5 Fighters Who Failed to Live Up to Their Early Hype
If you've been paying any attention to the MMA headlines lately, you've probably seen the name Khamzat Chimaev.
Chimaev, who competes in the welterweight and middleweight divisions, is now 3-0 in the UFC's Octagon with first-round finishes over John Phillips, Rhys McKee and Gerald Meerschaert. He's arguably the most hyped fighter in all of combat sports at present.
Much of that hype is warranted. Chimaev has looked unstoppable since joining the UFC roster and does seem to have all the tools to hang with the very best welterweights and middleweights in the world. Yet if history has taught us anything, it's that hype should always be chased with a splash of skepticism. After all, for every fighter who lives up to the hype, such as Conor McGregor and Israel Adesanya, there are many others who do not.
Which category will Chimaev fall into? Time will tell.
"Houston Alexander is for real!"
Those were the words infamously bellowed by commentator Joe Rogan as Alexander, then a red-hot UFC light heavyweight prospect, was peeled off an unconscious Alessio Sakara back in 2007.
Alexander was suddenly 2-0 in the Octagon, having also knocked out the highly respected Keith Jardine, and was viewed by many onlookers—Rogan no doubt included—as a future title challenger and perhaps even a future champion.
That's not quite the way things panned out.
In his next three fights, Alexander was stopped by Thiago Silva, James Irvin and Eric Schafer—none of whom turned out to be world-beaters themselves—in less than two rounds combined.
That trio of hype-deflating losses left the UFC with no choice but to send Alexander packing. While he was brought back to take on the late, great Kimbo Slice after a win on the regional circuit, he lost that fight by decision, and was subsequently bounced from the UFC roster again.
Alexander fought 21 more times after that second UFC stint, going a tough 8-11-1 with one no contest. He beat some decent opposition during that stretch, but he also lost to some fighters who nobody but the most hardcore of fight fans have ever heard of.
While he was certainly not a bad fighter, he was not deserving of the hype that was once attached to his name.
Much like Houston Alexander, lightweight Phillipe Nover was the subject of some undeniably premature praise from some very important people in the MMA industry.
During his time on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, Nover was compared to both Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre by UFC President Dana White. To this day, very few fighters have come close to achieving what Silva and St-Pierre accomplished in the UFC. Nover certainly isn't one of them.
After coming up short to Efrain Escudero in the finale of his season of TUF, Nover made the move to the UFC. In his first fight in the Octagon, he lost to Kyle Bradley via a controversial TKO. After withdrawing from a fight with Sam Stout at the last minute because of a medical issue, he was then matched up with Robert Emerson. He lost that fight via unanimous decision and was cut from the UFC thereafter.
Nover was brought back to the UFC years later, but even with more experience under his belt, he failed to live up to the expectations of his early career. He won his first fight back in the Octagon, picking up a split-decision win over Yui Chul Nam, but then lost three straight decisions to Zubaira Tukhugov, Renan Barao and Rick Glenn. On the heels of this losses, he retired from MMA and dedicated his focus to his day job as a nurse.
By the time Hatsu Hioki made it to the UFC, there was no denying that he was a good fighter. The Japanese featherweight had already captured multiple titles in his homeland and further afield, and picked up wins over solid foes in Tom Niinimaki, Mark Hominick (twice), Jeff Curran, Masenori Kanehara and Marlon Sandro.
When he was signed by the UFC in 2011, though, he was immediately hailed as a threat to then-featherweight champion Jose Aldo—arguably the greatest fighter in the division's history. That hype was a bit premature.
In his first two UFC bouts, Hioki picked up a competitive decision win over George Roop and another more decisive decision win over Bart Palaszewski. Propelled significantly by what he'd already achieved outside the UFC, he was then linked to a title fight with Aldo but elected to take one more fight before his shot, zgainst Ricardo Lamas.
Anyone who was paying attention at the time remembers how that one went.
Hioki was soundly walloped by Lamas, waving goodbye to his dreams of challenging for a UFC title in the process, and unfortunately things only got worse from him from there. Hioki then sandwiched a decision win over Ivan Menjivar between losses to Clay Guida, Darren Elkins, Charles Oliveira and Dan Hooker—the latter being one of the most violent knockouts you'll ever see. He was then released and has since gone a tough 2-3 outside the UFC.
Was he good? Sure. Should he really have been labeled as a legitimate threat to one of the most dominant champs in MMA history? Probably not.
By the time Erick Silva made it to the bright lights of the UFC in 2011, he was already 12-1 as a pro, so fans were understandably interested in seeing what he could pull off in the Octagon.
That curiosity evolved into full-blown hype over the course of Silva's first three fights in the Octagon. First, he produced a 40-second stoppage win over Luis Ramos. In his next fight, he lost via disqualification after stopping his opponent with illegal strikes, but that really only made him look more ferocious. In his third UFC fight, he submitted his toughest foe to date in Charlie Brenneman.
Unfortunately, that’s about as good as it got for Silva.
After beating Brenneman, he lost a decision to former title challenger Jon Fitch. The bout earned him a Fight of the Night bonus, but a loss is a loss, and unfortunately it was the first of many for him in the Octagon.
Silva remained in the UFC until 2017 but closed out his time with the promotion with a 7-8 Octagon record and never managed to put together anything better than a two-fight win streak on the sport’s biggest stage. He picked up some good wins, sure, but considering the hype with which he started his UFC career, it was an undeniable disappointment.
Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
Sokoudjou burst into the MMA limelight in 2007.
It happened in the judo specialist’s fourth pro fight, when he was matched up with one of the very best fighters of the day, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.
Sokoudjou stepped into the PRIDE ring with Nogueira as a gargantuan 16-1 underdog but ended up achieving one of the biggest upsets in MMA history by knocking his foe out in just 23 seconds.
After that performance, Sokoudjou was the talk of the MMA world, and his star shone even brighter after he picked up a win over the highly regarded Ricardo Arona in his next fight.
Unfortunately, his career took a turn for the worse pretty much immediately thereafter.
After his win over Arona, Sokoudjou made the jump to the UFC, where he was promptly choked out by a future champ in Lyoto Machida. While he then picked up a decent win over Japanese veteran Kazuhiro Nakamura, it was followed by a knockout loss to Luis Cane, which signalled the end of his UFC run.
After getting kicked to the curb by the UFC, Sokoudjou embarked on something of a world tour, competing in reputable promotions all over the globe, from Affliction to Dream to KSW to MFC to Bellator to M-1. He picked up some good wins as he traveled the planet in search of prizes—even defeating current UFC light heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz in 2011—but never came close to reigniting the flame that burned so brightly after his win over Nogueira.