Brock Lesnar, Jon Jones and the 20 Most Overhyped Fighters of All Time
You know that overhyped feeling when you feel it.
A given person is overhyped when just reading their name causes a dull throb to rise up behind your eyeballs. But seeing as how the nine-headed hydra that is our national media (not to mention the audiences it serves) are always hungry, these days that overhyped feeling is a symptom as common as the sniffles.
MMA is no different, even though it might happen on a smaller scale than it does with, say, actors. Nevertheless, within MMA circles, fighters are overhyped all the time and for all sorts of reasons.
What follows is a list of the 20 biggest offenders.
I should note at this point that overhyped and overrated are not the same thing. But they're also not mutually exclusive.
Fighters are on this list because the attention and/or adulation has gotten too big. What qualifies it as "too big?" Well, Johnny, it could be a low degree of accomplishments in relation to the attention. But it could also be because the attention is too full of hyperbole ("HE'S THE GREATEST EVER!"). Or, it could just be a simple case of sheer volume.
Are you with me? OK then. So read on, and please enjoy.
20. Joe Lauzon
Buoyed in part by a fun back story (he was your company's computer guy until he went full time with his training) and an enjoyable turn on "The Ultimate Fighter 5," Lauzon has built up a profile somewhat higher than what would befit someone based on what he's earned in the Octagon alone.
Yes, the shocking 2006 upset win over Jens Pulver was terrific. But how long can one live on one win and a bio page alone?
I like Lauzon, too, but he has yet to beat a bona fide contender (despite getting more than one chance) and has dropped two of three since the start of 2010.
That market may have corrected itself, however, as Lauzon is now scheduled for an undercard bout with Curt Warburton this June.
19. Diego Sanchez
He has had some great fights and great wins, and more may be to come. But his hype seems to run into the red zone at inopportune moments.
The attention went into overdrive in 2009 when Sanchez moved down to lightweight, and it gained even more steam after he pulled off two terrific wins over Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida.
When it came time to go for the belt, Diego's bout with B.J. Penn had its own segment on "UFC Primetime." But after the battle was all said and done, it was evident Sanchez had walked into a buzzsaw. And I mean that almost literally. After the fight, it looked like his face had been hit with a buzzsaw.
A lackluster loss against John Hathaway followed, and Sanchez was on his way out of the division with his tail between his legs. Back at welterweight, he has performed reasonably well, but lost another five quarts of blood along the way to a dodgy decision win over Martin Kampmann.
Sanchez will always be on the UFC radar thanks to his fan-friendly style, his quirky personality and, yes, his talent. But in the mainstream public, he may be just as well known for screaming and bleeding as he is for winning.
18. Rolles Gracie
The Gracie surname will probably always carry a certain magic in the world of MMA. They're the Adamses and the Kennedys rolled into one.
So no surprise, then, that more than a little hype accompanied Rolles Gracie into the Octagon in 2010. Unfortunately, once inside that Octagon, at UFC 109, the hype couldn't help Gracie fight, and he was dominated by fellow heavyweight Joey Beltran. He hasn't fought in the UFC since.
Admittedly, he didn't get nearly the hype that some of the others on this list received. Then again, when compared against everyone else who went 0-1 in their UFC career, it was pretty substantial nonetheless.
17. Jason "Mayhem" Miller
News came down recently that Miller will join the UFC.
Hopefully, for Mayhem's sake, this run ends better than his last tour, when in 2005, he was sliced and diced by a certain Georges St-Pierre.
With his ever-so-slightly outgoing personality, Miller is no stranger (or enemy) to the hype machine. He hosts MTV's Bully Beatdown. He's on Sirius Radio. He eats microphones the way Tony Soprano eats cannolis.
And let's face it, there's nothing wrong with that. But it can lead to outsized expectations, especially when we're talking about a fighter whose last win game in Japan over a 41-year-old Kazushi Sakuraba. I mean, he's a good middleweight and all but not good enough to justify the gallons of ink on its own merit.
We'll see how Miller fares against Aaron Simpson at UFC 132.
16. Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto
Yamamoto may have been a victim of his own dizzying success.
Over in Japan, he became one of the nation's most popular fighters after knocking off guys like Caol Uno and Royler Gracie. It went to another level when he scored a four-second knockout over Kazuyuki Miyata...good for the fastest knockout in MMA history.
Yamamoto suffered a knee injury, and when he finally returned after a 15-month layoff—entering the quaterfinals of the DREAM promotion's Featherweight Grand Prix tournament—it was amid almost frenzied levels of anticipation.
