Home UFC When potential meets reality: Prospects that don’t pan out

When potential meets reality: Prospects that don’t pan out


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 Alger

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.

Roger Bowling

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.

Joe Riggs

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).

Brandon Vera

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!


  • Some fun and solid info here.
    Even though I feel I know a lot of the sport's history, I'll openly admit I hadn't heard of Royce Alger and his early promise. I know of Bowling and have seen him fight but didn't realise he was so promising early in his rise either.

    Glad to see Vera here, he has to be on everyone of these lists, partly due to his setting himself up for a big fall.

    Remember guys this is biggest busts, not biggest unlived potential (like Bas for example).

    • Yea, Alger was way before your time. Remeber this was back at the beginning of weight classes for the UFC so you were only around 6 or 7 years old.

      • Damn my parents for having me later in life!

        haha ahwell, I'll just need to read articles like this to brush up on my knowledge.
        Result sheets can only take you so far 🙁

    • Vera is a frustrating case. His standup is absolutely brilliant. But no one will stand with him. Shogun was taking him down any chance he could. Or trying to push him up against the fence. Vera does have very good wrestling but his body type makes it hard to avoid takedowns at the fence. We always see flashes of brilliance in Vera's striking. But I suppose that's why pretty much every fighter he faces is diving for take downs. They have seen the video on him and are scared s-h ltless to stand in the center of the cage with him.

  • @Evan…Can we add Rolles Gracie in there as well and James Toney?

    • Rolles was actually a thought I had when making the list, but his hype was more of a wiat and see how he does on the big stage. Nothing like some of the attention the 4 guys above got.

      Definitely not Toney. Maybe back in the 90's.

  • Hector Lombard

    • lombard has like 34 wins with a couple of decision losses, hes had a good mma career. he still has another chance to tweak his game though its not as if he has been destroyed, IMO he beat boetsch and okami just tried to hold him until the bell rung (nearly getting finished on the way)

  • Great list and very good homework done on each fighter but let's not forget about Mike Swick, David Loiseau or Nate Marquardt. All three of those guy's were thought to be future Champions and were never able to get the belt and have been inconsistent there entire career's.

    • and Melvin Guilard?

      • geekkeeper- Believe it or not Melvin Guillard was never a top tier prospect. He had plenty of hype multiple times in his career, but because of all of his head scratching losses to guys he looked like he should have destroyed his success was always taken with a grain of salt.

    • Swick was also very close to being made, but I chose to keep him off simply because it was his injuries/sicknesses that made him fall off. Plus he had losses early on in his career too.

      Loiseau and Marquardt had a few good runs, but were never top tier prospects. They were thought to be great challenges for MW champions, but never really given that great a chance at dethroning them. Plus, same situation with Swick, both had big losses early on in their careers.

  • Brock Lesnar is the most over-hyped man ever to step in to the octagon. He was champ, I'll give him that, but a fighter he was not, nor will ever be. They said he was "The new breed", but he was just a freak, when The true new breed came around Lesnar saw it best to run away. Lesnar was just size and hype, if he wasn't a HW he would have never gotten in to the ufc with his skill set, hart and attitude. Champ or not, he should be on this list.

    • Brock Lesnar might have been a little overhyped, but he was a UFC HW champion that defended his belt. He destroyed Frank Mir, stopped Randy Couture, and came back to submit Shane Carwin (all top 5 opponents at the time he defeated them). His biggest failures also didn't happen until his disease took over his digestion.

      Brock might have been a bit overyped, but a failed prospect he was not.

      • Brock was, without doubt, THE MOST over hyped fighter in the history of the sport, maybe any sport ever. He came along when the UFC still lacked much class at HW and was lucky he came when he did. If he'd came a couple of years later he'd have probably gone 0 – 3 and a laughing stock. As it is he acquitted himself reasonably well mainly due to his size advantage over opponents not skilled enough to compensate their disadvantage. One only has to look at the Cain and Overeem fights to see how he fared against a bit of class.

        But credit to Brock. For someone who barely trained MMA he took his chances wore the UFC belt (not that it meant much then) and seemed humbled from his arrogant wanker persona to something more resembling a decent human by the end of his MMA venture. The hype with the Mir fights was on a level Sonnen can only dream of achieving, and I'll never forget his size zillion gloves smashing Mir's face to a pulp.

  • Sokoudjou is another that sparkled early but the shine soon went.