Today's mixed martial arts landscape is littered with great champions that were once highly touted prospects. Georges St. Pierre, and Jon Jones both made it to the UFC before their seventh professional fight. Cain Velasquez was being raved about after dismantling his first opponent, and found himself in the sports premier organization two matches later. Anderson Silva was talked about on message boards everywhere, and impressed in his first few matches in PRIDE. After some head scratching losses he made his way over to the UFC, and is currently the most successful fighter mma has.
What sometimes gets missed is that there were great fighters that were once spoken of in the same breath as the men above. These guys that were viewed as the future, for whatever reason, just didn't see their careers reach the height that was expected. Sometimes it was injury, sometimes it was mental mistakes, sometimes it was they were simply overhyped, but the common theme among them is clear; they didn't pan out.
Below is a list of some of the biggest "busts" in mma.
Royce might come as a surprise to some of our newer fans, but he was once a prospect of great potential. A great wrestler in the 1980's, Royce won two national championships at the University of Iowa and was one of Dan Gable (if you don't know who that is look him up, then smack yourself for not knowing sooner) best pupils. When starting off his career, he went with Mark Coleman and the Hammerhouse guys to get him ready. This association, along with his accomplishments as a NCAA wrestler, Alger was being groomed for a big role in the UFC's newly created middleweight division (200 lbs and under). Sadly, he fell to Enson Inoue in his first match and then was beaten in to retirement by Eugene Jackson.
Bowling came rolling (I'm here all night) out of the gate in his career. He stopped every one of his first seven opponents, and only one made it to the second round. UFC veterans Shamar Bailey and Seth Bacynski were a couple of his victims, and his speed with power combination looked like it could truly be something special. Then he met Bobby Voelker. Seven fights later, Roger is 11-3 coming off of an ugly loss to Tarec Saffieidie in a bout that wasn't competitive at all. Hope is not all lost for Mr. Bowling though. He makes his light weight debut against Anthony Njokuani on April 20th.
The epitome of a fighter who competes better in training. Riggs was raived about for years with his combination of power and speed. A former heavyweight who came all the way down to 170 at a few points, Riggs had some of the best natural gifts in fighting. He has fast hands, good power, and had some of the most destructive ground and pound in either the middleweight or welterweight divisions. Even with these gifts he never seemed to put it all together though. After an 8 fight win streak, where he defeated the likes of Joe Doerksen and Kendall Grove, "Diesel" had mixed success. He alternated impressive wins like his destruction of Chris Lytle, with disappointing losses exemplified by his first round submission loss to Matt Hughes (where he failed to make weight for the title fight). Riggs is currently on a five fight winning streak against some regional opponents, and is still competing. However, that was hardly what you had in mind if you listened to people like Pat Miletich back in 2005 when he said he was the most talented guy he'd seen in sparring (compared to all the killers that used to compete from Miletich's camp).
The night was November 18th, the event was UFC 65, and the fight was Vera vs. Frank Mir. Mir appeared to be back on form, finally, after a horrifying accident that left his carer in jeapardy. Brandon was a dynamo. He had stopped seven of his first eight opponents, and was already 3 stoppages into his UFC career. Vera blew Frank away in the first round. It appeared to be a passing of the torch to a new fighter destined to be a killer at heavyweight, and maybe even light-heavyweight. He was a knock-out artist with speed, and a good wrestling background from his time in the military (not to mention a submission win over a black belt already on his resume). Close to 7 years later, and we know it all too differently now. Mir was still a bit behind in his recovery process, and since a long contract negotiations hold out from Brandon he's never been the same. After losing to Tim Sylvia and Fabricio Werdum in his next two fights Vera looked to reignite that fire that brought him so much hype in the first place and moved to 205 lbs. Sadly, it didn't help matters that much either. Vera is currently 12-6, and was last seen giving a gutsy performance against Mauricio Rua in a losing effort.
So what do you think Lowkickers? Who else have you seen great potential in, only for them to falter when the fights take place? Let us know!