It’s been quite a while since we first penned our list of the 7 Biggest UFC Busts of All Time, and a lot has changed in the time since. While some of our choices are even more relevant now than they were when the list was originally published in July of 2009, most of them seem either inaccurate or simply out of date in light of current circumstances. Knowing what we know now, we’ve decided to update our list to align with today’s MMA landscape. Enjoy.
#7 – Robert Drysdale
Robert Drysdale had already achieved the distinction of being one of the most credentialed Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitors and sought-after coaches in all of MMA when he signed with the UFC last year. He had also picked up six straight first round submissions in professional competition, and was primed to make some huge waves in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
But oh, if only it were that simple. Drysdale was first scheduled to take on Ednaldo Oliveira at UFC 163 until he was forced out of the bout at the last minute due to a “lingering staph infection” and definitely not the fact that he had been denied a therapeutic use exemption for TRT days prior. He was then scheduled to face Cody Donovan at UFC 167, but was denied licensure after an out-of-competition drug test came back with an absolutely absurd 19.4:1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone (T/E) ratio.
You’d think the UFC would have shitcanned Drysdale right then and there, but The Baldfather is nothing if not a softie for guys with a great ground game (lol!). Drysdale was given another shot at the TUF 19 Finale in July, and to his credit, he actually managed to show up and submit Keith Berish in just over 2 minutes. The post-fight drug test, however, would reveal that Drysdale was once again competing with an unnatural level of testosterone flowing through his veins. But hey, at least his T/E ratio was only 12:1 this time!
One fight. Two failed drug tests. And to our knowledge, Drysdale is still employed by the UFC. Let’s hope he can get his sh*t together long enough to pick up one legitimate win before all is said and done.
#6 – Yoshihiro Akiyama
(Photo via Getty.)
It pains us to say this about the man, the myth, the musical sensation known as “Sexyama”, but to declare his UFC career as anything other than would be a far more generous emoji than it deserved. Akiyama — seen above disguised as either a Super Saiyan or a pumpkin — was a K-1 Hero’s tournament winner riding a 14-fight unbeaten streak heading into his promotional debut in July of 2009, which saw him paired against Alan “The Talent” Belcher at UFC 100.
While Akiyama would defeat Belcher by controversial split decision that night, it would be all downhill from there. That he is still competing in the Octagon despite dropping his past four fights is a testament to his drawing power in Japan, a fact made all the more evident by his…let’s call it “convenient” decision to return from a two-year, self-imposed hiatus to take on Amir Sadollah at Fight Night Japan next weekend.
But should Akiyama drop his fifth straight to Sadollah, who himself will be returning from the second prolonged absence of his UFC career, one can expect to see him hang up the gloves for good. If you ask us, though, the UFC really missed the boat by not bringing in Sexyama as a coach on TUF 20. ”Easy on the Eyes, Hard on the Face” is practically the man’s credo, for Christ’s sake.
#5 – Jake Shields
(Photo via Getty.)
There was a lot of public uproar when Shields was suddenly cut by the UFC following his unanimous decision loss to Hector Lombard at UFC 171, and rightfully so. The former Strikeforce middleweight champ had gone 3-1 1 NC in his past 5 fights, was a relatively well known name (if for the wrong reasonzzzzz), and held recent wins over top welterweight contenders in Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia.
The problem was, Shields was never what Dana White would a call a “needle mover” (unlike your Conor McGregors and Royston Wees) and his loss to Lombard proved that he was far too one-dimensional to make another run at the title. As was the case with Jon Fitch and Yushin Okami, Shields simply became “too f*cking expensive” an investment for the UFC to ever see how they would get their return. And, not to pat the promotion on the back and risk losing my job, but they were probably right in letting him go.
The sad truth is, Shields was pretty underwhelming from the very start of his UFC tenure, and if you don’t believe us, look no further than the decision “win” he scored (snored?) over Martin Kampmann in his debut to earn a shot at Georges St. Pierre. Let me ask you this: Of the three victories that Shields would notch following successive losses to St. Pierre and Jake Ellenberger, can anyone remember a single highlight? And no, him getting ragdolled by Sexyama doesn’t count.
#4 – Brandon Vera…Still
What we said back then: “How’s this for a return-on-investment: The UFC paid “The Truth” a total of $76,000 in contracted salary for his first four wins against Fabiano Scherner, Justin Eilers, Assuerio Silva, and Frank Mir — all of them by brutal stoppage, mind you — then paid him $500,000 for his subsequent 1-3 stretch against Tim Sylvia, Fabricio Werdum, Reese Andy, and Keith Jardine. Did the fat paychecks make him soft? Did his long legal dispute with his manager throw off his mental game? It’s hard to know for sure, but by the end of 2008 it was clear that this wasn’t the same Brandon Vera who entered the UFC’s heavyweight division three years before and rocked it like a hurricane.
