10 Fights that Changed the Course of Careers
Take his career as a whole and Matt Hughes -- who competes Saturday for the first time since a second devastating loss to Georges St. Pierre -- is unquestionably the most accomplished 170-pound athlete to ever don a pair of open-fingered Ouano gloves.
With a list of casualties including B.J. Penn, Sean Sherk, and even St. Pierre himself, Hughes has run the gauntlet in one of the deepest talent pools in the sport. Yet the defining image fans will carry into his bout against Thiago Alves in London's O2 arena is his arm being torqued at unnatural angles at the hands of St. Pierre last December.
That sobering defeat could turn out to be the fulcrum on which Hughes' career now swings. Snapped from his perpetual dominance of the division, he may be more cognizant of his physical limitations and opponents may be less fearful of his abilities.
In properly melodramatic form: the St. Pierre loss could be the beginning of the end.
It wouldn't be the first time that five or 10 minutes managed to stall career momentum for good. Other athletes have had experiences that reduced them to shells of their former selves. Inversely, some fights have taken fighters to new levels of popularity and performance.
The psychological and physical reverberations of a good beat down -- taken or given -- can last the duration of a fighter's ring life.
Some examples, in ascending order of impact:
Despite injury, Chuck Liddell moving on and headed to London
At one time, UFC 85 was looking as if it might be one of the cards of the year. With a main event of Liddell against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua, it almost didn't matter who was on the rest of the card.
Despite injury, Chuck Liddell moving on and headed to London
"Razor Rob" wants WEC title-fight rematch with Jamie Varner
WEC lightweight "Razor" Rob McCullough (16-4) was able to avenge the first loss of his career with a split-decision victory over Kenneth Alexander this past Sunday night. Now the 31-year-old hopes to avenge a more stinging defeat: the February loss of his WEC lightweight title to Jamie Varner.
McCullough talked about his victory and a shot at redemption on Tuesday's edition of TAGG Radio (www.taggradio.com), a content partner of MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
"It felt great," McCullough said of his performance. "At one point I realized I got this fight, dude. He's moving backward and away from me. I wanted to rush in and clip him. You know, do something stupid. Then I went, 'Eh, I'll just wait for him to shoot and try and knee him in the face.'"
The cautious performance earned the Huntington Beach fighter the victory, but it did little to win over the fans in attendance. McCullough said he was too focused to notice the booing coming from the ARCO Arena seating.
"In smaller arenas, when I fight it seems like I can hear people in the crowd," McCullough explained. "I hear random people saying stuff and I can really listen to them. And before, I'd hear booing and I'd be like, 'Oh, I've got to pick up the pace here.' And that's when I would do something like a flying punch or something. I kind of was like so in the zone for this one. I was so focused that I kind of cut everything out when the bell rang. ... So, everything went out the window, and I was zoned in on him, and I didn't really hear too much. So that was kind of a good thing."
Thiago Alves: Perfect Timing
It seems that his Saturday fight against Matt Hughes at UFC 85 was "perfect timing" for Thiago Alves. A win not only means he'll have beaten perhaps the greatest welterweight ever, but it almost certainly means he'll be the #1 contender and get the first shot at the Georges St. Pierre-Jon Fitch winner.
Andre Gusmao Set For UFC Debut (Again)
Sources inside Andre Gusmao's camp have confirmed the fighter will make his UFC debut at UFC 87. He was originally expected to have debuted at UFC 81, but those plans were scrapped when it was discovered that Gusmao was still under contract to the IFL.
Mir's Coaches Revealed for TUF 8
The Ultimate Fighter 8 features former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir and current interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira as the head coaches. Two of Mir’s assistant coaches have been revealed according to a report on Tatame.com. Rafael Alejarra will serve as strength and conditioning coach, while multiple time Brazilian jiu-jitsu champion Robert Drysdale will take on the role, of course, of jiu-jitsu coach.
