7. Phillipe Never
The standout member of The Ultimate Fighter 8 cast, Phillipe Nover was arguably the most hyped contestant in the show’s history up until that point.
Despite fainting on the first episode of the season, the former nurse ran through every opponent he encountered while looking like a legitimate world-beater.
UFC President Dana White was so confident in Nover’s abilities that he started to promote him as the next Georges St-Pierre. And in truth, many of us mainlined that Kool-Aid right along with him.
Unfortunately, the Nover we witnessed on the show didn’t turn up to the finale, where he was comprehensively outgrappled and outpointed by Efrain Escudero.
Just an off night for the Filipino-American? That was the conventional wisdom. It wasn’t until he dropped his next two fights to the unheralded Kyle Bradley and Rob Emerson that we realised we had overestimated Nover’s potential.
Lesson learned? Read on, folks.
6. Efrain Escudero
Yes, the man who bested Phillipe Nover at the TUF 8 Finale. Efrain Escudero, Nover’s fellow Team Nogueira member, had looked outstanding all season, being outshone only by his prematurely hyped friend.
It wasn’t until the finale that we began to think that Escudero, not Nover, had title potential. Of course, that had to be it! We hadn’t overstated Nover’s potential, but rather we had understated Escudero’s.
How could we have been so foolish?
Things looked promising for the Mexican-American in his next bout, where he TKO'd the tricky Cole Miller within a round. It was Escudero's next fight, against Evan Dunham, that alerted us to the possibility the ceiling on his potential may be a little lower than we initially thought.
An uninspiring decision victory over Dan Lauzon followed, and then the wheels fully came off in a submission loss to Charles Oliveira. Escudero was subsequently cut by Dana White, who felt he hadn’t shown the requisite work ethic to make it to the top.
Sokoudjou came to the UFC from Pride with a mighty reputation. The Cameroonian had starched two of the best light heavyweights on the planet: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Ricardo Arona.
When he entered the UFC to much fanfare, big things were expected in his debut against Lyoto Machida at UFC 79.
It goes without saying that things didn’t end well for Sokoudjou that night. “The Dragon” earned the win via arm-triangle choke within two rounds, putting a halt to the hype train.
Few were impressed when Sokoudjou won his next fight against Kazuhiro Nakamura via a first-round injury. We were even less impressed when Brazilian striker Luiz Cane stopped him in the second round at UFC 89.
The Cameroonian earned his walking papers shortly thereafter.
4. Wanderlei Silva
The inclusion of Wanderlei Silva on this list may be controversial. Many will argue that the Brazilian had already shown signs of frailty in knockout losses to Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Dan Henderson, and they may have a point.
Still, we were entitled to be excited about Silva’s UFC debut against Chuck Liddell. The pair’s clash at UFC 79 didn’t disappoint as a spectacle, with both men going toe-to-toe for three rounds. However, it was hard to argue that the former Pride middleweight champion looked anywhere close to his peak.
Even if we didn’t expect Silva to bludgeon his way to the UFC 185-pound strap, we were even less prepared for him to lose five of his first eight UFC bouts.
3. Urijah Hall
Perhaps the only man in TUF history to receive more hype than Phillipe Nover is Season 17’s Uriah Hall.
Throughout his run on the show, Hall had terrified his fellow cast members with a series of brutal, yet beautiful, knockouts. He was so dominant that Bubba McDaniels, his quarterfinal opponent, openly expressed his fear and anxiety over facing Hall.
It turns out his apprehension was justified, as the 28-year-old broke McDaniel’s face in three places with a straight right hand.
Going into the finale against Kelvin Gastelum, a squash match was expected. The MMA community’s predictive powers failed us once again, though.
Gastelum looked outstanding, bullying the unusually timid Hall for 15 minutes. It was a bizarre performance from the Season 17 standout. Our confusion was only compounded when he put in yet another listless performance against John Howard in his next fight.
Fortunately, there is still time for Hall to live up to the hype. He looked excellent in his most recent fight against Chris Leben. Whether he can build on that performance remains to be seen.
2. Alistair Overseen
Boy, were we looking forward to Alistair Overeem’s UFC debut. Strikeforce didn’t have a lot of things over the UFC, but its heavyweight division was certainly one of them, and the Dutchman was the pick of the bunch.
He looked every inch the monster we had anticipated when he dispatched Brock Lesnar within a round at UFC 141. A title shot against Junior dos Santos was in his future.
Unfortunately, a failed drug test followed in early 2012, delaying the former Strikeforce heavyweight champion’s UFC career for more than a year.
When the juice-less Overeem returned a year later, he looked softer than we had seen him in some time. He still looked like a superhero but with fewer wrinkles in his six-pack.
In his return bout against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, he seemed hesitant to engage but still dominated the fight with his grappling. However, he unexpectedly gassed out in the final round, allowing Silva to land one of the most violent combinations in the sport’s history. The Dutchman crumpled, taking his title hopes with him.
A similar story followed against Travis Browne in his next fight. Overeem excelled early and almost finished his opponent. In trying to end the fight, though, he once again gassed out. It didn’t take long for Browne to capitalise, finishing the breathless Overeem with a front kick to the chin and the obligatory follow-up punches.
Like Uriah Hall, there is still time for Overeem to recover from his setbacks against Silva and Browne. He looked formidable against Frank Mir in his most recent bout. One gets the feeling that the Dutchman’s Ferrari-like gas tank and candy-glass chin will continue to hold him back, though.
1. Cro Cop
Few things sadden me more—purely in a sporting context—than Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic’s disastrous UFC run.
Entering the UFC, Cro Cop had a ton of momentum behind him after stopping both Wanderlei Silva and Josh Barnett.
His debut against Eddie Sanchez at UFC 67 was fine, if unspectacular. More memorable was his next bout against Gabriel Gonzaga, the apparent Christian to Filipovic’s lion.
We expected a lot of things from this fight—mostly from the Croatian. What we didn’t expect was the Brazilian to shut off Cro Cop’s lights with, irony of all ironies, a head kick. Had the camera panned around the audience at that moment, it would have captured 15,000 mouths agape.
The gasp-worthy nature of the knockout arguably obscured the fact that, right up until he was dropped like a sack of spuds, Filipovic had looked terrible against Gonzaga.
Things went from bad to worse when he lost a dull unanimous decision to Cheick Kongo at UFC 75. Cro Cop then departed the organisation, before returning two years later and losing four of his next seven bouts.
“Disappointing” doesn’t even begin to sum up the Croatian’s UFC career.