6 MMA Fighters on the Downside of Their Careers

Dustin FilloyFeatured ColumnistMay 30, 2013

6 MMA Fighters on the Downside of Their Careers

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    Before unceremoniously retiring, legends Fedor Emelianenko and Chuck Liddell each illustrated the extremely volatile nature of top-flight mixed martial artists.

    After essentially going unbeaten for over nine years—with the exception of a controversial doctor-stoppage loss that he later avenged with ease—Emelianenko promptly lost his spot at the top of the sport's pound-for-pound rankings by getting finished in succession by Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson in Strikeforce.

    Once the UFC's most feared light heavyweight, Liddell made his fall from grace just as swiftly, dropping five of his last six bouts after defending his belt four times between August 2005 and December 2006.

    The same gloomy scenario may soon unfold for several former dominant fighters who've hit road blocks in their prolific careers.

    Here are six fighters on the downside of their careers.

Honorable Mention

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    He hasn't started to panic just yet, but beginning his first losing skid at the age of 33 has certainly left former light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans feeling uneasy.

    While Evans looked phenomenal in his win over Phil Davis at UFC on Fox 2, the former Michigan State University wrestler has dropped his last two fights in disappointing fashion.

    Evans first got outclassed by nemesis Jon Jones for the light heavyweight strap at UFC 145. Then, in his most recent outing, "Suga" put on a lackluster performance and got edged by underdog Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156, a loss that dropped Evans to No. 6 on the UFC's light heavyweight rankings. 

6. Jon Fitch

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    Heaps of fans expressed frustration regarding the UFC's decision to cut former welterweight staple Jon Fitch back in February. Prior to his dismissal, he had scored just one win in his last four UFC fights. 

    However, UFC president Dana White made it clear that he and his team thought they made the right choice with the 35-year-old Fitch during an interview with reporters from Bleacher Report.

    This is a f***king sport just like NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA or any other sport.  The Green Bay Packers just cut (Charles) Woodson, and a million other guys are getting cut, traded and everything else.  Jon Fitch is ranked No. 9, whether you think it's right, it's wrong, the rankings are bulls**t or whatever, he's ranked No. 9 right now.  Now this isn't a case where Jon Fitch was ranked No. 9, No. 7, No. 6, No. 4, No. 2 and then we cut him.  He was ranked No. 1, he fought for the title, then he was ranked No. 2, then he was ranked No. 3, 6, 7 and now he's 9.  That's called the downside of your career.

5. Rick Story

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    Not long ago, Rick Story looked like the fastest-rising prospect in the UFC's stacked welterweight division.

    After getting decisioned by John Hathaway in his UFC debut, Story reeled off six consecutive wins, impressively disposing of Thiago Alves and Johny Hendricks in the process.

    But a disappointing setback against last-second replacement Charlie Brenneman in the co-main event at UFC Live 4 set off a series of negative events for Story.

    Story, who most recently fell to Mike Pyle at UFC 160, has lost three of his last five fights since falling to Brenneman, only mustering wins over journeymen Quinn Mulhern and Brock Jardine in that span.

    Although he's 10 years younger than the UFC's top-ranked pound-for-pound fighter, Anderson Silva, Story has endured some extremely violent wars and a long wrestling career, factors that make his age deceiving.

4. Wanderlei Silva

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    There's no doubt that former Pride middleweight champ Wanderlei Silva can still deliver devastating knockouts. "The Axe Murderer" proved as much in his last fight by rendering Brian Stann unconscious at UFC on Fuel TV 8.

    But that doesn't diminish the fact that the skills of the soon-to-be 37-year-old Silva have declined considerably since the Brazilian absorbed brutal back-to-back knockout blows from Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic and Dan Henderson in his last two fights with Pride.

    Silva then dropped four of his first six fights in his second stint with the UFC, suffering KOs at the hands of Quinton Jackson and Chris Leben along the way.

    Although The Axe Murderer has respectfully nabbed "Fight of the Night" honors in his last three bouts, he's been KO'd four times since 2006, and he's clearly got limited time left to continue leaving his mark on the sport. 

3. B.J. Penn

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    Fans of former two-division UFC champ B.J. Penn could only look on and cringe as "The Prodigy" got dismantled in back-to-back fights by Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald at UFC 137 and UFC on Fox 5, respectively.

    The 34-year-old Penn reigned supreme over the UFC's lightweight division for the better part of four years between 2007 and 2010.

    The Prodigy arguably looked his best when he mauled Diego Sanchez in his last successful lightweight title defense at UFC 107.

    Since dismantling Sanchez, however, Penn has gone 1-4-1 over his last six outings, first losing back-to-back UFC lightweight title defenses to Frankie Edgar and then drawing with Fitch in a welterweight title eliminator.

    Penn's lone win since beating Sanchez came at UFC 123 when he scored a 21-second KO off fading former welterweight champ Matt Hughes.

2. Rich Franklin

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    Former UFC middleweight champ Rich Franklin will never get used to experiencing checkered success.

    Franklin won his first seven fights in the UFC and captured the 185-pound belt in 2005 with a TKO win over Evan Tanner at UFC 53.

    Since losing his second title fight to Anderson Silva at UFC 77, Franklin has won just five of nine fights, surrendering KO losses to Vitor Belfort and Cung Le along the way.

    Roughly six months older than The Spider, Franklin, who admirably refused to step down in competition, has obviously sputtered quickly with age.

1. Chael Sonnen

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    While Chael Sonnen's future in the UFC seems uncertain, one thing appears clear: "The American Gangster" won't talk his way into a fourth title shot with the company in his next bout.

    The 36-year-old Sonnen has suffered TKO losses at the hands of Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in middleweight and light heavyweight title fights, respectively, in his last two outings.

    Before that, Sonnen squandered his best opportunity to capture UFC gold when he allowed The Spider to lock on a Hail Mary triangle armbar in the waning seconds of UFC 117.

    But Sonnen didn't garner the top spot on this list because of a few losses to the world's best pound-for-pound fighters.

    The American Gangster landed at No. 1 on the countdown because of his decision to transition into a career as an analyst.

    Rather than spending the bulk of his days on the mats at Team Quest in Oregon, Sonnen prefers now to throw on a suit and team up with former UFC great Kenny Florian on the set of UFC Tonight.

    While Sonnen slowly lost his ability to execute pressure-heavy game plans in the Octagon, the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler wisely came up with another hustle and perfected the gift of gab.