I haven't watched a single episode of TUF 7, but i am telling you right now i will watch every single episode of TUF 8 if only to witness Robert Drysdale. for a JJ fan like me this season will be incredible. i get to watch 2 of the best JJ fighters in MMA and also one of the best pure JJ fighters there is. i am really stoked that Drysdale will be one of Mir's coaches
Why Gina Carano Should Be Forced to Make Weight
Her undoubtedly impressive performance against Kaitlin Young (Pictures) this past Saturday night pushed her career mark to 6-0. For four of those six fights, Carano came in overweight. Against Julie Kedzie (Pictures) and Tonya Evinger (Pictures), Carano was a fraction of a pound over the one-pound allowance for 140-pound contests. Overweight, yes, but out of line? Debatable. However, this cannot make up for four and four-and-a-half pounds overweight Carano entered her bouts with Rosi Sexton and Young, respectively.
Donald Trump Joins the MMA Fray
According to a press release from Affliction, Donald Trump will be partnering with the clothing company turned MMA promoter in a capacity to be revealed at a press conference tomorrow. The full press releases comes courtesy of Five Ounces of Pain:
This is gonna hurt: UFC serves Tito Ortiz with cease and desist for new book
The long arm of Zuffa law apparently extends to estranged former champions who write books and wear their belts on the covers.
Tito Ortiz — who just satisfied the final fight on his contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) — has been served with a cease and desist because his recently released autobiography, “This is Gonna Hurt,” violates the intellectual property rights of the mixed martial arts promotion, according to MMAPayout.com.
“The Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” according to the report, needed to get the stamp of approval from the UFC to sport the belt on the cover of the book. And he apparently did not get the green light or overlooked the clause in his contract.
Donald Trump to Announce Andrei Arlovski at Press Conference Tomorrow
This is something that I never thought I’d type:
Donald Trump — who has forged a partnership with Affliction MMA — will tomorrow announce the acquisition of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski at a noon press conference at Trump Tower in New York, N.Y., according to MMARated.com.
In addition, “The Pitbull” will take on Ben Rothwell (as expected) during the debut pay-per-view (PPV) event for the promotion at the at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on July 19.
Trump is also expected to reveal more details on his partnership with Affliction MMA, which according to the report, he owns a “significant amount” of the upstart promotion.
This is about to get real interesting … as if it isn’t already. Stay tuned. In the meantime, to get some more background on Trump’s involvement with mixed martial arts click here.
UFC 85: MARQUARDT EYEING LEITES, TITLE SHOT
Hopefully Thales Leites is avoiding black cats and walking under ladders this week. He is scheduled to face Nathan Marquardt Saturday night in London at UFC 85, a bout that has been in the works for more than a year and a half. But due to issues regarding attaining a visa and injuries, both previously scheduled dates for this fight have fallen apart.
Mere days away, it looks as if this time Marquardt vs. Leites will finally happen, pitting two of the top middleweights in the Ultimate Fighting Championship against each other.
Leites has a strong background in competitive jiu-jitsu and enters the Octagon at the O2 Arena with a 12-1 professional record in mixed martial arts. His only loss in the UFC was in his promotional debut, dropping a decision to Martin Kampmann. He has since won three straight.
The only seven-time King of Pancrase in Japan and with more than 30 professional bouts to his credit, Marquardt has gone 5-1 in the UFC, his only misstep being a TKO loss to current middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Kampmann's Comeback Starts In London
He was one step away from a shot at Anderson Silva and the UFC middleweight title when disaster struck. Martin Kampmann blew out his knee, and for the 16 months since his injury, he has waited on the sidelines and watched fighters like Michael Bisping and Yushin Okami pass him in the rankings. Now the 26-year-old Dane finds himself in the back of the line again.
At the same time, "Hitman" is happy just to return to the Octagon. "I've been rehabbing my knee for quite a while, then getting back into training slowly one step at a time," Kampmann told Sherdog.com. "For the last couple of months, I've been back here in Vegas, training pretty hard for my fight."
His return bout takes place Saturday in London against fellow striker Jorge Rivera. On British soil Rivera is 4-1, with his lone defeat coming at the hands of Anderson Silva. He also recently ruined Kendall Grove's comeback fight by knocking him out in a mere 80 seconds. "I wasn't happy about him beating Kendall because he's a friend and a training partner of mine," Kampmann said. "His record doesn't bother me, though. It doesn't matter if we fight in the U.K. or the U.S. the result is still going to be the same."
