The 411 MMA Top 10 4.06.14: Top 10 Careers That Were Cut Short
Posted by Alex Rella on 04.07.2014
From Brock Lesnar and Bas Rutten to Forrest Griffin, Kenny Florian and more, 411's Alex Rella counts down the top 10 MMA careers that ended too early!
Ten Careers That Were Cut Short.
Hey there gentle readers, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at ten fighters who had their careers cut short. The fighters on the list all had to leave MMA for reasons not of their own will, mainly injuries. So there aren't any fighters this week that retired due to old age or lack of chin (Matt Hughes), left MMA for other careers (Gina Carano), or just didn't feel like fighting anymore (Phillip Miller). This also only goes for people that are officially retired, so no Dan Hardy or GSP. The rankings were done based on when they retired, their age, then divisional rankings, remaining potential at the time, and some of my personal opinion.
• Igor Zinoviev- Frank Shamrock ended his career when he slammed him down at UFC 16 breaking his collar bone and fracturing his vertebra.
• Pat Miletich- Neck and back injuries slowed him down at the end, but it's only an honorable mention since he also just wanted to cede the welterweight division to Matt Hughes and put more time into coaching towards the end of his career.
10: Nate Quarry
Nate Quarry didn't participate in any form of organized sports until he was 24 years old, but it only took him a few years to find success in MMA. Quarry competed in the first season of TUF but had to drop out of the competition because of an ankle injury. He was all healed up to fight at the finale and three straight wins in the UFC got him a title shot against Rich Franklin as he became the first Ultimate Fighter competitor to get a title shot in the UFC. Franklin knocked Quarry out cold at UFC 56. Quarry would get slowed down by back injuries after the title shot, but continued to fight at a high level until 2010. Jorge Rivera beat him by a brutal TKO at UFC Fight Night 21 which caused Quarry to get facial reconstruction surgery and subsequently ended his career. He was 38 when he last fought so it wasn't like his career ended in his prime, but he could have kept going at a high level for a while longer.
9: James Wilks
Yea when was the last time you read about James Wilks on this site? I don't remember either and this will probably be his only appearance on the MMA Top Ten unless I do a column on English TUF winners. Anyway, James Wilks had a dominant performance on season 9 of TUF which included beating Che Mills in the opening round (one of Joe Rogan's favorite fighters) and DaMarques Johnson in the finals. Unfortunately his career would end after four UFC fights as he fractured his vertebrae and the doctors told him that he had a significantly high risk of paralysis if kept going. Wilks was never going to be an elite fighter, but he could have had a long UFC career and made a lot of money if he was healthy.
8: Guy Mezger
One of the toughest members to come out of the Lion's Den, Guy Mezger had a really nice career from 1994-2003. Mezger won the UFC 13 tournament and the King of Pancrase Openweight championship. After spending the last couple years of his career in Pride, Mezger was preparing to return to the UFC in 2004 to finish his trilogy with Tito Ortiz. Unfortunately, he would suffer stroke like symptoms and would have to pull out of UFC 50 and eventually retire. Mezger ended his career with a 30-14-2 record. It would have been nice to see Mezger finish up his career in the UFC. He's done quite well for himself since retiring as he owns his own gym, a production company, and he's even done some commentary. There was an awesome story a few years ago where Mezger took down a guy with a knife that was attacking a woman in Dallas.
7: Lee Murray
I went back and forth on whether to include Lee Murray this week since his career didn't end due to injuries, but rather his own poor life choices. Ultimately I decided to incorporate him since his potential was wasted. The English fighter only competed from 1999-2005, but he was a scary dude. An incredibly strong striker with good submission skills, Murray finished up with a 8-2-1 record. He could have been a real star in the UFC's middleweight division, but he couldn't stay out of trouble as arrests, bar fights, stabbings, and eventually a bank robbery would end his MMA career. Murray was sentenced to twenty five years in prison in November 2010.
6: Kenny Florian
We all know about Kenny Florian's accomplishments. Runner up on the first season of TUF, only fighter to compete in four weight classes in the UFC, and three time number one contender. After his brief foray in the featherweight division, Florian announced he would be taking time off to heal up and get his body ready for a return to the lightweight division. Then he suffered a major back injury and started to experience numbness in his limbs. Doctors advised him to retire at 35 and now he's set up nicely as a UFC commentator. I doubt Florian would have won the title, but there's no reason to believe he wouldn't have been a top 5 fighter for a few more years.
