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 411mania » MMA » Columns

The 411 MMA Top 10 5.19.14: Top 10 Best Career Comebacks
Posted by Alex Rella on 05.19.2014

Top Ten Career Comebacks
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Hey everybody, I am Alex Rella and this is the MMA Top Ten. This week we will be looking at the ten best career comebacks in MMA. It's always awesome when you see a fighter pull himself out of the dumps and climb back to the top or in some cases comeback better than they ever were before. So this week's list is for them. Keep in mind this is for comebacks over time and not ones during a single fight. I tried my best to do the rankings mixing in on how low they were before the resurgence, what they accomplished during the comeback, how long their return to the top lasted, and things like that. I also went with veterans on the older side, so nobody 30 and under this week.

Honorable Mentions:
Patrick Cote- Has gone 7-1 and worked his way back into the UFC since getting cut in 2010.
Ed Herman- Worked back from what could have been a career ending injury in 2010.
Fabricio Werdum- Only an honorable mention cause he was always a great fighter, now he's just a truly elite one.

10: Andrei Arlovski
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Going into Affliction's second show in January 2009, Andrei Arlovski was on a five fight winning streak and one of the best heavyweights in the world. Then he lost to Fedor in Affliction and all three of his fights in Strikeforce to Brett Rogers, Antonio Silva, and Sergei Kharitonov. Things were so bad for Arlovski that he even admitted to playing Russian Roulette. Since then Arlovski has gone 6-1(1) and earned his way back into the UFC. None of these have been against elite fighters, but he did beat respectable fighters like Mike Kyle, Travis Fulton, Devin Cole. Plus he did beat the crap out of Tim Sylvia in the no contest and the loss to Anthony Johnson was very controversial since whoever was keeping time in that fight screwed up and Rumble broke Arlovski's jaw when the first round should have already been over. Now the Pitbull makes his return in June to take on Brendan Schaub at UFC 174. This fight could go either way, but the fact that Arlovski was able to get himself back into the UFC is a huge accomplishment.

9: Mark Hunt

Mark Hunt's MMA career started out strong as he had back to back victories over Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva, but then came a rough couple years. From 2006-10, Hunt lost six straight fights and some of them were against much smaller fighters. Then came the best stretch of his career. Hunt beat Chris Tuchscherer, Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo, and Stefan Struve to become one of the best heavyweights in the world and put himself in a number one contender fight with Junior dos Santos. He would lost that fight, but his draw/no contest against Bigfoot Silva was one of the best heavyweight fights ever and he's still a top ten heavyweight. It only takes about two wins or so to make a title run in the UFC's heavyweight division, so Hunt could still add onto his career resurgence.

8: Matt Serra
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I felt a little torn on where to put Matt Serra on this one. Before he appeared on TUF, Serra wasn't a bad fighter or even in danger of getting cut from the UFC; the guy was just a little above average. Serra was the first American to get a BJJ black belt from under Renzo Gracie, but he was only 8-4 at this point and 4-4 in the UFC. Then came The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback. A season comprised of fighters in a similar situation to Serra. Serra would beat Pete Spratt, Shonie Carter, and Chris Lytle to win the welterweight bracket. Then came one of the biggest upsets ever as he beat GSP at UFC 69. Serra never successfully defended the title and his record since then was only 1-3, but winning the UFC title is more than almost every other fighter gets to accomplish in their careers.

7: Frank Shamrock
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Unlike most of the other fighters on this list, Shamrock never had an embarrassing losing streak or awful injury. Instead, The Legend makes the cut for how he was able to take years off and still return to the top of the sport. Shamrock originally retired in 2000, but would return in 2003 to win the WEC light heavyweight title and then he would take another three years off until he returned to Strikeforce in 2006. Shamrock would become the top draw in the early days of the company and their middleweight champion. Impressive how he could take so much time off and not show any ring rust.

6: Matt Brown
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I've been a huge Matt Brown fan since he competed on the seventh season of TUF. Brown would lose in the quarterfinals to Amir Sabdollah, but you could tell even then that the guy was just a complete badass. Brown won enough to hang around the UFC as a fun mid level ass kicker, but his poor submission defense kept him from advancing in the rankings. He lost three in a row back in 2010 and some MMA websites even said the UFC released him, which would have been understandable, but luckily it was not true. He went 1-1 in 2011, but in 2012 was Brown started to become truly awesome. Brown won four in 2012, two in 2013, and just beat Erick Silva in an amazing fight. Plus he was the underdog in most of those fights. Now 19-11, Brown has forced himself into title contention and all signs are pointing to a fight with Hector Lombard.

