Falling Out of the Boat: A Look at the Busted Prospects of 2009

Is Geronimo "Mondragon" dos Santos the biggest bust through the middle of 2010? Photo by Marcelo Alonso, Sherdog.com.

Continuing with this small two-part series of articles looking back at the 2009 list of prospects outlined here at BloodyElbow.com by yours truly, we'll now focus on some of the major and minor busts of 2009. Since there has only been a few fighters who have been highly active in the last six to seven months, the list is quite short. There is, however, one prospect who took a complete, 180 degree turn in terms of progressing as a potential UFC signee.

The most disappointing prospect since my initial analysis of the landscape of mixed martial arts' heavyweight division back in December has to be Geronimo "Mondragon" dos Santos (17-11).  You've probably heard a whisper of his name within the last week as he battled Josh Barnett at Impact Fighting Championships' first event on Saturday, and while that is obviously a very tough fight for any heavyweight on the planet -- he amassed a 2-4 record in his last 6 battles since December.

We can probably speculate whether his recent failures were due to idiocy or bad luck, but it doesn't repair the damage of that cursory glance at his record. A disqualification against Guilherme dos Anjos due to striking his opponent after the bell, an unfortunate abdominal injury loss to Edson Franca, a knockout loss to Thiago Santos, and his most recent loss to Josh Barnett puts four bouts in the loss column over the course of seven months. That's quite an incredible turn around for a guy who Sherdog's Marcelo Alonso reported as speaking with the UFC back in the first part of the year.

It's a bit unfortunate because the UFC holds some interesting fights for him as he claims Cheick Kongo as one of his idols, and current UFC fighter Junior Dos Santos used him as a stepping stone in his progression to becoming one of the best heavyweights in the world. Those would make for interesting match-ups if Mondragon could actually attain that level of success, but he'll need to string together another impressive run before that comes to fruition.

He's certainly a huge, monstrous heavyweight with the physique to appeal those fans looking for giant, beefy dudes to slug it out in the Octagon, but his technical acumen in the striking department is far from crisp. For a Brazilian, he doesn't seem to have the most elite Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills on the ground either, but that may be due to the fact that he wants to completely incapacitate somebody's conscious instead. I wouldn't count him out completely yet, but he has certainly been the biggest bust in the first half of 2010.

As for the rest of the field of prospects I covered in 2009, there hasn't been too many "busts" in six months of action. But it wouldn't be a bust list without mentioning the rise and fall of Jon Koppenhaver, aka War Machine (11-4). Most fans were absolutely flabbergasted at his mental lapses in judgment and Twitter outbursts, but it's tough to deny the fact that War Machine had enough star power to earn solid paydays and play the perfect regional villain. 

He isn't exactly a bad fighter either. While he would have to focus on MMA solely instead of starring in porn films or beating down bouncers at various clubs he frequents, he has shown solid skills in the wrestling and striking department to be successful enough to make his way back into the UFC with some seasoning. He rattled off five straight stoppage wins after his loss to Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 84, and he lost, what I believed, was a gift decision against David Mitchell at Tachi Palace Fights I in October.

Unfortunately, he lost his court case regarding his involvement in assaulting persons at two San Diego clubs, thus being sentenced to a year in prison. While he'll likely step out of prison far earlier than a year, we're talking about War Machine here, a man who constantly defied authority and got himself into trouble. While a win and a loss doesn't truly justify him as a huge bust, his outside-of-the-cage antics and subsequent arrest and imprisonment surely put him high on the list of major busts.

Minor "Busts"

Karl Amoussou (11-3-2): Amoussou was one of those up-and-comers that many fans had high hopes would become the Wanderlei Silva of the modern era. A Judo black belt background with an aggressive, swing-for-the-fences attitude in the striking department, he made our list as one of the top middleweight talents available in 2009. Strikeforce gave him the opportunity to shine following his stint with M-1, but he has recently had a run in with bad luck and a better Judo player.

He battled UFC veteran Trevor Prangley at Strikeforce Challenge IV, but an accidental poke of a thumb in the eye ended the bout in a technical draw due to Amoussou being unable to continue. While the draw certainly doesn't take away from Amoussou's skill or promise, his following loss to Kazuhiro Nakamura at DREAM.15 showed some of the huge weaknesses in his game that must be improved in order for him to make a run at the upper echelon of a top promotion's middleweight division.

He isn't a major bust, but the Lucio Linhares' loss during his days in M-1 and Linhares' epic failure in the UFC should have given Amoussou a hint as to how good the competition will be in the UFC. He doesn't seem to be fighting at that level, although he certainly has potential at only 26 years of age.

John Devine (5-2): Not exactly a huge bust by any means, but Devine was a prospect on our list who was able to snag a fight with Strikeforce after rattling off five straight wins in a little under two years. He had some high-level grappling experience as he trained under Saulo Ribeiro, but Scott Coker and company decided to feed him to former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier at Strikeforce Challengers VII.

Interestingly enough, he looked decent in the opening minute before Cormier absorbed a shot and countered with a heavy right hand that downed Devine. Cormier only used his wrestling once in the fight to chuck Devine to the floor, which Devine recovered from almost instantly. It certainly derails him a bit due to Cormier's green status in mixed martial arts along with his age, but I'm sure Devine will make his way back into the mix of prospects.

Jacob "Tick Tock" McClintock (6-1): Another prospect who is a "minor" bust as McClintock's undefeated streak was interrupted by former UFC fighter Ryan Thomas at Bellator XV in April. McClintock's youth will undoubtedly put him back on the fast track to greatness along with a second-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but many fans believed we would see McClintock potentially upset some of the tougher prospects in the welterweight division in Bellator's tournament. He's certainly a temporary bust as many thought Ben Askren or Dan Hornbuckle would be his demise over Ryan Thomas, but he has some major upside.

Joel Wyatt (6-4): He wasn't one of the better prospects in our 2009 review, but he was, at the very least, someone to keep an eye on. Wyatt's black belt in Judo along with progressing Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills certainly made him a threat, but he lacked the more formidable bouts on his record to make me believe he was a solid prospect. But Wyatt went out and did exactly what I thought he needed to do... fight better competition.

Unfortunately, that didn't work out so well. Wyatt was finished in bouts against fellow prospects Jason Riley, Cole Konrad, and Chris "Beast Boy" Barnett, completely taking him out of the running as a promising talent. He amassed a 1-3 record over a six month period, and while we should give kudos to the man for doing exactly what he needed to do in stepping up in competition -- he just couldn't compete. 

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