (Decision) UFC 139 “Fight of the Year”
I know that, considering he’s riding a four-fight win streak and is coming off of a Fight of the Year victory, it might not make sense to see him on this list. Hear me out.
Henderson is a savage in the ring (or cage). He is one of the most devastating punchers we have ever seen and has defeated a number of big names across three weight classes.
Despite all that, he is 41 years old and at times looks every bit his age.
He was losing his fight with Fedor before he unleashed a brutal right hand that ended the fight; and after battering “Shogun” Rua for two rounds, he seemed to run out of gas and nearly gave the fight away.
Henderson was scheduled to fight Jon Jones this weekend for the UFC Light Heavyweight title but hurt his knee in training. He hopes to fight before the end of the year, possibly for the title.
Henderson could fight well into his 40s and dominate many fighters but his status as an elite fighter seems to be nearing its end. He lacks the cardio to fight five rounds and it is only a matter of time before the rest of his skills decline.
His recent victories over Sobral, Emelianenko and Rua can be credited in large part to their decline as top-level fighters.
Henderson wants to keep fighting until he wins another title but it is unlikely he can defeat the much younger and bigger Jones. He was so dreadful in his last fight at Middleweight it isn’t likely he’d do much better against current champion Anderson Silva.
Career Record: 16-8-2
Notable Wins: Matt Hughes (Submission) UFC 46; Sean Sherk (TKO) UFC 84; Matt Hughes (KO) UFC 123
The “Prodigy” possesses dominant skills in every facet of the fight game. Penn is an excellent boxer with good power, he is nearly impossible to take to the ground and if you get him there, his dexterity allows him to control opponents from both the top and bottom.
Even with all his talent Penn has half as many losses as he has wins. Part of this is due to the high level of talent he has fought against in his eleven year career. However, Penn has also lacked focus at key moments.
He appeared out of shape for his second fights with Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes. He looked similar in two fights with Frankie Edgar and didn’t seem to have the same edge in fights with John Fitch (draw) and Nick Diaz (loss).
After his loss to Diaz last year, Penn decided to call it quits but was coaxed out of retirement.
He agreed to a fight with fast rising contender Rory MacDonald. The fight was originally set to take place at UFC 152 but MacDonald pulled out with an eye injury and the two are expected to fight as part of a December card.
Since 2009, Penn is just 3-3-1 and doesn’t appear to have the same level of skill or hunger for the fight game.
He is a huge underdog against the larger MacDonald; and, win or lose, he should consider trading in his fight gloves for a surfboard and hit the Hawaiian beaches.
Notable Wins: Chuck Liddell (KO) UFC 71; Dan Henderson (Decision) UFC 75; Wanderlei Silva (KO) UFC 92
There might not be a more exciting and colorful fighter in the history of MMA than “Rampage” Jackson.
With what seems at times to be superhuman power Jackson’s power bomb slams of opponents are sure to make the list on any MMA Best of list (Find video of his slam of Ricardo Arona).
Jackson has had some memorable fights and feuds with some of the biggest names in MMA.
He appeared poised for a long title reign after taking the UFC Light Heavyweight title from Chuck Liddell in 2007. Jackson successfully defended the title against close friend Dan Henderson in an epic battle four months later, but then everything seemed to fall apart.
Jackson lost his next fight to Forrest Griffin nearly a year later and since has had a number of personal and professional problems.
Including his loss to Griffin, Jackson is 4-4 in his last eight fights in the octagon. Other than his highlight reel knockout of Wanderlei Silva, Jackson has not looked particularly sharp in any of his other recent fights.
Once feared for his devastating power Jackson doesn’t seem to have the ability to pull the trigger anymore.
He had one shining moment in his last fight with Ryan Bader in which he lifted the young contender up and dropped him on his head.
It was a glimpse of how scary he used to be but Jackson did very little before and after that and lost a clear decision. Jackson was also several pounds overweight and forced to surrender part of his purse to Bader as penalty.
Jackson's next fight is against UFC newcomer Glover Teixeria in Brazil at UFC 153. Jackson says the Teixeria fight will be his last with the organization.
Judging by the way he’s looked in recent fights it might be wise if this is Jackson’s last fight ever.
Notable Wins: Stephan Bonnar (Decision) TUF 1 Finale; Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (Decision) UFC 86 won UFC Light Heavyweight Championship; Mauricio Rua (Submission) UFC 76
When a fighter loses the desire to fight it is best that he step away before he risks serious injury.
It has been apparent for awhile that Forrest Griffin does not have the same zest or zeal for fighting that he once had.
Griffin has given us several thrilling moments since his UFC career began. He won back-to-back “Fight of the Year” awards; first for his legendary three-round showdown with buddy Stephan Bonnar, and then for his gutsy performance against Tito Ortiz.
