Ryan Bader and the 10 Most Disappointing Prospects in the UFC
As they say in life, there is a good side and a bad side to everything—hitting the extremes of each can be a recipe for disaster.
It is no different when it comes to the MMA "hype train."
The good side can carry you quickly to prominence and even a lightning-quick title shot—one that you capitalize on to cement yourself as the next big thing. Right, Jonny Jones?
The bad side can set you up for a colossal letdown, a failure waiting to happen because you get into situations that you aren't quite ready for. The pressure eats you alive, and you can never recover. Right, Brandon Vera?
Hype and expectation can be crushing, but they can also be catalysts to greatness. It can be thrust upon you by others due to your amazing talents, and it can also be self-inflicted by letting your mouth write checks your skills can't cash.
Here is my list of the 10 most disappointing prospects in the UFC.
The first pick on this list is not currently in the UFC organization, but that is the disappointment for me.
Paul Daley is that type of fighter and personality who has everything to succeed in the biggest fighting organization in the world. He has hands of stone, and the stones to throw 'em. He has a cocky, abrasive attitude, and the accent to go with it.
There are two things that derailed this prospect's rise to prominence in the UFC: the frustration that is Josh Koscheck, and the lapse of judgement that came immediately after fighting him in May of 2010. A sucker punch and push after the fight ends is not the martial way, and Daley's career has payed the price for that mistake.
As someone who fell in love with this sport based on the grappling and Jiu-Jitsu of Royce Gracie, I was excited when I started to hear the hype train on Hazelett's Jiu-Jitsu.
He was the innocent-looking Gumby who was going to fight the muscle-bursting badasses and tap them out. His early career showed flashes of brilliance against the likes of Jonathon Goulet and Josh Burkmann, but it soon became apparent that Hazelett needed to seriously round out his game and develop some stand up to keep his opponents honest in the cage when facing him.
The year 2010 spelled doom for Hazelett with three straight losses to Koscheck, Rick Story and Dana White's Jiu-Jitsu coach Mark Bocek, and that was all she wrote for McLovin in the UFC.
Thiago Tavares entered the UFC undefeated and was very highly regarded by fans. He cemented that opinion with two straight wins and a "Fight of the Night" loss to Tyson Griffin, the first loss of his career.
The sky was the limit for Tavares, and he seemed on his way to fighting the contenders of the lightweight division, and seemed to possess the mind and skill to eventually get a title shot in the UFC.
Tavares is 5-4-1 in the UFC though and most recently lost via knockout to Shane Roller in March. He has yet to fight that real top-10 or top-15 fighter and is set to face Spencer Fisher in August.
This is a tough one because I am a huge fan of Hardy's, but it is a bit disappointing to see "The Outlaw" on the UFC bubble and in a loss-means-fired type of fight against Chris Lytle coming up in August.
His entry into the UFC was stellar with wins over Akahiro Gono, Rory Markham, Marcus Davis and Mike Swick in succession. Then, due to his style, skill and hair, he got a much too early title shot at GSP.
While that fight was no real disappointment and Hardy has a lot to be proud of defence and heart-wise, losses to Carlos Condit and Anthony Johnson have Hardy a bit behind the eight ball.
Gracie Barra, ADCC-credentialed Ricardo Almeida came to the UFC with a large hype train behind him. With his grappling credentials, titles and Gracie association in tow, he never really gained that momentum you need to get to the top of the welterweight division.
In fact, Almeida never even came close, as his biggest wins on his 5-3 UFC resume are against Kendall Grove and Matt Brown; he lost to Patrick Cote and Mike Pyle—'nuff said.
Almeida retired from MMA in 2011, and that is truly disappointing.
I made a call that some recently-released fighters do qualify for this list, and Efrain Escudero is another one. The winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir, Escudero seemed to possess the rounded skills and toughness to be a long-time player at 155 pounds in the UFC.
He defeated Philip Nover for his first victory in the UFC and followed it up with a win over Cole Miller. He then suffered his first defeat to Evan Dunham in what would become a trend of losses and wound up getting cut from the UFC in late 2010.
Escudero ended up 3-2 in his UFC career
Thiago Silva has a back story that you and I would cower over, coming from the meanest streets and meekest of livings growing up in Brazil.
He knocked out some tough guys in the beginnings, James Irvin and Keith Jardine to be specific, and he put on a good show right up until his controversial throat-slashing post-win gesture right up in the camera's face.
The obvious disappointment with Silva has something to do with his fight with Brandon Vera and his shenanigans involving his drug testing for that fight. It's such a waste of behaviour, in my opinion, and the perfect way to kill a career.
The Ultimate Fighter alum gets a bad wrap on this list because the hype train that show generates is sometimes the kiss of death in the UFC—enter Kendall Grove.
In his case, it is really a function of my expectations of him more than anyone else's, with his longer than crazy limbs and the luxury of reach and leverage that he brings to MMA. Grove won Season 3 of the reality show and had the mouth that is his coach—Tito Ortiz—driving his bus into the UFC.
Grove has compiled a 7-6 record in the UFC, and his win against Alan Belcher in 2007 is his biggest win to date.
My biggest disappointment with Amir Sadollah was his sputtering start, and inability to stay healthy and active in the UFC until just recently. The Muay Thai skill set, toughness and personality that Sadollah used to win Season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter showed a potential that told me he would soon be a contender in the welterweight division.
In the three years that has been Sadollah's tenure in the UFC, he has a 5-2 record and a win against Phil Baroni to show for it. He needs to step it up if he wants to make waves before he misses his prime.
Ryan Bader had nothing to be sad about losing to the champ Jonny Jones in February for his first loss in the UFC. Losing to Tito Ortiz, well, that has landed him smack on this list.
Bader had a 7-0 record coming into the UFC, then took that to 12-0 with wins over Keith Jardine and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
It was time to initiate the real new king on the block, and he had to meet up with Jon Jones. It wasn't pretty for Bader in the second-round submission loss. The salvation for Bader came when Jones annihilated then-champ Mauricio Shogun Rua to take the title, but such a quick loss to Ortiz puts large doubt on exactly how good Bader is.