We see it all the time throughout sports. One guy does something amazing, and we exalt him as the next big thing, the next champion, a part of the new generation of athletes. But while all we do is talk up this next best thing and keep raising them up higher on a platform, sometimes they fall. Perfect example: Tim Tebow. While simultaneously holding mediocre teams to under ten points while scoring only a few more himself, Tebow successfully manhandled an entire division and gripped the nation with Tebow Time. Despite engaging in hard fought battles in their last three games, Tebow and the Broncos made the playoffs anyway with a respectable 8-8 record, and they somehow beat the Steelers. Could it happen? Could Tim Tebow do the unthinkable, lead a team to the Super Bowl?
Yeah, right. New England destroyed them 45-10, leaving Tebow Time in the dust. And we all realized finally that no, this guy really isn’t that good.
But enough with the Tebow bashing. Lately I’ve been noticing the same thing in MMA. Some new guy comes in and just wrecks someone, or an old standby seems to have finally found his form, only to be dropped back down to earth off a cliff. It leaves people wanting even more blood from the new guy so they can say “I followed him before he was good!”, only to have those people's hearts dropkicked and for some of us unlucky few, screw up our BECW picks and give us nightmares about how we fucked up so bad, how we ended up on the hype train to nowhere. Here are a few fighters whose bubbles have recently burst.
Stephen Thompson – We didn’t know much about Thompson coming into his UFC debut other than that he was a more than decent kickboxer. But we left that epic Facebook fight in awe with the beautiful head kick that knocked Dan Stittgen out cold. Surely this was the next big threat in the welterweight division. I mean, who could get past this guy’s length and KO power? So the UFC put the gatekeeper Matt Brown in front of him. Not that that should matter right? Matt Brown is more doormat than gatekeeper anyway, Thompson will run right through him. 77% of us on BECW thought so. But with all the hype we forgot one thing. Matt Brown is a friggin’ rock. And you can’t just win MMA fights by kicking people at funny angles. Brown took him down and though it wasn’t easy, got the judges’ nod. And Thompson fades back into obscurity, his KO only a distant memory.
Nick Denis – We didn’t really know much about Denis coming into his UFC debut either. And we still didn’t learn much about him during his fight against Joseph Sandoval either, except that it isn’t really a good idea to stand in front of him and eat elbows thrown like hammers. When his recent UFC on Fox bout was announced against Roland Delorme, we all said “C’mon Dana, he deserves a better guy than some TUF dude who probably won’t last more than a few fights anyway. Give him someone who isn’t a can.” A minor reason why we had a small uproar when they first announced that the fight would be dark? We wanted to see another spectacular knockout from this guy. A whopping 95% of us on BECW gave him the nod. But once again, this is MMA, where standup is only a part of what can happen, and after a thoroughly entertaining struggle, Denis fell victim to a Delorme rear-naked choke. Nick Denis isn’t as good as we thought he was.
Rousimar Palhares – Maybe a different type of case than the first two guys, but the idea is still the same. He came into his fight with Alan Belcher with a loaded hype train behind him, some extremists even screaming for a contender bout or a title shot. He had a three fight win streak, collecting the legs of Dave Branch and Mike Massenzio while decisioning Dan Miller in between. Obviously Belcher is in for a real showdown, and he should really stay as far away from the ground game as possible, lest he lose a limb. 75% of BECW thought Paul Harris would take it. But Belcher, according to Joe Rogan, committed suicide by going to the ground and then staying there. Suddenly Belcher scrambled out of the leg lock position he seemed so tightly stuck in and beat the crap out of him.
We tend to use the “What have you done for me lately” attitude and aimlessly apply it to practically every fighter. If someone gets a KO in their last fight, well, he damn well should get one just as good in his next bout. When it comes right down to it, that’s just not the case. These one-hit wonders are incredibly unpredictable, but hey, that’s MMA for ya.