Griffin transformed into a real life “Rocky” when he defeated Mauricio Rua and Quinton Jackson in consecutive fights despite being a huge underdog in both fights.
Griffin has won three of his last four fights but two were decisions over the now-retired Tito Ortiz (Ortiz had won only one fight in the past five years) and the other was against an undersized Rich Franklin.
Before the last Ortiz fight, Griffin was knocked out by Mauricio Rua. It was the fourth straight loss he suffered as a result of a TKO or KO.
Griffin is no longer a credible threat to win the UFC title and his best days are well behind him. He has nothing left to prove in the sport and will more than likely land a front office job in the UFC the moment he retires.
Record: 34-12-1-1 NC
Notable Wins: Dan Henderson (Decision) Pride 12; Kazushi Sakuraba (TKO) Pride 17 (won Middleweight Championship); Quinton Jackson (KO) Pride 28 “Fight of the Year”
Arguably the most feared fighter in the history of mixed martial arts. The “Axe Murderer’s” relentless come-forward style has made him a star in two organizations and one of the greatest fighters ever. Silva has one of the most violent and dangerous Muay Thai clinches ever.
Silva did most of his damage as a Middleweight (205 lbs) in Japan but has been part of some great wars in the UFC as well.
Unfortunately, as of late he has been on the losing end of most of his battles. Silva’s record in his last 10 fights is 3-7 with four of those losses coming by KO.
Last November, Silva perhaps saved his career with a TKO victory of Cung Le but he followed that up with a lopsided decision loss to Rich Franklin. Silva is a warrior ready to go out on his shield if need be and after suffering numerous losses he still doesn’t seem set on retiring anytime soon.
UFC President Dana White claims Silva's job is safe and he says The "Axe Murderer" will fight again in the UFC. Rematches with Michael Bisping or Vitor Belfort could be fun to see but at this point Wanderlei is better off calling it a career and taking his place in the UFC Hall of Fame.
Notable Wins: Georges St. Pierre (Submission) UFC 50; Frank Trigg (Submission) UFC 52; Royce Gracie (TKO) UFC 60
Before GSP dominated the Welterweight division it was Matt Hughes who owned the 170 lb weight class.
Hughes earned victories over fighters such as Georges St-Pierre; Matt Serra; B.J. Penn; Royce Gracie; Chris Lytle; Sean Sherk; Carlos Newton, and Frank Trigg, just to name a few.
He is also first on the UFC all-time wins list with 18 and made seven successful title defenses as Welterweight champion including five straight. He became the first fighter in the UFC to ever defeat Royce Gracie and gave Georges St-Pierre his first career loss.
In recent years, Hughes has not been the same fighter. He’s fought only six times in the past five years and has suffered numerous injuries. Currently, he is coming off two straight first-round knockout losses to Josh Koscheck and B.J. Penn.
At this point in his career Hughes is little more than a midcard fighter and doesn’t stand much chance competing against the division’s elite. Hughes might request another fight just to have the opportunity to end his career with a victory.
Maybe a rematch with Dennis Hallman or Matt Serra will provide him that chance. Whatever he decides it is clear that Hughes' fighting days are all but finished.
Record: 33-7-1-1 NC
Notable Wins: Mirko “Cro Cop” Flipovic (Submission) Pride Final Conflict 2003; Josh Barnett (Decision) Pride Shockwave 2006; Randy Couture (Decision) UFC 102
There might not be a tougher fighter in the history of the sport.
“Minotauro” Nogueira’s epic career almost never was. Nogueira was run over by a truck when he was 10 years old and nearly died. He survived that and went onto have one of the most successful careers in MMA.
Nogueira has victories over some of the top heavyweights in the history of the sport, including Josh Barnett; Mirko “Cro Cop”; Ricco Rodriguez; Mark Coleman, and Randy Couture.
Nogueira was the first and only man to win both the Pride and UFC Heavyweight titles.
Despite his success Nogueira has taken a massive amount of punishment over the years. In many of his fights it would seem he was on the verge of defeat before locking on a submission and finishing his opponent.
The amount of damage he's sustained from fighting has slowed Nogueira in recent years, as have injuries suffered inside and outside of the cage.
In Nog’s last visit to the octagon he suffered a broken arm in a loss to Frank Mir. The injury didn’t require surgery and Nogueira was set to face Cheick Kongo at UFC 149 but had to pullout due to the fact that his broken arm had not fully healed.
There is no timetable for Nogueira’s return but given his recent struggles and the serious injury to his arm, it might be time for this aging warrior to call it quits.
He will undoubtedly be named to the UFC Hall of Fame and has left a legacy as one of the greatest Heavyweights in MMA history.