Edson Barboza and 10 Next Big Things in MMA That Weren't
In the world of mixed martial arts, where you are only considered as good as your last fight, a recently successful fighter can find himself propelled by the hype machine.
Sometimes, the hype turns out to be reflective of the actual talent possessed by a fighter. In other situations, "The Next Big Thing" turns out to be little more than a decent fighter who is the product of good advertising.
For every Anderson Silva and Jon Jones who surpassed their expectations, there are 20 guys like Sokoudjou and Keith Jardine whose career trajectory fell off of a cliff shortly after making major waves.
Here is a look at 10 fighters who were once considered to be the next big thing, but didn't live up to the hype.
With Barboza competing on Saturday's UFC on FX 7 event, the Brazilian lightweight is the inspiration for this article.
Where did the hype come from?
Anytime that an undefeated fighter puts together a few wins inside the Octagon, the hype train starts moving. Throw in the wheel-kick knockout that landed Barboza a Knockout of the Year award as well as an ESPY nomination and you've got a recipe for "The Next Big Thing."
His hype train was officially derailed at UFC 146 when a returning Jamie Varner steamrolled through en route to a first-round TKO.
The most surprising thing about Barboza's hype is that his wins weren't incredibly decisive. By no means is Terry Etim a world beater, and the bout with Ross Pearson was about as close as they come.
At one point, Brett Rogers was 10-0 as a professional with five wins under the Strikeforce and Elite XC banners. The icing on the cake came in the form of a 22-second knockout of former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski back in 2009.
Since that time, Rogers has been thrown to the wolves under the assumption that he is an elite heavyweight. Fights were booked against the likes of Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett and Alistair Overeem.
Unfortunately, he wasn't ready for the move and has seen his arm raised in only two of his last eight fights.
It's rare for a fighter to be billed as "The Next Big Thing" when he gets knocked out in his UFC debut, but somehow Brendan "The Hybrid" Schaub pulled it off.
After coming up short against Roy Nelson in The Ultimate Fighter finale, Schaub appeared to be a brand new fighter. There was a rumor that he had dynamite installed into his hands after scoring knockout wins over Chase Gormley and Chris Tuchscherer in a combined 1:54.
But the hype train can't pick up a whole lot of momentum until you beat some big names. In five short months, Schaub routed title contender Gabriel Gonzaga via decision before bouncing Mirko Cro Cop's head off of the canvas like a basketball.
Schaub's momentum hit a wall in 2011 when he was defeated by Big Nog by surprising KO. He followed that up with another KO loss to Ben Rothwell at UFC 145.
Schaub meets fellow KO artist Lavar Johnson at UFC 157 in February.
At one point in time, George Sotiropoulos was the lightweight whose name was on everyone's lips. The new face of Australian MMA, G-Sot had won his first seven UFC contests, which included a submission win over Joe Lauzon and one-sided decisions against Joe Stevenson and Kurt Pellegrino.
Heading into a fight with Dennis Siver, Sotiropoulos was looking for an eighth consecutive UFC win. That is a feat that has never been previously matched without a title shot being awarded, so this "Next Big Thing" wasn't actually a product of hype, but someone who actually earned his way into contention.
Aussie George fell flat in the Siver bout, unable to wrestle the kickboxer to the canvas and impose his superior grappling abilities. Although he held his own on the feet, it was Siver who came up with the decision victory.
Since that time, George has been knocked out by Rafael dos Anjos and Ross Pearson.
At the peak of his hype, Brandon "The Truth" Vera legitimately appeared to be a monster. With a record of 8-0, Vera was 4-0 in the UFC heavyweight division with all wins coming by way of stoppage.
Were that not enough, after decimating former champion Frank Mir in 69 seconds, Vera made the promise that he was going to win the UFC heavyweight championship before dropping down to simultaneously hold the UFC light heavyweight championship.
That didn't quite happen.
Vera would lose three of his next four fights, including consecutive bouts to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum. Since his ill-fated proclamation, Vera has won only four of his next 11 fights.
While no one would claim Vera is a legitimate threat to any title, it is important to note that decision losses to Keith Jardine and Randy Couture have been deemed controversial and shouldn't be held against "The Truth."
It's tremendously rare that a loss is what gets a hype train moving. However, in the case of Evan Dunham, that's exactly what happened.
After four straight wins, including Tyson Griffin and Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero, Dunham was paired up with former UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk at UFC 119.
