My roots are in the old days of pro wrestling's Monday Night Wars between the WWF and WCW when underutilized wrestlers in the WCW such as the Big Show, Chris Jericho, and Eddie Guerrero jumped ship and appeared in the WWF. There was always great anticipation about watching these guys finally reach the big stage, reaching their potential, and no longer having to wonder how they would fare the WWF.
Part of that excitement and anticipation of seeing guys in WCW jump to the WWF transferred with me from being a fan of pro wrestling to being a fan of MMA. Now as a MMA fan, I read the stories about the big signings online, watch the videos I can on youtube and wonder how these fighters that have been knocking or tapping out people left and right would fare against the top fighters in the UFC. I buy into the hype machines of the Ariel Helwanis and Joe Rogans as they talk about the heavy hands, world class jiu-jitsu/sambo, and all the belts these guys have won around the world, only to finally watch them against a mid-level UFC fighter and wonder WTF?
So here is a quick list of the guys who's hype I bought into, only to be left with the WTF feeling.
10. Denis Kang- Sure he was 2-2 in his last four fights heading in the UFC, but the two loses were to Gegard Mousasi and Yoshihiro Akiyama. Prior to losing to a close decision to Kazuo Misaki in the finals of the 2006 Pride Welterweight Grand Prix, Kang had a streak of 23 fights without a loss. Plus, he was finishing fights with his fists and had a strong submission game. In his first fight against Alan Belcher, he looked good until getting caught in a guillotine choke in the second round. While he rebounded with a decision win over Professor X, he then suffered a 2nd round TKO loss to Michael Bisping in Bisping's backyard in Manchester and was then given his walking papers, despite the loss being awarded "The Fight of Night." He finished his UFC run with a 1-2 record.
9. Jorge Santiago- After an unremarkable 1-2 record in his first run in the UFC, Jorge Santiago went 11-1 outside the UFC which included a run as the Sengoku Middleweight Champion and wins over Kazuo Misaki (twice), Jeremy Horn, Kazuhiro Nakamura, and Siyar Bahadurzada. Upon his return to the UFC, he replaced Wanderlei Silva as Brian Stann's opponent at UFC 130. Stann added to the hype by saying that he thought Santiago was a tougher opponent than Silva. Santiago who had finished 10 of his last 12 opponents looked slow and lethargic against Stann and was KO'd in the second round. After his second fight, a three round unanimous decision loss against Demian Maia, Santiago was cut for a second time after a 0-2 run.
8. Sokoudjou- Knocking out Pride mainstays Ricardo Arona and Antônio Rogério Nogueira back-to-back in impressive fashion will definitely get the hype train rolling. After Pride was absorbed by the UFC, Sokoudjou was seen as one of the hot prospects in the light heavyweight division until he was matched up against another hot prospect name Lyoto Machida at UFC 79. If the fight were a "scary looking guy" contest, Sokoudjou would have won by Mortal Kombat fatality. Unfortunately, Machida picked Sokoudjou apart and put him to sleep in the second round with an arm triangle choke. Sokodjou would finish his UFC run with 1-2 record after being TKO'd by another young prospect in Luiz Cane at UFC 89.
7.Takanori Gomi- I will admit the mystique on Gomi wore off a bit by the time he signed with the UFC. However, he was still the former Pride Lightweight Champion and considered at one-time to be the number two lightweight in the world behind BJ Penn. I had great expectations that the "Fireball Kid" could still hold his own in the loaded UFC lightweight division. However, in his debut against Kenny Florian, he was beaten to the punch and simply outclassed by one of the best in the division, succumbing to a rear naked choke in the third round. While he has beaten Mac Danzig and Tyson Griffin and lost a controversial decision to Diego Sanchez this past weekend, his overall record in the UFC is only 3-4. With the UFC trying to increase the number of events in Asia, Gomi's leash might be longer than other fighters in the UFC due to his name recognition there. So we can expect to see the Fireball Kid fight for the UFC on more cards in Asia for the foreseeable future.
6. Mayhem Miller- I really thought Mayhem would beat down at least the middle tier of the UFC Middleweight Division the same way MMA fighters roughed up bullies on Bully Beatdown. Mayhem had the name, a fun personality, a TV show, and looked good against Jake Shields in a decision loss on a Strikeforce card on CBS. His hype machine got turned up a few notches upon his return to the UFC, when he was immediately cast opposite Michael Bisping on The Ultimate Fighter. He even took Round 1 in his fight against a game Bisping before completely gassing out and getting saved by the ref in Round 3 of their fight. After a decision loss to CB Dollaway and an alleged backstage scene after the fight, Mayhem was cut loose with a 0-3 career record in the Octagon.
