Mustering up all his congested wisdom, geriatric prize fighter Larry Holmes once stated, "The thought of being broke scares me."
The sentiment could help explain why Holmes stepped into the ring right into his mid-50s, and why having the spotlight shine on someone else seemed anathema to him.
Fighters know fighting. So few fighters know anything but fighting that even a lopsided career is better than none at all. And like boxing, MMA has seen its share of ill-qualified contenders continue to step in the ring, even when declining skills, advanced age, or lack of common sense should be enough to dissuade them.
These are nine athletes who no longer seem prepared to match the price of admission. Astute readers may note the lack of Kazushi Sakuraba (Pictures); because I've railed against his morbid participation for years, suffice it to say that any further mention would be redundant. Call him the tenth, absentee entry.
In random order:
Hard to believe, but the ample-bellied Abbott was once as foreboding a figure as any you'd find in a sport full of very stern-looking individuals. His eyes are positively reptilian in their apathy for other living things.
And though they say power is the last thing to go, Abbott's physical deterioration since a return bid in 2003 has forced a 1-5 record. Get him on the floor and he's absolutely helpless — vs. Kimo, Frank Mir (Pictures); stand with him and you're likely to plow right through his molasses-glazed striking — vs. Correira, Buentello. A penchant for nightlife has rendered his athleticism, once effective even in spite of its bulbous overcoat, stagnant.
Were it not for Wesley Correira (Pictures) willingly standing still and allowing himself to be clocked, Abbott's last victory would have been nearly a decade old. "Tank" is undoubtedly not the sort of someone you'd shove in a bar, but the sport's current criteria is — thankfully — a bit more strict than that.
Dan Severn (Pictures)
Nearing age 53, Severn is truly the iron man of the game. He was there virtually at its inception in the States, and he continues to toil in smaller programs, a marquee name for a bargain rate. His performances are uninspiring affairs, largely wars of attrition against shark bait with two left feet. His constitution seems indestructible.
But if you were to wager on what demographic might be most likely to receive life-threatening injuries in the ring, chances are good you'd take the social security contingent. Despite his pedigree, Severn's reaction time, reflexes, and bone structure make him a risk factor for a still-fledging sport. Against a poorly chosen opponent, he's a walking time bomb of serious injury waiting to happen.
Elvis Sinosic (Pictures)
To borrow from Sara Lee: Nobody doesn't like Elvis. He's a genial, polite gentleman with the demeanor of a priest.
Unfortunately, he hits like one, too.
Sporting an 8-9-2 record, the affable Sinosic is a plodding 1-5 in UFC competition, with his only victory coming over Jeremy Horn (Pictures) in 2001. There have been scattered wins in other promotions: a KO over Roberto Traven, submissions over the unheralded Mark Epstein (Pictures) and Shamoji Fujii (Pictures). But Sinosic's anemic winning percentage against the UFC's formidable opposition is evidence that he's unable to seal the deal against upper-echelon talent.
Against mid-tier fighter Alessio Sakara (Pictures) at UFC 57, Sinosic was brutalized so badly that judges registered rare 10-8 rounds on the cards.
Now he's fodder for UK poster-boy Michael Bisping (Pictures) in the UFC's upcoming trek to England. What does the fight do for Bisping? More importantly, what does it do for the fans?
Mark Coleman (Pictures)
One can imagine Mark Coleman (Pictures) viewing Randy Couture (Pictures)'s performance at last weekend's UFC and stoking the fires of his own competitive furnace. Here was a man, Coleman's slight senior, who just manhandled a dominant champion.
He should get an extinguisher. Mark Coleman (Pictures) is not Randy Couture (Pictures), and vice versa. The things that made Couture a multi-belt champ — stand-up prowess, cardio conditioning, strategy — have largely been absent in Coleman's own career. He looked shell-shocked against Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, folding in a corner after the kickboxer unleashed a combination. Against Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), he was positively decimated.
You'd have to rewind to the 2000 PRIDE Grand Prix — when he kneed Igor Vovchanchyn (Pictures) into oblivion — to find a relevant Coleman victory. At age 42, it seems likely that the decorated wrestler won't discover a better night than that one.
Kevin Randleman (Pictures)
Randleman, who made my list of "The Disappointments" last year, has more fast-twitch muscle fibers in his left leg than the entire New York Jets put together. He was an early, dominant champion of the UFC, with ferocious wrestling ability.
And when that stopped being enough, he didn't seem to care.
Save for a miraculous knockout of Mirko "Cro Cop," Randleman's tenure in PRIDE has been a rather amazing series of catastrophic losses. Since 2002 the Ohio State wrestler mustered a 2-8 record in PRIDE, and notched a lone victory against anonymous Fatih Kocamis (Pictures) in Rotterdam.
