Top 10 falls from grace in MMA history
Unfortunately, MMA can be quite a cruel bitch when it comes to dealing with fighters closing out their careers. Not everyone gets to escape as unscathed as the captain of Canada, Georges St-Pierre.
In wake of the legend’s recently announced retirement and the fallout from UFC Phoenix, it’s prompted a look back at those least deserving of an MMA chewing up and spitting out. These are the top 10 falls from grace in MMA history.
10. Josh Koscheck
Josh Koscheck was a part of the original cast of The Ultimate Fighter at middleweight. Debuting in the UFC in his third professional bout, he would go on to enjoy a lengthy run with the promotion.
Although he only earned one title shot in his career, Koscheck was always a perennial top 10-5 contender and staple of the welterweight division’s elite. Unfortunately, those times wouldn’t last.
Looking to put together another title shot worthy streak following his first, Koscheck would win back to back fights before being halted in a very close battle with Johny Hendricks. Prior to this fight, Koscheck had never lost back to back fights in his 23 fight career.
Including the Hendricks loss, Koscheck would five straight fights before exiting the UFC for Bellator. Those four losses that followed the Hendricks loss all came via finish (two submissions, two KO/TKOs).
In Koscheck’s Bellator debut against Mauricio Alonso, he would find some good success early on but inevitably get caught by Alonso thus leading to yet another knockout loss. Koscheck would announce his retirement in June 2018.
9. Miguel Angel Torres
Similarly to another entry coming up on this list, former WEC bantamweight king Miguel Angel Torres was once considered one of the pound-for-pound best in MMA as he boasted a staggeringly impressive record of 37-1 before suffering his second career defeat.
That defeat came in his fourth attempted title defense when he took on Brian Bowles who would stop him via knockout in the first round. In the fight that followed, he would be submitted by Joseph Benavidez before getting another win which came in the form of a rear-naked choke over Charlie Valencia.
After the Valencia win, the WEC would be absorbed by the UFC which gave Torres a great new opportunity at continuing to build onto his legacy despite his recent decisive losses. However, the MMA Gods had other plans.
Torres would end up going 2-2 in the UFC before being released after a brutal knockout loss to Michael McDonald. Life after the UFC wouldn’t be the worst for the former champion as he closed out his career 4-4.
Expectations were rightfully high for Torres as the UFC was getting close to bringing in the lighter weights. Unfortunately, their poster boy quickly faded out of the picture.
8. Jason “Mayhem” Miller
Perhaps the most upsetting entry on the list, Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s downward spiral still continues to this day.
Having now gone through countless legal troubles since the end of his MMA career, Mayhem was one of those cases of not being able to accept being without the UFC after getting back to it.
The world was in the palm of Mayhem’s hand. A top contender in the middleweight division outside of the UFC as one of the most underrated grapplers in the sport, he had a reality TV show, things arguably couldn’t have been better. That was until Strikeforce was bought out by the UFC.
Miller originally debuted in the UFC at welterweight in 2005. His opponent would be none other than the aforementioned St-Pierre who would defeat him by unanimous decision.
Six years later and Miller was back as one of the coaches for season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) opposite Michael Bisping. In the prime of his career and riding a dominant two-fight winning streak, a win over Bisping would have put Miller a fight or two at most away from a title shot. Obviously, that’s not how things played out.
After a solid first round in his favor, Mayhem would lose steam in the second and into the third as Bisping took over before finishing the BJJ black belt with ground and pound strikes.
In his following bout, the pressure was on as Mayhem took on CB Dollaway in a fight that he admitted he thought that if he couldn’t win against Dollaway, he didn’t deserve to be in the UFC. Mayhem would indeed lose via unanimous decision despite almost knocking out Dollaway on multiple occasions… However, Mayhem’s torn ACL made that almost an impossibility to fully capitalize on. Surely something that didn’t help him come to terms with the outcome mentally.