5. Jake Shields- The UFC pulled off a coup when they signed the reigning Strikeforce MIddleweight Champion who was just coming off a convincing victory over Dan Henderson. Shields was a true welterweight that had moved up to Middleweight due to the Strikeforce's fuzzy booking tendencies and would return to his natural weight class to challenge GSP. First he had to get past an always tough Martin Kampmann at UFC 121, which turned out to be much tougher than anticipated. After fighting at middleweight for two years, getting down to 170 left Shield depleted and he relied on his grappling to stall to a close split decision victory. After a losing to GSP at UFC 129, Shields lost to Jake Ellenberger by First Round KO in a fight that took place just weeks after his father passed away. That loss knocked Shields off the top level of the Welterweight division. His overturned win over Ed Herman at UFC 150 due to a fail drug test tainted his reputation. After all the hype, Shields has mustered a 2-2 record with one no contest during his UFC run.
4. Yoshihiro Akiyama- The man is married to a super model, sings to sellout crowds in Asia, is world class Judoka and can beat the hell out of people. What's not to love? Sure Sexyama has been caught greasing and is fairly small for the Middleweight division, but he had an impressive 12-1 record with 2 controversial no contests coming into the UFC. He made his debut at UFC 100 against Alan Belcher, winning a close decision and Fight of the Night honors at the historic event. He then took nearly a year off and returned to fight Chris Leben, who signed up for the fight on 3 weeks notice after Wanderlei Silva dropped out. Akiyama was en route to winning a decision, but tapped out to a triangle submission with only 20 seconds left in the third round. This was the start of a 4 fight losing streak for the sexy one and his UFC record stands at 1-4. Like Gomi, Sexyama will likely stick around due to his popularity in Asia and will likely fight on that circuit as more card are held there.
3. Alistar Overeem- A super hero body chiseled from horse meat to go along with a K-1 Championship, Dream Championship, and the Strikeforce Heavyweight Crown. The Demolition Man finished opponents all over the globe and was finally in the UFC. In his long awaited debut he liver kicked Brock Lesnar back into the WWE and solidified his spot as the number one contender in the Heavyweight Division. Unfortunately, a case of tainted horse meat, put him on the sidelines for over a year, but no worries. All he needed to do was get past Bigfoot Silva who was KO'd by Daniel Cormier and beaten to a pulp by Cain Velasquez and he would be locked into a title shot against Cain on Memorial Day weekend. Despite winning the first two rounds of the fight Overeem was getting tired and cocky as he repeatedly dropped his hands against Bigfoot which resulted in Overeem taking a nap on the mat. Between the tainted horse meat controversy and the loss to Bigfoot, Overeem cements his place on this list.
2. Mirko Cro Cop- Left leg hospital, right leg cemetery. That is right up there with Austin 3:16 as one of my favorite lines. Cro Cop was coming off winning the 2006 Pride Open Weight Grand Prix with a highlight reel head kick KO of Wanderlei Silva in the semifinals and a TKO win over Josh Barnett in the finals. After that run, surely this guy could take out Tim Sylvia or Randy Couture and rule over the UFC Heavyweight division. After making quick work of Eddie Sanchez, the only man standing between Cro Cop was Gabriel Gonzaga, a world class Jiu Jitsu specialist. Somehow, Cro Cop got Cro Copped by Gonzaga in one of the greatest head kick knockouts in UFC history. It is not just Gonzaga's leg connecting with Cro Cop's head that is mind blowing, but Cro Cops leg's awkwardly folding underneath his body like LT on Joe Theismann. After that KO loss, Cro Cop had a name that can draw fans, but was never the same. Since that loss, he is 6-5 with one no contest and an overall UFC record of 4-6.
1. Hector Lombard- Am I being harsh? Maybe a tad. Lombard was the reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion and was easily considered the best Middleweight outside the UFC. Unbeaten in his last 25 fights, Lombard was a heavy handed finisher with 18 career knockouts. Some people thought his striking and Olympic level judo skills could present match up problems for Anderson Silva. In his debut at UFC 149, Lombard was heavily favored over Tim Boetsch who was coming off an upset comeback victory over Yushin Okami. Lombard did not assert himself in the fight and lost a 3 round decision. He did bounce back with a against the one-dimensional Rousimar Palhares, but then look lethargic and uninspired this past weekend in a split decision loss to Okami. With a 1-2 record in the UFC, an order from Joe Silva to drop to welterweight seems more likely at this time than getting anywhere close to a title shot against Anderson Silva.