He's gone through serious health problems, a car accident, numerous surgeries, and a steroid scandal. When he seems on the verge of winning a bout — against Fedor, for example — he finds a way to drop it.
Like mentor Coleman, Randleman seems reluctant to change with the times. The era of the one-dimensional wrestler has gone the way of the 45 record. At this point, only a very recent or very single-celled recruit to the sport would express any suspense over a Randleman outcome.
Wesley "Cabbage" Correira
"Boy," announcers would observe, "that Correira can definitely take a shot."
That he can.
"Cabbage" has garnered notoriety for having a head the density of a bowling ball — with a fight strategy to match. Correira seems content to eat punch after punch, wading in with the expectation his opponent won't have nearly the same resilience.
Sometimes it works. Most of the time, it doesn't. Correira is 1-4 in the past 14 months, the most ignoble of which was a loss against Mike Plotcheck (Pictures), a former WWE wrestler better known by the name Bart Gunn. After years of incessant talk about how faux grapplers wouldn't stand a chance in MMA, a 40-year-old reformed actor goes and beats a former Top 10 heavyweight contender.
Correira has endured substantial beatings in both losses and wins, and at some point, it would be refreshing to see a friend or family physician take some stock of what their cumulative result might be. One would like to see Correira changing diapers in the coming years, not wearing them.
Frank Mir (Pictures)
It's both strange and sad that a 26-year-old athlete could make a laundry list of decomposing athletes, but that's what a motorcycle accident will do for you.
Mir was a kinetic heavyweight in 2004, a burly grappler who could move like a lightweight. His forearm-crunching submission over Tim Sylvia (Pictures) was water cooler talk for months afterward. But following his wipeout and subsequent rehab on a bum leg, Mir has appeared to be only a shadow of his former self.
Against Marcio Cruz (Pictures), he was pounded out. Against Brandon Vera (Pictures), knocked out. Rumors circulated that Mir knew his limitations, but wanted to eek out a few more paychecks before calling it quits.
That's a shaky motivation for a hobbled fighter. Even at 100 percent, it's a dangerous game. When you're operating on fumes, eventually you're going to find yourself in some real trouble.
Mark Kerr (Pictures)
Unless something dramatic happens, August of this year will mark seven years since the last time Mark Kerr (Pictures) had his hand raised in victory.
Since then, he's been the subject of a sordid documentary on his drug addictions; suffered a tumultuous private relationship; and dropped five straight bouts. Kerr returned to action late last year against Mike Whitehead (Pictures), and was easily handled. In an ominous reappearance, he appeared bulked back up to his old physique for a February loss against Mustapha al Turk (Pictures). In both outings, Kerr seemed deflated and disenchanted with the vocation.
His documentary, The Smashing Machine, was galvanizing for fans. Perhaps Kerr himself needs to watch it again.
Shannon Ritch (Pictures)
Thanks to an off-radar fighter named Vincent Perez, Shannon Ritch (Pictures) had his staggering 10-fight losing streak snapped this past summer. So enamored was he of Perez's ineptitude that he fought him again a month later.
One has to wonder about the point of Shannon Ritch (Pictures). Because of his schedule — fighting up to four times in a single month — he rarely displays anything approaching gameness. The guy would tap after a bad tuna sandwich. And yet he keeps getting fights, because regional promoters know his infamy will drive interest.
Because of his reluctance to gut it out, I don't concern myself with Ritch actually getting hurt. I simply fail to see how or why he's worth even the cheap seats in a dilapidated arena. Nothing's at stake.
"The Cannon" is the worst kind of combat athlete: irrelevant.
And one who needs a break …
Alistair Overeem (Pictures)
Overeem's career highs and lows have come at the velocity of a bullet: in 2005, he had just destroyed celebrated athletes Vitor Belfort (Pictures) and Igor Vovchanchyn (Pictures). And prior to his loss against "Shogun" Rua in a tournament, he was giving the Brazilian a thorough beating. For a capper, he moved up to heavyweight and demolished Sergei Kharitonov (Pictures).
So what happened? Like someone trying to beat a bad gambling debt, Overeem ran off six fights in 2006, an impossible schedule for anyone at his level. The wear and tear was evident against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (Pictures), where he essentially quit against the ropes.
His latest attempt, a rematch against Rua, ended far sooner than their previous engagement. On his game, Overeem is a nightmare of devastating strikes and a lanky frame that can easily frustrate opponents. His recent performances belie his potential. The guy needs a cruise.
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