Cathal Pendred and the 10 Best UFC Comebacks of 2014
Cathal Pendred was on the verge of having his UFC dreams come to an end.
After falling short of the finals on The Ultimate Fighter 19, Pendred was knocked down and hurt badly in his official UFC debut against Mike King. With a few more unanswered punches, the Irishman would have gone the way of so many unsuccessful TUF veterans before him.
However, Pendred turned things around and ended up winning on July 19. In doing so, Pendred likely saved his UFC career. He's likely earned at least a couple of more trips to the Octagon and could now stand alongside Conor McGregor as a face of Irish MMA.
Pendred hasn't been the only fighter to bounce back in the middle of a UFC bout over recent months. Here are the 10 best comebacks through the first seven months of the 2014 calendar.
10. Fabio Maldonado vs. Gian Villante
In March, Fabio Maldonado welcomed Gian Villante to Brazil for a light heavyweight matchup that promised brutality.
Early on, Maldonado had a hard time utilizing his boxing skills, as he surrendered two takedowns in the opening stanza. Villante made the most of those takedowns, maintaining control of the top position for all but 15 seconds of the first round.
Despite being completely shut down in the opening frame, Maldonado stormed back in a big way.
The Brazilian landed 131 significant strikes over the final two rounds. Mixing shots to the head and body, Maldonado kept Villante guessing and wore the American down with punches to the midsection. As the fight wore on, Villante was barely able to force a decision, which ultimately favored Maldonado.
9. Rashid Magomedov vs. Tony Martin
Rashid Magomedov didn't waste much time making his presence known in the UFC lightweight division.
Despite a slow start in his UFC debut, Magomedov started his career with the promotion by coming from behind to beat Tony Martin.
The Russian spent more than two minutes underneath Martin in the opening stanza. At one point, it looked like Magomedov would be forced to tap, as Martin secured a tight armbar. However, Magomedov was able to escape the submission attempt and survived the first round.
Although he was nearly finished by Martin, Highlander found a way to turn things around. Magomedov bounced back and won the final two rounds to secure a decision win.
8. Nico Musoke vs. Viscardi Andrade
With a submission win over Alessio Sakara in his UFC debut, Nico Musoke looked to be a fighter with big potential. However, the Swede had a rough start to his second showing inside the Octagon.
In the opening round of his bout with Viscardi Andrade, Musoke was knocked down and spent more than two minutes underneath the Brazilian. After stumbling out of the blocks, Musoke made some solid adjustments heading into the second stanza.
Although he had some solid striking performances prior to joining the UFC roster, Musoke decided it made more sense to utilize his wrestling against Andrade. The change in game plan completely turned the fight around, as Musoke scored an important takedown in each of the final two rounds and controlled his opponent for more than seven of the bout's final 10 minutes.
Musoke's strong finish allowed him to overtake Andrade on the scorecards and remain undefeated inside the Octagon. Kelvin Gastelum recently handed Musoke his first UFC loss, but the Swedish welterweight showed he has the ability to make changes and improve.
7. Yoel Romero vs. Derek Brunson
When Olympic wrestling silver medalist Yoel Romero was matched up with fellow wrestler Derek Brunson, it appeared the Cuban had an easy win in front of him.
Brunson showed that MMA wrestling is not all about amateur wrestling credentials, though.
Surprisingly, Romero surrendered three takedowns to Brunson over the first two rounds. With his takedown defense putting him in a hole, Romero needed a finish in the third round to win.
Romero came out firing in the final stanza, landing more than double the significant strikes his opponent connected with. Eventually, Brunson was no longer able to weather the storm and curled up underneath Romero's powerful ground-and-pound.
The come-from-behind knockout gave Romero a third straight win. Now with four in a row, Romero is closing in on a shot at the middleweight championship.
6. Jorge Masvidal vs. Daron Cruickshank
Daron Cruickshank might not be a contender in the lightweight division, but he's proven to be about as dangerous as any 155-pounder when standing.
