15 Minutes: The 6 Greatest Examples Of Squandered Potential in The UFC Part 1
Andy Warhol had a famous quote about everyone eventually being famous for 15 minutes. This is no more apparent than in today's times with no talent reality stars become cultural icons for a few months (Kardashians or Jersey Shore Cast), or even people who did heroic things (Sully Sullenberger). MMA is no different in how a fighter can become famous after one fight or moment, it comes down to what they do with that fame.
Some guys can live up to the potential placed upon them from journalists and fans like Rampage Jackson after he powerbombed Ricardo Arona or Chuck Lidell in his prime with his devastating use of the overhand right to knockout his opponents. Yet there are guys who have one moment of excellence and try to ride that gravy train as long as they can even though they are nowhere near the level people are hoping that they reach. This list is about the worst examples of those men.
6. Houston Alexander
MMA record: 11-6-0-1
UFC record: 2-4
Houston Alexander was looking to be a serious contender in the UFC light heavyweight division. His debut against heavily favored Keith Jardine ended 48 seconds into the first round as Houston completely leveled "The Dean of Mean". He followed this up with another first round finish, this time a TKO over Alessio Sakara. Two finishes, both under one and a half minutes, showed UFC brass that Alexander might be ready to step up in level of competition. Enter Thiago Silva, and there ended the Houston Alexander hype train as he was knocked out in the first round.
This would be followed by an embarrassing KO loss to James Irvin at only 8 seconds into their match and a first round submission loss to Eric Schafer. He would leave the company after this third straight loss only to come back the next year to fight Kimbo Slice. Many thought that this would be an all out slugfest like what Kimbo's Internet videos were. Instead the fans saw a overly cautious Houston who seemed to be fighting to just try and get more fights in the UFC, he would end up losing that fight by unanimous decision and was cut again. Since leaving the UFC he has gone on to have a 2-1 record with his most recent win being over Sokoudjou at Shark Fights 13.
5. Todd Duffee
MMA record: 6-2
UFC record: 1-1
Ah the man with the UFC record for fastest knockout at 7 seconds against Tim Hague. The hype train started almost immediately for the young fighter, he was said to be an eventual UFC champion, some even putting him at eventual GOAT status. So when he was matched up against Mike Russow for his next fight, many felt that this was a gimme win that would allow the undefeated Duffee to pad his record a bit before moving up a level in competition.
Duffee dominated the the first two rounds of the fight and all but had the fight won until being knocked out cold by a punch from Russow, putting the breaks on the hype train for Duffee. Even casual fans of MMA know that more often than not, one loss usually isn't enough to totally destroy a fighter's career. But things are not always as they seem, as three months later Duffee was released from the UFC. The reasons ranged from Duffee wanting to get a part time job to him having behavior problems behind the scenes, which eventually became the official UFC reason for his release, so the hype train is now slowed to a crawl.
Once releases, Duffee signed on to fight Abe Wagner, you know, the guy best known for being on the wrong end of one of the worst beatings the entire history of the Ultimate Fighter where EMTs could see his skull through the cut on his head. Again fans saw this for what it was, Duffee trying to get him back on a win streak by taking on an apparent tomato can. Then came the point where the Todd Duffee hype train gets completely thrown off of the rails. One very short notice he took a huge leap in opponent level by deciding to fight against current Strikeforce Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem at Dream's Dynamite 2010!! on New Year's Eve. This really showed Duffee's ego as he felt he could take on Overeem on such short notice. Well Overeem decided to prove a point that night and knocked Duffee out in just 19 seconds into the fight.
So from being a potential heavyweight great to two straight losses in under a year, the last being an embarrassing knockout to an opponent who was far more experienced than he was, Todd Duffee has to focus on rebuilding his career by working in smaller promotions and fighting against guys more in his skill range.
4. Brandon Vera
MMA record: 11-6
UFC record: 7-6
No you aren't seeing a photo shopped picture, that is Brandon Vera obliterating former UFC Heavyweight Champion Frank Mir. What's even more impressive is that this was Vera's fourth straight win in the UFC. Brandon Vera showed that he had the skill to succeed and had the bravado behind it claiming that he, not BJ Penn or Randy Couture, would be the first man in UFC history to hold titles in two different weight classes simultaneously. Though the idea of him being the future of the promotion came into question when he had a year long contract dispute with the UFC. Upon his return he would go on to lose two fights in a row, first to Tim Sylvia and then Fabricio Werdum.
Vera then made the move down to Light Heavyweight and won his debut at that class against Reese Andy but followed that with a loss to Keith Jardine. Vera would bounce back in a way with two wins but the previous losses seemed to have put a damper on the luster Vera originally had as they weren't as big a level of competition as the guys he had fought in the past.