Kid was unable to live up to the hype, losing to Joe Warren. He split his next two before bolting for the UFC, where another much-hyped debut, this time against Demetrious Johnson, ended in defeat. He'll attempt to pick himself up off the mat—and get back in the win column away from the glare of constant hype—against Chris Cariaso at UFC 130.
15. Dan Hardy
Many conversations about overhyped MMA fighters seem to carry a slightly international flavor. Whether that's a coincidence, a by-product of a broader attempt to globalize the sport by putting international competitors in the biggest possible spotlight or perhaps a flaw in the debate itself is open to interpretation.
And yet, here comes another good example. Presenting Dan Hardy.
The stone-fisted British kickboxer burst onto the scene with his mohawk and his punk rock swagger and started kicking people's butts. The problem was, those butts weren't often attached to especially noteworthy fighters.
Nevertheless, Hardy parlayed his marketability and a close decision win over Marcus Davis into a spot in a welterweight title eliminator fight, in which he defeated Mike Swick.
Though he fought valiantly against St-Pierre, he never mustered any offense. After losing that, he still found himself in the big shark tank but dropped two to Carlos Condit and Anthony Johnson, and neither was all that close.
There has been some noise that perhaps Hardy does not, at least for the moment, belong in the UFC. Something tells me that's a long shot for this slugger from Nottingham.
14. Denis Kang
His name doesn't get thrown around nearly as much as it used to. But the point is, it probably shouldn't have been thrown around much in the first place.
I'm sorry to break the news here, but a Spirit MC heavyweight title does not a great fighter make. And some people seemed to think it did.
Kang rode not insignificant hype heading into the UFC. Once there, however, he tapped to Alan Belcher and was stopped by Michael Bisping, with a win over Xavier Foupa-Pokam—his only UFC victory—sandwiched in between.
Looking back, the hype on Kang is downright baffling. Who did he defeat who was noteworthy? I'm not even being rhetorical—give me a name. Murilo Rua? Marvin Eastman? Akihiro Gono? It's really hard to see what justified all the fuss in the first place.
13. Yoshihiro "Sexyama" Akiyama
One of the greatest fighters to ever come out of Korea. Or so I keep hearing.
He has some great wins but is 1-2 in the Octagon. An upcoming bout with Vitor Belfort should be interesting. In the meantime, fans keep hearing more about his previous victories, his celebrity status in Asia and his awesome supermodel wife.
You know what else would be awesome? If he won a fight in the UFC. I bet that would do wonders for his singing career.
12. Michael Bisping
Classic bully...he whips the bad guys but gets his tail kicked when he picks on someone his own size.
Against Elvis Sinosic or Jorge Rivera, the guy's a machine. Against Dan Henderson or Wanderlei Silva, he's a bag of mealy apples.
But more power to him. He's the most popular fighter in Britain and will be the face of MMA there for the foreseeable future. They'll feed him a few more winnable fights and build him back up. Then he'll lose to Chael Sonnen, and like the seasons themselves, the cycle will begin anew.
In the meantime, new standing rule: he shouldn't be allowed to say the words "Anderson Silva" in an interview ever again.
11. Tito Ortiz
Great fighter, but he faked injuries and ducked Chuck, all while churning out prodigious amounts of self-hype.
A very public feud with Dana White helped, as did the fact that he is one of only three fighters to coach on "The Ultimate Fighter" twice.
He's known today just as much as a pioneer of hyping as he is of fighting. Maybe that's why the UFC is keeping the 36-year-old around despite the fact that he's winless in his last five contests.
10. Houston Alexander
"Houston Alexander is for real!"
No disrespect to Rogan and Goldberg, who have a job to do and who (I think) generally do it pretty well. But their breathless call after Alexander knocked out Alessio Sakara kind of says it all.
After victimizing Keith Jardine and then Sakara, Alexander was on the fast escalator to the penthouse. Too bad, then, that he lost five of his next six—including the one in which he was infamously outstrategized by one Kimbo Slice.
9. Todd Duffee
Even Duffee himself admitted the hype train went a little off the rails after his UFC-record seven-second knockout of Tim Hague.
In a way, then, maybe Duffee's two subsequent losses—by knockout, no less, with the second coming in only 19 seconds to Alistair Overeem—were just his way of walking it like he talked it.
8. Vitor Belfort
The guy's nickname is "The Phenom." So that gets us started.
Though Belfort has won many victories and remains a formidable opponent, the hype always seems to outpace him when it matters most.
He won the UFC light heavyweight title in 2004 over Randy Couture but lost it one fight later...to Randy Couture. He dropped two contests to Alistair Overeem, one to Chuck Liddell and one to Tito Ortiz. And we all know what happened—The Front Kick.
