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Chris Daukaus has been struggling to live up to his early hype in recent bouts

5 UFC heavyweights who failed to live up to their hype

The UFC’s heavyweight division is a fascinating place, in the sense that a fighter can often find big success with little more than thunderous power in their hands and can be exposed as limited just as easily.


The unpredictable nature of the UFC’s heavyweight division means that over the years, we’ve seen plenty of fighters garner huge amounts of hype in the weight class, only to fail to live up to it.


Sometimes, injuries have hampered the progress of these fighters, while other times, they simply lack a key tool needed to reach the top.


With that in mind, here are five UFC heavyweights who failed to live up to their hype.



#5. Chris Daukaus – UFC heavyweight contender

Despite garnering hype in his early bouts, Chris Daukaus may be too small to succeed as a heavyweight

Sure, it’s probably fair to say that Chris Daukaus still has plenty of time to make an impact in the UFC, even if it isn’t necessarily in the heavyweight division. After all, the native of Philadelphia is still only 32 years old and may only just be reaching his prime years.


However, given that many fans expected him to develop into a bonafide title contender this year, it’s safe to say that Daukaus has missed the mark by quite a substantial amount.

Daukaus didn’t actually come into the promotion with much hype in the first place. His 8-3 record was largely unremarkable when he was pegged for his octagon debut in 2020. However, when he reeled off two violent wins over Parker Porter and Rodrigo Nascimento, winning a $50k bonus for the latter, it was hard not to get excited.

The Philadelphia native had remarkably quick hands for a big man, clearly hit with some serious power and while he didn’t show it in his early octagon bouts, his ground game was reportedly strong too.


Chris Daukaus unloaded on Aleksei Oleinik to secure the first-round finish!

02:20 AM · Feb 21, 2021

2021 saw Daukaus step up hugely in competition, beating veterans Aleksei Oleinik and Shamil Abdurakhimov. Even when he was stopped by Derrick Lewis in his first headline bout, it felt like a simple bump in the road. After all, anyone could be knocked out by ‘The Black Beast’.

However, Daukaus’ recent loss to Curtis Blaydes has brought his entire future as a heavyweight into question and has also firmly put a stop to his hype train. It’s already been suggested, by Blaydes, in fact, that the Philadelphia native drop to 205 pounds for his next bout. To tell the truth, it may be a good idea.

"No shade," but Curtis Blaydes thinks Chris Daukaus should drop to 205 pounds after back-to-back losses.

#UFCColumbus | Full video: bit.ly/3DdptOP
2:27 PM · Mar 27, 2022

#4. Pedro Rizzo – former UFC heavyweight contender

Pedro Rizzo had remarkably heavy strikes, but failed to reach his potential overall

Modern fans may not recognize the name Pedro Rizzo. Aound two decades ago, the Brazilian was one of the most feared heavyweights competing in MMA. Unfortunately, it’s probably also fair to argue that ‘The Rock’ never quite lived up to his hype.

Rizzo actually debuted in the UFC way back in 1998, as he defeated legendary brawler Tank Abbott via knockout. At that stage, the Brazilian was 6-0 in MMA and was already beginning to garner huge hype based around the brutal kickboxing skills he’d picked up from his coach Marco Ruas, a former UFC champion in his own right.


By 2000, Rizzo had reeled off four wins in the octagon and earned a title shot against reigning heavyweight champ Kevin Randleman. In his title fight, to say ‘The Rock’ flattered to deceive would be an understatement.

A consummate counter-striker, Rizzo simply couldn’t commit to his offense when Randleman refused to walk into his traps and ended up coming out on the wrong end of a decision in what was a terrible fight.

‘The Rock’ did rebound with a pair of impressive wins, but two failed attempts in another pair of title bouts, this time against Randy Couture, damaged his reputation further. While he went 3-2 in his last five octagon bouts, by that point, his card had been marked.

Essentially, Rizzo had all the tools to become an all-time great heavyweight and showed flashes of that at points. However, his absolute refusal to commit to anything but counter-striking simply meant he could never live up to the hype that grew around him, leaving him as an overall disappointment in the eyes of the fans.


#3. Brandon Vera – former UFC heavyweight contender

Brandon Vera looked like a surefire future star at heavyweight, but didn't quite reach the top

When Brandon Vera burst onto the UFC scene in 2005 with a knockout of Fabiano Scherner and then professed his goal to win both the heavyweight and light heavyweight titles, it was hard not to get drawn into the hype.

‘The Truth’ was 5-0 in MMA and came from a high-level wrestling background. Judging by his early fights, he possessed an absolutely deadly kickboxing game, too.

Vera quickly followed his win over Scherner with three more victories, all by stoppage, ending with a knockout of former heavyweight champion Frank Mir. At that stage, it seemed almost academic that ‘The Truth’ would actually reach the lofty goal he’d set for himself.