Miller would eventually return after a four-year retirement to fight in Venator FC against Mattia Schiavolin at middleweight. Miller clearly didn’t even attempt to cut weight as he weighed in well over the 185-pound limit at 207-pounds. Even prior to that fight and to this day, Mayhem Miller finds himself battling with the law more often than he ever did in MMA.
7. Chuck Liddell
Chuck Liddell was the face of the UFC before anyone else was. But even he didn’t get his Cinderella story.
The five-time UFC light heavyweight champion only suffered two TKO losses (out of three total losses) before he lost the title in his rematch with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Closing out his career, Liddell would go 1-6.
That lone win came in an all-time classic against Wanderlei Silva after a split decision loss to Keith Jardine. After that, Liddell would suffer three straight devastating knockout losses… That’s before returning to action eight years later to add on another one at the expense of his old rival, Tito Ortiz.
Despite all of Liddell’s initial three final knockout losses all coming to former or future champions, it was still shocking to see the legendary striker that was “The Iceman” be defeated in such fashion.
6. Gray Maynard
Very few fighters in UFC history have earned title shots without a single blemish on their record. Lightweight “Bully” Gray Maynard will go down in the history books as one of those.
After going 10-0 with a win over the then-champion Frankie Edgar, Maynard would get his title fight rematch. Finding massive amounts of success early on, Maynard would end up going to a draw with Edgar in one of the best fights MMA fans have ever seen. The trilogy bout would go similarly, except Edgar would find the knockout in the fourth. From here on out, Maynard was never the same.
Maynard has gone 3-6 since his last title fight with four of those losses coming via knockout.
During his time as an elite of the lightweights, imagining him losing to the likes of Alexander Yakovlev, Nik Lentz, Ross Pearson, and Ryan Hall just wouldn’t have been a reasonable thought. Yet he did… And clearly.
Not to disrespect those names either, but that’s just how good Maynard was against Edgar and prior to their last two meetings.
5. Hector Lombard
Like Torres, former Bellator middleweight king Hector Lombard once was one of the most highly touted fighters to ever enter the UFC. His 31-2-1 record and scary knockout power accompanied by world-class Judo was enough to put anyone on notice.
Immediately upon arrival, Lombard’s hype slowed down significantly in his debut with Tim Boetsch as the two fought rather cautiously en route to a questionable split decision loss. The Cuban would find some nice success with a knockout of Rousimar Palhares before dropping to welterweight to dispatch of Nate Marquardt, Jake Shields, and Josh Burkman… That was before he tested positive for banned substances.
Since then, Lombard hasn’t won a single fight with a stunning six straight losses. Three of which came via knockout.
As one of the fighters with the most potential arguably ever, Lombard just couldn’t live up to it and fell hard from when his spot on top.
4. Rashad Evans
Just like Maynard, The TUF 2 winner Rashad Evans would be one of the few fighters that have ever gotten a title shot with a perfect undefeated record. Putting him in an even rarer category would be the fact that he won the title.
Despite a devastating loss in his first title defense, Evans would grow from it and only look better as he rattled off four straight dominant victories. Meeting his match in his second shot at gold against longtime teammate, Jon Jones was when things took a turn.
Evans would finish his career going 2-7 after the Jones fight with the two wins coming over Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen. With a lackluster stint at middleweight thrown in, “Suga” would find himself losing to Sam Alvey and Daniel Kelly before being violently knocked out by Anthony Smith.
As one of the greatest light heavyweights to ever do it, injuries could have eventually been the primary cause of what took Evans off the mountain’s peak.
3. Ronda Rousey
Perhaps a controversial entry but mind you, this is an MMA specific list.
Before Conor McGregor burst onto the scene, Ronda Rousey was the bonafide MMA megastar, the household name. The undefeated arm collector, everyone knew her name whether they were a fan of the sport or not.
When she finally lost and in the fashion she did, it was an absolute shock to the world.
