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Odd Men Out: Five UFC Stars With Uncertain Futures

They had all the momentum in the world — and then it fell apart. Whether it was due to poorly-timed losses, fan-unfriendly fighting styles, or both, these UFC fighters have reached a holding pattern in their careers, and will need a few dramatic performances to break out of it…

Demian Maia

After kicking his UFC career off with five-straight submission victories, Demian Maia began drawing comparisons to Royce Gracie Himself. A 21-second knockout loss at the hands of Nate Marquardt put the reins on his hype, and a bland stretch of five consecutive decisions — including his debacle of a loss to Anderson Silva and his most recent defeat by Mark Munoz — snuffed that hype out for good. It’s not just that Maia’s been relegated to the middle of the pack. With all the heat generated by outspoken middleweight contenders like Chael Sonnen, Chris Leben, Michael Bisping, and now Jason Miller, Maia is barely a blip on the radar these days.

Miguel Torres

(Photo props: Ed Mulholland)
From 2004-2009, Torres racked up 17 straight wins (15 by stoppage), won the WEC’s bantamweight title and defended it three times in breathtaking fashion. Not only was he one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport, he was also one of the most consistently entertaining. Back-to-back stoppage losses to Brian Bowles and Joseph Benavidez changed all that. Torres re-located his training camp to Tristar gym in Montreal and re-emerged as a more cautious, measured fighter who jabbed a lot. It was the right choice for his fight record, as he won his next two matches against Charlie Valencia and Antonio Banuelos, but it was clear that we weren’t watching the same mulleted buzzsaw that we knew and loved. Then, at UFC 130, he got outwrestled by undersized up-and-comer Demetrious Johnson. No more win streak, no more fan-favorite cred — Torres is back at square one.

Frank Mir

In 2004, he became the UFC’s heavyweight champion. In 2008, he was the comeback fighter of the year. In 2011, he’s…well, he’s the best UFC heavyweight that you never hear about anymore. Violent losses to Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin in 2009 and 2010 made fans wonder if Mir could still hang with the heavyweight ruling class. His last two victories should have improved his stock, but didn’t, owing to his inability to finish a thoroughly gassed Roy Nelson, and the general crappiness of his bout against Mirko Cro Cop. The UFC’s focus has officially turned to the next generation of heavyweights, from Velasquez and Dos Santos at the top, to Schaub and Mitrione racing up the ladder, and Mir has become a forgotten man in the division.

Jon Fitch

Going to the judges in nine straight outings is no way to gain favor with the fans or your bosses. In a sport where killer instinct and gnarly stoppages are handsomely rewarded, Fitch is easily the most under-appreciated elite fighter working today. The UFC has done everything they can to put off giving him another title shot, and they even nixed his rematch against BJ Penn when a more interesting option presented itself. No matter who Fitch gets next, it probably won’t get him any closer to the welterweight belt. Title shots tend to go to fighters who fans love, or love to hate. Fitch is neither, really. He’s just there, lying on top of you, throwing short punches and chewing his mouthpiece.

Ryan Bader

Here’s the deal: Ryan Bader is still young enough in his career that he can bounce back from his current two-fight losing skid. On the other hand, this is a guy who went from knocking on the door of a title shot to becoming Tito Ortiz‘s first victory in five years, all in a matter of months. Even if Bader keeps his spot in the UFC by winning his next fight, it’ll be a long, hard slog back up to the top of the light-heavyweight division. And when he gets there, who’s to say Jon Jones won’t still have the belt around his waist, ready to ragdoll the dude all over again?

(Ben Goldstein)

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SnackDaddy- July 16, 2011 at 5:22 am
Maia's has drastically improved his stand-up (probably by training with Dos Santos?) He won the first round against Munoz but got blasted in the next two by a fighter who was just more determined that night. I have no doubt he'll be back to put some poor fighter's body in a double knot.
Redping- July 16, 2011 at 2:33 am
It means nothing because Brock is a one-dimensional noobie who just happened to be a giant. Stalling out on Cro Cop and humping Big Country to exhaustion, were not impressive performances at all, frank mir needs to do something relevant and exciting if he wants anybody to give a shit about him
Mir please break Brocks neck- July 15, 2011 at 11:24 pm
Ummmmmm Frank Mir BEAT Brock Lesnar. The ONLY other guy to do that so far............... is THE Champion Cain V. !!!!!!!!!! THAT should hold its ground for something!!!!! Not even Shane Carwin could beat Brock!!! But FRANK MIR DID!!!!!

Wurd!!!!
djp1988- July 15, 2011 at 8:59 pm
I really hate to say this, but G-Sots?
Get Off Me- July 15, 2011 at 5:33 pm
Bad Picks: on Torres and Maia, two guys who got screwed by judging in their last fights.
Good Picks: on Fitch and that fucker/parlay killer Josh Grispi.
PERPATRAITOR- July 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm
Brandon Vera? Where the fuck is he? He has to be the top of the list here. He is/was a UFC star...
Dan The Viking- July 15, 2011 at 3:21 pm
Shut your god damn mouth Karma. Goldstein is straight so quit trying to suck his dick.
Gener- July 15, 2011 at 3:15 pm
Is it really fair to dwell on Bader losing two fights in a row? The first one was to Jon Jones.

I think maybe they need an extra record category: Wins, Losses, Draws... and "Had to Fight Jon Jones"
MoonBelly- July 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm
Is Kongo really a "UFC Star"? He hasn't beat anyone in the HWT division really. Losses to Herring, Mir and Velasquez with wins over a lot of guys who aren't even in the UFC any more.
Cheeseburger Eddie- July 15, 2011 at 2:01 pm
Heavy is reporting that Maia is gonna fight Santiago at UFC 136, I've also wasted my entire day at work watching the Genchis Con films
mikesioda- July 15, 2011 at 1:56 pm
BS - Everybody knows Miguel should have won that fight. He got lay & prayed but did the most damage & was the only one that had a chance to finish that fight.
Yazloz18- July 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm
Each of those guys is still a contender with the exception of Fitch who is easily the 2nd best WW in the world. These guys will all remain in contention they just aren't the flavor of the month in their weight classes
ruffles- July 15, 2011 at 1:22 pm
I'd also go with either of the Nog twins.
bgoldstein- July 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm
@ Pen Fifteen: ...and in the featherweight division, Josh Grispi. As for Kongo, nah, his knockout of Pat Barry got people hyped about him again, and his next fight against Mitrione could put him right back in the mix.
KarmaAteMyCat- July 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm
To-fucking-chei!!! Mr.Goldstein Good to know you are still kicking teeth in and keeping it real as always....
Pen Fifteen- July 15, 2011 at 1:00 pm
And how about Chieck Kongo? Has anyone ever won more UFC fights (9 in his case) without getting a title shot?
Pen Fifteen- July 15, 2011 at 12:59 pm
Honorable mention: Thiago Alves
intercept440- July 15, 2011 at 12:56 pm
hi my name is (insert one of the above fighters) and im a gatekeeper
Fried Taco- July 15, 2011 at 12:54 pm
Yeah, but Miguel is still a terror on Twitter!
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