We have all seen it, a fighter that for whatever reason (rushed, mismatched, mismanaged, hurt, combination) are clearly not on the same level as the champion and leave some of us wondering what the challenger was even doing in the ring or cage int he first place.
I want to make it clear I am not talking about squash fights that we all saw coming a mile away, like last weekends Pacquiao vs Mosley or Anderson Silva vs Damian Maia, these were fights that we all thought would be competetive and some even thought the title could change hands. Here are some fights that come to mind when thinking of fighters that we learned were not ready for their seemingly deserved title shot.
Lennox Lewis vs Michael Grant - Im sorry but as a big boxing fan this one just sticks out. For some reason that is unfathomable in hind sight, Michael Grant seemed like a real threat to Lennox Lewis. He was bigger (6'7) and undefeated. He was the likeable former quarterback of East Carolina and had gotten up to make Andrew Golota quit. When Lewis and Grant faced off Ring magazine had over 50 "experts" predictions and over 30 predicted Grant would win. Grant was 31-0 going into the fight with wins over Golota, Lou Savarese, David Izon and Ross Purity. Lewis was 35-1-1 and coming off the win over Holyfield was a disrespected champion in hindsight. The fight itself was a drubbing, Lewis battered Grant around from pillar to post starting wtih the first round, knocking Grant down 3 times and nearly beheading Grant in the clinch with uppercuts. All of a sudden all of the so called "experts" who picked against Lewis had realized Michael Grant was an incomplete pro facing a pro at the height of his skills. It was over in 2 rounds and Michael Grant was never the same again. This was classic ferocious Lennox, if he sensed blood early he came out for the kill (i.e. Razor Ruddock fight, Andrew Golota, Francois Botha).
Rich Franklin vs Nate Quarry - Quarry was 8-1 and on a 4 fight win streak, more importantly a 3 fight UFC win streak with 2 being over Shonie Carter and Pete Sell, all 3 were first round stoppages via strikes and Quarry seemed like a live dog vs the newly crowned Middleweight Champion. Franklin was 20-1 1 NC at this point and was a favorite but I still remember alot of people thinking Quarry could win and alot of people expected a good stand up war. What we got was the near execution of Nate Quarry, man it was as brutal of a first round beating as I can remember in a long time and we all learned that The Rock was not quite championship material.
Maurice Smith vs Tank Abott - I know I know, Tank wasnt an elite level fighter, its funny but alot of people thought Tank was the toughest SOB around. He was like Tyson in that alot of bullshit floated around about him. Ever talk to a Tyson fan in the early 2000's? You know the one's that would swear he was undefeated and champion even when he wasn't. Tank was the same way, to some he was the baddest man in the building and was sure to win the title. Add in that Smith was originally supposed to face Dan Severn, who took a fight at Pride 1 vs Kimo several weeks before, Severns fight went 30 minutes and Severn pulled out. Tank Abbott replaced Severn and was rumored to be out of shape (who could tell?). Even though anyone with a brain knew Tank was going to come up short, Maurice Smith employed the same tactic that won him the title, which was what I like to call the equivalent of the rope-a-dope in mma, he would use the TK guard to survive from the bottom and eventually get to his feet to chop down a tired foe. It worked like a charm vs Tank and after getting to his feat and landing a few hard kicks to the thigh, Tank Abbott was verbally submitting (and tapping his own thigh) from leg kicks.
Frank Shamrock vs Kevin Jackson - hard to imagine it but at the time Kevin Jackson was the favorite going into the fight against Frank Shamrock. Maybe this is cheating because the fight was for the title but is there any question who the real champion was? Jackson was the undefeated Olympic gold medalist who was sure to be a wrestling phenom that would dominate the then UFC Middleweight (now Light Heavyweight) Division. Instead, we saw that Frank Shamrocks submission skills far outweighed Jackson's takedown. Around 10 seconds into the fight Kevin Jackson scored a double leg takedown, around 16 seconds into the fight Kevin Jackson was tapping to an arm bar. Pretty crazy.
Now let me segway for a second, I am going to compare two fights, MMA and Boxing fights, both similiar in certain aspects and both featured name fighters in title shots that seemed worthy that in fact were not.
Mike Tyson vs Lennox Lewis and Anderson Silva vs Vitor Belfort were very similiar. Both featured dominant champions, not from america, facing a well known challeneger who had seen better days but still had a punchers chance. The main difference in this comparison is that Mike Tyson was and is a much bigger PPV success and commanded a massive audience. Since January of 2009 Belfort had fought 1 round. Tyson had fought 19 rounds in the 6 years proceeding his Lewis bout. The 2 fights were different and the same in that Lewis vs Tyson was clearly over by round 3 it was just a matter of when, whereas Silva vs Belfort was a 3 minute feel out process followed by a wild tornado of combo's rushes and finally a front kick fac knock out. Both fights were the same in that they ended in an emphatic stoppage that showed us neither seemingly worthy contender was even in the champions league.
Dan Hardy vs GSP - Zuffa did literally everything in their power to make us think a smack talking Brit with good stand up and a win over Mike Swick, was a credible title challenger. Some knew Hardy had no chance, others thought the smack talking Brit was just the man to knock off GSP. 25 minutes later we all realized he shouldnt have even been in the same octagon with GSP yet alone taken seriously as a challenger to his belt.
David Loiseau vs Rich Franklin - The crow had some serious elbows, I'll give him that, but honestly I dont know if it was just a weak UFC division at the time or that they really thought he was a challenger to Franklin. Loiseau did look impressive beating Tanner and going 3-0 in the UFC, but it was clear, he wasn't even in the same league.. Rich basically broke every bone you could break in a fight and still won a unanimous decision.
What are some that you can think of?