At this point, barring something unforeseen, it looks like Belfort may go down as the Dan Marino of mixed martial arts. Nothing wrong with that, but when everyone pencils you in for a lifetime of winning championships, it's hard to ever meet the hype.
7. Fedor Emelianenko
Before you throw your computer through the window, please remember:
I'm not saying he's not a great fighter.
I'm not saying he's not a great fighter.
I'm not saying he's not a great fighter.
Because Fedor is an awesome fighter. He might be the greatest of all time.
That doesn't mean he can walk on water. Nor does it mean he can smite all your enemies, change the Earth's rotation or conquer death. It doesn't mean he is living tissue over metal endoskeleton.
A lot of the time, overhype is a product of the promotion (they are called "promotions," after all), the media, the casual fan or the actual fighter. In this case, the hardcore fans bear much of the responsibility. The serious Fedor adorers (or "Fedorers," as I like to call them as of right this second) sometimes almost refuse to accept that the man is just a man.
He's great. But he ain't that great.
6. Jon Jones
It's really, really hard to be the light heavyweight champion of the world and STILL be overhyped.
Somehow, though, Jon Jones has pulled off the trick.
Although feats of great skill are apparently not new for Jon Jones. After all, Jon Jones stops would-be thieves single-handedly. I heard Jon Jones killed a bear when he was only three. Jon Jones pulled my granny out of a burning apartment building, then stayed around to fix my leaky toilet.
Jon Jones, Jon Jones Jon Jones?
Jon...Jones Jones Jon Jones.
5. Brandon Vera
The ultimate illustration of a phenom who fell short of expectations.
Brandon "The Truth" Vera came in with hype that matched what B.J. "The Prodigy" Penn had experienced when he first hit the scene.
But that's about all these two have in common.
Though Vera came storming out of the gate with eight straight wins, capped by a first-round knockout of Frank Mir, he has gone on to lose five of his last nine, and it would be six if Thiago Silva hadn't been caught falsifying a urine sample after their fight in January.
Expected to contend for titles at both heavyweight and light heavyweight, what really materialized is a gatekeeper who, at age 33, may be on the downside of his career.
I say we void his nickname and throw it back into circulation.
4. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
It's a recurring theme. Like Houston Alexander or Todd Duffee, Sokoudjou became "the next big thing" in the wake of earning a quick and decisive knockout as an underdog. In his case, it was over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira back in 2007, which he encored by stopping the vaunted Ricardo Arona.
The hype machine was throwing off gears by the time Sokoudjou entered the UFC. But once there, it became evident that the quick KO was really his only mode of offense.
He went 1-2 in the UFC before getting the hook, and since then, has gone on to completely justify the UFC's decision with a 6-6 record in the MMA hinterlands. To this day, his name is synonymous with the idea of a hype machine that got waaay too far in front of a fighter whose ultimate skill set was uncertain, at best.
3. Brock Lesnar
He does a lot of interviews. He has a background as a showman. He is now hosting "The Ultimate Fighter."
Like it or not, he's the face of the UFC. Maybe of the entire sport.
Oh, and according to an ESPN study, he's the highest paid athlete in MMA.
And all this after only seven fights.
So there you go.
2. Gina Carano
Credit where it's due: Carano is a good fighter.
But let's also be fair: her 7-1 record is not what is landing her movie deals.
It's a fact of life that female fighters will always be more susecptible to overhype (and just general evaluation) based on appearance than will men. Quick...name the handsomest male fighter. You can't do it...and it's not just because you're so red-blooded. It's because that's not a metric for evaluation. With women, for better or worse, it most certainly is.
I suppose you can't blame Carano for capitalizing. But you sure can call her overhyped.
1. Kimbo Slice
Maybe you've heard of him.
If not, here's the synopsis. One bad-looking dude fought some other bad-looking dudes in a backyard in Miami. Someone put it up on YouTube, and the world of combat sports changed forever.
EliteXC tried to cash in. When the athletic commission wouldn't let him fight a toothless squirrel, they gave him James Thompson. CBS analyst Gus Johnson called him the Tiger Woods of MMA.
Kimbo won. The world partied.
For his next fight, EliteXC threw in Seth Petruzelli—that's right, The Smoothie King—after The Hamburgler backed out due to injury.
BIG mistake, EliteXC.
After losing to Petruzelli in about seven seconds, Slice went on to enjoy a turn on "The Ultimate Fighter," where he acquitted himself well as a fairly affable person with a real desire to get better in the sport. He built a 1-1 record in the UFC before they cut him loose.
I am fairly confident that, when it comes to the average person on the street, Slice is still one of the first four or five names to come up when you ask them to name MMA fighters. And that's just the way it is, baby.