At UFC on Fox 12, Jorge Masvidal learned how scary Cruickshank's striking can be when he was knocked down in the first round. The violent knockdown flattened Masvidal and probably would have brought an end to the fight for most lightweights.
Tough as they come, though, Masvidal bounced back up and was the better fighter from that point forward.
Masvidal actually ended up landing more strikes than Cruickshank in the first round. While the scorecards showed that the judges awarded Cruickshank that round, it didn't end up mattering. Gamebred owned the second and third rounds, spending a good amount of time on top to negate Cruickshank's stand-up abilities.
In the end, Masvidal did more than enough to gain an edge on the scorecards, completing one of the more impressive comebacks in recent memory.
5. Dustin Kimura vs. Jon Delos Reyes
In January, Dustin Kimura welcomed Jon Delos Reyes to the Octagon.
Although Reyes was the one making his UFC debut, he did not get out to a slow start at all. The Guam native knocked Kimura down early and took the top position.
However, following Kimura to the ground proved to be costly. Once he regained his bearings, Kimura was able to lock up an armbar, which forced Reyes to tap.
While it was far from a flawless performance, Kimura impressed in his ability to recover and turn the tables in a hurry.
4. Abel Trujillo vs. Jamie Varner
Jamie Varner dragged Abel Trujillo into deep waters at UFC 169, but the Blackzilian survived.
In the first round, Varner threatened Trujillo with a guillotine choke that looked to be secured. However, Trujillo fought it off long enough to reach the second stanza, but Varner didn't let off the gas.
The WEC veteran came out swinging in the second frame and had Trujillo retreating. Varner got a little too wild in going for the finish, though, and Trujillo capitalized with a well-placed right hand to the chin.
Varner flailed to the canvas, leaving Trujillo with one of the more impressive MMA performances 2014 has seen.
3. Cathal Pendred vs. Mike King
Cathal Pendred's first official round inside the Octagon could not have gone much worse against Mike King.
The Irishman was knocked down, taken down, controlled for more than two minutes and nearly finished. However, Pendred found a way to survive and gave himself an opportunity to turn things around in the second stanza.
In fact, that's exactly what Pendred did.
At 26 years old, Pendred ensured he would keep his UFC career going by scoring two takedowns and eventually submitting King in the second round. Had Pendred continued on the path he was going down in the first frame, he likely would have been released from the UFC roster.
2. Matt Brown vs. Erick Silva
With six wins in a row, Matt Brown needed to keep the momentum going against Erick Silva in May to maintain his hope for a shot at the 170-pound championship.
Early on, it was not looking good.
Silva knocked Brown down in the opening round and spent more than two minutes on top. One of the toughest guys competing inside the Octagon, Brown wouldn't go down easy, though.
The Immortal stormed back with takedowns and ground-and-pound. Taking advantage of Silva's conditioning problems, Brown won the battle of attrition and finished the Brazilian in the third stanza.
In beating Silva, Brown earned a spot in a title-shot eliminator against Robbie Lawler. Although he lost to Lawler, Brown proved he's one of the very best in the welterweight class.
1. Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua
Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua met in a rematch in March. While there was little chance the legends could match their first meeting, they sure gave it their best try.
Shogun overwhelmed Henderson early on. The Brazilian scored knockdowns in the first and second rounds. At points, it was getting hard to watch Rua beating down his 43-year-old adversary.
However, a fighter who can never be counted out, Hendo somehow stayed conscious as he was pummeled on through the first 10 minutes of his rematch with Rua. One of the heaviest hitters in MMA, Henderson was simply hoping to land one shot that could turn things around for him.
In the third round, the opportunity came, and Henderson blasted Rua with a right hook after breaking a clinch. The punch broke Rua's nose and sent the Brazilian to the canvas. Henderson followed up with a few punches to cap what will likely remain the best comeback of 2014.