It’s always exciting when a new fighter with momentum behind them is getting ready to make their UFC debut.
We’ve seen highly anticipated debuts in the UFC time and time again, with many of the fighters like Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey actually going on to become some of the biggest stars the sport has ever seen. When you combine hype with performance you get the recipe for some serious potential stardom, which elevates the sport to new heights.
On the other end of the spectrum, you also get fighters that had so much hype surrounding them prior to making the move over to the UFC, but just couldn’t perform to that level under the bright lights inside the Octagon.
Let’s take a look at 5 UFC hype trains that could not maintain the necessary level needed to seperate themselves from the herd:
He made his UFC debut with a perfect 10-0 record against James Irvin at UFC 71 in 2007, winning the fight via TKO in the 1st round. Silva put on more beatdowns in his next 3 fights, all coming by way of KO/TKO in the 1st or 2nd round, before stepping up against Lyoto Machida who handed him his 1st career loss. Before losing to Machida, many fans expected Silva to go on to become the UFC light-heavyweight champion.
Silva redeemed himself in his next fight against Keith Jardine at UFC 102, winning via KO in the 1st round, before losing againto Rashad Evans via UD at UFC 108. He went on to put on possibly the biggest beating of his professional career against Brandon Vera at UFC 125, winning the fight via dominant UD. This fight marked the beginning of the end for Silva as he failed the post-fight drug test, as it was revealed that he had falsified his urine sample.
He lost his next fight against Alexander Gustafsson via UD, followed by a submission victory over Stanislav Nedkov in his next fight. Unfortunately, Silva once again failed a drug test and the result was overturned to a no-contest (NC). He won back-to-back fights against Rafael Cavalcante and Matt Hamill, but missed weight and was later cut by the UFC.
Silva was briefly re-signed by the UFC in 2014, but was released from his contract after his arrest for violating a protection order against his estranged wife and threatening her new partner Pablo Popovitch at his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Center. UFC president Dana White stated that Silva would “never fight in the UFC again”.
In his post-UFC career he went on to compete in the World Series of Fighting (WSOF), KSW and ACB. Silva also made his professional kickboxing debut in GLORY back in 2017, winning his fight against John King via UD.
Anyone who enters the UFC on a long winning streak is bound to have a lot of hype behind them. This was the case for Roger Huerta, who made his UFC debut with a professional MMA record of 14–1–1 (1). His only career loss had come as a result of a dislocated jaw early in the finals of the SuperBrawl 36 tournament against Ryan Schultz in 2004, which was his third fight of the day.
Huerta didn’t waste any time, picking up a unanimous decision (UD) victory in his debut against Jason Dent at UFC 63. The fight also earned him a Fight of the Night bonus and built up even more hype around himself. In his next fight at UFC 67, he starched John Halverson via TKO in just 19 seconds in the very 1st round. Huerta picked up another UD victory, as well as a Fight of the Night bonus against Leonard Garcia at UFC 69, followed by 3 straight finishes against Doug Evans, Alberto Crane and Clay Guida. His submission victory over Guida was particularly impressive to fight fans everywhere, as it managed to earn both men a Fight of the Night award, as well as Fight of the Year. His professional MMA record had improved to 20-1-1-(1) (6-0 UFC) and he had tied the UFC record for most victories in a calendar year (5).
The hype around Huerta was real. Several major sports publications such as Sports Illustrated had taken an interest in the rising UFC lightweight contender. Huerta seemed to have had all the makings of a star. His tough upbringing saw his father leave home, when Huerta was just 12 years old. He was kicked out by his stepmother shortly after and lived on the streets for many years and survived by joining a gang. Huerta often slept in alleys and on rooftops, but was encouraged by his friends to remain in school where he could at least eat breakfast and lunch.
Huerta was clearly on his way to a title shot, but that dream was crushed after he lost to Kenny Florian via UD at UFC 87. Following that loss, he revealed that he plans to take a break from competing in MMA in order to pursue his acting career. He made a return to the Octagon against Gray Maynard the following year, losing the fight via split-decision (SD). Following that loss, Huerta left the UFC with a record of 6-2 and went on to compete in other organisations.