“The Truth is slated to return in August against Matt Hamill at UFC 102, in a fight that will either re-establish him as a rising star at light-heavyweight, or forever define him as an overpaid can-crusher.”
Ooof. If Brandon Vera was already considered a UFC bust prior to his appearance at UFC 102 (wherein he defeated replacement opponent Krzysztof Soszynski via UD), then the 1-4 1 NC streak that followed should undoubtedly serve as a validation of our assessment. I mean, Vera hadn’t even had his face broken by Jon Jones yet, or been turned into a human bongo drum by Thiago Silva yet, or had his face once again broken by Shogun Rua. Hell, he hadn’t even succumbed to the otherwordly shuck-n-jive skills of Ben Rothwell (IFL neva die!) yet.
For a guy who once claimed that he would hold two UFC titles simultaneously, it would be impossible to dub Vera as anything but a bust by his own assertion alone. He never fought for *one* title, or even in a #1 contender’s match for that matter, but hey, maybe he was just referring to his upcoming OneFC run.
#3 – Jason Miller
Jason Miller was never what you’d call “championship material” — even the folks at EA Sports knew that much about him. He was, however, one of the better fighters to spend the majority of his career outside the UFC and a charismatic, unique individual to boot, so it’s safe to say that the UFC had big plans for him when they brought him over to serve as a coach on the 14th season of The Ultimate Fighter.
An intense rivalry with Michael Bisping (go figure, right?) fueled that season, and the expectations surrounding Miller were made all the higher by Miller himself. When he stepped into the octagon against the Brit, fans were expecting an intense, technical battle between two of the sport’s better middleweights. What they got instead was one of the worst — if not the worst — performance of Miller’s career. Between his hilariously awkward attempts at standup and his nonexistent gas tank, Miller looked like plain amateurish next to Bisping, who battered and abused him en route to a third round TKO.
It was a loss that Miller’s career would never come from. One that he certainly wouldn’t learn from, at least. After being tentatively granted another shot against CB Dollaway, Miller once again talked himself into a corner, vowing to retire should Dollaway defeat him.
#2 – Alistair Overeem
(Photo via Getty.)
Replacing Vitor Belfort at #2 (which, wow) is Alistair Overeem, the Hercules-armed, Achilles-chinned PRIDE and Strikeforce star whose hype train went off the rails following consecutive KO losses to Bigfoot Silva and Travis Browne, then careened over a cliff into a school for blind, malnourished orphans at Fight Night 50 last weekend. Metaphorically speaking.
For a time, oh, between 2008-2011, Overeem was nothing short of untouchable. Save a couple losses in the kickboxing ring to top-level competition, Overeem utterly destroyed any and all opposition that was placed before him. That many of his fights during that period could be dubbed as hilariously mismatched squash matches did little to persuade us from declaring that Overeem would be the heavyweight champion within a year’s time should the UFC ever sign him.
Well, they did, and Uber proceeded to kick Brock Lesnar right in the diverticulitis, sending a shockwave through the heavyweight division and a message that he was not a man to be messed with. Four fights later, Overeem’s reputation could not be more different.
The upsides to Overeem’s fledging UFC career: He’s made a sh*tload of money, and he will be given another shot despite suffering a record 9th TKO loss (the most of any active UFC fighter) to Ben Rothwell last weekend.
#1 – Mirko Cro Cop…Still
What we said back then: “As we’ve already discussed in a previous list (Ed note: LISTCEPTION), Filipovic made a strong case for himself as the best fighter in the world after storming through PRIDE’s Open Weight Grand Prix Finals in September 2006. When he jumped ship to the UFC shortly after, we expected him to head-kick his way to a heavyweight title. But in stunning, heartbreaking fashion, Cro Cop flamed out of the organization within a year, becoming the first and most dramatic victim of the PRIDE Curse, as well as the biggest bust in UFC history.”
It’s interesting, they were just having a live discussion over at BloodyElbow about whether or not Alistair Overeem was the biggest bust in UFC History. Surprisingly enough, they almost unanimously agreed that it was Cro Cop, citing the same reasons as we did in our original assessment. Cro Cop was on the heels of the performance of his career and the greatest one-night performance in MMA history, and to see him fall from grace so steadily in the UFC was nothing short of heartbreaking for his legions of fans.
Watching the legend get KO’d three consecutive times at the hands of Frank Mir, Brendan Schaub, and Roy Nelson was tough enough, but if you ask me, the absolute nadir of his MMA career came at Legends 2, where he was submitted via A F*CKING NECK CRANK by some guy we can’t even remember. I guess we can take some small solace away from the fact that Cro Cop is still fighting and winning on the Glory kickboxing circuit. I guess…
Dishonorable mentions: Sokoudjou, “Kid” Yamamoto, Brock Lesnar (SHOTS FIRED)