It's not often that we get to see two athletes who were not long ago at the very top of the sport reduced to fighting in minor league promotions on the same night. Both men spent the majority of the last decade at the highest levels of the sport, all while being hated by fans and promoters alike.
Matt Lindland is more than just one of the least-liked fighters in MMA, he was also one of the first Olympic medalists to enter the UFC. He was a lynch pin of Team Quest with Randy Couture and Dan Henderson, and as such did as much as anyone to establish Greco-Roman wrestling as one of the most successful styles in MMA. Even after he was exiled from the UFC over sponsorship issues, he went on to achieve considerable glory in other promotions, fighting Rampage Jackson to a stand-still in 2006 and challenging Fedor Emelianenko himself in 2007.
But the last two years have been hard on Lindland. He suffered a grisly KO loss to Vitor Belfort and was choked out by Jacare Souza in his Strikeforce debut. Tonight he faces Kevin Casey, an opponent he has little if any respect for as a person if not a fighter, as he told Ben Fowlkes:
Kevin Casey doesn't have a lot of MMA experience, but what have you see of him on video?
I've seen a ridiculous rap video that he should be embarrassed of. I definitely saw that. I saw him fight against an experienced fighter over in Japan when he fought [Ikuhisa] Minowa. He looked good in that fight. And I've seen him take on some guys who are B-level fighters. The only A-level fighter he's fought is Minowa, and he lost, but he looked good in that fight. He's obviously got some skills and he's a talented athlete, but he should stick to fighting and really hone that craft because the rap thing is just ridiculous and silly. He needs to stop doing that. It's embarrassing for him, and someone should tell him.
Did you know that one of the things he's known for is being buddies with Spencer Pratt, the reality TV show guy?
Another embarrassing thing for him. He's rapping and his claim to fame is hanging out with Spencer Pratt? I mean, I actually feel sorry for the guy. Does he not have any friends who can give him some advice? You know, someone should be there to tell him, 'Stop rapping, and stop hanging out with this guy Spencer who's a complete douchebag.' What is he doing?
At least Lindland looks to be prepared for the fight. If he doesn't beat Casey, Father Time rather than a lack of will will be the culprit.
Which brings us to former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia -- a man who fought for UFC gold an amazing nine times, going 6-3 in title fights and holding the title for two significant stretches. Not to mention that Big Tim also had the honor of facing Fedor, despite being crushed by The Last Emperor. But Tim apparently isn't content to wait for Father Time to erode his abilities, no he's helping things along by not training. Michael David Smith takes him to the wood shed:
You can tell a lot about an athlete by how he responds to a tough loss. You can certainly tell a lot about Tim Sylvia by the way he has responded to his tough loss to Fedor Emelianenko two years ago. And if you're a fan of Sylvia's (which I once was), he's telling you something about himself that you'd probably rather not know.
Basically, what we found out is that Tim Sylvia is a man who doesn't care enough to get into shape, a man not willing to put in the work to be the best, a man who would rather fight inexperienced opponents in freak shows than push himself to the point where he'd be fighting at a championship level again.
I'll be watching Sylvia vs. Pudzianowski on Friday night, and I'll be hoping to see some signs that Sylvia, at age 34, wants to be a great fighter again. But I'm not very optimistic. I think Sylvia has shown us with his physique that he's done trying to be great.
And even though I've been very hard on Big Tim's manager Monte Cox, for mishandling Sylvia's career, I have to think that Big Tim has had a part to play as well. Especially when he's ducking serious challenges from serious fighters like kickboxing legend Jerome Le Banner.
Fans who have enjoyed rooting against Lindland and Sylvia should tune in tonight, this may be your last chance to see these once formidable athletes ply their trade in the cage.
Post your favorite Lindland and Sylvia memories in the comments. They both certainly had their share of highs and lows.