The UFC was wildly successful in its return to the Land of the Rising Sun, however, not all of the fighters who competed at UFC 144 can say the same. The awesome display of world class mixed martial arts action may have boosted several fighters to the next level, but as is always the case, not everyone can fully reap the benefits of fighting on a stacked, action packed card. After all, for every fighter who adds a highlight reel finish to their resume, there is another who has to hang his head every time that fighter’s promotional videos hit the screens. The fighters found here may not have suffered career-threatening defeats, but they did find themselves in an awkward position following the night’s action. At MMA Gospel, we refer to this circumstance as being in “the Bad”.
Cheick Kongo (17-7-2): Kongo has been fighting in the UFC since 2006 and has been a championship contendership gatekeeper for almost the entirety of his tenure, so a loss in and of itself isn’t a huge blow to his career or his position within the promotion. Where Kongo does suffer is in the fact that his aura as an elite kickboxer was almost entirely dispelled by his KO loss. When Frank Mir (16-5) and Cain Velasquez (19-1) put Kongo down, it was almost universally written off not as those men’s superior striking but as the threat of the takedown leaving Kongo unable to fully utilize his skills. Then, against “HD” Pat Barry (6-5), his early issues were all but erased by his miraculous comeback. “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt (8-7) left no excuses and no questions. While his wrestling has improved, there is no doubt that Kongo possessed the superior grappling. He lost to a K-1 champion on the feet, no shame there, but the manner in which he was totally outclassed proved that while Kongo is an excellent kickboxer, none of his skills are on the level needed for him to break his mold as a gatekeeper.
“Thunder” Yushin Okami (26-7): Okami looked brilliant for the first two rounds of his UFC 144 bout. He dominated “The Barbarian” Tim Boetsch (15-4) in every conceivable way for ten straight minutes and went into the third round virtually untouched against an opponent running on nothing but heart and desperation. To all present, “Thunder” looked to have returned from his title fight loss as a hungry fighter eager to get another crack at the champ. Unfortunately for him, desperation paid off for Boetsch. Okami entered the third in cruise mode, but “The Barbarian” came out with the throttle wide open and made him pay for it. Before Okami could figure out that Tim Boetsch was still in the fight and adjust, “The Barbarian” ended it and left Okami staring at the lights.
“Bartimus” Bart Palaszewski (35-15): The phrase “not UFC caliber” comes to mind when Palaszewski is mentioned. He has put up winning WEC numbers and even scored a marquis win over “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (15-2), but “Bartimus” has never truly been impressive, even against the mediocre talents he has faced in the WEC and UFC. Of those he has bested, only Pettis was ever considered a serious title contender in a Zuffa organization and that win was a somewhat controversial Split Decision. With the one-sided drumming he suffered from Hioki, a fight that was far more uneven than the questionable scores turned in by the officials would suggest, it is painfully clear that Palaszewski needs a major overhaul if he wants to stay in the UFC. Luckily, it’s his first loss in the UFC and he has time to recover with a few solid wins.