He made his Bellator Debut against Chad Hinton at Bellator 13, winning the fight via submission (kneebar) in the 3rd round, but went on to lose his next 4 bouts. His overall record since leaving the UFC is 4-9.
Whenever there is an Olympic athlete transitioning over to the sport of MMA it’s bound to get fight fans hyped up. In Hector Lombard’s case, this was heavily amplified for several different reasons. For one, he is built like a German heavy tank, which is the first thing you notice about the Cuban/Australian fighter. Second, before making his UFC debut in 2012 he had a professional MMA record of 31–2–1 (1) with his only losses coming against UFC calibre opponents in Akihiro Gono and Gegard Mousasi.
Lombard came to prominence while fighting under Bellator MMA, where he became the middleweight champion. During his reign he collected notable and impressive victories over fighters like Jay SIlva, Alexander Shlemenko and Trevor Prangley among others. He made his highly anticipated UFC debut against Tim Boetsch at UFC 149, ultimately losing the bout via split-decision (SD). Lombard lost a lot of momentum with that loss, even thought Tim Boetsch was no slouch at the time and had reinvented himself as a middleweight, who entered the bout on an impressive 3-fight winning streak.
He redeemed himself in his next fight against Rousimar Palhares, who he stopped via knockout in the very 1st round. Many fans were calling the loss in his UFC debut a “fluke”, but they were once again disappointed by Lombard who lost his next fight against Yushin Okami via SD. Following the loss, Lombard made the decision to switch divisions and dropped down to welterweight, where he picked up back-to-back victories over Nate Marquardt and Jake Shields.
Things seemed to be going great in his new found home at welterweight with another victory over Josh Burkman at UFC 182, but any hopes of a title shot were stopped dead in their tracks after Lombard failed the post-fight drug test for anabolic steroids. Following his drug test failure, Lombard had one more fight at welterweight against Neil Magny, which he lost via TKO in the 3rd round.
He returned to middleweight, where he faced Dan Henderson at UFC 199, losing via knockout in the 2nd round. Lombard competed in the UFC 4 more times following his knockout loss to Henderson, losing the fight each time. His professional MMA record stands at 34–10–1 (2).
Lombard hasn’t competed in MMA professionally since his last loss in 2018, but promptly made his bare knuckle boxing debut against David Mundell, winning the bout via unanimous decision (UD).
It’s hard to forget the amount of hype around Uriah Hall when he was making his UFC debut. The flashy middleweight fighter first came to prominence when he appeared on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter. TUF 17 runner-up gained some serious public attention after his knockout victory over Adam Cella on the show. With just 10-seconds left in the 1st-round, Hall launched an ICBM-like spinning heel kick, which clipped Cella’s head and put him out for the count. The “knockout heard around the world” was so devastating that Cella wasn’t able to get up from the ground for several minutes after it. UFC president Dana White described it as the “most vicious knockout ever seen” by him.
Hall reached the finale with a perfect 4-0 run on the show, where he faced Kelvin Gastelum. Understandably, with all of the hype (and his TUF accomplishments) Hall entered the bout as the favorite to win. He ended up losing the fight to Gastelum via split-decision (SD). Fans were very upset by his close decision loss to Gastelum with many calling it a “robbery” and referring to Hall’s fight stats as proof that he should have won.
He had the chance to redeem himself in his next bout at UFC Fight Night 26. Hall was initially scheduled to face Nick Ring, who was pulled from the fight and replaced by fellow TUF 17 contestant Josh Samman. This fight also fell through after Samman pulled out from the bout and was replaced by John Howard. Hall lost the fight via another SD.
Much of the hype surrounding Hall had died at this point. He faced the tough UFC and TUF veteran Chris Leben in his “redemption fight” at UFC 168. UFC president Dana White was quoted saying that Hall “must win” if he wants to remain with the promotion. The stakes were clearly high, but Hall managed to pull through with a TKO victory over Leben after dropping him with a punch near the end of the 1st-round. Leben was saved by the bell, but was not fit to continue in-between rounds and the fight was stopped before the beginning of the 2nd-round.
