Saturday night’s UFC Japan saw two respected veterans of the game lose in dramatic fashion in Takanori Gomi and Yushin Okami, but those two aside who else within the sport of MMA should consider hanging up their gloves?
Sometimes the fighting spirit that drives some of our favourite competitors can often prove to be their downfall. Time and time again we’ve seen fighters who are past their sell-by-date attempt to bounce back from a sometimes-ugly losing streak only to prove unsuccessful repeatedly.
Although we’ve seen some late-career turnarounds in the past, more often than not it can be difficult to watch a once great fighter’s career be marred by some less-than-stellar showings on its backend.
With that in mind, we’re going to take a look at five fighters who should probably consider hanging up the gloves before their competitive spirit gets them seriously hurt.
5. Diego Sanchez
Diego Sanchez truly was a gift from the MMA gods. For years his gutsy, bite-down-on-the-mouthpiece style saw him partake in some of the most entertaining fights in the sport’s history but despite his legendary chin and immeasurable heart, his most recent run has seen him be on the receiving end of some truly vicious KO losses, most notably to Joe Lauzon at UFC 200 and Al Iaquinta earlier this year.
Fight of the Year-winning showdowns with Gilbert Melendez and Clay Guida have immortalised ‘Lionheart’, but in truth those who have watched the hundreds of hard shots he has taken over the years know full well that Sanchez at this stage is just putting his long-term health in jeopardy despite the fact that he appears to be as game as ever, even now in the latter stages of his fine career.
He faces Matt Brown at UFC Norfolk this winter and though his opponent has announced that he intends to retire win, lose or draw following that bout, Sanchez himself seems set on continuing to compete, despite the fact that his chin has so clearly deteriorated.
4. Andrei Arlovski
Andrei Arlovski is another legend of the game, having made his UFC debut back in the year 2000, and while his heavyweight title-reign is forever in stone, five losses in his last five outings has many wondering when exactly the Belarusian will call it quits.
Arlovski’s striking ability has seen him defeat the likes of Travis Browne, Brendan Schaub, Tim Sylvia and Frank Mir over the years but it has become increasingly difficult to watch ‘the Pitbull’ in action and his spot as the 13th-ranked heavyweight on the planet despite his run of losses is a testament to the division’s truly-ailing make-up.
His next fight will see him take on the rising prospect Junior Albini at UFC Norfolk and just like with so many of his recent fights, it just seems like a contest that he is destined to lose in brutal fashion.
3. Johny Hendricks
The decline of the once-great Johny Hendricks has been one of the most difficult sagas to watch in recent MMA history. As the UFC’s welterweight champion, Hendricks was infamous for his elite wrestling and vicious knockout power but following some tightly contested decision losses to both Robbie Lawler and Georges St-Pierre, Big Rigg’s confidence and overall professionalism seemed to take an almighty hit, with some well-documented weight-cutting issues forcing him to make the step up to middleweight.
Now, at 5’9, he joins past opponent Hector Lombard as the 185lb division’s shortest fighter and while his wrestling credentials and experience remain a factor, his legendary knockout power has seemingly vanished, leaving him completely powerless and undersized in a division where the vast majority of its inhabitants clock in at over six feet tall.
Paulo Borrachinha will be the next man to take on the former champ and when you take a look at his record, it’s easy to see how this fight may as well be over before it even begins.
Ten knockout wins in ten pro-fights have singled Borrachinha out as one of the UFC’s hottest rising prospects and though there’s every chance that Hendricks can pull off the upset, it’s clear to see that he is long-past his prime and has no business risking his health against men who tower over him in virtually every sense of the world.
2. Mark Hunt
This one is perhaps a little less clearcut than the rest but in Mark Hunt, we have a fighter who still very much has a role to play in the heavyweight title picture, but at 43 he has complained in the past of suffering from memory loss and increasingly stuttering speech impediments.
Hunt is regarded as one of the hard-hitters in the history of mixed martial arts and his legendary chin has only recently shown signs of cracks but following his brutal UFC 209 KO loss to Alistair Overeem, his fourth loss by strikes in the last four years, it just seems as though ‘the Super Samoan’ needs to take a long look at how his love of combat could effect him in the long-run, regardless of his undeniable popularity, even now in what should be the final stages of his career.
Hunt’s wars with Antonio Silva and even Derrick Lewis recently will be remembered fondly in the years to come but sometimes – regardless of your standing within a given division – health needs to be prioritised over potential glory, and in Hunt’s case another vicious KO loss could be devastating.
1. Anderson Silva
Last but most certainly not least we come to ‘the Spider’, Anderson Silva, a genuine contender for the title of greatest mixed martial artist of all time, but again another whose prime years are well and truly in the past.
For years, Silva sat atop the middleweight division, defeating every comer in truly beautiful fashion and displaying a skill set as versatile and as well-rounded as virtually anyone’s we have seen before. But alas, as is almost always the case in this game, Anderson met his maker in the form of Chris Weidman, losing two of the most bizarre fights we have ever seen, causing him to take a lengthy lay-off he never properly recovered from.
He now faces Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Shanghai later this year but despite his opponent’s clear height disadvantage, Silva’s dramatically deteriorating speed and all-round confidence make him tailormade to be a rather prestigious feather in Gastelum’s already impressive cap.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena