Kimbo Slice and the Biggest Flameouts in MMA History
Every now and again a special talent comes along in MMA. Sometimes it's a NCAA National Champion Wrestler. Sometimes it's a journeyman finally getting his chance to shine after years of toiling in obscurity. Sometimes he comes from our own backyard. Sometimes he comes from halfway around the globe. Sometimes he displays remarkable heart and fortitude. Sometimes he exhibits unparalleled skill and ability.
Regardless of nationality, skill set or story, some fighters capture our attention and demand our respect and admiration. These are the fighters that carve out names for themselves among the pantheon of combat sports' greatest warriors.
And then there are those fighters that come along and convince the world that they are destined for such greatness, only to crash and burn in spectacular fashion.
This article is dedicated to the latter group—those who began their MMA career with exceptional hype and fanfare, those who shocked the world once, but could never reach that level again, and those who made us scratch our heads and wonder why we ever accepted them as legitimate mixed martial artists in the first place.
They shall be honored here.
9: Nick Diaz
Nick Diaz makes the list, not because he lacks any sort of talent, but because of his continued exhibitions of mental immaturity.
Diaz has had a lengthy career consisting of 34 professional fights, which began in 2001. He is a former Strikeforce champion, and UFC veteran. In spite of such impressive accolades, Diaz could justifiably be considered a disappointment.
If he sticks to his guns and retires as he claimed he intended to do in the aftermath of his decision loss to Carlos Condit on February 4, Diaz will be exiting the sport at the peak of his talent and notoriety. Before facing Condit, Diaz was on an 11-fight win streak, and was considered a top 5 welterweight by many fans and analysts.
The road to immortality is a very long and arduous one, but it seems the other side of the hill is much steeper.
If Diaz is indeed finished with MMA, he leaves behind a legacy of unfulfilled promise, failed drug tests and one of the most sudden exoduses that MMA has ever seen by a popular fighter.
If, however, Diaz serves his drug suspension and gets back into the cage to fight once again, he will receive a full pardon from the disappointment label.
Let's hope the latter scenario plays out.
8: Brock Lesnar
Lesnar walks a fine line between being a success story, and a disappointment.
On one hand, it is pretty sensational that a fighter who debuted in MMA a few days before his 30th birthday, held the UFC Heavyweight title only months after his 31st.
On the other hand, it is a pretty long fall from being the "Baddest Man on the Planet" to a whipping post for legitimate heavyweights.
After suffering from a series of medical ailments that sidelined the former champ for large parts of 2009 and 2011, Lesnar succumbed to both Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem via first-round knockout.
Though he was able to lay claim to some significant accomplishments during his short tenure as a UFC fighter, Lesnar will be remembered for his flamboyance, one dimensional style and abrupt departure from the sport after it simply became too hard for him to win against top fighters.
7: Houston Alexander
Remember when Joe Rogan screamed, "Ladies and gentlemen, Houston Alexander is for real!" after he obliterated Alessio Sakara in one minute? Do you?
It turns out he actually wasn't as for real as Joe thought.
Alexander debuted by stomping a highly regarded, Keith Jardine, who was fresh off an upset win over Forrest Griffin, and followed it up by violently slaying Sakara.
His strength seamed unreal. He walked through punches like the Terminator. He looked every bit the part of his moniker—"The Assassin." Heck, the guy even trained in his own basement!
What more could we want in a prospect?
After dismantling two UFC light heavyweights, Alexander was brought down to earth, suffering three straight first round defeats. Upon strike three, he was handed his UFC pink slip.
After his release from the UFC, Alexander put a victory under his cap in the AMMA organization, before being recalled by Dana White to fight against Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson.
The two were supposed to stand toe-to-toe and swing, but Alexander thought it would be wise to employ some Floyd Mayweatheresque boxing, which of course, he was fresh out of. He lost a one-sided decision and was released from the UFC for a second time.
Since his latest release, Alexander has amassed a 4-2 record, with a win coming over Sokoudjou.
6: Satoshi Ishii
Like Diaz, Ishii still has time to turn it around. He is only 25 years of age, and has but six MMA fights to his name.
Ishii is a former Olympic Judo gold medalist who infamously signed on with the UFC before having a single pro fight to his name, only to renege on the deal in favor of fighting in his native Japan.
The heavyweight debuted on New Year's Eve, 2009, in a losing effort against Hidehiko Yoshida, a fighter who had only obtained a single win in the three years prior to his showdown with Ishii.
Since that time, Ishii has defeated Tafa Misipati, who owned an 0-1 record before the fight, and who retired after the fight. He has also beat Japanese legend, Ikuhisa "Minowaman" Minowa, who fights at middleweight. His third victory came against 4-9 Katsuyori Shibata.
The crowing jewel of Ishii's career is a victory over the only heavyweight he has ever defeated, French kickboxer, Jerome Le Banner, who was 3-1 at the time he was defeated by Ishii.
Ishii's two most recent matches came in 2011—a draw with out of shape, former middleweight, Paulo Filho, and a knock out loss on New Year's Eve, at the hand of a past-his-prime, Fedor Emelianenko.
In 2009 Ishii was considered the potential savior of Japanese MMA. In 2012, not so much.
5: Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
Sokoudjou knocked out highly regarded light heavyweight fighter, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, in the first round, of his first fight in the Pride FC organization (his third career fight). When people questioned whether Sokoudjou was a one-hit-wonder, the "African Assassin" put their minds at ease by knocking out jiu-jitsu ace, Ricardo Arona, in the first round of his encore performance.
