Once upon a time there were only a handful of stars in MMA. An elite group in Pride and one in the UFC. Then things exploded and more weight classes were added along with more events, and more TV deals. Now there are so many fighters coming and going that it’s hard to keep up.
If you want to read part 1 of this series go for it. If not let’s finish up with five more fighters who fell off hard after being considered world class. The qualifications are that they cannot have been an undisputed champion in the UFC and their relevance at the time of consideration is taken in to account.
This one hurts me to type because Parisyan was the man for a while. He was right there in the mix beating Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle, Matt Serra, Josh Burkman, and Drew Fickett. In the UFC his only losses were to Georges St. Pierre and Diego Sanchez which aren’t anything to be ashamed of. Where it all went wrong was after his TKO loss to Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night 13. His next bout was initially a controversial split decision win over Dong Hyun Kim in July, 2009 that was changed to a no contest when he failed a post fight drug test for banned painkillers. He was cut from the UFC and didn’t return until November of 2010 at UFC 123 where he was on the receiving end of a TKO from Dennis Hallman. Since his loss to Hallman he has gone 5-6.
Man I’m going to get blasted for this one. Diego won The Ultimate Fighter season one at middleweight and to put that in to perspective he would later compete at welterweight, lightweight, and even featherweight. After beating Kenny Florian to win TUF 1, Sanchez rattled off five in a row by defeating names like Nick Diaz, Joe Riggs, and the above mentioned Karo Parisyan. Diego would lose two in a row to wrestlers Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch only to bounce back with four in a row. Those four included only one credible threat in Clay Guida who Diego narrowly got past via split decision. He would be beaten brutally to a pulp for 4 1/2 rounds by lightweight champion BJ Penn until the doctor mercifully stepped in to stop Diego from being permanently injured. After that title shot Diego has gone 6-7.
Gray is an anomaly. His first bout in the UFC was at the TUF 5 finale where he was involved in a double knockout finish ruled a no contest. The slam took put both fighters out but hey they still got fight of the night bonuses. After that bizarre finish Gray went on a crusade to crush everyone rattling off eight wins in a row over guys like Frankie Edgar, Kenny Florian, Dennis Siver, and Nate Diaz. He also helped stop the Roger Huerta hype train to the joy of some hardcore fans. Then it all went wrong. He had a rematch with newly minted lightweight champion Frankie Edgar that went to a draw. They met again and this time Gray was knocked out in the fourth round in brutal fashion. After the knockout loss he was never the same again and crashed hard going 3-5. Ouch.
Babalu is on this list even though his record wasn’t the best because of how respected and revered he was at the time. He was 20-4 before he faced and lost to Chuck Liddell at UFC 40 with wins over Maurice Smith and Travis Fulton. He had taken legend Fedor Emelianenko to a decision and despite the loss, Babalu was well respected for it. After losing to Liddell he left the UFC and didn’t return until the much hyped rematch between TUF 1 coaches Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell. Sobral submitted Travis Wiuff in the opening minute of round 2 and followed that up with a revenge submission of Chael Sonnen, and a submission of hyped prospect Mike Van Arsdale. He would challenge Chuck Liddell again but this time for the light heavyweight belt. He was knocked out and lost to Jason Lambert by KO in the following bout. He beat relative unknown David Heath by submission at UFC 74 in 2007 and never returned to the UFC to fight again. His last attempt at a return to the big time was in Bellator where he went 0-2. He hasn’t competed since.
Was there ever a doubt that the once feared Croatian head kicker would be on here. He is probably the greatest example of a fighter failing to transition from Pride to the UFC with great success. Cro Cop wasn’t completely unsuccessful in the UFC but he never seemed to recover from getting head kicked in to oblivion by Gabriel Gonzaga in his second fight. After losing to Cheick Kongo in his next fight he was released from the UFC and didn’t return for two years. When he did he went 3-4 with his last three bouts ending with him counting the lights. Two of those knockouts came from Frank Mir and Brendan Schaub…let that sink in. He returned one more time successfully avenge his loss to Gabriel Gonzaga and then promptly left again. He has had a great run since then in other organizations but his time in the UFC has tarnished his legacy.
Part 3 coming soon…?