Free fight - a heavyweight Brandon Vera vs. Frank Mir at UFC 65 ufc.com/media/UFC-on-F…
7:58 PM · Jul 30, 2012

However, when he was on the verge of a title shot, Vera decided to play hardball with the UFC, demanding more money and teasing a jump to rival promotion Elite XC.

That didn’t go down too well with Dana White and company, who subsequently shelved ‘The Truth’ for a year. That put an end to any hopes of him claiming the title within two years of his arrival in the octagon.

When Vera returned, he suffered his first defeat in a listless bout with former champ Tim Sylvia. From there, his career completely slid off the rails.

A second loss to Fabricio Werdum triggered his long-rumoured move to 205 pounds. While he found some success there, he never came close to winning the title. A 2013 move back to heavyweight also failed to reignite his career and a loss to Ben Rothwell saw him wash out of the promotion altogether.

Vera did go onto win gold in ONE Championship, but despite this, it’s definitely fair to say that he never lived up to the early hype he received in the UFC.


#2. Gabriel Gonzaga – former UFC heavyweight contender

Gabriel Gonzaga garnered an insane amount of hype after knocking out Mirko Cro Cop with a head kick

It’d be unfair to label Gabriel Gonzaga a complete flop as he did achieve some tremendous wins in his UFC career. However, it’s probably fair to say that he never quite reached the heights that some fans expected him to.

‘Napao’ debuted in the octagon in late 2005 with a reputation as one of the world’s best grapplers. He quickly reeled off three straight wins, all via stoppage, to throw his name into the hat of heavyweight title contenders.

However, it was his brutal head kick knockout of former PRIDE superstar Mirko Cro Cop that turned him into arguably the hottest big man in the sport.

On This Day: Gabriel Gonzaga head kicks Mikro Cro Cop

Look back at the whole event right here :

8:45 PM · Apr 21, 2020

Suddenly, it was impossible not to see ‘Napao’ as a future UFC heavyweight champion. The hype around him grew and grew following the knockout, to the point that early internet memes were created comparing him to the legendary Street Fighter character Blanka, while some fans talked about him having the potential to beat the great Fedor Emelianenko.

Despite this, when it came to his title shot in the octagon, Gonzaga flattered to deceive. He was unable to break the will of champion Randy Couture and suffered a third-round TKO loss. When he followed that with another TKO loss, this time to fellow grappler Fabricio Werdum, his hype thoroughly evaporated.

Sure, ‘Napao’ continued to compete in the octagon for a further eight years, picking up some solid wins over that time, but for the most part, he was considered little more than a high-end gatekeeper, nothing like the monstrous force he was made out to be after the Cro Cop knockout.


#1. Todd Duffee – former UFC heavyweight contender

At one point, Todd Duffee was arguably the hottest heavyweight contender in the UFC

It’s arguable that despite only competing in the octagon on seven occasions, no heavyweight in UFC history has failed to live up to his early hype quite as much as Todd Duffee.

When he debuted in the octagon in the summer of 2009, Duffee was already seen as one of the hottest prospects in the world. With a physique that made him look like an action figure, he’d picked up a big win over PRIDE veteran Assuerio Silva on the regional circuit and was rumored to have gotten the better of former UFC champ Frank Mir in their sparring sessions.

So when Duffee’s debut saw him break the record for the heavyweight division’s fastest-ever knockout, turning the lights out on Tim Hague in just seven seconds, it felt like a superstar had been unearthed.

OTD in 2009, Todd Duffee recorded a seven second knockout of Tim Hague (RIP). It remains as the fastest knockout in UFC heavyweight history.
10:45 PM · Aug 28, 2017

Fans instantly began to fantasize about fights between Duffee and the likes of Brock Lesnar, Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. Even a strange KO loss to Mike Russow in his second octagon appearance, a fight Duffee was winning handily until Russow landed a Hail Mary shot in the final round, didn’t seem to derail his hype.

However, before a third fight could be scheduled, Duffee found himself released by the promotion for purported attitude problems.

A loss to Alistair Overeem in Japan’s DREAM promotion followed, but when the UFC brought him back into the fold in 2012 and he knocked out Phil De Fries and Anthony Hamilton violently, it was impossible not to get excited again.

Unfortunately, that was as good as it would get for Duffee. He fell to his old sparring partner Mir in a wild fight in the summer of 2015, before a lengthy list of injury problems, including a serious nerve issue in his shoulder, left him on the shelf.

Since then, Duffee has fought just once, going to a no contest with Jeff Hughes in 2019, and there has been no word on a potential octagon return. At the age of 36, it seems likely that his career is probably over and while his injuries were no fault of his own, it’s not unfair to say he completely failed to live up to the hype.

Edited by
Harvey Leonard
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