This victory ignited some new hype around Hall, who went on to pick up back-to-back wins over Thiago Santos and Ron Stallings. He lost his next fight against Rafael Natal at UFC 187 via SD, before winning back-to-back fights against Oluwale Bamgbose and Gegard Mousasi.
Any hopes of a title shot were swiftly crushed after Hall lost 3-in-a-row against division contenders in Robert Whittaker, Derek Brunson and Gegard Mousasi. Hall last competed in the UFC against Antônio Carlos Júnior at UFC Fight Night 158 in September of 2019. He is 3-1 in his last 4 fights, however at age 35, it seems unlikely that Hall will make a run for the UFC middleweight title.
When you have won 25-straight fights, you’re bound to have some serious, serious hype surrounding you. This was the case for Renan Barao, who entered the UFC with a professional MMA record of 25–1 (1) with his only loss being in his MMA debut.
A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, serious striking acumen, longest active winning streak in the sport and being part of a prominent team were just some of Barao’s credentials when he made his UFC debut against Cole Escovedo at UFC 130. He won the fight via unanimous decision (UD). He was initially scheduled to face future UFC flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson, but Johnson was instead moved to fight Miguel Torres on the same card.
For the calibre of fighter that Barao was seen as, his UFC debut was not very impressive, but this is a rather common occurrence for fighters making their organizational debut under the bright lights in the UFC Octagon. Barao redeemed himself to the fans and pundits around the world in his next fight against Brad Pickett at UFC 138. He put on one of the most impressive displays of skill in his 1st-round finish over Pickett, which earned him a nice Fight of the Night bonus.
Barao went on to display his diverse skill set against Scott Jorgensen at UFC 143, winning the fight via unanimous decision (UD). While the bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz was out with an injury, Barao faced Urijah Faber for the interim title instead. He won the fight via UD and was expected to unify the title against Cruz at a later date.
Cruz sustained another serious injury and Barao was left to defend his interim UFC bantamweight title against Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel 7. He won the bout via submission (arm-triangle choke) in the 4th round, earning a Submission of the Night bonus for his impressive finish. With Cruz still recovering from his injuries, Barao went on to make his 2nd “title defence” against Eddie Wineland at UFC 165. He won the bout in devastating fashion via TKO (spinning back kick and punches) in the 2nd-round. Following his victory, UFC promoted him to the undisputed bantamweight champion.
Barao had a seriously impressive record of 31–1 (1) and was considered to be one of the pound-for-pound (P4P) best fighters in the world. He rematched Urijah Faber at UFC 169, stopping the future UFC Hall of Fame fighter via TKO in the very 1st-round. With such impressive performances, many fans were throwing Barao’s name into the mix for the greatest-of-all-time (GOAT) status.
He faced TJ Dillashaw for his 2nd title defence as the undisputed UFC bantamweight champion at UFC 173. Dillashaw was trained by Urijah Faber, who Barao had already beaten twice. He was considered to be a good fighter at the time, but had already lost twice in his professional career and was facing Barao in only his 12th fight. Understandably, many fans didn’t give Dillashaw much of a chance against Barao, who was going into the fight as a huge favorite with more than a 30-fight winning streak and a professional MMA record of 32–1 (1). Dillashaw ended up shocking the world with one of the greatest upsets in the history of the sport after putting on a dominant performance, which saw him outstrike Barao in every round, eventually stopping the Brazilian via TKO in the 5th round.
Barao went on to win his next fight against Mitch Gagnon via submission (arm-triangle choke) in the 3rd round, before rematching Dillashaw. He lost the rematch via TKO in the 4th round and was never the same fighter after it. Barao competed 7 more times following his 2nd loss to Dillashaw, losing all but 1 fight against Phillipe Nover, who Barao beat via UD. His current professional MMA record is 34–9 (1) (9-8 UFC).
This article first appeared on CLOSEDGUARDMEDIA.com on 23rd April, 2020.