Roy Nelson and the Biggest Underachievers in UFC History
In the world of mixed martial arts, few things are more frustrating to hardcore fans than fighters who squander obvious potential.
Back in the old days, various UFC competitors could ultimately be forgiven for being underachievers. Unless your name was Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz or Ken Shamrock, you likely weren't getting paid that much in the first place.
But with fighter endorsements, decent paychecks and access to better training methods, it's strange to see clearly talented athletes who just can't get it together.
Here's a look at the 10 biggest underachievers in UFC history, the ones who have continually held themselves back from true greatness due to their own habits or shortcomings.
No. 10: Efrain Escudero
Fight Record: 18-5
What It Should Be: 21-2
Efrain Escudero looked like a world beater in his spectacular run on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir—especially after handily defeating the season's infamous Junie Browning.
From there, the TUF 8 winner followed up that performance with a one-sided win at UFC 103, smashing gatekeeper Cole Miller into the mat. Escudero then suffered a respectable loss against Evan Dunham and surged back to pick apart Dan Lauzon, the brother of Joe Lauzon.
However, the UFC wasn't pleased when Escudero missed weight for his fight against Charles Olivera by three pounds. Even worse, he lost, giving the promotion cause to cut him from the roster.
Escudero was only the second TUF winner to get cut from the UFC, and his second run hasn't been any better, losing to both Jacob Volkmann and Mac Danzig. Now, he's stuck fighting Tyson Griffin on the regional circuit.
No. 9: Leonard Garcia
Fight Record: 15-9-1
What It Should Be: 13-11-1
For a Greg Jackson fighter, Leonard Garcia is so wildly inconsistent it almost hurts to watch his stand-up game, predicated almost entirely on volume with no accuracy.
What's more troubling is that Garcia has openly admitted his intention to swing for the fences in order to impress the judges, which suggests that he doesn't care about evolving his striking game if it nets him some fight bonuses and the occasional win.
No. 8: John-Olav Einemo
Fight Record: 6-3
What It Should Be: 7-2 (with a lot more fights/wins)
In the grappling world, John-Olav Einemo is anything but an underachiever, boasting an Abu Dhabi Combat Club victory over the famous Roger Gracie—a feat that earned him a gold medal.
Heck, he even revitalized his fighting career after a nasty bout with bacteria that almost ate his left foot.
He fought in the UFC just twice, losing in a "Fight of the Night" performance against Dave Herman. Then, he retired from MMA after losing Mike Russow.
Fans can only wonder how far Einemo would've gotten in he hadn't thrown in the towel. Sure, losing to a walking sack of flab is embarrassing, but Russow's actually a decent heavyweight fighter.
No. 7: Rolles Gracie, Jr.
Fight Record: 7-1
What It Should Be: 8-0
It was very interesting to see the eldest son of Rolls Gracie and grandson of Carlos Gracie in the UFC. It was far less interesting to see him get bounced from the promotion after a horrible loss to Joey Beltran.
No one expected the multiple-time Jiu-Jitsu champion to lose that fight, but Rolles Gracie, Jr. made it even worse by coming into the match with horrible cardio. Junior gasped and grunted his way through the first round and laid down to take a nap in the middle of the second, forcing referee Herb Dean to jump to the rescue before Beltran ate him alive.
No. 6: Kimbo Slice
Fight Record: 4-2
What It Should Be: 6-0
In an alternate universe, Kimbo Slice is one of the UFC's most popular gatekeepers, having smartly honed his cardio, footwork and wrestling to compete with the heavyweight division's best prospects.
In this reality, Slice came into the UFC, made himself a little money and now cuts out a living for himself in the boxing circuit, taking fights against ridiculously non-threatening opponents.
It's especially irritating to those who watched The Ultimate Fighter during Season 10, because the show made it look like Slice was really applying himself.
If he'd stayed on the MMA regional circuit and racked up a winning streak, who knows where he could be right now? Heck, the UFC might have even invited him back for a second run.
No. 5: Jason Miller
Fight Record: 28-9 (1)
What It Should Be: 29-8 (1) (also, not retired)
Jason Miller was arguably one of the best middleweight fighters in the world, with most of his losses attached to champions and title contenders.
Miller's television fame also held the potential to make him a huge crossover star in UFC, leading directly into a stint on The Ultimate Fighter coaching against UK draw Michael Bisping. Unfortunately, flashy ring entrances and trash talk don't look so good directly followed by embarrassing losses.
Bisping tooled Miller in their TUF finale bout, and "Mayhem" did little more than throw fits in his next match against CB Dolloway. Rather than try to improve his MMA game, Miller simply took his ball and went home to go sit on Twitter.
No. 4: Roy Nelson
Fight Record: 17-7
What It Should Be: 19-5
Roy Nelson is the only fighter I've ever seen waiting in line to buy beer on his way to the weigh-ins.
That alone seems to speak volumes about the rotund heavyweight, but his visible one-punch knockout power always begs the question—what would happen if Nelson took his training seriously, bulked up and put some speed into his footwork?
Perhaps we'll never know. When you lose a stand-up battle to Frank Mir, it's hard to take you seriously as an elite heavyweight in the UFC, let alone one of the division's best strikers.
No. 3: Anthony Johnson
Fight Record: 13-4
What It Should Be: 15-2
Anthony Johnson is still a work in progress, but at least he's finally admitted that he's no welterweight.
In fact, despite missing the 170-pound limit three times during his UFC career, Johnson couldn't even make middleweight on the regional circuit. Hopefully, he'll continue finding his groove at light heavyweight if he ever makes it back to the UFC.
Johnson could be even be undefeated if he hadn't insisted on trying to come into every fight with the biggest possible size advantage he could, never wanting to risk fighting guys his own size.
No. 2: Brandon Vera
Fight Record: 12-6 (1)
What It Should Be: 16-3
Remember when Brandon Vera was going to be the future of the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions?
For whatever reason, Vera has wasted his natural talents during his long UFC career, punctuating poor performances with trash talk before, during and after his fights. Additionally, Vera just seems to come into every fight kind of soft, leading to him getting physically dominated by much smaller opponents.
Granted, it didn't help him that Thiago Silva was on illegal substances for their bout, but push-kicking a guy to the floor and celebrating in the middle of the round (instead of grappling) is just terrible.
No. 1: B.J. Penn
Fight Record: 16-8-2
What It Should Be: 21-5
Every time B.J. Penn has a chance to immortalize himself, he comes up short.
It wouldn't be so damning if he didn't have a pattern of always losing his most important fights, but it's also punctuated by a reputation for never training up to his potential.
B.J. Penn shouldn't be 5-5-1 in title bouts. But every time his opponents put it all on the line and dig deep into themselves to pull out a win, Penn simply seems to shut down, not willing or able to go into survival mode.
Chalk it up to a lifetime of coasting on talent without enough training. With the right attitude, B.J. Penn could've been one of the sport's pound-for-pound all-time greats.
Instead, "The Prodigy" is just a solid (but ultimately overrated) former champion.