If you were to ask any knowledgeable fan of the sport circa 2008 what they thought of Luiz Cane, they would likely tell you that he was “one of the most underrated LHW’s in the division.” Following an unsuccessful UFC debut — which was halted when Cane accidentally struck James “Curse Watch” Irvin with an illegal knee — “Banha” absolutely blistered Jason Lambert and Rameau Sokoudjou in back-to-back contests, then scored a solid UD victory over Steve Cantwell to solidify his place as a rising contender. No, not the five fight losing streak Steve Cantwell, we’re talking about the Brian Stann TKOing, Al-Hassan arm-breaking Steve Cantwell. Cane’s chin appeared to be made of iron, platinum, unobtanium, or whatever element you’d prefer to compare it to, and combined with his solid takedown defense and devastating hands, looked to be on the fast track to a title shot.
But then, things fell apart (as they oft do in MMA) and Cane would quickly find himself fighting not just for a win, but to remain employed under the promotion in which he had once thrived.
It all started when Cane squared off against PRIDE veteran Antonio Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 106. You see, word had it that this “Minotoro” guy — who was making his UFC debut at the time — packed some power of his own. Word also had it that he had a brother who had been around the block a time or two. Despite this, many members of the MMA media were pegging Cane as the favorite, being that Rogerio and Cane had shared a similar opponent in Sokoudjou and one of them was KTFO by him. In either case, it took roughly two minutes for Lil’ Nog to throw enough left hooks to ensure that Cane would not only fall over, but would never truly pick himself back up. This kind of fighter-changing moment would be mirrored at the very next UFC pay-per-view event when Frank Mir would take a moderately entertaining kickboxer in Cheick Kongo and turn him into a lethargic, hesitant grappler for the rest of his career*.
For his next outing, Cane would be paired against another hard-hitting PRIDE veteran making his UFC debut in Cyrille Diabate. Although he managed to rock Diabate on at least one occasion this time out, just 17 seconds would be the only thing separating his second TKO loss from his first by the time this one was over.
After managing to end up on the right side of a first round TKO in his next outing against Elliot Marshall, Cane was given a golden opportunity to impress in front of his home country at UFC 134, where he would take on fellow slugger Stanislov Nedkov. It would not go well. Despite battering and bloodying his foe up early in the fight, you could almost see the hesitance in Cane’s eyes. “Bahna” would go down in the first (again) and Brazil would suffer its only loss to foreign competition that night. It was at this point that we placed Cane on our list of fighters we wished were better than they actually were, hoping it would provide the spark of motivation that he seemed to be missing.
For his final shot at redemption, Cane faced TUF 11 alum Chris Camozzi at UFC 153. It was a match that he was favored to win, due in part to the fact that Camozzi lacked the kind of KO power that had given Cane trouble in the past. Yet in the end, Cane would find himself swinging at air for the majority of the three round affair and eating a hellstorm of leg kicks and crisp combos to boot. According to Cane’s manager, the Brazilian’s sluggishness could be attributed to the pair of surgeries he was forced to undergo and the fact that he took the fight against doctor’s orders:
[Cain] comes from two knee surgeries. At first, the doctor made a mistake and he had to have another. To compete at that level, with a lot of athletes, it’s hard. He made a great fight.
He’ll keep fighting, and hope to be back soon to the UFC. People have to understand that being cut from the UFC is not a disaster. Once you’ve got a name in the UFC, things get easier for a comeback. Every athlete is likely to have that phase. Soon he wins and returns to the Ultimate.
The question now becomes: What occupation should Cain moonlight in now that he’s been fired?
*Kongo’s Hail Mary KO of Pat Barry, while remarkable, does not change this fact. One fluke KO does not compensate for his abysmal performances against Travis Browne, Paul Buentello, Matt Mitrione, and Shawn Jordan.