After losing to Diego Brandao by first-round arm-triangle choke at UFC on FUEL 9 last month, UFC featherweight Pablo Garza has been released by the UFC. Garza confirmed the bad news yesterday, saying that he will focus on coaching and competing in jiu-jitsu for the time being, although he didn’t rule out a return to MMA competition.
Though Garza kicked off his pro career with seven consecutive wins, he endured a couple of setbacks before making it into the UFC. First, he was selected for the TUF 11 lightweight cast, but lost a decision to Michael Johnson in the elimination round before making it into the house. After winning a couple more fights in his native North Dakota, Garza was brought back to the Zuffa fold as a featherweight injury replacement for Jason Reinhardt at WEC 51, and was quickly guillotine choked by Tiequan Zhang.
But the UFC gave him another chance, bringing him into the big leagues after the WEC closed its doors. Garza went on to score back-to-back wins over Fredson Paixao (via Knockout of the Night-earning flying knee) and Yves Jabouin (via Submission of the Night-earning flying triangle). A pair of losses to Dustin Poirier and Dennis Bermudez followed, putting the Scarecrow on thin ice again. But Garza redeemed himself by dominating Mark Hominick in a gritty decision at UFC 154 last November.
The April loss to Brandao sunk Garza’s UFC record to an even 3-3 — not the most impressive tally, but then again, all of Garza’s wins were pretty damn fantastic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep him on the roster. Bummer. In other firing news…
UFC middleweight Clifford Starks — who most recently ended up on the wrong end of highlight reel knockout at UFC on FOX 7 — has also been released. A former wrestling teammate of Cain Velasquez at Arizona State University, Starks entered the UFC as a 7-0 prospect, and won his first fight as a short-notice injury replacement for Brad Tavares in October 2011, defeating Dustin Jacoby by unanimous decision. But then, he was choked out by Ed Herman at UFC 143, and was most recently KO’d by a massive flying knee from Yoel Romero last month. Two straight losses was all it took, and Starks is back to the minors. We told you it was about to get cutthroat up in here.
Update: Canadian featherweight Antonio Carvalho has also been fired. Carvalho’s UFC record was 2-2. His first-round TKO loss to Darren Elkins at UFC 158 followed back-to-back wins against Daniel Pineda and Rodrigo Damm.