Even after more than a year on the shelf, Kampmann remains optimistic for his middleweight encounter with Rivera. "Jorge is a tough guy but seems to be a little inconsistent," he said. "Sometimes he doesn't look that good, and other times he's a beast, so I'm preparing for the worst. I'm ready to take the fight anywhere it goes. I'll trade with him or I'll go to the mat with him either way I'm sure I can beat him. My knee is completely healed up, and I'm ready to fight."
London will be the closest to home Kampmann has fought in two and a half years. Obviously the likeable fighter from Aarhus, Denmark, is hoping for support from his countrymen. "I expect a lot of people from back home to be coming over now that it's a lot closer than usually," he said. "That's going to be cool. I have friends and fans from the U.K., too, so I'm sure there's going to be good support for my fight."
Xtreme Couture, the camp where Kampmann prepares when he is in the United States, has recently added some excellent new trainers and sparring partners. Kampmann, who holds the rank of "captain" at the Las Vegas gym, meaning that he is one of the main instructors, is full of praise for his new teammates. "Shawn Tompkins has been there for a while now, and he's got a great insight in the stand-up game," he said. "Ronaldo Jacaré and Robert Drysdale have come in more recently, and obviously they have a lot of skills. I have learned a lot from both of them. I also had the pleasure of cornering Jacaré for his last fight, and he looked great. I think he will win the [Dream middleweight] tourney."
By training with world-class teammates like the aforementioned trio, Kampmann, who started out as a pure kickboxer six years ago, has added some new assets to his already well-rounded game. "You don't really improve anything by sitting on the couch," he said. "So for the first six months after injuring my knee, I didn't have the chance to do much. But after that, I've been trying to improve all aspects of my game. I worked a lot on my wrestling lately; I feel it has gotten better."
In no way overlooking the tough-as-nails Rivera, Kampmann hasn't lost sight of his ultimate goal in the UFC: a title fight against Anderson Silva. "He's a tough guy, really bad ass," Kampmann said. "I enjoy watching him fight. Everybody can be beaten though, and that includes him, too."
Kampmann, who is 3-0 in the UFC and 15-2 overall, could get a chance to prove that point in a future title bout. To resume his march down the road to Silva, however, he must first go through Rivera.
The Moment Of "Truth"
He seemed too good to be true.
With his first four UFC bouts totaling just more than eight and a half minutes combined, Brandon Vera emergence as a top heavyweight in 2005-06 made fans take notice. He could punch and kick with wicked effect, and he was a top-notch technician in all phases of the grappling game. A technical gem of sorts, with an engaging smile and easygoing charisma to boot. He had pedigrees galore extensive training with world class wrestlers, sublime submissions and explosive athleticism that left fans double taking when he stopped foes. Like the savage head kick that dispatched Justin Eilers or the wicked quick guillotine he used to tap out Assuerio Silva.
But facing former heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia last October, "The Truth" had a dose of hard luck that mushroomed, both in and out of the cage, sending him away with his first loss and managerial problems that sidelined him for several months. Sylvia was supposed to be the acid test to see if Vera was ready for a title shot. Instead, Vera broke his thumb with the first punch of the bout, then struggled en route to a three-round decision loss. "I broke my left thumb with the first punch I threw, got three screws in two places," Vera said. "I thought it was dislocated at first, and I was trying to put it back in, but that didn't work."
The two spent much of the fight clinched on the cage, with Vera giving up 6 inches and 40 pounds to the 6-foot-8, 265-pound Sylvia. With his injured hand, he was unable implement his game plan, and like many of Sylvia's opponents, found himself smothered by the gargantuan ex-champ. "I only had one arm to push him forward with, instead of two, which you need," Vera said. "He was the biggest guy in the division. I'm definitely not nervous about fighting anybody ever again."
It wasn't a blowout by any means, but the fireworks he'd shown in previous efforts were absent. "I've seen the tape a few times. Maybe I could strike more. We did get off the jab and combos, but it hurt to jab," he said. "I don't know what I could've done more. I look at it and say, ‘Kick more, you retard!'" Suddenly, Vera looked human injured thumb and all. Then he had a fallout with his manager at the time, with both parties settling in arbitration. He didn't get fights due to his legal entanglements, and, with the lackluster showing against Sylvia, was one step away from appearing on the back of a milk carton, as far as fans were concerned.
