UFC: 10 Veterans Who Are Almost Done
Veterans in any sport walk a fine line. They're valuable in team building and useful for their experience, but oftentimes they wake up one day and are suddenly way too old and slow to compete at the highest level.
It's easier to hide in a team sport but almost impossible to avoid. In a sport where that veteran performs alone, there's never a doubt. When that performance has the potential to result in a concussive blow and years taken off one's life, it's even clearer.
Here are 10 veterans currently plying their trade in the Octagon who could be reaching the end of the road.
Pickett is, to put it mildly, a warrior. He's never been in a boring fight and was a big name as a lighter-weight competitor way before it was cool. (It still might not be, if you ask the average fan.)
That said, years of hard miles and tough battles have slowed him, and an attempted reinvention as a flyweight hasn't been working out. He's 1-1 in the weight class with a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over Neil Seery and a reasonably uncompetitive loss to Ian McCall.
Turning 36 this year, Pickett is likely nearing the end.
Maynard is an example of a guy who kind of woke up one day and learned that MMA had blown past him. After a legendary trilogy against Frankie Edgar (buoyed obviously by the final two, chaotic meetings) that saw him get knocked out in the third bout, Maynard took some time off.
When he returned, TJ Grant knocked him out violently.
After a little more time off and another return, Maynard suffered another knockout loss. This time Nate Diaz scored the highlight.
Maynard is heading for his late 30s now and had a good run as a top contender, but he's not likely to be a champion and probably won't even reach the heights of the Edgar days again.
One of the better fighter-athlete combinations to come out of the early days of The Ultimate Fighter, Koscheck was a pure wrestler when he arrived in 2005. By the time he settled in as one of the best welterweights alive, he was more of a pretty good kickboxer.
He fought a lot in the UFC and made a lot of money as a result, not the least of which came through his feud with then-champ Georges St-Pierre. Now, he's been out of action for all of 2014 and doesn't seem in any hurry to come back thanks to three losses in a row.
You may see him again, but the days of the 36-year-old fighting three or four times per year are definitely over.
Franklin hasn't competed since 2012 and hasn't been truly active since 2009. The former middleweight champion lost his title to Anderson Silva in 2006 and struggled to regain his form afterward, alternating wins and losses for the better part of five years outside of a couple of two-fight win streaks.
In the eyes of some the 39-year-old is already done, serving as an executive with OneFC in Asia. Per Submission Radio, rumblings persist that he intends to get back in the cage one last time as a UFC competitor, but every day that passes is a day closer to that becoming a full-on pipe dream.
Henderson has struggled over the past couple of years, as even the fights he's won have shown evidence of age catching up to him.
He holds wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Shogun Rua (twice) since 2011, but he was badly hurt in all of those bouts. He's also lost four of his last five and hasn't been wildly competitive since a narrow loss to Lyoto Machida in early 2013.
After being manhandled by Daniel Cormier, he's heading back to middleweight, where he really should have been all along. If the 43-year-old isn't successful in short order there, you may see him pack it in.
Speaking of Rua, who's been the other half of two of Henderson's most remarkable wins, it's easy to see that he may be on his way out as well.
Though he's not chronologically as old as many of the men listed here, the 32-year-old put more hard time on his body than almost anyone in the sport. For the better part of a decade, he was as pure a killer as MMA had, and the type of zombie who couldn't be put down no matter what you hit him in the head with.
Now he's lost three of four bouts and is showing the wear of his approach to combat. He may have a few more left in him, but it's not reasonable to expect him to go to war with the divisional elite three times per year.
Silva is a weird one, as he looked like he was very much done as far back as 2011, when Chris Leben starched him cold in seconds at UFC 132.
Except months later he smashed Cung Le and then had a competitive bout with Rich Franklin in Brazil. A year later he put on one of the wildest brawls in UFC history against Brian Stann.
Unfortunately, he's since been entangled in a PED scandal that might put a significant damper on his career going forward. It's not a guarantee he won't see the cage again, but at 38 years old with nearly 20 years of unadulterated in-cage pandemonium on his body, the former Pride champion might end his career with a whimper.
This might be the saddest two-for-one deal in history, as both Nogueira brothers have looked recently like it might be their time to go.
Big Nog, one of the game's most beloved legends, suffered one of the nastiest KO losses ever seen when Roy Nelson bested him in April. Minotauro hasn't looked good in a fight since 2011. The 38-year-old has taken as much punishment as anyone in the sport ever has, and it's showing in a serious way.
Though he's been battered less than his brother, Rogerio Nogueira also looks like his time might be coming. If the months of in-gym injuries weren't a telltale sign, the 44-second stoppage loss to Anthony Johnson at UFC on Fox 12 sure was. While Big Nog's issue is damage taken, Lil' Nog's may simply be a case of running out of time.
Either way, these two are nearing the end of the line.
One of Big Nog's greatest UFC rivals has also looked like a man nearing an exit from the sport in recent showings. Frank Mir, the polarizing former world champion, has lost four in a row in the UFC and likely only missed being cut from the roster based on a thin division and substantial name recognition.
One saving grace is that he's been losing to divisional elites and could easily still hang with fringe top-10 guys. He's plenty talented on the ground and tends to add enough new wrinkles while standing to keep things interesting.
Still, he's 35 years old and has been in some rough fights, so he won't be around forever.