The recent ProElite card featuring Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski got me thinking about how far these once top ranked fighters had fallen. I was a History major, and one of the things my professor talked about was the "High Water Mark" of famous people, politicians, and athletes. The HWM sometimes is hard to identify, and there is always debate about it. To give an example from politics, George W. Bush. I contend that George W. Bush's HWM was the speech he gave at Ground Zero shortly after 9/11. ( The one where he had his arm around the fireman and said the people who knocked the buildings down were going to hear from us.) At that point he was at his most influential. Yes, he did go on to when another election, but after the invasion of Iraq his influence and approval began to go down.
So, to bring this back to MMA I thought it would be fun to look at the HWM's of some of the more popular MMA fighters. Since it was Arlovski and Sylvia who got me thinking about it I'll start with a fighter they have in common.
Fedor Emelianenko: Fedor's High Water Mark has to be his 36 second beating of Tim Sylvia. At the time of that fight Fedor was 28-1-1nc. He had faced all the top heavyweights in the PRIDE FC promotion and had beaten everyone and was the PRIDE HW Champion. He was the top HW in the world and was ranked as a P4P (pound for pound) top fighter as well. Tim Sylvia was 24-4 and a former 2x UFC HW Champion. He had just come off a Fight of the Night loss to Antonio Nogueira for the Interim UFC HW title. In true Fedor style he completely outclassed Sylvia on the feet, knocked him down and choked him out. At the time Sylvia was ranked number 9 in the world. After the fight Sylvia said Fedor was not human.
Fedor's next fight was with Arlovski. The "Pit Bull" was 15-5 and came into this fight riding a five fight win streak. He was ranked 5th in the world. Fedor won this fight in the first round with one of the most brutal knock outs I have ever seen. However, the first three minutes of the fight saw Arlovski coming forward and landing on Fedor almost at will. Fedor seemed slow and uncomfortable in the exchanges and was on his way to losing the round. Fedor won, but he looked human for the first time. His next fight looked almost the same. He fought Brett Rogers, 10-0 and ranked 7th in the world at the time. The fight had Rogers landing big shots early and even some Ground-and-Pound that had Fedor cut and bleeding. In the second round Fedor knocked out Rogers for the win, but once again he looked slow and very human. The Fedor Cyborg image was stripped away. Fedor has since lost three in a row and is now ranked 12th in the world.
Tim Sylvia: The HWM for Sylvia (24-3, 6th ) came at the end of round two in his fight with Antonio Nogueira (30-4-1, 3rd). The first two rounds had Sylvia ahead on the score cards. He was on his way to reestablishing himself at the top of the UFC HW division. However, early into round three Sylvia saw his hopes dashed as he was taken down and choked out. This fight was his last in the UFC, his next fight was a loss to Fedor and then a humiliating 9second KO loss to Ray Mercer. Since the Mercer loss Big Tim has actually won 6 of 7 fights, with the best victory being against Paul Buentello (28-12, 51st). Most of these fights have been at super heavyweight. Tim has looked slow and out of shape and nothing like the former 2x UFC champ that almost beat Nogueira. The Maine-iac is currently ranked 32nd in the world.
Andrei Arlovski: Some might think the Pitbull's HWM came on October 4th 2008 with his second round KO of Roy Nelson. Arlovski was 14-5 ranked 5th and had a 4 fight win streak. Nelson was 13-2 and ranked 19th. This fight was Arlovski's second fight since leaving the UFC and his third win in a row by KO. His last fight had been a third round KO of Ben Rothwell, who was ranked 14th at the time. However, I think his true HWM came at approximatly 3:12 seconds into his fight with Fedor as Arlovski launched himself into the air, knee extended, hoping to crush his Russian foe's jaw. Two seconds later Arlovski was face down and glassy eyed, wondering if he had won, and possibly passed out from excitement. After that Arlovski lost three in a row, two by KO. Currently he is on a two fight win streak and is ranked 26th.
Randy Couture: The HWM for The Natural has to be his 5 round beating of Tim Sylvia to win the UFC HW title. At the time Sylvia was the UFC Champ, 23-2 and ranked in the top 5. Couture came out of retirement, moved from LHW to HW, and convincingly beat the champion. Afterwards he defended the title, left the UFC briefly. then returned to lose to Brock Lesnar. After the Lesnar fight Randy fought five more times at HW and LHW going 3-2. He finally retired with a record of 19-11 and ranked 11th in the world at LHW.
So.....those are the first four of my High Water Mark profiles. Tell me what you guys think, agree...disagree. Hopefully, time permitting I will do some more. All the ranking data I used is from fightmatrix.com.
Thanks for reading.