The exile ends Saturday. Facing Fabricio Werdum at UFC 85 in London, Vera has the chance to get back on track and revitalize a career that was stuck in limbo. Werdum, a world-champion submission grappler, is one of the few MMA heavyweights who might be able to best Vera on the ground. "It's a little different," Vera said. "Trying to do jiu-jitsu, that would be a stupid choice. I will do MMA jiu-jitsu and punch him. No pretty, technical setups. I won't go heads up with Werdum. I don't know if my jiu-jitsu is superior or worse, but obviously, it's his strong point."
Eric Del Fierro, Vera's standup coach, said that while they haven't been tweaking too much of his charge's training regimen -- which consists of flying back and forth between Chula Vista, Calif., and Virginia to train with ground instructor Lloyd Irvin -- there are some minor changes for Werdum. "Brandon's assets are the same. He's a strong kicker and moves like a light heavyweight, real good footwork," Del Fierro said. "We worked on his power and speed for this fight. He's aggressive and comes in to finish. The only thing we've [changed] is working on different stances, lowering his center of gravity."
Keeping the bout on the feet would definitely be to Vera's advantage. Werdum has beaten Gabriel Gonzaga twice, looking impressive on both occasions, but he found himself befuddled and stymied in a decision loss to Andrei Arlovski whose takedown defense and striking left the Brazilian largely unable to engage. Arlovski didn't press the issue, content to take a snoozer decision. Given the same circumstances, history indicates Vera will try and close the show. Yet with a record of 10-3-1, Werdum has faced impressive competition and has never been stopped. It's the kind of challenge Vera relishes. With five fights left on his UFC contract, he is back in the mix and a big win could make up for the lost time he spent dealing with his legal issues and the loss to Sylvia.
Heavyweight champ Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira will take on ex-champ Frank Mir in December Vera dispatched Mir in 69 seconds in November 2006 so there's no reason to think a strong showing against Werdum wouldn't put his name on the short list of potential challengers. But he wants to earn it, to get back to the delicious position of being the guy on everybody's lips -- the heir apparent to the heavyweight belt.
"It all depends on how I look," Vera said of a possible title shot should he win. "Werdum is ranked five or six in the world. He's for sure the best fighter I've fought in my career to date. I'm sure I'm the most well-rounded heavyweight. If I squeak out a decision, I won't ask for one; but if I beat him soundly, [maybe]." And a showdown with Nogueira a living legend among hardcore fans for his gutsy battles in Pride before he joined the UFC would be the ultimate gut check. Nogueira is as tough as any fighter in the game, with the kind of blood-soaked resilience and heart you can't teach. You can spike him on his head (Bob Sapp) batter him with relentless ground and pound (Fedor Emelianenko) or send him staggering with crushing blows (Tim Sylvia) but he recovers and keeps battling.
Nogueira took the vacant UFC belt from Sylvia after Randy Couture (Pictures)'s split with the organization earlier this year. The bout was a roughneck encounter that saw Sylvia put heavy leather on the Brazilian for two taxing rounds, before he was taken down and submitted in a dramatic reversal of fortunes. "Honestly, Tim Sylvia summed it up best. He was whipping Nog's ass the first 10 minutes, then all of a sudden Nogueira wins. Nog's a soldier," Vera said. "He's the guy that would jump on a grenade in war and then put his guts back together and go shoot them up. You really have to fight Nog, fight to finish him, but fight smart. His MMA jiu-jitsu is so well rounded and so good. It's hard to do."
Vera/Werdum offers up some stylistic similarities, as Vera will be facing a world-class submission stylist. The fight could offer up a preview of how he might fare against the champion, or it could be a tough setback should Vera have another night like the loss against Sylvia.
"The Truth" will out.
In The Gym: Marcus Davis Preps For UFC 85
Sherdog.com's Greg Savage and Dave Mandel sat down with Marcus Davis (Pictures) to discuss his bout against Mike Swick (Pictures) this weekend at UFC 85.
In this exclusive look into the welterweight's training camp, the "Irish Hand Grenade" shares his thoughts on how the contest will unfold.