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Farewell, Fatty Boom-Boom: Reliving Tim Sylvia’s Most Memorable Performances in the Octagon

(“Half the game is 90% mental” — Timothy Deane Sylvia)

Over the weekend, we received the disheartening news that former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia had decided to retire from MMA after showing up at a whopping 371 pounds and being declared medically unfit to compete in his scheduled super-heavyweight contest at Reality Fighting 53. It was the latest in a series of depressing setbacks for the former champion, who its hard to believe was angling for another shot in the UFC as recently as last year.

But long before the rapid weight gain, the desperate cries for attention, and the embarrassing losses, “The Maine-iac” was actually a pretty decent fighter — a “poster child for over-achievement” (as Pat Miletich put it) and testament to the notion that, with enough hard work, even the most athletically maladroit can rise to great heights.

And we know what you’re thinking, “You’re just setting this all up so you can rip on Sylvia’s weight for 1000 words.” And to be honest, we considered it. But rather than kick a man while he’s down, we’re going to play it straight with this: A tribute to the most memorable performances (for better or for worse) from one of the UFC’s most memorable heavyweight champions.

He is Fatty Boom-Boom ”The Maine-iac”, hear him roar.

Sylvia vs. Cabbage Correia

Heading into his UFC debut at UFC 39: The Warriors Return, Sylvia was riding a ridiculous 13 fight win streak that included victories over future UFC alums Jason Lambert, Ben Rothwell, and Mike Whitehead. Paired against the similarly debuting Cabbage Correira, Sylvia brought a near perfect gameplan with him, blistering his iron-jawed foe with stiff jabs and uppercuts from the clinch until Cabbage’s corner was forced to throw in the towel early in the second round. It was such a dominant win that Sylvia was immediately given a title shot against the OG coke-snorting champion, Ricco Rodriguez.

Sylvia vs. Ricco Rodriguez

(Check out Sylvia vs. Rodriguez in its entirety here.)

Although it was only his first title defense, Ricco Rodriguez would have already been given G.O.A.T status heading into his UFC 41 fight against Sylvia had he been fighting in today’s UFC. His five previous appearances had all resulted in stoppage wins over seasoned veterans like Jeff Monson and Pete Williams, and he had captured the belt by elbowing Randy Couture into submission (!!) at the very event where Sylvia made his debut.

But against Sylvia, Rodriguez looked like little more than a punching bag with finely-defined sideburns. Unable to get inside Sylvia’s long arms and mount the smallest semblance of offense (save an armbar attempt early in the fight), Rodriguez was simply biding his time.

“Rico’s dangerously backing up and not covering up,” noted Ken Shamrock from cageside. “He’s allowing [Sylvia's] right hand to get through.”

It was an ominous moment for Rodriguez, who would be dropped and finished by Sylvia less than 30 seconds later. In the blink of an eye, Tim Sylvia had scored the upset of a lifetime and become the ultimate boss in a promotion filled with Tyson Punch Out-level bosses.

Sylvia vs. Frank Mir

Hard times would befall Sylvia following his title win over Rodriguez. In his first defense, Sylvia would defeat fellow giant Gan McGee via first round TKO, only to test positive for Stanozolol in his post-fight drug test and be stripped of his title thereafter.

Sylvia returned to the octagon some nine months later with the hopes of reclaiming the title he had lost. The only thing standing in his way: Frank Mir. Less than a minute into their fight, Sylvia would find himself caught in the beartrap that is Mir’s guard and on the receiving end of an armbar so brutal that it nearly gave Herb Dean a heart attack. With a sickening pop, Mir broke Sylvia’s forearm in half, but Sylvia — the stubborn sumbitch — refused to believe it, even waving his arm around in an act of futile demonstration.

While reflecting on the “disappointing” end to his career in a recent interview with MMAFighting, Sylvia stated that a rematch with Mir “was the one left I would have liked to have done.” For what it’s worth, I’d be interested in seeing that fight…but only if it was held in Japan under Super Hluk rules.

Sylvia vs. Tra Telligman

Heartbreak would follow heartbreak for Sylvia, who would once again return from a lengthy layoff to suffer a quick defeat to future rival Andrei Arlovski at UFC 51. His heavyweight title (or at least, the interim title) having once again escaped him, Sylvia was matched against journeyman Tra Telligman at UFC 54. In what would be Telligman’s final MMA fight, Sylvia would DESTROY the Lion’s Den fighter with a head kick in the closing seconds of the first round. It was a highlight reel KO that would earn Sylvia a spot on UFC Ultimate Knockouts compilations for years to come.

On the next page: Sylvia recaptures gold in one of the greatest comebacks of all time (seriously), then suffers a reverse of fate against a PRIDE legend…

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