Holly Holm brilliantly picked apart Rousey over the course of six minutes before landing one of the most significant head kicks in MMA history. After that, Rousey essentially vanished for an entire year before returning to try and reclaim her title.
However, that didn’t go much better as, by that point, Amanda Nunes had obtained the gold strap and was not going to give it back. Especially after being so promotionally overshadowed.
Nunes only needed 48 seconds to spoil Rousey’s comeback party and that was the last time she was seen in an MMA setting. With little to no words spoken in regards to the sport in general since her first loss, Rousey’s massive MMA spotlight shrunk with an insurmountable quickness… Whether it was partially her own fault or not.
2. Johny Hendricks
Stylistically, Johny Hendricks had everything required to be a dominant long-time champion.
A powerful wrestler with one punch knockout power and the ability to mix up striking combinations with ease, Hendricks had his first career title shot come against the legendary Georges St-Pierre… Who has been mentioned a time or two in this list…
Hendricks would go on to lose a unanimous decision in a fight that many believe is one of the biggest robberies in MMA history. Hendricks was the first man in several years to give St-Pierre a competitive run for his money, unlike anything we had seen before.
In his title fight that followed after St-Pierre vacated, Hendricks would put on one of his best and most thrilling performances opposite Robbie Lawler en route to a clear unanimous decision win. Thus awarding him with the title, no controversy afoot.
With Hendricks then shelved with a bicep injury until December of that year, Lawler had re-earned a title shot by that point thus setting up a rematch, which led to the controversy making a comeback.
Hendricks would lose via split decision in another robbery-like fashion. However, fans weren’t too upset with the decision going to Lawler due to Hendricks’ more “boring approach” to this fight compared to the first.
After that loss, things snowballed rapidly for the Oklahoman former champion.
Hendricks lost five of his last seven bouts before retiring from MMA. His once mind-blowing power had seemingly disappeared and he became the one getting finished with strikes as that was the result of three of those losses.
Accompanied by an inconsistency in making weight at both welterweight and middleweight, Hendricks had just done a complete 180 as a fighter.
To make things even worse, he would go on to debut in bare-knuckle boxing in November 2018 only to suffer another knockout and not receive a single penny for his efforts from the promotion the fight was held by, the World Bareknuckle Fighting Federation.
1. Renan Barao
Could it have been anyone else?
Throughout the list, relations have been made between several fighters. However, Renan Barao’s story is somewhat a combination of them all, unfortunately.
Mind-blowing win streak, dominant UFC champion, weight issues, considered a pound-for-pound great while on top, decisively lost to fighters we never could have imagined him losing to.
Barao was at the pinnacle of MMA. Becoming a champion during Dominick Cruz’ absence, Barao looked about as dangerous as anyone in the world as evidenced by his destruction of Brad Pickett, and complete shutdowns of Michael McDonald, Eddie Wineland, and Urijah Faber (twice).
Then in came the underdog, TJ Dillashaw to flip Barao’s world upside down.
Since the first encounter between Dillashaw and Barao, the former bantamweight champ literally has not been the same. 2-6 following the fight, Barao currently finds himself on a four-fight skid with weight misses in three of those four. The most recent loss came at UFC Phoenix this past weekend and was very well his last fight in the UFC.
Even though he’s still only 32-years-old, Barao has fallen unbelievably far from the spot that he was once at. Perhaps he can still turn things around… But until then, his fall from grace tops them all.
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer based out of Brush Prairie, Washington, USA who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, news coverage, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake has most notably written for BJPenn.com, FanSided, The Body Lock, South China Morning Post, MyMMANews, Cageside Press, Sherdog, The Scrap, and MMA Today. He has also written for and created video content for RT Sport. As for other sports, Drake is a longtime fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @DrakeRiggs_ . Also check out all of his video content on YouTube at: "Drake Riggs" where he uploads fighter interviews, podshows, and various other types of content.