5: Igor Vovchanchyn
Igor Vovchanchyn is only 5'8 and was the best heavyweight in the world for a couple years. He had a 37 fight unbeaten streak that ended when he reached the finals of the Pride 2000 Openweight Grand Prix, which really was one of the most stacked tournaments ever. Igor won a bunch of tournaments in smaller promotions and dominated the early Pride days by defeating guys like Enson Inoue, Mark Kerr, and Gilbert Yvel. He would finish up his career competing at light heavyweight, but unfortunately he fought so much at a young age that it wore down his body, mainly his right hand and he ended up retiring at only 32. Even though his career was cut short, he still fought 66 times (55-10(1)) and had 63 kickboxing fights (61-2). His days at the top were over at that point, but he still would have been a good draw for Pride and he could have finished his career with over 60 wins which is an awesome accomplishment.
4: Forrest Griffin
I always enjoyed watching Forrest Griffin fight and I got a little upset when I heard he was retiring last May. Griffin was the first TUF winner, former UFC light heavyweight champion and really one of the all-time best fighters when you look back at his career. He went 3-1 in his last four fights, but I think most people kinda omit that loss to Shogun since Forrest's wife was giving birth in another country at that moment. Griffin was supposed to fight Chael Sonnen and later Phil Davis at UFC 155, but he tore his MCL and strained his ACL. He announced his retirement after UFC 160 and even after then he was still hoping to comeback, but he has recently ruled it out altogether. Griffin now says that his right shoulder is so badly injured that he can't even brush his teeth with his right hand anymore. He was only 33 when he fought last at UFC 148. Griffin could have been a top 10 light heavyweight for years and given us so many more exciting great fights if his body held up longer.
3: Brock Lesnar
That damn diverticulitis robbed us of more Brock Lesnar awesomeness in the UFC. I realize not everyone liked Lesnar as much as myself and other WWE fans, but there's no denying his dominance over his brief career. The former UFC heavyweight champion beat Heath Herring, Randy Couture, Frank Mir, and Shane Carwin. But the diverticulitis took it's toll on him as it caused him to miss a year when he first contracted it in between his first and second title defense at UFC 100 and UFC 116. Lesnar then had to miss 14 more months between UFC 121 and UFC 141 when he had to have 12 inches of his colon removed. Now I admit as much as I love Lesnar, he probably wouldn't have beaten Cain Velasquez regardless of his medical condition, but he could have definitely beaten Alistair Overeem and plenty of other top heavyweights had his career not been shortened. I think he could have even made another title run.
2: Bas Rutten
I talked about Bas Rutten a few weeks ago in my pioneers you wish could compete today list and unfortunately he makes this one too. Rutten was 7-4 when he lost to Ken Shamrock for the King of Pancrase title in March 1995. Rutten would then win the next 21 fights of his career (there was one draw in the middle). This run included wins over Frank Shamrock (2x), Masakatsu Funaki, Guy Mezger, Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, and Kevin Randleman. Trained in Dutch kickboxing, Taekwondo, and Kyokushin Kaikan Karate, Rutten would use the liver shot to win the Pancrase title and the UFC heavyweight title in his second fight with the company. Rutten vacated the title with hopes of fighting for the 205 lb title which was a more natural weight for him. While training for his next fight, Rutten suffered multiple serious injuries, including blowing out his knee, tearing his biceps, and a neck injury. Rutten was forced to retire from fighting. Rutten was able to end his career on a high note as he came out of retirement in 2006 for one last fight against Ruben Villareal. Rutten looked great in this fight as he cut him down with crippling leg kicks. He was only 34 when his career ended back in 1999. Imagine how awesome it would have been to see Bas go up against Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture, and Chuck Liddell.
1: Evan Tanner
Evan Tanner competed in MMA from 1997-2008 and finished with a 32-8 record. Tanner was a Pancrase tournament winner, USWF heavyweight champion, UFC light heavyweight number one contender, and the UFC middleweight champion. This great career included wins over guys like Heath Herring, Phil Baroni (back when he was good), and Robbie Lawler. The past couple years of his life and career were slowed down due to his alcohol addiction and he took almost two years off between UFC 59 and UFC 82. Sadly, Tanner died of heat stroke while camping in September 2008. He was no longer at the top of the middleweight division at this time, but I can't think of any other fighter on this list given the circumstances that you would rather have at number one.
• So let me know how you guys would rank them or maybe I left a fighter out that you thought should be in the top 10.
• As always, let me know if there are any topics or fighters you would like to see ranked in the future.
• Next week will be Roy Nelson's best fights.