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Paulo Thiago and Five Other Fighters Who Never Lived Up to Their UFC Debuts


(“Quick Paulo, more spinach!!!” Photo via Getty)

I think it was midway through the second round of Paulo Thiago‘s bout with Gasan Umalatov on the TUF Brazil 3 Finale undercard that I began to feel a heavy, sinking feeling in my stomach. I thought it was just fight fatigue at first, my body’s way of telling me to step away from the television and do something, anything to negate the effects caused by a (by that point) six hour binge of manure ads, Linkin Park-dubbed promos, and the occasional MMA fight.

It wasn’t until the Thiago-Umalatov decision was handed down, however, that I was able to identify the cause of my discomfort. Paulo Thiago, real-life superhero and a fighter I have unapologetically rooted for since watching him knock out Josh Koscheck in his promotional debut at UFC 95, is likely on his way out of the UFC.Old Dad best summed up my feelings about Thiago, tweeting after the decision “Is it time for me to admit that Paulo Thiago is probably never going to be as awesome as I want him to be? Maybe, yeah.

The fact is, Thiago has consistently underwhelmed since scoring violent finishes over Koscheck and Mike Swick early in his UFC career, dropping six of his past eight fights and only scoring decision wins over IDon’t and GiveaFuck. While I won’t go as far as to call his upset wins “flukes,” it’s safe to say that Thiago has unfortunately fallen into the category of UFC fighters who were never able to exceed the hype generated by their UFC debuts. Fighters like…

Houston Alexander 

MMA fans knew knew less than nothing about Houston Alexander before he was matched up with Keith Jardine at UFC 71. Sure, he looked like something out of a Scared Straight program, but at just 7-1 as a pro, he seemed well out of his league against “The Dean of Mean.” Even Jardine, fresh off the biggest win of his career over Forrest Griffin, was baffled by the matchmaking, all but dismissing Alexander in some uncharacteristic pre-fight trash-talk.

But as Raymond Atkins once wrote, “Hubris is when God screws you over for being a smartass.” And screw over Jardine he did. In less than a minute’s time, the TUF alum found himself lying face down on the canvas thanks to a barrage of uppercuts so vicious that even his mouthguard was forced to flee for its life.

The huge upset promptly earned Alexander a front row seat on Joe Rogan’s dick (or maybe it’s the other way around, ask King Mo), as did his subsequent destruction of Alessio Sakara at UFC 75. Unfortunately for Houston, there’s this thing in MMA called a “ground game” that he never bothered to learn while flipping truck tires up hills, and his lack of grappling know-how was soundly exposed in his quick TKO loss to all around good guy Thiago Silva at UFC 78.

Losses to James Irvin, Eric Schafer, and Kimbo Slice would follow before Alexander was let go for good from the UFC in 2010. The mythos surrounding him debunked, Alexander has gone 7-5 1 NC since, picking up wins over Thierry Sokoudjou and his dirty-talking son (unsanctioned) while eating tough KO losses to Steve Bosse and Gilbert Yvel. After signing with Bellator last year, Alexander was immediately bested by Vladimir Matyushenko in a snoozer before picking up a doctor stoppage TKO over some guy named Matt Uhde. Yay for happy endings!

On the next page, a high-flying WEC vet and an all but forgotten Croatian…

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