Despite being fairly obvious that Dunham won the final two rounds, somehow, the judges ruled in favor of Sherk. Dana White decried the decision and the audience rallied behind the no-longer-undefeated Dunham.
In his very next fight, Dunham was scheduled to meet Kenny Florian in a fight that would move Dunham closer to a title shot. However, Florian pulled out due to injury and Dunham was knocked out by late-replacement Melvin Guillard in less than three minutes.
These days, Dunham faces lesser-name competition and has gone 2-1 in recent fights.
Certain levels of hype are so incredible that they cannot be lived up to. In the case of Phillipe Nover, he never had a chance.
Through the filming of Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC President Dana White called Nover "The Next Anderson Silva." Were that not enough, he later mentioned that the fighter reminded him of a young Georges St-Pierre.
If that isn't the most ringing endorsement you've ever heard, I don't know what is. To directly compare a fighter to the two greatest fighters in UFC history is a deep commitment to make.
With all of the talent that White has seen over the years, to hear him make these proclamations about Nover, you'd better believe that Nover would go on to win the reality series and go on to capture the UFC lightweight championship without breaking a sweat.
Oh, wait. Never mind.
Nover's accomplishments in the UFC don't resemble those of any champion. In fact, he never won a single bout in the organization.
Instead, he lost the tournament finals to Efrain Escudero before dropping fights to Kyle Bradley and Rob Emerson, neither of whom have winning records in the Octagon.
Roger Huerta is one of those fighters where you look at his potential and just have to shake your head in disappointment.
After winning six fights inside the Octagon, Huerta held a professional record of 20-1-1 (1). At that point, the only loss on his record came via verbal submission in 2004 when Huerta's jaw was broken while competing in his third fight of the night.
Huerta was given his chance to step into the "Next Big Thing" moniker when he faced Kenny Florian in a title eliminator at UFC 87. Unfortunately for Huerta, he couldn't keep up with "KenFlo" and didn't win a single round of action.
Since that time, Huerta has gone 1-5 in professional bouts, including a pair of losses in smaller organizations like ONE FC and UWF.
"El Matador" did win that street fight, though, so that counts for something.
After Keith Jardine smashed Ultimate Fighter winner Forrest Griffin, "The Dean of Mean" was given a stand-in opponent while waiting for a high-profile opponent to become available. The man he was supposed to run through was promotional newcomer Houston Alexander.
Alexander was an Illinois native who had never faced a notable in his career, so the bout with Jardine was a major step up in competition. Just 48 seconds later, the world knew exactly who he was.
In the event that viewers thought the Jardine knockout was a fluke, Alexander repeated his incredible performance when he knocked out boxer Alessio Sakara in 1:01. The successive finishes prompted Joe Rogan to infamously tell the world "This guy is for real!"
Unfortunately, when you are "for real," you have to fight other guys who are "for real." It was those matchups where Alexander didn't do so hot. Losing his next three fights via first-round stoppage, Houston was drummed out of the UFC due to his poor performances.
The lowest point of Alexander's career came at UFC Fight Night 13 when James Irvin knocked him out with a Superman punch only eight seconds into the fight.
Before you start screaming about how you knew Kimbo was going to be a failure in the UFC, please recognize that I'm not talking about his stint with Zuffa.
When Internet sensation Kimbo Slice announced a move into mixed martial arts, few originally expected that he would do well. Then he started beating fighters that people knew.
In an amateur fight, Slice submitted pro boxer Ray Mercer in little more than one minute. At that point, the man born Kevin Ferguson decided that it was time to turn pro.
Winning a trio of fights in Elite XC, Slice was finishing guys like Tank Abbott and fighters with 20 professional bouts like Bo Cantrell and James Thompson. While none of those fighters were on their way to a championship, it was a solid start for a man who was labeled a joke by many.
Slice was the face of Elite XC and was squaring off with former UFC champion Ken Shamrock on the final show in promotional history when Shamrock was forced from the fight on a few hours notice.
Instead of fighting Shamrock, a burned-out legend who was on a five-fight losing streak and hadn't won a fight in four years, Kimbo met a young and hungry Seth Petruzelli.
In only 14 seconds, Slice found out exactly how hard a professional fighter can hit as he crumbled to the floor in his first professional loss.
The Elite XC organization died along with any thoughts that Kimbo could actually be the next big thing.
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