5: Robbie Lawler
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I always liked all the Pat Miletich guys and for years it seemed like Robbie Lawler was the one guy that just couldn't really live up to his full potential. He left the UFC on a two fight losing streak back in 2004 and would have some nice moments in other companies, which included winning the EliteXC middleweight title, but Lawler still had trouble becoming an elite guy. His Strikeforce run was incredibly disappointing as he would show you glimmers of hope with awesome highlight reel knockouts, but then he would look bland in his next fight losing more often than not as he went 3-5 in the company. Then it was announced that his first fight back in the UFC would be at welterweight against Josh Koscheck. Almost everybody thought Lawler was going to lose this one, but he didn't. Then he beat Bobby Voelker and Rory MacDonald to get his title shot against Johny Hendricks. He lost in a truly great fight, but now he's one of the best welterweights in the world and I expect him to get another title shot in the not too distant future.

4: Mark Coleman
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My favorite part of this current TUF season is when Mark Coleman is on the screen during Team Penn's training sessions, The Godfather of Ground & Pound is one of the few fighters I totally mark out for. Anyway, things weren't going to well for Mark Coleman in the late 90's. Coleman was the UFC's first heavyweight champion, but he would lose his title to Maurice Smith at UFC 14. Then came a torn ACL, getting knocked out by Pete Williams in a huge upset, a disappointing loss to Pedro Rizzo, and a submission loss to Nobuhiko Takada at Pride 5 in a fight almost everybody acknowledges was fixed. He rebounded at Pride 8 with a win over Ricardo Morais and set himself up for the Pride 2000 Openweight Grand Prix. This tournament had some of the best fighters of this era and Coleman made his way into the finals to take on Igor Vovchanchyn. Vovchanchyn was undefeated in his last thirty seven fights and considered by most to be the best heavyweight in the world at this point. That didn't stop the Hammer as he finished him off with knees in the second round. The term Cinderella Story gets thrown around a lot in sports/movies, but it sums up this run perfectly. Coleman would keep fighting until 2010 while picking up a few more wins and only losing to elite fighters.

3: Vitor Belfort
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There was a period from 2004-06 when it looked like Vitor Belfort's time at the top of MMA might be coming to a close. From the time he lost the UFC light heavyweight title to Randy Couture to his last fight in Pride, Belfort went 2-5 and one of those victories was against no name guy in Cage Rage. And to make things even worse, Belfort tested positive for steroids in his loss to Dan Henderson at Pride 32. The guy started fighting in the UFC at only nineteen years old, so it wasn't crazy to think the wear and tear was already catching up to him. Since then, Belfort has gone 10-2 and has killed everyone besides Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in the two title shots he's earned since then. Rich Franklin, Anthony Johnson, Luke Rockhold, Michael Bisping, and Dan Henderson have all gotten wrecked by The Phenom. Plus his comeback tour isn't over as the guy has a title shot waiting after he's all clear to go after his TRT purge.

2: Frank Mir
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Frank Mir beat Tim Sylvia for the UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 48 and only a few months later he would get hit by a car while riding his motorcycle. The accident would break his femur in two places and tear all the ligaments in his knee. The UFC would strip him of the title after fourteen months and he would finally return after nineteen months at UFC 57. Mir wasn't the same fighter when returned only going 1-2 in his first three fights back, but he started to turn things around after that. He would beat Antoni Hardonk, Brock Lesnar, and Big Nog for the interim title over four years after his horrible accident. Mir would lose the title to Lesnar at UFC 100, but he would maintain his status as an elite heavyweight for years and fight for UFC gold on two more occasions. He's at the end of his career now, but Mir was able to persevere and come back better than ever after such a terrible accident that now happened almost ten years ago.

1: Randy Couture
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Randy Couture was a great fighter when he retired after UFC 57, but in my opinion he became a living legend when he came out of retirement to take on Tim Sylvia for the UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 68. Couture was thirteen years older, six inches shorter, forty pounds lighter, and was at a twelve inch reach disadvantage when compared to Sylvia. Sylvia was in his second run as heavyweight champion and had defended his title twice (tied for the record). Eight seconds into the fight, Couture knocked down Sylvia with his first punch. Couture would then pounce on him and throw a lot of strikes and end the first round on his back. Couture would control the rest of the fight coming out on top of nearly all their striking exchanges and taking down Sylvia multiple times. Sylvia never gave up though and stayed in the fight until the end, but unfortunately for him Couture was perfect in every aspect that night. Couture won the 2007 Fight of the Year by unanimous decision as he won his record fifth UFC championship at 43 years old. Couture would defend the title once and continue to compete at a high level until he would retire at forty seven in 2011.

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 Brian Stann's best fights.


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