At that point, the Sokoudjou hype was paramount.
To the excitement of nearly every MMA fan on the planet, ZUFFA's purchase of Pride FC ensured the top prospect would debut stateside in the world's largest organization, the UFC.
That is when things went downhill.
Sokoudjou's hype train was derailed by karate specialist, Lyoto Machida, during his inaugural UFC match. Two fights later, Sokoudjou was bounced from the company after suffering a loss to Luiz Cane.
Since then, Sokoudjou has compiled a 7-7 record in various organizations in the United States and Japan.
Few fighters have entered the UFC with as much hype as the Cameroonian, and even fewer that have, have stayed so briefly.
4: Bob Sapp
As a former professional football player, and K-1 Hiroshima Grand Prix kickboxing champ, Bob Sapp's move into MMA was met with much intrigue.
The aptly named "Beast" saw his celebrity grow in the land of the rising sun, as he delighted the Japanese crowd with his monstrous physic, extreme aggression and initial successes in MMA.
Sapp's first loss came via armbar to Minotauro Nogueira, in only the Beast's third pro contest. After demolishing the Brazilian for the better part of nine minutes, the submission master got the better of the MMA newbie. This was written off as lack of experience, and Sapp seemed to learn from the fight, winning his next two contests by first round submission.
The next several years saw Sapp put together a solid 10-3 record, marred only by forays into K-1, such as that against Mirko Cro Cop. The beating he received from the Croatian legend blew away a lot of the mystique Sapp veiled himself in, and it didn't help that the loss came less than a year after his first defeat by Minotauro.
Since 2009 Sapp has maintained a dubious 1-7 record, suffering seven first round defeats.
At the outset of his career, Sapp looked promising; he was considered a good striker, he would hold a size advantage over pretty much any potential opponent and possessed freakish athleticism.
At current, Sapp is a sideshow; he is an easy victory for any fighter who wants one, and a spectacle rather than an athlete.
He doesn't seem to mind.
3: James Toney
James Toney did not exactly garner particularly high expectations from many people when he decided to try his hand at mixed martial arts back in 2010, as a 42-year-old. Even so, his one and only match, the one against Randy Couture, received as much attention as nearly any other fight in MMA history.
As most of the world predicted, the fight was a rather pathetic display of a former top boxer grasping at the spotlight leaking between his fingers.
Couture more or less fell forward in the general direction Toney was standing, and secured a takedown before getting the pugilist's back and tapping him out.
All told, Toney spent three minutes and 19 seconds as a professional mixed martial artist. Though brief, it was far too long.
2: Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson
After establishing himself as a street-fighting Youtube sensation, Kimbo Slice set the world on fire when he began his career as a mixed martial artist.
Ok, maybe he didn't exactly set the world on fire.
But, he did beat up two guys, including a 42-year-old, Tank Abbott, before winning a curious stoppage against heavyweight washout James Thompson.
And, according to then president of the recently revived EliteXC promotion, Gary Shaw, that was enough to make Slice a legend.
As bizarre as it sounds, Shaw actually was able to convince one man of Kimbo's greatness, Gus Johnson, who dubbed Seth Petruzelli's first round knockout of Slice "The biggest upset in MMA history!"
After EliteXC folded, Slice gave The Ultimate Fighter a shot, but was eliminated by Roy Nelson. He was subsequently given a chance to fight on the show's finale, where he defeated Houston Alexander.
His second fight in the UFC was his last, a TKO loss to Matt Mitrione.
Kimbo's garnering of consideration as a plausible mixed martial artist was a bit of a running joke among MMA purists. Very few with much knowledge of the sport considered him anything but a sideshow. He was, more than anything, a victim of the hype created for him by someone trying to make a buck off his name.
In a twist of poetic justice, Kimbo ended up doing quite well for himself financially in MMA, before beginning a boxing career, while Gary Shaw, the man responsible for infecting the world with Kimbo-fever, ran his promotion into the ground by hitching his wagon to Kimbo's star.
1: Lee Murray
Back in 2004, "Lightning" Lee Murray was a rising star in MMA.
In 2006, he masterminded the largest cash robbery in British history.
Many fighters start out their career hot, but few end it so spectacularly as Murray, who was sentenced to a minimum of 25 years (originally only 10) in Moroccan prison.
If you can't wait for the movie about Murray's MMA career/robbery (there is one in planning), you may read up a bit on it here.
Once in prison, Murray attempted an unsuccessful escape. Though unable to secure his freedom, he has supposedly fathered a child while behind bars.
Murray came from a troubled past, but found a great deal of success in MMA. He compiled an 8-2 record as a pro, losing only to submission specialist, Joe Doerkson, and current UFC middleweight kingpin, Anderson Silva.
One match that isn't on his official record is an alleged bar fight with then UFC champ, Tito Ortiz. Matt Hughes has corroborated Murray's version of the story that says he knocked out the "Huntington Beach Bad Boy" in a back alley behind a watering hole.
Murray was 1-0 in the UFC, but Visa issues stemming from his criminal record in the UK prevented him from working in the States.
There are rumors circulating, which indicate Murray may secure a release from prison before serving out his full sentence due to newly executed analysis of forensic evidence.
Though just a rumor, one cannot help but wonder whether or not a release would see the Brit get back into the cage.
A scary thought. For many reasons.