15 UFC Fighters Who Desperately Need to Come Back Strong in 2012

Vince Carey@@vcareymmaContributor INovember 21, 2011

15 UFC Fighters Who Desperately Need to Come Back Strong in 2012

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    Every year we see a few of the fighters for whom the MMA community had high hopes fall off and suffer a few consecutive losses that leave us wondering what we saw in the guy in the first place.

    A perfect example is Ryan Bader, who went from future title contender to fighting on the Spike Prelims in less than a year, though Bader proved he is still a force with his victory at UFC 139.

    But all is not lost for the fighters we once held in such high regard.

    MMA is still a sport that lies primarily in matchups, and if the fighters on this list get a few fights that suit them well, all of them could be back in the mix sometime in 2012.

Gray Maynard

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    Maynard went 0-1-1 in 2011, but no one was left doubting his talent in his two bouts against Frankie Edgar this year.

    Both fights are now considered instant classics, with Maynard opening the bouts extremely well before being outworked by the faster Edgar in the latter rounds.

    Regardless of how good he looked, Maynard still went winless over the course of the year and needs to get back on track in 2012.

Dan Hardy

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    It seems like nothing has gone right for Dan Hardy since he lost his UFC 111 title fight against Georges St-Pierre.

    Not only did Hardy go 0-2 in 2011, but he is currently riding a four-fight losing streak and has looked more and more average in every fight over the last two years and is likely a loss away from being cut by the promotion.

Chris Leben

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    2011 was an up-and-down year for “The Crippler;” he earned the biggest win of his career when he knocked out Wanderlei Silva in just under 30 seconds at UFC 132, but the stand-out performance was sandwiched between stoppage losses to Brian Stann and Mark Munoz.

    While his level of competition has remained high, Leben needs to win his next fight badly in order to remain in the mix in the UFC’s middleweight division.

Thiago Silva

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    The only fighter on the list who actually won his last fight, Thiago Silva will be in desperate need of victories in 2012.

    Silva was suspended for one full year after testing positive for banned substances after his New Years Day fight with Brandon Vera at UFC 125, and will need to continue winning in order to maintain any credibility in the UFC.

Kid Yamamoto

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    One of the best Japanese fighters of all time, Kid Yamamoto made his long-awaited UFC debut in early 2011.

    However back-to-back losses to Demetrious Johnson and Darren Uyenoyama have put his UFC career in jeopardy and he’ll need to come back strong in order to keep his job, if he still has one.

Melvin Guillard

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    Guillard probably had the best year of any fighter on this list, going 2-1 with two very impressive knockout wins in the first half of the year.

    However, “The Young Assassin” came into his UFC 136 bout against Joe Lauzon with what appeared to be an overconfident demeanor and “J-Lau” made him pay, rocking him on the feet and finishing with a rear naked choke in the first round.

    If Guillard can come back strong against Jim Miller in January, he can put the doubters to rest and work back towards his goal of a UFC championship.

Rich Franklin

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    “Ace” had a tough year in 2011, dropping his only fight inside the Octagon to Forrest Griffin at UFC 126.

    He was then set to fight Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 133, but injuries to both fighters canceled the fight. Franklin will need to earn a victory or two in 2012 in order to keep fans from starting retirement talk.

Leonard Garcia

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    The king of controversial decision wins had no such luck in 2011, going 0-2 in his Octagon appearances.

    While Garcia’s style is going to do him plenty of favors as far as job security goes, the UFC is still the home for the best fighters in the world. If he continues his slide, he may not be able to hold on to his roster spot through 2012.

Mike Swick

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    Here’s a guy who didn’t even fight in 2011.

    Swick has had horrible luck over the last two years, getting injured on what seems like a monthly basis since he lost to Paulo Thiago in February of 2010.

    Regardless of his health issues, Swick is on a two-fight losing streak and if he loses his return to the Octagon, whenever that may be, it seems unlikely that the UFC will keep him around.

Kenny Florian

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    2011 wasn’t a terrible year for Mr. Florian, as he made his UFC featherweight debut against Diego Nunes and earned himself a title shot against Jose Aldo at UFC 136.

    However Aldo was able to stifle Florian, and Kenflo’s quest for UFC gold once again came up short.

    A move back to lightweight is next up for Kenny, and he needs a few impressive performances to remain relevant in the UFC’s deepest division.

Yoshihiro Akiyama

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    Can Joe Silva please give this guy a fight where he has a chance to gain some momentum?

    Akiyama has fought a murderers' row of opponents since making his debut at UFC 100, losing battles against Chris Leben, Michael Bisping and Vitor Belfort in his last three fights.

    Nothing is getting easier for “Sexyama,” as he has drawn a fight with former title challenger Jake Shields for his welterweight debut at UFC 144 in Japan.

George Sotiropoulos

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    It’s almost hard to believe that George Sotiropoulos was considered the top contender to the lightweight crown when 2011 opened.

    G-Sots dropped a decision to Dennis Siver at UFC 127 in his home country of Australia and was wrecked by Rafael Dos Anjos at UFC 132, leaving him in desperate need of a win when he makes his Octagon return in 2012.

Shane Carwin

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    While the heavyweight division looks better than it has in years, it is telling that most experts still consider Carwin to be a top five fighter after two straight losses.

    Carwin has only defeated one notable fighter during his MMA career (Frank Mir) and has struggled against the best in the world outside of the first round of his UFC title fight against Brock Lesnar.

    If Carwin is unable to win his next fight inside the Octagon, he will be in danger of falling outside of the top 10 in the division. He will be 37 years old by the time he makes his return, so his UFC title dreams will likely be destroyed.

Dan Miller

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    If the term “gatekeeper” were taken literally, Dan Miller would be handed the keys for the middleweight division.

    Miller has beaten everyone he was expected to since making his UFC debut back in 2008, but every time he fights an opponent near the top 10 he seems to lose a decision.

    His ability to stay in every fight, and more importantly his willingness to take a fight on a moment's notice, have kept him his roster spot thus far, but one slip-up could end his UFC run quickly.

Shogun Rua

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    For the record, I scored Shogun’s fight with Dan Henderson as a draw, much like UFC president Dana White.

    But of course it doesn’t matter what I think, and the reality is that Shogun is now just 4-4 in eight octagon appearances.

    While he is still fighting at a high level and is easily in the top 10 light heavyweight fighters in the sport, Shogun needs to string a couple of wins together if he ever wants to regain his UFC title.