With the UFC’s recent acquisition by WME Entertainment group, the fight promotion is gunning their execution of Manifest Destiny playbook into full gear, holding events on six continents in the past year, and sometimes two in one week. With such a global expansion comes an expansion of infrastructure and, with that, many more chances to witness, first-hand, the trappings of a career that involves getting punched in the face. Fighters are being signed and let go at fairly accelerated rates, and the leash is much shorter than it was in the early Spike TV glory days. Remember when it took five straight losses for the UFC to cut Leonard Garcia? Guh.
In spite of that, the UFC still needs to retain marketable fighters. Not just that, but for long-term success to be ensured, they need marketable fighters who can still, y’know, fight. Sometimes their hand gets forced, but only in extreme situations. If Chuck Liddell had knocked out Rich Franklin, as he was well on his way to doing, instead of vice versa, in what turned out to be his final fight, the UFC would have most likely let him fight once or twice more — and likely get KOd once or twice more.
Anyhow. The night, as they say, is always darkest right before you buckle down and start kicking ass again. I think. To wit, here are three fighters on losing streaks that could still make an impact in the UFC.
Matt “The Immortal” Brown (20-15)
Matt Brown is a singular figure in the UFC. After entering the UFC as a semi-finalist on a season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” he began to make a name for himself as a come-forward brawler who could win a war of attrition with anyone, but with a borderline hilarious ground game deficiency. After losing four out of five fights, all by submission, Brown was thought to be on his way out of the UFC. But then he started winning. And kept winning. After a decision victory over now-title contender Stephen Thompson, Brown beat the brakes off of Mike Swick, Jordan Mein, Mike Pyle and Erick Silva. He would lose a decision in his next fight against Robbie Lawler, but Brown’s reputation and legacy were already established.
Regardless, Brown has hit something of a skid again in recent fights. After another decision loss to Johny Hendricks, he would lose two of his next three fights, including, for the first time in his career, a TKO loss. Still, if we can take a cue from history, the last time Brown lost four out of five fights, as he’s done recently, he went on the tear of his life. And though the recent, singular TKO loss is cause for some concern, Brown has shown a weakness to body shots in the past, which is what Rick Story used to initiate the finishing sequence in that fight. Story was just quick and skilled enough to capitalize. On any given day, Brown can still defeat most of the world’s top welterweights, or at least take a pint or two of blood on his way to a defeat. He’ll be around for a while.
Andrei “Pitbull” Arlovski (25-12)
Arlovski’s first UFC fight was all the way back at UFC 28; he most recently competed, and lost, this past weekend, with UFC 203 coming up. That’s insane, and his record reflects it. The majority of his losses are by some form of KO or TKO, and they’re not backloaded onto the latter third of his career or anything. Rather, Arlovski’s recent losing streak is reflective not just of the one he experienced a few years back, but of the shoddy defense he’s somehow managed to NOT shore up over the course of a decade-long career.
Such lapses plagued him early on. He lost his first fight via KO to insane white supremacist and cartwheel enthusiast Viacheslav Datsik, and was thrown to the wolves pretty early in his UFC career, suffering KO losses to Ricco Rodriguez and Pedro Rizzo in their respective primes. He rebounded and captured the heavyweight title over Tim Sylvia, defended it a couple of times, then dropped two more fights to Sylvia. Arlovski picked up wins over Jake O’Brien and Marcio Cruz before departing for upstart Affliction, where he was promptly KOd in midair by Fedor Emelianenko. That kicked off a string of four straight losses, three of them via violent KO by Fedor, Brett Rogers, and Sergi Kharitonov.
Arlovski bounced around a few smaller organizations for a couple of years, losing only to Anthony Johnson in a competitive decision. He was finally called back up to the UFC, where he won four straight over Brendan Schaub, Travis Browne, Antonio Silva and Frank Mir. On the verge of title contention, he was then matched up with a surging Stipe Miocic, who would go on to win the UFC heavyweight belt. Two more stoppage losses followed: a KO loss to Alistair Overeem, and the first submission loss of his career to Josh Barnett.
The encouraging part is this: Arlovski’s losses don’t seem to be the result of physical deterioration — he’s simply always been that defensively deficient. He’s still an abnormally quick heavyweight, with fast hands, KO power and a very good ground game. Matched up correctly, he could stick around for another three or four years, and maybe even make one final run.
Nick Diaz (26-9, two No Contests)
In the media, Diaz has often been referred to as “mercurial;” a massive understatement. The elder Diaz, it seems, was born with zero f***s to give, but has somehow translated that into a successful MMA career and cult following. He has held titles in three different major but defunct organizations: EliteXC, Strikeforce and DREAM. He’s a third-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but prefers to stay upright and throw hands. He holds victories over a laundry list of former and present greats: BJ Penn, Hayato Sakurai, Mariusz Zaromskis, Paul Daley, Evangelista Santos, Robbie Lawler and Frank Shamrock. He’s been finished only one time in his career, in only his fifth pro fight.
He also hasn’t recorded a win since 2011. Granted, he’s only fought three times since then, as a result of various slights and controversies both real and imagined, but still. He returned to the UFC to defeat BJ Penn by decision before dropping close but clear decisions to Carlos Condition and Georges St. Pierre. He came back last year to battle former middleweight champion Anderson Silva to a decision loss, though the result was changed to a No Contest after Silva tested positive for two different steroids, and Diaz tested positive for marijuana metabolites, still a banned substance under USADA rules. So.
Owing somewhat to his cult of personality, Diaz is still a massively popular figure, which is why the UFC is reportedly angling to set him up for another middleweight fight against a returning Chael Sonnen at Madison Square Garden. On top of that, however, Diaz remains one of the most frustratingly gifted fighters in the game today. Much like Matt Brown, you have to almost kill him to stop him, and not get tricked out of your game plan by his taunts and mind games. Apart from some scar tissue, he’s also exhibiting very few signs of any lasting physical damage, so he should have a handful of memorable Octagon encounters left in him.