Fighters at a Crossroads

There is never a shortage of articles on fighters making waves in the industry. The up-and-comer, the long-reigning champ or the contenders on the cusp of super-stardom always dominate headlines. There is, however, an entirely opposite side of the fight spectrum: the fighter on the downturn. After losing a few fights a fighter can find themselves in limbo; wondering what their stock will be in an industry that is constantly moving forward. This crossroads has a diverse effect on fighters at different levels in the fight business and the outcome can be dramatic.

Wanderlei Silva: Never say die

Record: 32-9-1

Notable Appearances: UFC, PRIDE

The Axe Murderer is 1-4 in the last 3 years. It sounds almost incomprehensible considering his incredible legacy. He has seen more losses than wins in the UFC, most recently losing an incredible war to Chuck Liddell and taking a dose of knockout vengeance from “Rampage” Jackson. Critics claim his best years have came and went, but there is one thing that can never be taken away from him: MMA loves Wandy. He has decided to drop to a catch-weight of 195 pounds to take on former Middleweight champ Rich Franklin. He even insists that he will drop to middleweight if a new weight class isn’t created after this next fight. Silva may be immune to the greater effects of losing simply because he is an institution in Mixed Martial Arts. His never say die spirit and blue chip credentials will keep him in the game until he chooses to hang up his gloves.

Chuck Liddell: A Veteran’s Tribute

Record: 21-6

Notable Appearances: UFC, PRIDE

Chuck Liddell may be the exception to the rule, and for good reason: he is a mega-star. He has been the face of MMA for years now and has consistently been a successful draw for he UFC. Despite dropping three of his last four fights (being knocked out twice) Chuck is still a headliner. His next fight is a co-main event slot against “Shogun” Rua. Early odds will likely favor Chuck in that fight. He has been a major flag carrier for the UFC and a clear fan favorite. For that, UFC President Dana White shows him respect and never counts him out. The biggest hurdle Chuck has to face in the downward slope is criticism of his predictable techniques and retirement talk. His counter style suits that question well as Chuck has stated on many occasions he will not make his decision to hang up his gloves in the ring. And he may silence critics of his training methods after a short stint with American Top Team. It is good to be the Iceman- win or lose.

Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou: The Icarus Syndrome

Record: 5-4

Notable appearances: PRIDE, UFC, Affliction

Sokoudjou is possibly one of the fastest rise-to-stardom stories in MMA today.

After back-to-back knockouts of Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona, he was on nearly every top ten list in MMA circles. But after going 1-2 (being finished twice) in the UFC, Sokoudjou was let go. Affliction secured him for their “Day of Reckoning” show against Renato Sobral only to be tapped via choke in round two. Now Thierry is nearly a .500 fighter. Perhaps Sokoudjou was flying too high too fast. Sokoudjou now has one option: win and win big. He has decided to go all in with his next fight, returning to Japan against DREAM middleweight phenomenon Gegard Mousasi. A gamble this big could thrust Sokoudjou back into the spotlight and keep his name on the tongues of the MMA pundits.

Joe Stevenson: At the Gates

Record: 29-10

Notable Appearances: UFC, King of the Cage

There is a term in MMA that fighters meet with either a bit of pride or dread: gatekeeper. It can mean you are an established fighter who others will have to go through to be considered contenders. That definition gives it a touch of reverence. But gatekeeper can also mean you may never be seen as a title contender again, something no fighter works hard for everyday in the gym. Joe Stevenson is a deserved contender, but unfortunately for “Daddy”, the moniker of gatekeeper may be solidified as he recently dropped a decision to light weight newcomer Diego Sanchez. Knowing Joe’s heart and work ethic, he will use his TUF 9 Finale fight against Nate Diaz to make the long climb back to the top.

Matt Lindland: The Hero’s Journey

Record: 21-6

Notable Appearances: UFC, IFL, Bodog, Affliction

Matt Lindland is the journeyman fighter’s figurehead. He goes where the money is and proves the point that you don’t need to be tied to exclusive contracts to gain notoriety. He has existed in the upper echelon of middleweight rankings for years. Being a journeyman may be starting to work against him however. Fighting only once in 2008 in a less-than-inspiring match and then being knocked out against Vitor Belfort at January’s Affliction card has critics wondering if his time is up as a contender in the middleweight division. It is without a doubt that the tough-as-nails Linland will be looking to keep his name fresh on the minds of promoters across the globe by picking up the pieces and accepting any and all comers in the future. Such is the code of a fighter’s journey.

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