Five UFC alumni who didn’t make the grade in ONE Championship
Jarred Brooks got his ONE Championship career off to the perfect start this month. But not all UFC veterans have been successful with Asia’s biggest MMA promotion.
From the outset, fans in Asia saw plenty of UFC stars coming over to ply their trade in the ONE circle. In the first handful of shows, the likes of Jens Pulver, Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia all made appearances with varying levels of success.
In recent years, high-profile moves from one organization to another have continued. While the likes of John Lineker and Demetrious Johnson have flourished others have found the competition in ONE Championship al ot tougher than expected.
Nicknamed, ‘the New York Badass,’ Phil Baroni made a name for himself during the early years of the sport. Having made his UFC debut in 2001, the American endeared himself to MMA fans with an action-packed stint in Pride where he scored memorable finishes over the likes of Ikuhisa Minowa, Ryo Chonan and Yuki Kondo.
Following a second spell in the UFC as well as appearances in Strikeforce, the Long Island native made his eagerly awaited ONE Championship debut against fellow UFC veteran, Yoshiyuki Yoshida at the inaugural event in 2011.
Things did not go according to plan for Baroni as he dropped the unanimous decision to the Japanese veteran. The American went on to win just one of his three ONE Championship fights.
There is still time for Yoshihiro Akiyama to turn his ONE Championship career around as he remains on the roster. He picked up ‘Fight of the Night’ honors in each of his first three UFC appearances.
But a debut defeat to Agilan Thani demonstrated that ‘Sexyama’ wasn’t going to have things all his own way with ONE Championship. He won ‘Fight of the Night’ honors in each of his first three UFC appearances and face the likes of Chris Leben, Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort and Jake Shields inside the octagon.
He was beaten by Agilan Thani on his ONE Championship debut. Akiyama did bounce back to score a stoppage win over an Egyptian opponent in his second fight but with just one win in two years since signing things haven’t worked out the way ‘Sexyama’ would have hoped.
Roger Huerta was the first MMA fighter to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. When he submitted Clay Guida in 2007, he tied the record for most UFC wins in a calendar year.
He was rapidly emerging as the poster boy for the sport but the commitments took their toll and he left the UFC to sign for Bellator. He arrived in ONE Championship with a big reputation but was brutally knocked out by Zorobabel Moreira on his promotional debut.
He came back to score a TKO against Christian Holley a couple of years later before dropping back to back losses to Koji Ando. He did at least finish on a high with a split decision win over Adrian Pang in a ‘fight of the year’ contender.
Eddie Alvarez was one of the biggest signings ONE Championship has ever made. A former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion, was also involved in one of the highest grossing pay-per-view of all-time when he was beaten by Conor McGregor.
Expectations were high when Alvarez arrived in ONE Championship but he was knocked out by Timofey Nastyukhin, in his first fight for the promotion. He did bounce back to beat Eduard Folayang, although the American had to come from behind to do it.
What should have been a routine win for the American against Iuri Lapicus in 2021 was ruled a ‘no contest’ after Alvarez landed multiple shots to the back of his opponent’s head. There was no controversy about his recent loss as Ok Rae Yoon beat him convincingly, leaving ‘The Underground King’ with one win from his four ONE Championship fights.
It’s difficult not to feel sorry for Sage Northcutt. The American has the great misfortune of being on the end of perhaps the most devastating knockout in the history of ONE Championship. The finish, suffered at the hands of Cosmo Alexandre in 2019, was so brutal that it kept ‘Super’ Sage out of competition for many months.
To make matters worse, he then contracted Covid-19 and suffered multiple complications which meant he hasn’t yet been able to return to the cage. The 25 year old has plenty of time to turn his ONE Championship career around.
But having suffered eight facial fractures in the loss to Alexandre, which remains his only ONE Championship appearance, things couldn’t have got off to a much worse start for Northcutt.