Does Anyone Care to See Brendan Schaub Compete in the Octagon Again?

Matt MolgaardCorrespondent IIIFebruary 25, 2013

Feb 23, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA;   Brendan Schaub (red gloves) and Lavar Johnson (blue gloves) during their UFC heavyweight bout at the Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Brendan Schaub seems like a cool, laid back dude. He’s the kind of guy you could sit around on a chilly Sunday afternoon and watch a football game with and enjoy every moment of his company.

But is he a fighter that fans truly care to see compete inside the UFC’s Octagon?

When Brendan gets hit, it sucks the wind right from the sails. Roy Nelson proved that back at The Ultimate Fighter 10 Finale, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira proved it at UFC 134 and Ben Rothwell dealt us another reminder at UFC 145.

Anyone competing in the heavyweight division is likely to take a fall if they eat a flush punch from a man tipping the scales at well over 200 pounds, but Schaub’s chin has begun to look suspect.

When you’ve been knocked out three times inside of 12 professional bouts, it’s safe to call your durability into question. As likable as Brendan may be (arguable for many), he’s not a rugged enough competitor to absorb heavy punishment from a capable striker.

A fading Mirko Cro Cop just about ended Schaub’s night at UFC 128. Somehow “The Hybrid” found his resolve, gutted it out and put away the fading legend with less than 90 seconds remaining in the fight.

While a win over Cro Cop sounds—deceptively—impressive, Schaub’s victory really wasn’t in the slightest.

“The Hybrid” took a beating in the Cro Cop fight, battered frequently by a man who presents but a shadow of the threat he once carried into competition. But, isn’t that why Schaub called Cro Cop out to begin with? To add a marquee name to his resume, despite the fact that Cro Cop entered that bout after accumulating a 2-2 record in his previous four outings?

It was a tactical move from Schaub which just so happened to lack tact, and honor.

After earning a unanimous decision nod over Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 121, it seemed “The Hybrid” arranged a unique plan of divisional ascent: knock off a couple of fighters who had seen their better days fade like a memorable sunset.

His plan worked against Gonzaga, who had hit a career low after dropping two of three bouts prior to meeting Schaub. He managed the same against Cro Cop, whose greatest win inside the Octagon was a submission victory over the one-dimensional Pat Barry, and as his ego grew, he attempted that maneuver once more, calling out Nogueira, who’d at the time suffered two fairly recent defeats to Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir.

The point is, Schaub thought that beating former elite fighters, clearly past their physical primes, would boost his divisional stock. With each legend Schaub toppled, his ego grew astronomically.

But while that ego grew, the same cannot be said of his genuine confidence. Not once did Schaub motion for a bout with a current top five ranked foe. He showed virtually no interest in a rematch with Nelson, who cleaned his clock in 2009. But he certainly carried himself as though he believed himself to be a champion in the making.

Schaub targeted what he believed to be susceptible opponents. Men who’d seen their better days depart with the haste of a scorned lover. And he thought that approach would lead him to bigger paydays and greater fame

But his master plan backfired at UFC 134 when he was granted the fight he openly pined for: a fight with Nogueira. “Big Nog” hadn’t looked like the submission assassin that ripped through the Pride ranks for years, and Schaub believed he saw an opportunity to capitalize.

Nogueira had designs of his own, standing directly in front of the youngster, firing brutal combinations that eventually rendered Schaub unconscious against the cage in just over three minutes.

“The Hybrid’s” plan of rising to the top by beating physically outmatched foes suddenly lost its foolproof facade. His next bout, a supposed “gimme” fight (in the minds of many pundits, and likely Schaub’s own head as well) against Rothwell, a fringe top-20 heavyweight, didn’t exactly yield success either.

Rothwell turned Schaub into a piece of highlight reel history, as he rendered the Grudge product senseless inside 90 seconds.   

The pudding had been placed on the table, and the proof sat stuck in the congealed center.

Schaub’s early career bravado was poorly misguided. If he believed that outworking fighters on the downslope of their careers would lead him to title contention, he earned himself a rude awakening. An awakening that Rothwell would end by putting him right back to sleep.

This weekend Schaub met tailor-made foe Lavar Johnson in a preliminary bout at UFC 157.

Schaub’s wrestling was figured to be the key in this bout. And it was, as he repeatedly grounded Johnson—who possesses a notoriously unrefined Jiu-Jitsu game—en route to earning a unanimous decision victory.

But what did the fight do for Schaub and his stock as a UFC heavyweight?

He looked quite gun-shy, attempting to avoid every punch Johnson threw in his direction, dragging the fight to the mat at every available opportunity. Good job on dictating the pace and placement of the fight, for that Schaub certainly deserves credit: he fought a smart fight.

But the major disappointment arrived when the crowd realized that Schaub had no intentions of attempting to finish the fight. For a man who’d talked himself through the ceiling just two years prior, Schaub fought like a timid neophyte.

To his credit, he did attempt a pair of chokes that put Johnson in danger briefly, but outside of those two submission attempts, Schaub offered little offense and loads of “lay-and-pray." He failed to uncork heavy ground and pound despite holding top control for extended stretches, instead opting to play for positional comfort—something judges seem to favor heavily, regardless of how much damage is inflicted—and it worked.

But it didn’t win the relatively green former footballer any fans, and it didn’t aid in any drastic leaps in regards to the heavyweight division’s rankings.

What it did was show Schaub’s true colors and current status in the sport. “The Hybrid” has taken to questioning his own durability, and he’s become wary of absorbing punches.

He’s not likely to grasp the evolution he so desires if he continues competing within the UFC’s Octagon.

Schaub’s a fairly young guy with a lot of natural talent. With another half dozen fights against solid B-grade opponents, he may very well be prepared to step up and fight the other young, hungry animals at heavyweight. As it stands, however, he’d be better served competing on the regional circuit, as the competition within the UFC is too threatening at this point in time.

Schaub may be prepared to tackle the serious players north of 205 pounds in the future, but at this time, the UFC is a promotion that demands a level of talent that Schaub simply does not possess.

Should anyone care to see Schaub compete in the Octagon again? Absolutely, but not now. As of today, he’s a mediocre heavyweight who allowed his ego to grow beyond his control, and it’s come back to bite him in the rear in a major, major way.

It’s time to send Schaub back to the minor leagues where he can continue to develop his skills and regain his confidence. If he sticks around the UFC much longer he stands to produce little more than dull fights and savage highlight reel screen time as a victim to superior fighters.

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