The subdued cheers of the respectful Japanese crowd have faded from the Saitama Super Arena. The Octagon has been taken down and “Smooth” Ben Henderson (15-2) has carried the UFC Lightweight Championship back to the United States. UFC 144: Edgar vs.Henderson is history, but the effects of the event on the fighters involved are far more lasting. Several fighters, such as Henderson or “Super Samoan” Mark Hunt (8-7), came out of the Saitama Super Arena far better than they went in. Others, such as Cheick Kongo (17-7-2) and “Thunder” Yushin Okami (26-7) suffered significant setbacks in their UFC careers. Several others faired much, much worse, damaging their images and careers in major ways and leaving themselves in precarious positions where if they get another chance, it will likely be their last. Here is “the Ugly” of UFC 144.
“Rampage” Quinton Jackson (31-10): “Rampage” all but begged to be put on this card in Japan, where he was born as an MMA superstar. He asked Dana White for the MMA equivalent of a personal day for the UFC on FOX card in Chicago just so he could compete at UFC 144. Then he showed up to the weigh-ins six pounds overweight, missing 205 for the first time in his career. In the cage, he looked soft and unmotivated and despite brief glimpses of the old “Rampage” Jackson, his overall performance was decidedly lackluster. Quinton is now 2-3 in his last five bouts, none of which were particularly inspiring displays. He entered the Octagon with his trademark wolf howls and left with many fans howling for his retirement.
“Sexyama” Yoshihiro Akiyama (15-6): Akiyama’s drawing power in Japan and his penchant for putting on exciting fights are all that stand between him and the Zuffa axe. Now 1-4 in the UFC, “Sexyama” needs something big to happen soon to salvage his career with the world’s premier MMA organization. On the bright side, he looked strong and healthy at 170lbs. and was able to effortlessly shrug off takedowns from one of the division’s best grapplers in Jake Shields (27-6-1), so there is hope for Akiyama at welterweight. He simply can’t afford anymore failures in the cage.
“J-Lau” Joe Lauzon (21-7): Rise, fall down, rise again – this is the nature of a career in combat sports. Unfortunately for Joe Lauzon, his UFC career has never seen him rise very far. The kid has talent and is extremely exciting to watch; he even has a respectable 8-4 record in the organization. However he never seems to be able to get traction in his climb to the top. A pair of impressive wins followed by a punishing defeat has been the three beats to his career waltz in the UFC. He is still very young, but another brutal loss like the 81-second “Knockout of the Night” that “Showtime” Anthony Pettis (15-2) handed him and he may never see a chance for UFC gold before he enters his twilight years.