5 UFC prospects who turned out to be busts
In terms of predicting which blue-chip prospects will actually pan out and which ones will crash and burn instead, MMA has to be one of the toughest sports. For every Max Holloway or Chris Weidman who make it all the way to the top of the UFC after being highly touted in their early days, there are countless more prospects who turn out to be busts despite bright beginnings.
As the leading promoter, it’s only natural that the UFC takes chances on tons of prospects each year; some go on to huge success while others simply settle into a solid role as a reliable mid-card action fighter. Others though simply fail to come close to their early potential and end up flaming out completely. Here are five of the biggest busts in UFC history.
#1 Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
Some would actually argue that Sokoudjou wasn’t actually a “prospect” when he debuted in the UFC in December 2007 because he’d already knocked out a pair of top ten Light-Heavyweights over in Japan. But make no mistake about it; it was his great potential that everyone was fixated on rather than his prior accomplishments.
Here was a bonafide 205lber, just 23 years old, a winner of the 2001 US Open Judo tournament, and he’d used his insanely heavy hands to knock out both Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona in PRIDE.
There was a bidding war between the UFC and K-1 Hero’s for Sokoudjou’s services but he decided to go with the world’s biggest promotion and so his debut fight with Zuffa was announced in late 2007; he’d face the unbeaten Lyoto Machida at UFC 79.
While the fight seemed like a pick-em, many MMA fans felt that Sokoudjou would be able to rush and destroy Machida as he’d done with Nogueira and Arona. It didn’t go down like that as Machida used his striking to pick the Cameroonian apart en route to a second-round arm triangle submission.
Most fans figured the loss wouldn’t matter – Sokoudjou would bounce back. It looked that way when he knocked out Kazuhiro Nakamura at UFC 84, but a second loss – this time a knockout at the hands of Luiz Cane at UFC 89 – signalled a surprising release from his UFC deal.
In fact, it turned out to be a good move by the UFC brass – Sokoudjou has flamed out horribly since 2008, losing to such luminaries as Ikuhisa Minowa, Houston Alexander and Paul Buentello. His record now stands at 18-18.
Despite showing flashes of greatness early on, a combination of a weak chin, a weak ground game (surprising for such a skilled judoka) and a poor gas tank meant Sokoudjou never came close to living up to his potential.