Then came three straight losses for "The Truth", first to Randy Couture in what many saw as a controversial decision. His next loss was to up and coming fighter Jon Jones via first round TKO and what was worse, his face was broken in three places. His next loss was to Thiago Silva who was returning to the Octagon after being out for a year due to injury. The fight went the distance and Vera loss by unanimous decision and had received a horribly broken nose. What some people have written from watching the fight was that Vera didn't look like the confident fighter who was going to be a dual champion from a few years ago, but rather a guy just happy to be fighting in a big promotion. The end finally came when Vera was released a few days after this fight.
3. Gabriel Gonzaga
MMA record: 11-6
UFC record: 7-5
Above is one of the most memorable head kicks in MMA history as Gabriel Gonzaga knocked out the man who made a career on head kicks, Mirko Cro Cop. This win gave Gonzaga a title shot against Randy Couture for the Heavyweight belt. He would go on to lose the fight via TKO in the third round and then lose to Fabricio Werdum also by TKO.
The reason that he is on this list is he would eventually end up being a gatekeeper for the Heavyweight division, becoming a stepping stone for title contenders Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos. He was eventually cut from the UFC after a decision loss to Brendan Schaub a few months ago. Gonzaga will always be known for the match with Cro Cop, but unfortunately he was never able to keep that momentum going and just floundered in the UFC heavyweight division as it was growing into a loaded division with many talented fighters.
2. Keith Jardine
MMA record: 16-9-1
UFC record: 6-7
Here is one of the two most important victories in the UFC career of Keith Jardine as he became the first person in the UFC to finish "the Original Ultimate Fighter" Forrest Griffin when he beat him via TKO in the first round of their fight and causing Griffin to cry in his corner after the loss. After this win, many thought he was going to move up in competition level maybe be a title contender with a couple more wins, Jardine being one of those people.
Yet when he was scheduled to the debuting Houston Alexander, Jardine would tell anyone who would listen that Houston basically didn't deserve to be in the Octagon with him. Well he would be forced to eat his words as Alexander knocked him out 48 seconds into their fight.
But there was still hope for "The Dean of Mean" as he pulled out the biggest win of his career when he beat Chuck Liddell in his next fight. This would be the last big win in his UFC career as Jardine would go 1-5 in his final fights with the UFC, three of those losses coming by knockout to Wanderlei Silva, Thiago Silva, and Ryan Bader. Jardine was finally cut after a loss to Matt Hamill on The Ultimate Figher 11 Finale. Jardine would then continue his losing streak after losing to Trevor Prangley at Shark Fights 13.
But the insult to injury wasn't done yet for Jardine. He would finally end his 5 fight losing streak after he beat Francisco France for Nemesis Fighting in the Dominican Republic. Now it may seem that it's good that he finally won, but the news behind the scenes is truly depressing to hear. Not many of the fighters on the card, Jardine included, were not paid for their work, there were no judges for the fights even though Jardine won by decision, the time for rounds was held by someone's cell phone, and worst of all, Jardine was accused of greasing in the fight. Talk about hitting rock bottom for a guy who was at one time considered to be a potential title contender in the UFC.
1. Matt Serra
MMA record: 11-7
UFC record: 7-7
The man responsible for the biggest upset in UFC history is also the man who squandered that potential is one of the fastest ways imaginable. Matt Serra had a mediocre UFC career, beating some mid level fighters, but never was able to really dominate upper level fighters like BJ Penn and a young Karo Parisyan. This would lead to his rise as he became a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback. Here he would avenge his first KO loss to Shonie Carter on his way to beating Chris Lytle in the finals to win a sponsorship deal and a title shot against current Welterweight Champ Georges St. Pierre. Going into the fight some odds makers had the underdog Serra at 8:1 odds. Then Serra shocked the world and even more so GSP when he won via TKO in the first round.
It is here where Serra could have proved how great of a fighter he was rather than his win being a fluke. He would go on to coach the sixth season of The Ultimate Fighter against title contender Matt Hughes. Serra's team would win six of the 8 qualifying matches, but would lose after that where both of Hughes' remaining fighters would both make it to the finals. Serra would then have to withdraw from his title match with Hughes due to a herniated disk. Hughes would go on to fight GSP for the interim title, which GSP won. During the buildup to their rematch Serra would go on a Chael Sonnen-esque trash talking tour. Unfortunately he would do worse than Sonnen did as he lost the title to GSP via TKO in his first and only defense, showing that his first win against "Rush" was indeed a fluke.
Serra would then go 1-2 in his next three fights; losing to Matt Hughes, knocking out an over the hill Frank Trigg, and then losing in a rematch to Chris Lytle. There is no other bigger example of how someone could squander their potential as bad as Matt Serra had after he won the Welterweight title.